2015-03-20

Climbing Sunneplättli

The weather forecast predicted five days of sun followed by two rainy days followed by five sunny days. Guess what the two rainy days were supposed to be? Exactly - the weekend! So I sent an email to the climbers mailing list whether anyone would be willing to spontaneously take Friday off and join me for some action outdoors. I didn't expect much on such short notice, but in the end Jochen, Ivan, Michael, Samuel, Vinay and I went up to the Sunneplättli crag at lake Lucerne. Andrey didn't join because a coin flip decided he had to go paragliding instead. Oh the opportunity costs! ;-)

Samuel and Vinay
Jochen
Michael

It turned into a beautiful and very successful day of climbing. Michael won "most hardcore of the day" trophy for mountain biking up to the crag and back. Last week on the same crag, we worked our way West to East. This time we went the other way around. I have now climbed all of the routes on the wall, except for the two hardest ones. We've tried them on top rope. Fingerschliesser 7a+/7b features an overhanging boulder problem right from the start. We sort of managed to force our way through the first move but got completely stuck after that. Hexentanz 7a felt a lot more reasonable. The crux move up a polished foot hold is still quite far out of reach for me, but for the rest of the route I can at least see how I could climb it cleanly. This time I was sitting in the rope a lot though ;-) Vinay however put up a very strong fight and given a few more burns should be able to send it ("davai, davai!").

Ivan, Samuel, Vinay
Scrambling back down to the road.
Someone converted a conference room at Google into a big camera obscura, so we got to watch the partial solar eclipse in the morning and this beautiful dusk in the evening. Not bad for a day!

I climbed:

  • (Unnamed) 5a
  • Fantasia 5c
  • Flamenco 5c
  • Rasta 5c+
  • Moritz 5c+
  • Chilbitanz 6a
  • Alter Weg 6a+
  • Löchliweg 6b
    (my last climb and crowning achievement of the day)
  • Hexentanz 7a
    (struggling through and cheating on top rope)
  • Fingerschliesser 7a+/7b
    (wasting energy on just the first few moves)
Me in the start of Alter Weg 6a+. Rusty pitons ftw!

2015-03-15

Climbing Sunneplättli

Switzerland is still blessed with good dry weather so Andrey, Cyril and I set out to climb on the Sunneplättli at Lake Lucerne. It's almost 1000m above sea level, but facing South and, true to its name "Sun Slab", gets a lot of sun. It was a weirdly twilight day with haze hanging in the air. Towards the afternoon strong winds picked up, so the climbing ropes would vibrate. It got quite chilly. We still got some long single pitches done, although with three people the rotation takes a bit long.

Those blurry dots between my legs are Andrey and Cyril.
For some reason it seems physically impossible for my helmet to stay on straight.

As is usual in Switzerland the routes are well protected and bolted. The limestone rock is of great quality and the routes a very homogenous difficulty level. And the views across the lake towards the mountains are fantastic. Definitely a place to return to and explore more of the (many) crags.

Cyril photo bombing Andrey.
Cyril trying to figure out the small roof section on Abigdächli (6a).
A lonely sailor on Lake Lucerne.

I climbed:

  • Abigdächli 6a
  • Schwartenweg 5c
  • Wassermann 6a+
  • Electronic 6a+
  • Gugger 6a

Andrey on the lead. With his foot behind the rope. After clipping all his quick draws the wrong way around. That's what bouldering does to your head kids! It poisons the mind and corrupts the soul. Just say no to bouldering!

2015-03-08

Climbing Rivella

It's on! Alex is visiting from the Dublin office and we have a stable high pressure system - good reasons to start the outdoor climbing season! Alex, Adrien, Vinay and I head for the Rivella climbing area at lake Lucerne. An easy approach (you park right next to the crag) and low altitude make this our first choice. Also, someone promised us the wall would be South facing. Having been to the area a few times this felt wrong to me. And indeed, we'd be climbing in the shade all day. In the morning this led to numb fingers and shivering belays, but it got better during the day.

Such an ugly country...
Cell phone camera struggling with difficult light.

At some point a car stopped and two people got out, heading straight for us. They didn't look much like climbers being a little heavyset and old-ish. It turned out they were interested in us climbing there because the guy had bolted a few of the routes more than 30 years ago. He's now two years away from retirement and no longer climbing actively. One of the routes, Via Bella, is named for and after his wife. We had a nice conversation about crags in Switzerland and traded injury war stories. It's the first time climbing outside for me since my accident and Bella had just recently broken both her wrists and her elbow. Anyway, nice chance encounter!

I was quite happy about my climbing. I managed clean leads on most routes and only cheated by top roping and resting on the 6a+ and 6b. It's still a bit frustrating seeing the tick marks in my guide book next to routes I cleanly redpointed (and often even on-sighted) and now struggling on easier stuff. I'd sometimes reach for holds I knew I could hold onto only to then discover I can't anymore. Somehow my brain is a bit sluggish accepting this new reality. Ah well. More training I guess.

I climbed:

  • Pfeiler 5c
  • Flower-Power 5c+
  • Little Edge 5c+
  • Just do it 6a+
  • Eidächsli 4c
  • Schmalspur 5c
  • Späckstei 5c+
  • Parallele Lärmzone 5b
  • Lärmzone 6b

Alex rocking a 6b+.

2015-02-27

Skiing and Wellness in Austria

Anita and I spent six days in Austria in the Hotel Übergossene Alm at the Hochkönig. Because Anita wasted a lot of her vacation days visiting me in the hospital last year we went to the wellness and spa hotel Alpenrose to make up for it. Apparently one fancy hotel a year has become a tradition now ;-) Only this time I was actually fit to do something besides chilling in the sauna and getting massages. So we chose a location in a ski resort. The Hochkönig area advertises itself as having the most beautiful ski circuit of the alps. It did not disappoint.

Gender bias: Anita booked the hotel, but as soon as they figured out I was the man all bills came with my name on them...

We got lucky right from the get go. The small room we originally booked wasn't available, so we got an upgrade to a much larger one free of charge. Our own terrace with beautiful views, a dressing room, a bath tub and a shower - what more could you ask for? The closest lift was just across the street, the ski school and ski rental right in the building. We were all set.

Anita spent her mornings on the bunny slope getting lessons from a private instructor. It was her first time ever on skis and she enjoyed it a lot. Meanwhile I'd go wild trying to ski as many runs as I possibly could. On my best day I managed nearly 14.000 vertical meters on 70 piste and 46 lift kilometers. The hotel offered a handy machine for these analysis based on your ski pass. After that day of back to back skiing without a break even for food my legs were all wobbly; my face sun burned; and a stupid grin permanently chiseled into my face.

Some exercise was definitely advisable too as the food was delicious and plentiful. Every evening offered a four course meal in addition to a buffet. Hanging out in the various pools and saunas is not enough to work that off ;-)

I met some interesting characters too. My favorite is an 84 year old Austrian on the chair lift who was on his 41st day of skiing in 2015 alone. That's how I want to rock at that age! I think Anita's favorite must be Reini, the local "Saunameister" who made it a point of tending the sauna in funny costumes.

Snowing in on the chair lift.
We had a candle light bath with fruits followed by a massage here.
My footsteps. Measuring the fresh snow that fell during dinner. Promising!
Prepared slopes with a foot of virgin fresh powder in the morning. The rarest of conditions!
King's tour indeed.
The harder black runs were mostly deserted and a beautiful playground. In general, waiting times at the lifts were almost non-existent.
"Our" pool.
Journal of my work outs.
Farewell tissue: "Don't cry - come back soon!".
I carried a GPS on my runs. I think I covered pretty much every slope they have.