2015-08-22

Gross Furkahorn (3169m) via Evalin Route (6a+, TD, 11 pitches, 350m)

The trip that nearly wasn't. It seemed that everyone was travelling this weekend and it looked like despite a perfect weather forecast I'd not be able to go on a "big" trip. But then Vinay, Andrew and me chatted at work on Friday and tried to put something together on the last minute. By that time all huts I called were already booked out, so we decided to go for a one day alpine climbing trip up the Gross Furkahorn. I left the climbing gym a little earlier than usual on Friday and threw together a pack just before midnight. We left Zürich by car at 5:30 the next morning.

Our route is basically a straight line from here to the summit.
Vinay in front of the Galenstock.

We parked at Furkapass and hiked up to the base of the mountain. None of us had ever been to the area, so we had to first find the start of the route. I eyeballed the mountain and topo and scrambled up the steep scree slope to where I expected the route to be. Since I couldn't find it I traversed left and right, searching, only to discover that it was precisely where I first expected it to be - I had just been too blind to spot the bolts.

Getting ready.
First pitch.
The traverse in the crux third pitch.

The popular East South East ridge route up the mountain was crowded. So many parties that people were queuing in line, waiting to rope up. Our route is graded much harder and we have it to ourselves (later a second rope team of two would show up and overtake us).

We are off to a bumpy start, with Vinay dropping his climbing shoes, requiring a scramble and search behind a patch of snow to retrieve. A few pitches later he drops his rappel device too, so he uses downtime at the anchors with his phone to research rappelling technique using just carabiners. Good thing he figures this out, as Andrew notices he forgot his rappel device at the base of the climb in the backpack we left behind...

The summit pinnacle.
A "guess what Vinay is doing there?" picture.

We are using two half ropes with me tied in as the leader and the others following behind on a single strand each. We share two backpacks between the three of us, so the leader can climb unencumbered. The first few pitches are also the crux pitches. Steep granite slabs requiring delicate foot work. Very fun climbing on good quality rock in spectacular scenery - we are surrounded by glaciers and towering faces. The climbing is just challenging enough to be exciting but not so hard that I feel uncomfortable leading the many sections with run outs of 5 meters or more. The crux sections are always well protected by bolts and many places allow placing additional trad gear.

Scrambling around on the ridge.
Summit smile.
Summit smile.
Summit smile.

Our route joins the ridge and we ascend the spectacular summit needle. A slanted shard of granite with barely enough room at the top for all three of us to dangle from the anchor and take in the views. Definitely my "pointiest" summit yet. Great effort by everyone involved! Especially Andrew got thrown into the deep end. He's an accomplished sports climber, but hasn't done any alpine stuff before (he hadn't even seen a glacier in real life, let alone walked on one!).

Vinay getting ready to rappel from the summit.
The second rappel further down the mountain.
Scrambling down in scree in climbing shoes - blech!

Clouds are moving in and we have to hurry to make it back to the car before nightfall. The descent requires two rappels and a lot of scrambling in steep and exposed terrain. Some of it on patches of snow. No fun at all in climbing shoes. We expected to be able to rappel on the East side of the mountain where we came up. Instead we come down the other side and have to circle back. We make it back to the parking lot precisely when it became too dark to see. Perfect timing ;-)

Gross Furkahorn, Via Evalin

  • L1 5c, 35m
  • L2 6a, 35m
  • L3 6a+, 35m
  • L4 5c+, 40m
  • L5 4c, 50m
  • L6 5b, 25m
  • L7 5b, 25m
  • L8 2c, ridge
  • L9 3c, ridge
  • L10 4c
  • L11 4b

Photo courtesy of summitpost.org