2013-06-08

Climbing Gaswerk, Ponte Brolla and Arcegno

My old friend from University, Volker, visited me from Germany for last week's long Corpus Christi weekend. We had planned to go climbing, hiking and on a via ferrata. Unfortunately the weather was abysmal. It was pouring rain non-stop. In fact, we had as much rain in two days as we usually get in the entire month. This lead to severe flooding, mud slides blocking train tracks and freak avalanches. So our original plans would not only have been uncomfortable but also dangerous.

Ponte Brolla main area.

Thus we spent Friday climbing indoors in the Gaswerk gym. We climbed non-stop for 4.5 hours for a thorough workout. Quite successful too. Both of us flashed a 7a and I came within an inch of top-roping my first ever 7b (slipped off once, but climbed through that section on second attempt).

Through Volker's crotch.
Lots of caves and cooling chambers (?) in the area.

For Saturday we met up with a bunch of Google climbers and fled from the bad weather to the southern side of the alps. Rafał and Izabela were nice enough to give Volker and me a ride in their car (thanks!). Driving through the Gotthard Tunnel had an almost surreal effect. On one side we had gray skies and rain as far as you could see. Coming out on the other side the sun was shining in a clear blue sky. I have witnessed people on the train burst out in spontaneous applause when experiencing the same effect. Still it surprises me.

Zandone campground.
Resting...
...while Andrey, Volodymyr and Iljya are rocking it.

Our group totaled about 10 people so we split up into multiple rope teams. With such large a group preferences and skills are all over the map so everyone spent the day climbing in different areas. Volker and me started hiking up to the main sector of Ponte Brolla but somehow lost our way and ended up scrambling to the top, rather than the base, of a climb. The area was crawling with climbers. Luckily for us, we were interested in the harder climbs and soon had a wide choice of routes to ourselves. We had quite a successful day sending several routes in the 6b+ difficulty range.

Organizing gear and studying the guidebook.
Me enjoying strong winds.

We met up with the rest of the gang for beers and dinner afterwards. Sitting outside in the mild mediterranean night. Volker and I walked, while the others drove, to the nearby Zandone campground.

Of course none of us (modulo Rafał and Izabela) had been smart enough to bring food for breakfast so we got thoroughly ripped off by the campground selling us their last bunch of sad buns. Forget trying to buy anything in a tiny Swiss village on a Sunday!

Rafał pulling some moves.
Ivan in a slabby 6a+.

Since the sun was burning hot on the south facing walls of Ponte Brolla we decided to go up the other way to Arcegno this time. Gorgeous area with lots of creeks, forests and small lakes. Great climbing too. Unfortunately the largest and most exciting climbing wall is on private property and has been closed for the public. My brand new guide book still lists it as accessible but people spray canned "private" all over the place and dismantled most of the bolts. Ah well. On the way down we discovered a smaller climbing area with big overhanging roofs. Iljya and Rafał tried their hands climbing them. I think Rafał put in the strongest climb of the day attempting a 6b roof. Didn't make it all the way, but it looked quite impressive. Downclimbed it too to rescue his gear ;-)

Volker.
Andrey striking his Putin-Pose.

On the way back there was a ten kilometer traffic jam for the Gotthard Tunnel so we decided to try the Great St Bernard Tunnel instead. Obviously that was completely clogged too. It took us 5.5 hours to get home. 3 hours longer than what the GPS estimated and much too late for Volker to catch his connecting train back to Germany. So he spent another night at our place. Being stuck in the traffic jam we cursed not having put Volker on the train back in Locarno. However, as we later learned from the others who did take the train, they didn't fare much better. Due to mud slides several tracks were blocked and trains were cancelled. So they got home at the same time we did and had to stand in a crowded train all the way.

Some people were even more annoyed by the rain than us.

While it was a bit annoying, especially for Volker who traveled long and far to get here, that our original plans didn't work out due to bad weather, I think in the end it turned out to be a fun and enjoyable weekend.