2013-07-15

Zwächten (3080m), Mountaineering Course Spannorthut

I attended a one week mountaineering course at the Spannorthut near Engelberg with the Swiss Alpine Club. The idea was to learn how to make future expeditions a little less suicidal and to meet like minded mountain addicts. The hut is framed by the jagged towers of the Gross Spannort and the impressive 800m near vertical face of the Schlossberg. We spent four days learning and practicing proper rope technique, knots, multi-pitch climbing, rappelling, crevasse self rescue, improvising a whole slew of pulley systems, reading topographic maps, using a compass and so on.

The hut with a group of soldiers training.
View from the Schlossberglücke. Bad weather?
Substitute summit: Zwächten.

Wednesday was summit day. We had a false start, gearing up at 4 in the morning only to go back to bed because the weather looked bad and prone to thunderstorms. Rising again four hours later we gave it another shot and hiked up to the Schlossberglücke. It was still overcast and unstable so we decided to deviate from our original goal of climbing the Gross Spannort (3198m) and go to the Zwächten (3080m) instead. I was a little disappointed by this decision as it still seemed possible to go for the original goal. Then again, for some reason I quickly earned a reputation as being risk prone.

Tom filling in the summit book and being offered the "Gipfelschluck".
Chilling on the glacier at the Spannortjoch. Still time to climb the Gross Spannort!

We did reach the summit of the Zwächten and had a ton of fun sliding down the steep snow covered slopes back to the hut. I never imagined that regular hiking boots and an ice ax would make for such a fun and competent ski replacement! The whole group was cheering and tumbling down the mountain - practicing self arrests from time to time (voluntary or no).

Sliding...
...or tumbling down the mountain.

Just to mock us the weather was nearly perfect all other days of the week. I felt a bit underutilized by a single summit attempt and thus spent a lot of energy climbing around the hut. One of our mountain guides and the hut's custodian, Tom, is a very competent and experienced climber and has bolted a lot of routes in the area. I managed to repeat a couple of 6cs - unfortunately none of them in good style (I was top roping and needed a rest).

Freddy making a face.
Eric climbing.
Titlis face. Featuring some of Switzerland's hardest multi pitch routes.
Spannort towers.

Tom has been working on bolting an insanely cool line through the Schlossberg face for a couple of years now. He's about two thirds of the way to the top, doing all the work according to the highest ethical standards (asking the original first ascend team for permission; placing only few bolts and bolting from below - using the drill while climbing a route in the six-ish difficulty range!). I'll definitely be back for this one! Just need to work on my endurance a "bit" ;-)

Schlossberg face. I'll be back!

Awesome week with a cool group. Special thanks to our two guides Tom and Freddy and to Marianne for revitalizing us with good food every night.