• Dammastock
  • 3630 m.
  • Primary factor: 1465 m
  • Near Furka Pass, Switzerland.
  • Location: North 46.64344, East 008.42105 (GPS at the summit)
  • Difficulty: (YDS) class 2, Alpine grade F (Possibly more difficult in summer)
  • Climbed May 25, 2014


How to get there:
A good point of reference is the Furka Pass, a major pass connecting the (upper) end of the Rhone valley with the land further east. This is about a 2 hour drive from Zurich. The road across the pass is closed in the winter, this closure may last until June. The last hotel on the east side is Hotel Tiefenbach, highly recommended. For information, call and ask for Madeleine - she is very knowledgeable and helpful.
A few kilometer on the west side of the pass is the historic Belvedere hotel, located directly in a hairpin turn on the road. Park in the parking at the outer curve of the turn, this is the trailhead, location N46.57721, E008.38752, elevation about 2290 meter.
Route description.
This mountain is most easily climbed on skis in the spring, perhaps until mid-June, depending on the snow condtions.
From the parking, continue to the opposite side of the souvernir shop. You may perhaps just walk straight through the store and exit on the back side. They charge admission for visiting an ice cave at the very lower part of the glaicier, I assume that one may avoid paying if the purpose is to ski onto the glacier. If this is problematic, then try to circumvent this building. When I was there, the road was still closed and it was easy to walk just outside of the building.
Follow the well developed path from the store as it descends to the glacier, this is about 5 minutes, descending approximately 50 meter. Proceed along the right side of the glacier and find snow in order to start skiing. This location is N46.58006, E008.38704, elevation about 2240 meter
The route now runs gently uphill while following the right hans side of the glacier. Stay away from the far right in order to avoid possible rock fall from the steep side on your right. There is a skiing route that pretty much follows the right hand side of the glacier all the way to its upper area. However, in late May, there was still a good snow cover and we found it more convenient to ski more towards the middle of the glacier and ascend to the left of a more rugged area that is clearly visible in the area where the glacier makes a right turn (when viewed uphill). That is, the route (and main glacier) runs to the right of the (rightmost) peak in this picture. After skiing through an area having crevasses that were easy to circumvent, one will reach the upper area, an almost flat (a gradual uphill) section that stretches to what looks like the natural upper part of the main glacier.
Here, turn more right and ski uphill, still on quite gentle slopes while approaching a distinct cone-shaped summit at what appears to be the local horizon. Higher up, before reaching the summit directly ahead, curve right and locate a small, but sharp rocky ramp pointing left. The summit of Dammastock is a bit further beyond and to the right as seen in this picture. One may ski all the way to the summit, however, perhaps more convenient, ski to the notch just right of the rock ramp, then walk the final 50-100 meter along the short, but nice summit ridge. In winter, be aware that the left hend side of the ridge (as you approach from the north), is steep and may be corniced. The summit point is marked by a small cross.
This trip was organized as a spring ski trip to the Alps, with Melanie Hetkamp, Eirik Andersen, Pål Jørgen and myself. Thus, tickets and plans were made well ahead of time. Unfortunately, Eirik injured his shoulder in a skiing accident and needed surgery only 2 days before our departure. It was decided to travel as planned and Eirik would enjoy the trip, but likely stay behind at the hotel as "support staff" etc. We had a Friday afternoon flight from Bergen via Oslo to Zurich, then got a pretty stupid rental car (from Budget). We had pre-reserved a ski-rack, however, no such gear. They offered an upgrade to a larger car for the same amount as the ski rack. After a few attempts, we finally understood how to get the skis and the luggage as well as the 4 of us into this mini-SUV, a star example of a big car that can carry almost nothing.
We started driving around 2030 and arrived at hotel Tiefenbach around 2230, so about 2 hours. Madeleine was waiting for us and even offered to serve us a 3 course dinner at this late hour. We had a healthy meal, then to bed around midnight.
We ended up asking for breakfast at 0600. The plan was that the hotel would drive us to the old Belvedere hotel at the other side of the (Furka) pass. We would then start skiing from there.
