Mattias Nutt, Zermatt Tourism Ltd

Breithorn - a four thousand meter peak for beginners

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8 Highlights on the Breithorn

  • When you arrive on the Breithorn, you have a clear view of 37 four-thousanders!
  • The Breithorn is a four-thousand-meter peak for beginners, which is easy to climb.
  • From the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise you walk in 3.5 hours with a mountain guide to the highest peak of the Breithorn (4164 m above sea level) and back.
  • The highest mountain railroad station in Europe (Klein Matterhorn) at 3821 m above sea level can be reached within 45 minutes by cable car from Zermatt.
  • You can climb the Breithorn with an experienced mountain guide all year round.
  • The Theodul glacier connects the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise with the Breithorn.
  • The Breithorn is a mountain ridge that consists of five peaks.
  • The border between the Valais and the Aosta Valley in Italy runs over the Breithorn.

The Breithorn is a four-thousand-meter peak for beginners. By taking the cable cars to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise you save about 2200 vertical meters. This reduces the time needed including the way back to about 3.5 hours. The mountain is quite easy to climb, but you should not underestimate the ascent. There are crevasses and other dangers lurking along the way. The guidance of an experienced and local mountain guide is absolutely necessary.

This high alpine mountain tour is considered a medium difficulty tour, but it leads along crevasses that must be avoided. The Breithorn ascent should only be undertaken by absolutely sure-footed and experienced mountain hikers. The high altitude air at 4000 meters makes many people uncomfortable. The trail starts at the Klein Matterhorn at 3821 meters above sea level. The destination Breithorn is at the highest peak 4164 meters high.

Breithorn summit (Photo: Zermatters)Breithorn summit (Photo: Zermatters)
Summit in summer (Photo: Zermatters)Summit in summer (Photo: Zermatters)

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What awaits you on the Breithorn climb

The Breithorn is a mountain massif near Zermatt, which consists of five peaks. The westernmost one is the highest and at the same time the best to climb of the summit ridge.

The five peaks of the Breithorn from west to east

summit namealtitude (m a.s.l.)
West summit Breithorn Occidentale4164
middle summit Breithorn Centrale4159
Breithorn twin east summit (western twin)4139
Breithorn twin Gendarme (eastern twin)4106
Schwarzfluh Roccia Nera4075

Between the Breithorn and Klein Matterhorn lie the Breithorn Plateau (3795 m a.s.l.) and the Breithorn Pass (3814 m a.s.l.).

Prerequisites for climbing the Breithorn

For this high alpine tour you need the appropriate equipment and should already be an experienced mountain hiker. Under the guidance of a local mountain guide, you will be led safely to the summit of the Breithorn and back.

Route of the Breithorn Climb

You will go on the Breithorn Ascent with the mountain guide over the Breithorn Plateau and the Breithorn Pass. They connect the Klein Matterhorn with the Breithorn. Starting point is the mountain station of the 3S cable car Matterhorn Glacier Ride at 3821 m above sea level. At the plateau, you first descend slightly.

The most common route leads initially over the firn of the Breithorn plateau. In doing so, you walk over a glacier with crevasses. The group of climbers is safely guided by rope. Later you will go up a 35 degree steep slope. In total you will overcome 415 meters of altitude. The route (outward and return) is about 5.4 km long. The mountain tour lasts up to 3.5 hours.

Individual stages: Start at the mountain station Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (Klein Matterhorn) Traversing (crossing) the glacier over the Breithorn Pass and the Breithorn Plateau Ascent to the Breithorn summit (west summit) over firn slopes (35 degrees steep)

In summer the way leads you back the same way. In winter the descent over the Schwarztor is very popular. The mountain guide will also accompany you down.

Breithorn ascent (Photo: Zermatters)Breithorn ascent (Photo: Zermatters)
Breithorn ascent (Photo: Zermatters)Breithorn ascent (Photo: Zermatters)

Activities on the Breithorn

The ascent of the Breithorn is possible all year round. In the winter half-year this is done with snowshoes or via guided ski tours. Are you a skilled and safe freerider? Skiers and snowboarders like to take the descent from the Breithorn summit at its easternmost end. There, between Schwarzfluh and Pollux, lies the Schwarztor (3734 m above sea level). Between crevasses and séracs you ski safely and enjoyably with the mountain guide all the way to Zermatt. Séracs are towers of glacial ice that form at crevasses and break-off edges.

