It offers great sensations for those who aim for a more classical and basic rock/snow/ice climb. Most of the rock is easily negotiated, but a few sections require a bit more prudence. Still, the climb is adequately suited for those with little rock climbing experience. The main prerequisites are to be steady on your feet and have some prior experience with crampons. You should also have a good balance and a head for heights, so that standing on top of Mönch, you will not go dizzy when marvelling at the views of the neighbouring peaks, a mighty sparkling glacier and green meadows lying at your feet.
Just like the other two mountains from the Trinity, Mönch lies on the border between Valais and Bern cantons. It is west of Mönchjoch, a pass at 3,650 m (11,980ft), Mönchjoch Hut, and north of the Jungfraufirn and Ewigschneefäld, the two tributaries of the Great Aletsch Glacier. The north side of the Mönch forms a steep wall above the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Monch Fact File
Height: 4,107m (13,474ft)
Prominence: 584m (1,916ft)
Isolation: 3.6km (2.2mi)
Parent Peak: Finsteraarhorn
Parent Range: the Bernese Alps
Location: Bern and Valais cantons of Switzerland
Coordinates: 46°33′30″N 7°59′50″E
First ascend: August 15, 1857 by Christian Almer, Christian Kaufmann, Ulrich Kaufmann and Sigismund Porges.
Monch Name Origin
Unlike its famous neighbours, Mönch was sadly unnamed for a long time. It was not even mentioned on maps at all, implying that it was not a mountain in its own right. It simply went under the names of Inner Eiger, Klein (Little) Eiger (even though it is higher than the latter!) or Grossmönch, or Eigers Schneeberg. The modern name Mönch appeared on the maps in 1860.
Just like with Jungfrau, there are two most common interpretations of the name origin. The first states the name is derived from the horses called Münche (geldings) which used to graze on the slopes of the mountain (the name Münch appeared on the local maps in 1606), thus the name of the pasture was metonymically stretched onto the whole mountain. The second explanation runs that this mountain is the protector of the virgin – Jungfrau, and who guards the nuns better than the monks?
Mönch’s shape is not that spectacular as Eiger’s or Jungfrau’s. The limestone mountain has four ridges, four ice walls, offering numerous combinations of climbs.
Monch Geology and Formation
Mönch is surrounded by glaciers. The east flank of Mönch is a starting point for the Ewigschneefäld (the eternal snow field) – one of the three main arms of the Aletsch Glacier that converge at Konkordia. Ewigschneefäld flanks from Trugberg in the west and the Gross Fiescherhorn and Grünhorn in the east, flowing on to the Konkordiaplatz. Up to here, it is about 8km (5.0mi) long and averages about 1.2km (0.75mi) wide. At the Konkordiaplatz it follows over a rise with a descent from 25 to 30 percent; here, the glacier is sharply split. Against the north is the Ewigschneefäld over the snow-covered pass of the Unners (Lower) Mönchsjoch (3,518m (11,542ft)), connected with the catchment area of the Eismeer or Ischmeer (Wallis German for "Ice Sea"). Through the Obere (Higher) Mönchsjoch (3,627 m (11,891ft)) between Mönch and Trugberg stands a connection to the Jungfraufirn.
Mönch cannot boast of the impressive climbing death stats, unlike its neighbours, but it is considered to be the easiest four-thousand peak of the Bernese Alps, even though the route to the summit is not that easy-peasy. Mönch is the most climbed of the three peaks and can be accessible from the Jungfraujoch railway station, the convenient Mönchsjoch Hut, the Guggi Hut and the Konkordia Hut as well.
The character of the climb is as varied as the topography. Mönch is primarily a snow and glacier climb, and on the sections of rock that are encountered the climbing is enjoyable. The main southeast ridge route on the Mönch is a very fun climb-high, varied, sometimes on rock, some on snow, exposed and very scenic. You can get more out of it if you use the PeakVisor app to locate the mountains you see and get much more info than just hard-and-dry wiki stats.
The first ascent of the mountain was made reportedly via the East Ridge by Christian Almer, Ulrich & Christian Kaufmann, and Dr. Siegmund Porges on August 15, 1857. The first documented ascent of the Southeast Spur was made in 1863 by Christian Almer & Melchior Anderegg and Reginald MacDonald. There is, however, apparently some evidence that the first ascent may have been made via the Southeast Spur.
The Southeast Ridge is considered the normal route and is a great introduction to climbing in the area. Although it is commonly called just the SE Ridge, the route actually climbs the southeast spur or arm of the East Ridge and is named the Southeast Spur in many guidebooks. It joins with the East Ridge about two thirds of the way up and finishes along this fine corniced edge to the summit.
