Linus and Gintare flew in from Sweden for a couple of days. They invited a bunch of people for a hike to the Sustli mountain hut. First however, we went for our traditional Friday night climbing at the gym followed by beers and pizza at the Pimp Palazzo. The weather forecast was giving us mixed signals talking about snow and rain so the mood was a bit indecisive. Hanna showed up sick and thus began our game of "Ten Little Indians". Early next morning the remaining crew of Linus, Gintare, Sandra, Björn, Sasa, Andrey, Ben, Håvard and I met at the train station. About to drive off we received a call from the hut informing us that the pass was closed because of too much snow and the hut unmanned.
Seeing our enthusiasm and motivation for the weekend dwindle quickly I called the Rugghubel hut. I have been there before and knew it should be accessible. They could only give me a very non-committal answer, saying the hut was manned but the trail possibly inaccessible because of avalanche risk. So we sat in a café waiting for the promised call back. When this didn't come I again called, again with the same non-information in response. We decided to go anyway.
Sandra turned out to be the next Little Indian to fall by the wayside. She got severely nauseous, developing a fever and shivering. She returned from Engelberg by train. The remaining crew of eight hiked up to the hut. There were patches of snow all the way down to the village, but the trail was in good condition. We witnessed some minor snow slides but nothing to be concerned about.
The sun was shining, proving the forecast wrong. We still got a little wet from the melting snow dripping off leafs while hiking through the forested parts. When we arrived at the hut we got a room all to ourselves, a rare luxury in SAC type dormitories. We also got beautiful "sea of clouds" vistas over the Engelberg valley. We spent the evening playing board games and drinking "Saft vom Fass".
Enjoying a beautiful sunrise during our breakfast at 7 we head out to climb the Engelberger Rotstock (2818m) around 8 in the morning. A peak I have tried, and failed, to climb twice before (once, twice). An hour or so into the approach Linus and Gintare decide to call it quits and turn around, leaving us with six people.
The weather is picture perfect - deep blue skies. The last week brought about 20cm of fresh snow with the last night adding another 2-3cm. Yet we still don't have to use our snow shoes since another group of hikers from the hut has broken trail for us. Very convenient! We reach the Engelberger Lücke, a pass at 2686m altitude. This is where our next three Little Indians, Sasa, Björn and Håvard decide to turn around. The idea of scrambling up the steep summit ridge without crampons didn't sit well with them.
So it is that only Andrey, Ben and me gather around the summit cross in pristine, untouched snow at 11 in the morning. We are rewarded with gorgeous views and an enjoyable scramble.
For the way down everyone chooses a different mode. Linus and Gintare hiked all the way down with a big head start. The group of three that turned from the pass take a cable car for half of the distance and so does Ben. Andrey and I try not to make the others wait for too long and run down the mountain. We manage to arrive at about the same time as Ben and the entire expedition meets in the park to return home. A very international crew too, in the original gang of 10 we had Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Lithuania, Germany, Croatia, Poland, the USA and Canada represented with only one dual citizenship ;-)
For an expedition that nearly didn't happen at all and was "planned" in two minutes on a parking lot I think the weekend turned out rather well! As Ben said: "Sometimes you just can't let a little snow get in your way". Thanks to the gang for indulging my crazy ideas and unwavering enthusiasm about climbing things no matter what.
~25km, ~1850m up and down