Discovering the Dufourspitze

Story 55

In the 1850s, Johann Jakob Weilenmann was a well-known Alpine hiker and mountaineer. Together with Johan Bucher, later a National Councillor, he climbed the highest mountain peak in Switzerland and campaigned for it to be named the “Dufourspitze”.

First ascent of Monte Rosa

On 31 July 1855, five English mountaineers with three mountain guides from Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt were the first to climb the Monte Rosa peak (4,634 m.a.s.l.), the highest point in Switzerland.

Ten days later, the famous Alpine hiker Johann Jakob Weilenmann (1818-1896) from St. Gallen appeared at the Hotel Riffelhaus on the Riffelberg with the aim of climbing Monte Rosa together with his companion Johan Bucher.

The Stockhorn as a training tour

Weilenmann and Bucher postponed the climb because of the uncertain weather conditions. Instead, they decided to hike up the Gornergrat. As the weather improved slightly, they decided to take the Hohtälligrat and continue to the Stockhorn (3,532 m.a.s.l.), which both lay “invitingly ahead of us”.

Weilenmann later wrote that the tour was very easy for anyone experienced in the mountains. Once at the top, he was delighted with the wonderful panoramic view.

The Stockhorn is surrounded to the north, east and south, and to some extent also to the west, by glaciers and firn fields, the white of which is nowhere interrupted by rock.
Johann Jakob Weilenman

At the time, Weilenmann could not have imagined that around a hundred years later, the Gornergrat Railway would make the Stockhorn accessible easily and quickly with an aerial cableway. (Link to Story 58)

Successful second ascent of Monte Rosa

On 14 August 1855, together with Bucher, one German and two English tourists, and four Zermatt mountain guides, he was part of the second group of people to succeed in climbing Monte Rosa.

Namesake: General Dufour

Bucher was elected to the National Council two years later. In 1863, together with Weilenmann, he initiated a Federal Council resolution, after which Switzerland’s highest mountain peak was named the “Dufourspitze”.

The designation recognized the merits of General G. H. Dufour in cartography. As Chief of Staff, Dufour commissioned the creation of a topographical map of Switzerland (1:100,000), also known as the Dufour map (link to Story 1). It was the first official map to cover the whole of Switzerland.

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