This route, while never severe (and thus often crowded), includes some very exposed ridge climbing both on snow and on the fine gneissic rock which makes up the core of the Oberland.
The Normal Route from the south offers fourth-class rock scrambling along a stepped arête to the spectacular summit snow ridge. The climb is easy of access because of the Jungfrau cog railway, and the route can be done in one day from Grindelwald by taking the first train. Because of its relatively short length, ease of access and southern exposure, it can be done in less than ideal conditions, and comes quickly back into shape after snowstorms or bad weather.
Vertical: 449 m
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: F / PD, Rock to UIAA II (YDS Class 4) with mixed sections and snow and / or ice to 45 degrees
A health note. For those doing the climb in a day starting with the train ride to the Jungfraujoch, altitude sickness can be a problem. Spending a night at the Mönchsjochhütte can help.
The Nollen Route on the opposite, northwest spur, is considerably more challenging with its main difficulties being on ice. The difficulty of the ice nose of the Nollen itself varies from year to year, but normally includes several belayed pitches up to at least 60 degrees steepness, and occasionally has short vertical steps. Its first ascent in 1866 was accomplished with the aid of ladders.
Vertical: About 1,316 m
Duration: 7 hours
Difficulty: D, snow with ice to 65 degrees
Mönch by the north face is also accomplished by the Lauper / Lineger Route. A long mixed large-scale climb first done in 1921 by H. Lauper and M. Lineger
Vertical: About 1,316 m
Duration: 10-12 hours
Difficulty: D+/TD, rock to V and snow and ice to 60 degrees
The Southwest ridge is a more challenging alternative to the Southeast route - steeper and more exposed - but easier than the Nollen. West ridge up, SE down makes an excellent traverse.
Vertical: 636 m
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: PD / AD, pure rock
Mid June to end of September are prime climbing times. Mönch is perfectly welcoming for solo climbers and to guided tours, the usual fee for a 1to1 climb per day is about $420. Mind you that the fees stated on most sites are on a per day basis and usually include expenses for the guide, such as meals, lodging, lifts, hut fees, transport. They do not include these expenses for the guest.
The Mönchsjoch Hut
The Mönchsjoch Hut (3,650m a.s.l.) is situated in the middle of the Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage. It allows you to embrace the 4000m Jungfrau, Mönch and the Fiescherhörner, as well as a good part of the Valais Alps. The Walcherhorn and the Gross Fiescherhorn are also good climbs that can be readily done from the Mönchsjoch hut.
It is the highest altitude serviced hut in Switzerland, just a 45-minute walk from Jungfraujoch. It operates mid-May to mid-October. The hut is fully sustainable, but it takes a lot of effort to procure even the most humble needs: you wash with the meltwater from a huge tank, the food is delivered by the hut keeper’s snowmobile and the waste is taken away by a helicopter.
Height a.s.l: 3,650m
Coordinates: 46°33‘17‘‘ N, 8°0‘20‘‘ E
Hut warden: Christian Almer
Phone hut: +41 33 971 34 72
Private phone: +41 79 456 44 13
Overnight stay members and non-members of all Alpine clubs CHF 28.–
Overnight stay mountain guide UIAGM (with valid card) CHF 7.50
Overnight stay, dinner, breakfast members and non-members of all Alpine clubs CHF 64.– incl. hiking tea
Mountain guide UIAGM (with valid card) CHF 43.50
Dinner only CHF 24.–
Breakfast only CHF 12.–
The Guggi Hut
The small Guggi Hut is situated on the north-west ridge of Mönch. If you know where to look, and with the PeakVisor app you will always be in the know, you can see the hut from the railway station Kleine Scheidegg at 2061m. The hut is open all year around. During the weekends from mid-June to end of September the hut is normally served by a warden. Drinks but no food can be bought.
The first hut, replacing an older one 400 meter below, was built for 14 people in 1911. It was enlarged to accommodate 30 people in 1975. Now it offers 24 beds.
To reach the Guggi Hit, start from Kleine Scheidegg towards the Eigergletscher station. Allow 3½ hours from Kleine Scheidegg and 3 hours from the Eigergletscher station. Turn right to the Eigergletscher moraine. Descend the slope and cross the torrent before following the tracks leading up to the hut. The path goes to the left. Reaching the level of the hut traverse to the right. There are slings to help to overcome a few exposed steps. Ascending the hut during the winter season requires mountain experience.
This is an interesting tour in a spectacular mountain environment. The hut is an isolated place and at the same time close to the tourists 700 meter down at the Kleine Scheidegg.
The obvious mountains to climb from the Guggi hut are the Mönch (4107m) and the Jungfrau (4158m).
