De Fletschhorn en de route naar de Weissmieshütte. Foto:

The Fletschhorn and April Joke

Switzerland has 48 mountains that are higher than 4 000 metres. The highest mountain is the Dufourspitze (4,634 metres), named after Guillaume Henri Dufour (1787-1875), engineer, army officer (including the commander-in-chief of the Confederation in the Sonderbundskrieg of 1847) and founder of Swiss topography.

The most famous mountain is the Matterhorn (4 478 metres), the most touristic and first conquered (3 August 1811) mountain is the Jungfrau (4 158 metres), and the last conquered peak (19 July 1900) of 4 075 metres is the Schwarzfluh.  Climbers reached all 4000+ peaks in the period 1811-1900.

However, there is also a loser. The Fletschhorn near Saas-Grund (canton of Valais) had to leave the premier league of 4 000 + mountains at the end of the 19th century. The mountain was still 4 001 metres high in the middle of the 19th century, and they reached the top on 8 August 1854. By 1900, the height was only 3993 metres. Erosion or more precise measuring methods are to blame for this.

In 1988, for reasons of tourism and marketing, the municipality of Saas-Grund wanted to raise the mountain seven metres by constructing iron and concrete.

The fantasy even went so far as to put the mountain under psychological treatment: it was so ashamed of its 4 000- metre status compared to the neighbouring Lagginhorn (4 010 metres, climbed on 26 August 1856) that it stood shyly in the background.

The 1 April joke of 1988 concerned this project: The Walliser Bote wrote: Solution in sight, the level of the sea can be lowered. After all, the measurement takes place at sea level (Lösung in Sicht. Die kostspielige Erhöhung könne man umgehen, indem man versuche, den Meeresspiegel um einige Meter abzusenken).

Nature conservation, the SAC and neighbouring municipalities saw nothing in the plan. The canton finally intervened and refused the building permit in 1991. However, the village did not want to give up and measured the peak one more time. The Fletschhorn was not 3993 metres high, but ‘only’ 3985 metres.

The municipality attracted the international (including the BBC) and national press in 1988 and 1991 (including “Kein Witz! Walliser wollen neuen Viertausender bauen” (the national Sonntagszeitung)).

The 4000- status does not affect the beauty of the mountain and the Weissmieshütte of the SAC at 2 726 metres.

The Swiss Alpine Club

The SAC ( organises ski tours, mountaineering and other sports in the high mountains and the Alps and (hiking) activities in other regions.