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Tomaz Jakofcic on the Schreckhorn. Photo courtesy of Miha Valic.Photo courtesy of Miha Valic.
There are 82 peaks over 4,000 meters in the Alps, and during this winter season Slovenian Miha Valic climbed all of them. Valic had hoped to summit all of the 4,000-meter peaks in 82 days, during the calendar winter, but bad weather forced delays. Climbing with many different partners, he completed 74 peaks in 82 days, and then added nearly three weeks to his schedule, wrapping up the 82 peaks in 102 days of the winter season, from December 27 to April 7.
Valic maintained a blog during his adventure with good photos. Find it at mihavalic.net/4000.htm.
Below is Valic’s story in his own words:
The idea of climbing all 82 4,000-meter peaks of the Alps in a row (possibly in 82 days) has been a thorn in European alpinists’ flesh for a while. In the summer of 1993, English climbers Martin Moran and Simon Jenkins ascended 75 peaks in 52 days—the official UIAA list did not exist at that time yet. Next to attempt this Alpine marathon in the springtime were Patrick Berhault and Philippe Magnin in 2004, but they were unfortunately stopped by an accident after reaching 65 peaks. [Berhault was killed in a fall from the Dom.—Ed.] In the spring of 2006, the Italians Franz Nicolini and Michele Compagnoni climbed 25 peaks from the list and then called off the project due to the bad weather. I was the first to attempt the marathon in the wintertime.
Blaz Grapar climbing on Les Droites, the final peak in Valic’s odyssey.Photo courtesy of Miha Valic.
The classic routes to the popular 4,000-meter peaks are packed with mountaineers in the summer, but the situation in the wintertime is completely different. The mountain huts are closed or not taken care of, and the snow makes it extremely tiring to reach them. The combination of a short day, extreme cold, strong winds, and complete wilderness gave a sense of magnificent high mountain ranges on other continents. Despite the mild winter in the valleys, there was a lot of snow above 3,000 meters, and the conditions in the mountains were far from mild.
I wanted to connect and ascend as many peaks in the least possible time, so I only rarely chose the easier classic routes. None of the individual ascents I did is considered a top-level alpine achievement. However, I have done some ridge traverses that can justly be treated as serious winter routes. To mention a few: traversing Aiguilles du Diable, Rochefort, and Grandes Jorasses, the Mischabel group, Schreckhorn-Lauteraarhorn, the Brouillard ridge of Mont Blanc…. The bad winter conditions and strong winds made even the “easier” 4,000-metre peaks a serious challenge. Above all, I had to endure until the very end. Endure 82 peaks in 102 days. It was logistically and physically difficult, but it was mostly a challenge of motivation and psychological endurance. Waiting in a van for better weather and snow conditions could easily be compared to the long days in one of Himalayas’ base camps, if it wasn’t for the masses of shiny tourists jumping around the parking places.
Blaz Stres and Miha Valic on the summit of Mont Blanc.Photo courtesy of Miha Valic.
During these months I was accompanied by 15 friends and fellow climbers, who contributed to the success of the project with their time and also finances (in chronological order): Rok Blagus, Alenka Klemencic (3x), Blaz Grapar (2x), Luka Kronegger, Boris Lorencic, Gasper Rak, Tina DiBatista, Miha Lampreht, Matevz Kramer, Tadej Debevec, Vesna Niksic, Miha Macek, Blaz Stres, Klemen Gricar, and Tomaz Jakofcic. There were some others who wanted to participate, but we were unfortunately unable to coordinate our timing and the weather conditions.
The challenge of climbing 82 peaks in 82 days in the winter still remains.