2014-08-16

Rheinwaldhorn (3402m)

I have attempted the Rheinwaldhorn before. I had to turn around because of bad weather and buckets of fresh snow. This time things turned out much better. Vladimír and Nicola had friends from the Czech Republic, Michaela and Filip, visiting, and wanted to show them the local mountains. Andrey and I were recruited as guides. With six people we took two cars to get to our starting point of Dangio. We shuttled the second one to our intended destination, the dam at the Lago di Luzzone. Despite a late start (due to the unavoidable traffic jam at the Gotthard tunnel) we made it to the Capanna Adula SAC just in time for dinner.

Nicola, Vladimír, Andrey, Michaela, Filip
Visitors at the hut.
Sun coming up.

Rising with the sun on the next morning we set out to climb the Rheinwaldhorn via the west ridge. It is rated PD- and thus slightly harder than the normal route. It's a rocky ridge with easy scrambling over tall boulders. An exposed traverse is protected by steel cables and the crux, a chimney featuring grade II or III climbing, is equipped with a chain for aid. Eventually we gain the glacier and rope up. For Michaela and Filip it is the first time in crampons. They have been performing exceptionally well thus far though and Filip in particular challenges us to attack the slope head on instead of choosing the regular, easier route. The snow is frozen solid (even at the level of the hut at only 2000 meters the ground was frozen in the morning) and conditions perfect, so we decide to go for a little adventure. It is very steep, so we can only use the front points of our crampons and need to utilize the ice ax to full effect. We top out on the ridge right next to the summit. Just five hours after starting from the hut we sign the summit book at 11 o'clock in the morning. Perfect weather with not a cloud in sight. Weird Kneipp feeling - the sun shines nice and warm while the breeze cuts ice cold and sitting on the rocks makes you shiver.

Filip
Andrey in front of the scrambling ridge.
Nicola in the crux.

Unfortunately we've timed it so we share the summit with a crowd of people who came up via the normal route. We share that route for the descent. It's a long traverse over the glacier. The reflecting sun makes us heat up as if in a frying pan. The Italian speaking crowd in front of us is hollering and shouting and chatting noisily. Very uncharacteristic for mountain people ;-) We are faster than them though and quickly on our own again. We return to the hut, have some soup, pick up our sleeping gear and head out via a long valley to the North. It turns into a painful experience for me. This being the first proper mountaineering trip after the accident my injured foot is still far from healed. It didn't like the sideways strain from traversing in crampons and I'm paying the price now. Also, I have likely broken my good foot during our Canada vacation just three weeks earlier (different story for another post), so I'm basically hiking on two broken feet. Not recommended.

Filip scrambling through the crux.
Roping up for the glacier.

Arriving at the Lago di Luzzone we have to cross the dam to get to our car. An impressive structure. At 165 meters tall it features the world's largest artificial climbing route. I'm not whimpy with heights at all, but the exposure and sheer scale of this thing does give one pause.

Andrey in steep ice just below the summit ridge.
Summit!
Yours truly.

Great trip in great company. I'm especially impressed at how well our mountain newbie guests held up. Well done all around!

~+2600m, -2000m ~30km

On the highway down.
Compare the real thing...
...to the fake.
Andrey.
Long way back through that valley...
Vertigo anyone?