2014-06-07

Piz Tomül (2946m), attempt, returned from 2709m

About two weeks ago I posted this on facebook:

I'm having a rough time. I miss my sport so much. Climbing and the mountains had become such a huge part of my life. Dominating my free time, and, maybe more importantly, my dreams and ambitions. I used to feel a little stronger, a little better about myself, every day. Now every step I take sends a painful reminder of the things I've lost. I'm growing weaker every day. I am back at my body weight from before the accident. Only this time it's all fat instead of muscle. The mountains used to be a never ending stream of inspiration and motivation for me that I could tap into naturally and effortlessly whenever I felt like it. Now I find it hard to maintain my enthusiasm about any one of my projects. It's been a long time since I had a good night's sleep. My shoulder kills one of my most accustomed resting positions. Getting out of bed is no fun when your claw is not even good for picking up your glasses from the nightstand and you know that your first few hobbling steps will crunch and squeak and drive tears to your eyes. Sitting at my desk is hurting my back and pelvis and is frustrating to begin with since my crippled typing is awkward and slow. We've been to a wedding where the photographer had us chasing the bride. I ran for maybe fifty paces and days later I'm still paying the price.

People keep telling me how lucky I was to survive. The way I see it I was incredibly unlucky to have fallen in the first place! It's not like this was inevitable. We were not doing anything stupid or overly ambitious.

Sorry for the whiney rant. A big part of me is missing and I want it back!

This weekend I tried to find some of the magic again.

The village of Vals.
For Anita ;-)
As a kid I had raccoons instead of teddy bears. In a next life I think I'd prefer marmots. I saw dozens of these furry critters.
Typical bicycle commute in Switzerland.

The forecast predicted picture perfect weather for the entire long weekend (Monday is a national holiday here courtesy of Pentecost) and so far it turned out to be right. If anything, it's too hot. Anyway, I figured this was an opportunity to stay in the mountains for a night and reconnaissance a ridge I have my eyes on. To actually complete the full project I need to be in much better shape than I am now, but I thought I could at least attempt the first peak in the chain (Piz Tomül, 2946m). Starting in the village of Vals at 1270m the first five or so kilometers are easy going and can be considered warm up. Nearing the pass at 2400m the snow fields become more and more frequent though and the going gets tough. At least I can follow in somebody else's faint tracks. No such luck once I leave the pass and head along the ridge for the summit. I have to break trail through wet slushy snow. As is the nature of this you sometimes unexpectedly break through into some unseen hole below. My crippled foot really really doesn't like these kinds of surprises. At about 2700m I decide to turn around. I haven't seen another human soul in hours and the ridge features some scary looking cornices before finally topping out. Better not dare them all alone. Also, as much as it pains me to admit this, I'm quite exhausted. Carrying a heavy 15kg backpack for the planned overnight stay and breaking trail is more taxing than I remember from my fit pre-accident days ;-/

Lost? Soon after he jumped through a hole in the snow into the melt water creek below.
The ridge.
Lonely foot steps on the way up.
The remaining ridge towards the summit.

After returning back down to the pass it's still early afternoon. While there is a nice bivvy spot right here, cuddling down now seems too early. So I continue down a bit and find a nice spot at about 2200m altitude. It's not sheltered from the wind as the previous one was. But as it should turn out, it'll stay quite warm all through the night. I expect to enjoy a starry night sky as you can only ever experience it at sea or in the mountains. Instead it feels like someone forgot to turn off the lights after leaving the room - the moon shines that bright. Not even a full moon, but still enough to cast crisp shadows. Eventually it disappears behind a ridge and I get the milky way in all its majestic glory. It's dead silent except for the faint background roar of the waterfalls and soft rustle of the wind.

Selfie at my high point.
Sometimes skis would be nice.
Mountaineering marmot. Grauhörner (3039m, T5, UIAA II) in the background.
Surfing marmot. Did I mention these guys are awesome?

I hike out towards Tenna, following the beautiful Safiental. Uneventful and easy hiking along a trail that gets used as a mountain bike route. The bus is a bit late as it was blocked by a slow driver on the snaking switch back roads. From Versam down to the train station the bus driver apparently wants to catch up and goes at breakneck speed. My view out the window goes straight down into the abyss. I can see no part of the road or guide rails - just the steep drop off. I sure hope that guy knows how to control his vehicle... he certainly announces it enthusiastically and often using the trade mark horn. The train ride back to Chur through the Rhine Canyon (the "Grand Canyon of Switzerland") is a highlight by itself. The windows of the narrow-gauge train on its impossible route are lined by Indian tourists enjoying the view.

Room with a view.
Bruschghorn (3056m), Gelbhorn (3036m)
Sunrise around 5:30. Glad I left this early, it got really hot!
Summer has arrived.

So not quite what I hoped for, but a nice excursion nevertheless. If I had been maybe a week or two later I think the ridge would have been mostly free of snow and an easy T2-T3 hike to the first summit. From then on the next couple of peaks look very doable until you reach the triumvirate of Grüner Horn (2851m), Piz Signina (2848m) and Piz Fess (2880m). Continuing the traverse over those f*ckers might be a bit "interesting". In fact, up until 1894 "Böser Fess" was considered unclimbable.

Day 1: 13km, +1587m, -654m
Day 2: 21km, +571m, -1525m
Bunny asylum. You tell me.
They couldn't decide whether to run away from me or come investigate. Curiosity won.
Scenic bus stop. Looking back over the Safiental while waiting (One bus every two hours).