We originally planned to do this climb on Saturday, May 24th. We got hotel transportation on the closed road across the Furka pass until the driver ran into a rock on the pavement that he clearly believed to be a piece of snow. The power assist on steering and brakes vanished and we continued on foot to hotel Belvedere, about one kilometer further along.
The weather was really quite miserable, dense fog and semi-wet snow coming down. On top of this a gentle breeze that did nothing to improve on the conditions. We reached the Belvedere hotel and found our way down to the glacier. The lower part of the glacier was wrapped in, or rather covered by some large fabric, seemingly to prevent excessive melting. The team morale was rather low. Melanie felt uneasy about even exploring the lower part of the glacier given the lack of visibility. As we waited, to see if things would improve, two skiers came down and emerged from the fog. They skied roped and told us that their goal had been Galenstock, however, given the lack of visibility, they had decided to turn back.
The weather now gradually improved and we decided to explore the lower part of the route. We skied roped as this was an unknown glacier to us and since the fog still reduced our visibility, but now only in an on/off fashion, ie. 10 minutes with view, 20 minutes without etc., alternating. It was pretty clear that the chances of reaching the summit today, were indeed slim. If the weather kept improving, we still had enough time, however, the general team motivation remained low. I decided that we rather should save our energy and try again tomorrow, thus we turned around at a point were we could see the more crevassed middle section of the glacier. We returned to Tiefenbach and enjoyed a lazy afternoon, a walk directly uphill from the hotel brought us to a good viewpoint, from where we had a direct view of Galenstock. The weather continued to improve and it bacame clear that if we had ignored the fog and general conditions that prevailed in the morning, we could have had a very good climb of Dammastock this day.
Sunday, we again started with breakfast around 0600. It turned out that Melanie was also far from her top shape, generally feeling fatigue and lack of strength. It had therefore been decided that Pål Jørgen and I would try the peak while Melanie stayed behind with Eirik.
We started skiing at 0710, and made good progress. We took a line directly up the middle and skied a pretty solid route through the crevassed and broken up part of the middle glacier. The visibility was perfect in the morning, but clouds slowly accumulated as the day grew older. The peaks on our right hand side, rose sharply towards the morning sky. We reached the upper end of the glacier in about 2 hours, then turned right and ascended the easy slopes without any difficulties. Initially, we thought that the cone-shaped peak up in front could be the summit, however, higher up, it became clear that Dammastock was further across to our right. A very distinct triangular rock looked as if it could be the top, only closer, it became clear that the summit was even further to our right. I skied to the small notch near the base of the triangular rock, for the first time of this trip there was even some semi-strong wind. Leaving the skies here, another 5 minutes and I arrived at the summit at 1115, so 4:05, without really pushing.
Pål Jørgen soon followed and the scenery with him approaching along the ridge, was quite nice indeed.
Unfortunately, a lot of clouds that had accumulated while we ascended, now covered most of the distant peaks, in particular to the south and west. I still took some summit view pictures before we started back down to the skis. We started our downhill skiing at 1155 and reached the trailhead in 45 minutes at 1240. On the way down, we had very nice conditions, at a short break Pål remarked that here the two of us had more than 1000 vertical meter of good skiing - and we were the only ones at the hill.
Pål skied with his wide Telemark skis while I used my Randonée skis. The upper hill was nicely crusted with about 2-3 centimeter of new snow on top. The lower part had developed a thin layer of slush, due to the warm sun, however, this can also be quite nice.
Returning to Thiefenbach, Pål carefully replaced the barrier (since the road was still officially closed), then a nice afternoon and yet another nice meal served by Madeleine. We got up around 0500 the next morning in order to catch our 0930 flight with some built in safety margin. SAS subsequently lost all our baggage (6 pieces), but we returned to Bergen after a nice weekend in the Alps.
Circumstances that were unforseen made this trip less than optimal for Melanie and Eirik. I certainly hope that we will find another opportunity for doing a trip together.