The ski area below the Breithorn is home to the highest ski slope in Europe. On the Theodul glacier you can ski wonderfully.

Safety on the Breithorn

On the heavily glaciated Breithorn, as well as on the Breithorn Plateau, crevasses form again and again. As long as you are with a local mountain guide, you don't have to worry. He leads all participants in the group on the rope and takes care to carefully avoid the crevasses.

You don't need any high alpine experience, but you should be free from giddiness and already a safe alpine mountaineer. The right equipment is also important. It differs depending on the seasons.

Because of the thin high altitude air, an ascent of the Breithorn is not suitable for children. Adults also have to reckon with health impairments if they undertake a high alpine hike or ski tour for the first time.

Already from 3000 m altitude there are less oxygen molecules in the air. This causes the vessels to constrict and can lead to high-altitude edema in the lungs or brain. Mountain sickness or altitude sickness develops at altitudes as low as 2000 meters. It starts with headache and nausea and reaches its peak with confusion and severe shortness of breath. Therefore, we advise you to seek medical advice before climbing.

Required equipment in summer

The necessary equipment differs according to the seasons.

In summer it is important to have:

  • ankle-high mountain boots with good, stiff soles
  • warm and weatherproof clothing, hat, finger gloves
  • hiking/ski pole (incl. plate)
  • sunglasses, headgear and sunscreen
  • climbing harness and crampons
  • backpack (max. 30 l), thermos bottle 1l, high energy food

Required equipment in winter

In winter you need:

  • snowshoe or ski touring equipment
  • warm and weatherproof clothes, hat, gloves
  • avalanche device
  • sunglasses, headgear and sunscreen
  • climbing harness and crampons
  • backpack (max. 30 l), thermos bottle 1l, high energy food

You can rent the mountain equipment in Zermatt in one of four sport stores.

Ski tour Breithorn with mountain guide (Photo: Alpine Center, Zermatt Tourism)Ski tour Breithorn with mountain guide (Photo: Alpine Center, Zermatt Tourism)
Breithorn (Photo: Mammut-Christoph Frutiger, Zermatt Tourism)Breithorn (Photo: Mammut-Christoph Frutiger, Zermatt Tourism)

Arrival to the Breithorn with the mountain railways

From Zermatt you take the 8-seater gondola Matterhorn Express in four sections to Klein Matterhorn. Afterwards you take the 3S-Bahn (three-cable gondola). You have heated seats in the cable car and are at the highest mountain station in Europe in only nine minutes.

Between Zermatt and Klein Matterhorn, these trains cover about 2200 meters in altitude. The trip takes up to 45 minutes in total, including transfers. This means that you have already comfortably completed most of the ascent and can concentrate on the last meters of altitude.

Mountain railroads to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise on the Klein Matterhorn

Valley stationHeight (m a.s.l.)Mountain stationHeight (m a.s.l.)Train type
Zermatt1638Furi18718-seater gondola lift Matterhorn-Express 1
Furi1871Schwarzsee25838-seater gondola Matterhorn Express 2
Schwarzsee2583Furgg24328-seater gondola lift Matterhorn Express 3.1
Furgg2432Trockener Steg29398-seater gondola lift Matterhorn-Express 3.2
Trockener Steg2923Matterhorn Glacier Paradise38213S Bahn Matterhorn Glacier Ride
Dry Footbridge2920Matterhorn Glacier Paradise3820100-seater aerial tramway

Do you, like thousands of other people every year, also have the dream of climbing a four-thousand-meter peak one day? As you can see, this is very well possible on the Breithorn without any high alpine experience.

Arrival at the summit (Photo: Mammut-Christoph Frutiger, Zermatt Tourism)Arrival at the summit (Photo: Mammut-Christoph Frutiger, Zermatt Tourism)
above the glacier (Photo: - Rainer Eder)above the glacier (Photo: - Rainer Eder)