Andrey, Volodymyr, Håvard and me went to Urnerboden on Saturday. It is apparently a dry tooling paradise and indeed it turned out to be. We took a 4x4 Mobility car sharing car from Glarus which meant that we could park just a 100m away from the ice - a very luxurious approach.
Volodymyr and me teamed up and climbed one of the smaller, non-vertical water falls. Vovik lead the first pitch, which I repeated on top rope, before leading it myself. It was my first time on the ice and the technique does take some getting used to. Note to self: don't buy cheap-ass Russian ice screws - they are a pain to get into the ice! While our more recent Grivel and Black Diamond screws would practically slide into the ice, the Russian ones require a pneumatic hammer or something.
Our second rope team, Andrey and Håvard, were working on a steeper and taller tower of ice. They didn't make it all the way up and were thus faced with the problem of bailing without leaving any gear on the wall. They alternated climbing up and down the thing until Håvard finally solved the problem by climbing inside and around the ice pillar. That way he could rappel/lower down from the pillar itself. It looked ridiculous but worked very well ;-)
Since Håvard and Andrey basically destroyed the waterfall (seriously, they triggered a constant shower of ice, accompanied by the corresponding warning shouts of "ice!") I tried leading my first ever dry-tooling pitch right next to them instead. I found it much more difficult and much more scary than expected and cheated by using bolts with my ice tools. In my defense I have to say that the others struggled with the route as well, even on top rope.
The place is popular and since we had good weather it was quite crowded. Right next to us was some sort of super human Swiss climbing machine. I watched him for a while and admired how he calmly placed his tools into tiny invisible nooks (in an overhanging roof! climbing trad style!) and smoothly cruise up the wall. Inspired I decided to be a little more like him and a little less like me and ran up the dry tooling route again, this time without cheating and without much trouble (but on top rope).
All throughout the day we could hear dogs howling and barking. The valley has a track for dog sleds which was heavily used. As a constant reminder that we were still in the Alpine, despite the seemingly tamed climbing gym feel of the place, we heard and saw avalanches rumbling down the opposite mountain face all day.
Great fun! I'll be back for more ;-)