22-Year Old American Hiker Dies Climbing Near Zermatt in Switzerland

Julia Schneemann | ClimbingClimbing
Dom Peak
The Dom summit at 14,908 ft, picture: Linard03 on Hikr.org website

22-year-old American died last Thursday while hiking in the Swiss state of Valais. He was attempting to climb the Dom peak in the Upper Valais region, located in the mountain range between the famous ski resorts of Zermatt and Saas-Fee.

He apparently hiked unsecured, lost footing, and fell 65-100 feet (20-30m) onto the Festi Glacier. The Festi Glacier is on the west side of the Dom, the main summit of the Mischabel massif and the second highest peak in Switzerland, with a height of 14,908 ft (4,545m).

Hikers Switzerland
Two hikers secured with ropes and wearing crampons on the Festi glacier in August 2017, picture: MunggaLoch on Hikr.org website

The Dom ascend is an advanced, two-day hike with an elevation gain of 10,188 ft (3,106m). It starts at Randa at 4,615 ft (1,407m) and goes via the Dom-hut at 9,643 ft (2,940m) across part of the Festi glacier at an altitude of 12,211 ft (3,723m) to the Dom peak. There are some particularly steep sections. The crossing of the glacier typically requires crampons and ropes in most sections.

Hiker Festi glacier
Secured hiker descending carefully to the Festi glacier, picture: mountainrescue on hikr.org website

On the same day, a 28-year-old Norwegian hiker died at Weissmies, plunging 165-195ft (50-60m) to his death. Weissmies is located east of Saas-Fee in the mountain range before the Simplon Pass.

This is the 17th hiking death this summer in the canton Valais. The cantonal police, together with the Swiss mountaineering association, is appealing to hikers to please not hike alone and to not go out into dangerous territory unsecured and without proper equipment.

The deceased was hiking with a companion, but neither was using ropes to secure themselves. The police are urging people to avoid hiking along routes that require securing yourself with ropes if you do not carry the right equipment.

Fatal accidents have increased this year. The cantonal police blame this on the record amount of hikers drawn to the mountains due to the hot summer. Last year Swiss mountain rescue had to go on 3,680 rescues all over Switzerland, 40% of which were hikers. The most common cause of accidents was a fall, making up almost half of these rescues. Unfortunately, 131 of these accidents resulted in loss of life in 2021.

Secured hiker
Secured hiker on Dom route, picture: mountainrescue on hikr.org website

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