Mönch by the Nollen route follows the rock to the left of the hut up to the steep snow and ice called Nollen. Depending on the conditions, the route takes 6-10 hours. (D, ice 65 degrees or more). The Guggiroute to Jungfrau used to be climbed more often in the early days (first ascent in 1865 by Christian Almer and others). The glacier conditions have changed and today the route is by no means straightforward. The Silberhorn (3685m) can also be climbed by this route.
Height a.s.l.: 2791m
Coordinates: 46°33'46‘‘ N, 7°58'27‘‘ E
Hut warden: Arnold Zwahlen
Phone hut: +41 33 855 31 57
Private phone: +41 77 422 82 46, evenings and weekends
The Konkordia hut
The Konkordia hut is located in a fantastic place, where three firns (Ewigschneefäld, Jungfraufirn and Grösser Aletschfirn) converge into the Aletsch Glacier (aka the Great Aletsch Glacier).
It is one of the oldest huts, being initially set up in 1877 at the Fauberg, 50m above the glacier at Konkordia. The extension took place in 1898, a private hut was erected by a hotelier Emil Cathrein and thus named Pavilion Cathrein. 10 years later there was added the SAC section Grindelwald. This third hut was sponsored by Gustav Hasler (who set the so-called Hasler-route on Aletschhorn), therefore the hut was named the Hasler hut. In 1946, the Cathreins sold their hut to the SAC section Grindelwald and the Hasler hut proper was taken up for supplies and equipment. The main hut was reconstructed 4 times: in 1951, 1967, 1976 and 1996. Today the Hasler hut is the winter hut and additional accommodation at the high season. As the glacier decreased since 1877, today you have to climb a steel staircase (installed in 1975) 433 stairs up to the hut.
From the porch of the hut, you can get great views over many mountains: Jungfrau, Fiescherhorn, Gross Grünhorn and Aletschorn to name a few.
Over 25 routes start from the hut and additionally there are rock-climbing routes directly behind the hut with 50 rope lengths (difficulty II - VI).
A route to Mönch summit will take 6-7 hours in summer and 7 hours in winter. Jungfrau is one hour closer; Trugberg and Kranzberg are merely 3-4 hours away.
Height a.s.l.: 2, 850m
Location: Valais, the Bernese Alps
Massif: the Wannenhorn Group
Coordinates: 46°30´01.7"N, 8°03´11.7"E
If you have limited time to spend high above in the mountains, please be careful with speedy changing of the altitudes. The Jungfraubahn brings you to the top very fast. If you experience strange signs of dizziness, headaches or even nausea, it could very well be that you suffer from altitude sickness. Return to deeper levels immediately. It's not advisable to bring baby's under the age of two.
Make sure you take warm clothes and snowshoes, it is quite cold and windy on the top.
Routes near Monch
If you only have a day for the whole Jungfrau Region, you can do the round-trip Interlaken - Grindelwald - Kleine Scheidegg - Wengen - Lauterbrunnen - Interlaken (or visa-versa) without having to go up to the Jungfraujoch. You would be still face to face with the intoxicating Bernese Alps but would have time to linger in these towns a little longer. You can disembark trains wherever they stop and continue later, as long as you return to your destination before midnight - Cinderella style alert!
You can also go to the lakes. It is said that the Sulzseewli in the Lauterbrunnen valley is a place of strength. Even those who do not believe in it may succumb to the magic of the mountain lake. To get there, take the funicular from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp. That's where a varied route begins with a panoramic view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Children can come as well: the destination is reached after two and a half hours. If you still have strength, then you can continue to the Lobhornhütte. It is serviced in the summer months.
If you want to great a bigger panorama, climb Faulhorn at 2,681 m above sea level, the day will end in a particularly impressive manner. The sunset on Faulhorn must first of all be earned with a foot march, but the reward is all the more generous. A mountain view of the Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, to name but a few of the impressive peaks (to identify all others – use the PeakVisor app). A valley view to Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, with visibility as far as France. The sunset far behind Lake Thun is the icing on the cake. In order to avoid a subsequent night hike, an overnight stay at the Berghaus Faulhorn or the Berggasthaus First is an option. This is because the first Railway no longer operates at this time.
Harder Kulm is a more comfortable option. Lake Thun, Lake Brienz, Interlaken and the world famous triumvirate of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau are bathed in a warm evening light. On the Harder Kulm, the sun goes down and the heart rises. The unique combination of a breath-taking view and convenient accessibility is only available here. The Harder Railway transports romantics of all kinds every evening in time for the sunset. And then back to Interlaken within ten minutes.
Schilthorn is a mountain near the trinity, it also offers a great view on them. You can ski, snowboard or reminiscent over a very old James Bond movie here.