The longest and most demanding via ferrata in Switzerland! Long, vertical ladders, with steep and strength-sapping climbs. The backdrop is grandiose, and the views across and down are fantastic.
K5-6. The initial section is already very demanding, with an extremely exposed series of ladders to the Obere Gemsfreiheit; the "big via ferrata" is then considerably more difficult, being very steep throughout, and in parts also extremely airy. Excellent physical condition and plenty of stamina in the arms, together with robust nerves, are essential for this tour! It is only to be attempted when you are sure of good weather; and if you experience difficulties on the "small via ferrata", you really must take the alternative early route down via Mieläss! There is a significant risk of rock-fall in the gorge above the Gemsfreiheit, and following rain or storms the route is therefore dangerous whatever your level of ability.
From Leukerbad (1,401 m), with its instructive view towards the south-eastern wall of the Daubenhorn, take the cable-car route up to the Gemmi Pass (2,322 m). The cable-car operates from 8.00 - 18.00; Leukerbad can be reached by bus from Susten-Leuk (station).
From the cable-car station (2,346 m), take the old Gemmi path and a couple of loops on the old Pass trail (in part with railings) down to the Untere Schmitte, where a sign directs you to the via ferrata (approx. 2,060 m), 20 minutes.
Small via ferrata
Following a clear route around a first corner, and then continuing on the flat, starting from a wild hollow of rock onto the first wire ropes. Move across deep drops to the "Nase" ["Nose"-], where the real climbing adventure begins. Around an airy corner, and then - with good safety - over steep rocks to the "Fredyturm". At this point, take a left to a vertical climb, conquered at its toughest point with three ladders (a total of 76 metres!) - giving you a real sense of the drop below! The spectacular sequence of rungs comes out onto the panoramic promontory of the Obere Gemsfreiheit (2,303 m), where a rest is called for. Then bear left below the rocks to the fork, 2 hours.
Using the wire rope security, complete an extended traverse with excellent views on the grassed slope of Mieläss (approx. 2,330 m), and then zig-zagging, avoiding the ruptures in the rock (some wire ropes), descending into the grassy hollow at Tysche (1,832 m; sign for the via ferrata). Continue down the mountain on a well-marked path, across Pischürgraben to the lodges at Fiess and then returning to Leukerbad on the "Geissenweg" path, with occasional short uphill climbs, 2 hours.
Big via ferrata
In the rock gorge above the fork in the route, you can already see the first iron ladder glinting in the sunlight. The sequence of rungs is reached using wire rope and iron pins. The route then has a very demanding climbing section (with pins as footholds; caution - danger of loose rock falling!), before an exposed section to the right leading to the huge shaft (ladders). Just under a hundred metres higher, you come out by the "Hammer", a peculiarly-shaped tower of rock presenting a dark and forbidding challenge; a series of ladders then makes the next, extremely steep and airy climb somewhat easier. Follow the ridge to "Biwakplatz" and over a scree slope to the last, long and steep iron ladder. You come out at the top of the Daubenhorn, 3.30hours.
Take the white-blue-white marked route across the (crevasse-free) Daubenhorn glacier down to Lämmerenboden and, keeping to the right, back to the Gemmi Pass, 2 hours.
Eugen E. Hüsler/Daniel Anker: Wandern vertikal. Die Klettersteige der Schweiz, AT Verlag, Baden 2004
Region: Bernese Alps, Dalatal
Peak: Daubenhorn (2,942 m)
Time required: climb to the start 20 min., small via ferrata 2 hours, big via ferrata 3.30 hours; small circuit with descent to Leukerbad 5 hours, big tour (Daubenhorn) with descent to the Gemmi Pass 8 hours.
Variation in height: small via ferrata 340 m, big via ferrata 920 m
All year - All year