Tick-lists. To be clear, I work with tick-lists which I constantly adapt and expand. I have lists and itineraries sorted by region and alpine discipline. My lists make me dream. When the weather is grey, and monotonous rain patters against the windows leaving me on the sofa, I go to my lists…
But when high-season for the tick-list comes, it brings color into the grey and with it, motivation.
But isn’t it the anticipation that makes these lists so valuable? The items are more a source of stoke than an indicator of success, but accomplishing a long-cherished project satisfies a need for personal fulfillment. For my partner, Harald, one item on the list has always been to run continuously up a high mountain. A four-thousand-meter peak would be best, from the valley to the summit., running… not walking!
And this is how the Üssers Barrhorn got added to the list. A perfect mountain to get closer to Harald’s vision. A test run. With a marked path to the 3610m summit, it is the highest trail in the Alps.
The Barrhorn sits in a remote location at the back of the Turtmann Valley, surrounded by famous peaks like the majestic Weisshorn, and has a strategically located hut as a refreshment point.
When the enthusiasm for one thing is shared by two, then the experience of this is many times greater. I too had been pulled in by Harald’s spirit of wanting to run up high mountains.
Day X had come. Starting from Vorder Sännturm, we were accompanied by the sun to gain the first 300 meters on the gentle path to Lake Turtmann. There, the basin of the valley opens up and we found ourselves surrounded by wild glaciers and rugged rocks, a beautiful contrast to the flower filled meadows of the valley floor.
A smooth trail leads to the key section of the run: a steep, scree filled couloir fixed with a cable. Harald knows that flatter terrain will follow and pushes through this passage. My legs fill with lactic acid, I breathe heavily, and finally press my hands to my thighs just to keep moving. Bang! I have to give up on running and switch to hiking. My fitness is not enough at this point, but the disappointment is brief.
Harald is still in his race, and pulls further ahead on scree that’s sometimes loose, sometimes more firmly stomped. A lunar landscape spreads out under our feet. After a flatter part, the terrain steepens again in a serpentine manner. At the Schöllijoch, a cold Bise welcomes us. We slip into our windbreakers and gloves, pulling tight our hoods against the cold north wind. Looking over to the Bishorn reveals that we have already reached a remarkable height.
Up here I feel the power to run again. We traverse along the Inners Barrhorn and reach a rocky gap in the terrain, where the rock face drops spectacularly to the Undere Stelligletscher. Red, grey, and beige tones dropping below. The last few meters are tough again. Debris covers the summit flank of the Barrhorn, one step forward, two slide back. Harald pushes himself hard to the summit cross. High on 3610 meters, he fulfills his dream of mountain running. Mountain running in the most literal sense of the word.
An imaginary check mark now appears on his tick-list with the satisfaction of having achieved something he has dreamed of for so long. One new check mark, but the beginning of a longer list and plans to transfer this style to other, higher, more demanding mountains.
And what about me? He showed me that it’s gonna work…I’ll keep trying.
Story and Photos by Patricia Schanne
As founder and organizer of trail-maniacs.ch, a growing trail running community in the Zürich region, Patricia’s life is currently very much about trail and skyrunning. Almost 6 years ago she moved from Innsbruck to Zurich to be closer to the Western Alps. Along with her partner Harald, they work enthusiastically on realizing their vision of alpine running: starting from the last valley village, running up and down (as much as possible), crossing and linking up the highest and most beautiful peaks in the Alps.
For more info on running this peak yourself, visit Elevation: The Alps Trail and Peak Running Resource