22 Summits Stories

A mountain guide from Täsch explains

The Täschhorn is the "Täschini's" local mountain. With its 4,491 m, it is a mighty, a demanding mountain. Whether the Teufelsgrat (Devil's Ridge), Mischabelgrat (Normal Route), Nordgrat (North Ridge), Westgrat (West Ridge) to the Südostgrat (Southeast Ridge) or Kinflanke (Kin Flank): all the routes are long, the tours are tricky because of the rocky nature. This is not getting any better with the warming of the climate and the thawing of the permafrost. "The old mountain guides used to say that you should stay on the ridge as long as possible, because the rock is good there. As soon as you go into the flanks, it becomes brittle," says Helmut Lerjen, mountain guide and mountain rescuer from Täsch.

Lerjen, who has held a mountain guide's licence since 1999, knows what he is talking about: he has climbed all the classic ridges and the Kinflanke. So, together with his friend, the mountain guide Michael Lauber, he took the difficult tour under his feet again in the anniversary year 2017 to commemorate the first ascent of the Teufelsgrat on 29 August 1887. It is considered one of the longest and most difficult ridge tours in the Valais Alps. In summer 2018, Lerjen climbed the Täschhorn with Roger Willisch as a day tour: the starting and finishing point was the village church in Täsch.

Helmut Lerjen's role model is his uncle, the mountain guide Alfons Lerjen. He was the hut warden at the Täschhütte from 1971 to 1991. Alfons Lerjen achieved first ascents on the Alphubel and in South America - and he climbed the Teufelsgrat with guests 13 times. The nephew was fascinated by his uncle's stories from an early age. He guards his uncle's legacy like a treasure - valuable documents of local alpine history - from times when mountain rescue still had to be managed without helicopters. Helmut Lerjen made his first climbing attempts at the age of eight on the Chummbodmuschtei above the Täschhütte.

In 2011, the summit cross of the Täschhorn was damaged by lightning. It had been forged in 1980 in Theo Imboden's studio and subsequently erected by mountain guides from Täsch. Helmut Lerjen and his cousin, mountain guide and mountain rescuer Urs Lerjen, dismantled the 150kg summit cross in autumn 2011 and transported it by helicopter to the locksmith's shop of Konstanz Bros. and Gottfried Willisch, where it was repaired. In October 2012, the two mountain guides brought it back to the summit together with their guide friend Gabriel Willisch. Both guides had an accident in the mountains a few years later: Urs Lerjen in 2016 on the Riffelhorn, Gabriel Willisch in 2017 on the Täschalp high trail. "I carry both of them deep in my heart, and I know that one day I will see them again," says Helmut Lerjen. "Every person has his hourglass. When it runs out, only one commands that."

Flight trip

History: Dom & Täschhorn - Crown of the Mischabel. Daniel Anker, Caroline Fink, Marco Volken. German. AS Verlag, Zurich 2012.