The Alps are one of the great mountain range systems of Europe stretching approximately 1,200 km (750 mi) across eight different EU regions; Austria and Slovenia, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, France, Italy and Monaco. The formation of Alps started 300 million years ago, unlike Himalaya of South Asia which formed almost 65 million years ago, therefore, Alps are known to be the oldest mountains ever formed.
Many of the Alps are shorter in height, most of which are also known as “Four-Thousanders,” unlike Himalaya peaks which range above 8,000 meters.
- The earliest conquests of Alps were made by the Armies (Roman Army), pilgrims, and traders.
- Most of the snow/ice Glaciers in the world are found in the 1,200 km long Alp ranges of Europe.
- Otzi, a 5,000 yrs old mummified corpse, was found in Alps.
- 14 million people live in Alp regions, and more than 120 million tourists visit these regions every year.
- It has been the source of minerals and crystals, including; Copper, gold, iron, cinnabar, quartz and amethyst.
- It is suggested that between 40,000 to 80,000 men died in WWI due to avalanches on the Alps.
#1 Eiger (Switzerland)
Eiger 3,970 m (13,020 ft), Alpine PD+, is a mountain located in Canton of Bern, Switzerland. It is the easternmost peak of a ridge crest that extends across the Mönch to the Jungfrau. Eiger Glacier, 2.5 km, is located on the northwest side of the Eiger peak.
The first ascent of Eiger was made by the Swiss guides; Christian Almer and Peter Bohren, and Irishman Charles Barrington, back in 1858. The North face was first climbed by a Austrian-German expedition back in 1938.
The North face of Eiger, also known as Mordwand or Muder(ous) Wall, is considered the toughest climb among Alps because of its rockfalls and diminishing ice-fields, with 64 climbers died attempting it since 1935.
Many consider attempting the North face during winter when the crumbling face is strengthened by ice.
It involves basic rock and ice/snow climbing and is climbed alpine style. It can be attempted from varying routes; North face, West Flank, Southwest ridge, Mittellegi ridge, Lauper route on the northeast face and Metanoia route.
Ueli Steck, a famed Swiss climber, holds the record of most successful attempts at Eiger, along with numerous other achievements.
#2 Matterhorn (Switzerland/Italy)
Matterhorn or Monte Cervino or Mont Cervin 4,478 meters (14,690 ft), Alpine PD+, is located in Pennine Alps on the border shared by Switzerland and Italy. The successful summit of Matterhorn ended the Golden age of Alpinism as it was the last great alpine peak to be climbed.
The mountain overlooks the town of Zermatt in the canton of Valais to the north-east and Breuil-Cervinia in the Aosta Valley to the south.
The first successful ascent of Matterhorn in 1865 was a disaster, with 4 of Edward Whymper’s party members fell to their deaths on the descent. The North face, which requires great climbing and route-finding skills, was first climbed by Franz and Toni Schmid in 1931.
Matterhorn is considered a deadliest peak in Europe, and the fatality rate is higher compared to other Alps. More than 500 climbers have died attempting the peak in the last 148 years.
It has one of the highest prominence among Alp peaks, with 1,040 m (3,412 ft). It can be attempted through 4 different ridges; Hornli, Zmutt, Lion and Furggen. Out of these 4 ridges, Hornli is considered the easiest route.
It has two different summits, a Swiss summit is located at 4,477 m (14,690 ft) and the Italian summit at 4,476 m (14,686 ft).
It can be attempted in any season and is climbed in alpine style; the route is generally supported with fixed rope and assisted by climbing guide throughout. The whole trip can be completed within couple of days.
#3 Mont Blanc (Italy/France)
Mont Blanc or Monte Bianco 4,810 m (15,781 ft), Alpine PD+, both meaning “White Mountain”, is the highest mountain in the Alps. It has a prominence of 4,695 m (15,404 ft) and also been recognized as one of the Seven summits. Located at Graian Alps, on the Italian and French border, the mountain is popular for climbing, snowboarding, skiing, hiking etc, mostly which can be done on Mont Blanc massif.
It was first climbed on 8 August 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard. Today, more than 20,000 climbers attempt Mont Blanc summit every year.
Voie Des Cristalliers (Voie Royale) and La Voide des 3 Monts (La Traversée) are two of the major routes that can be used for climbing. La Voide des 3 Monts route is known to be more challenging and technically difficult than others, where on the other hand, Voie Des Cristalliers is considered more dangerous because of frequent rock-falls.
Mont Blanc can be climbed by anyone with technical skills inhandy and a climbing guide. The fatality rate is fairly lower than any other mountains, however, during peak seasons, climbers are prone to accidents.
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