Christian and I spent Sunday skiing in Lenzerheide and Arosa. It was my first time to that area. It's biggish, but seemed to be on the easier side. Also, winter still hasn't arrived and there is very little snow. Towards the afternoon we were ice skating rather than skiing. All lifts were running, but a few of the steeper slopes are still closed for lack of snow. We covered 90 kilometers (including lift rides) and 10.5 vertical kilometers.
The coldest day of the season, snow, wind, significant avalanche danger, ice and chaos on the roads - good conditions to go ice climbing ;-) Ilona, Vladimír and I take the car to Sertig, a village just past Davos. Even before Davos we need to stop and put snow chains on the car. Signs warn that this is mandatory for everyone but four wheel drives.
We arrive at the parking lot in the morning. Right away a bunch of ice climbers are coming our way. Apparently they have retreated from the weather and avalanche conditions. We are unfazed and continue the short hike to the base of the waterfalls.
I stomp out a nice plateau for a belay stance. It lasts for all of five minutes before torrents of spindrift have buried me up to my hips. Vladimír leads the first pitch. Standing still while belaying I slowly turn into a pillar of ice. My eye lashes, nostrils and beard freeze. My gloves stick to the metal of the climbing gear. The legs of my pants freeze and make hollow pottery sounds when you knock on them.
There's a small reprieve after the first pitch before it gets steep again. A lot of snow has accumulated there. I start walking up, wading through knee deep powder. Every step it rises until I'm swimming through chest deep snow. Fun but exhausting.
Ilona leads the second pitch. Then it would have been my turn to lead the final stretch. The quality of the ice has markedly deteriorated towards the top though and I don't feel comfortable leading it, chickening out. So Ilona starts again. Her first kick into the ice at our belay stance confirms my suspicions, breaking away a huge chunk of ice just below one of our screws.
Still, we all make it to the top of the ~100m fall and even find a bolted anchor hidden behind a curtain of icicles. Much preferred to rappelling from rotten ice! For the second rappel we can reuse an Abalakov a previous party left. Which is good, because we forgot our hook to build one ourselves ;-)
The plan was to go ice climbing on Sunday. Unfortunately, and despite claims that "winter is coming", it's not actually winter yet. So there was no ice. Luckily Urnerboden is set up for dry tooling too. With a warm 2°C even on a North facing wall at 1300m altitude we came to think of it as wet-tooling instead. Now this is the first time I get out my ice tools this season and my second time ever dry-tooling. I think for Vladimír and Tereza, despite being very strong rock climbers, it was even the first time. So the three of us were a bit intimidated by the thought of leading the steep rock with all these sharp and pointy things attached to us. Ilona saved the day by putting up top ropes for the rest of us. Hurrah to our rope gun!
Like a total buffoon, I left my crampons at home and had to take turns with Vladimír's. Despite all of these fuck ups it turned out to be a great day and great fun. I think we climbed Volxlauf M5+ and Verschneidung M5-, both multiple times in several variations. I say "I think" because we only had a very coarse topo and weren't entirely sure what routes we were on. My first few climbs were completely ridiculously bad and I thought of them as "falling upwards": I kept losing purchase for my ice tools or feet but still somehow managed to cling on desperately, resulting in dramatic swings. I'm sure it must have been quite a comic sight and crowd pleaser. We ended the day with cheese fondue and cards against humanity at Nicola's birthday party. Great times!
2015 was one of my best years yet. Anita and I got engaged; I mostly recovered from my accident; I left my old team at Google with my strongest performance rating yet; the new team and project are incredibly fun; we went for a week of skiing and wellness in Austria; a week of climbing on Crete; a week of hiking through the Swiss alps; a beach vacation on La Gomera; an extended weekend in Vienna; skiing in Engelberg, Laax, Andermatt and Flims; Rock Climbing Rivella, Sunneplättli, Engi, Weesen, Roggenflue, Siggenthaler Flue, Sobrio, Roggenhuser Steinbruch, Balmflue, Leiteregg, Lungern and Brüggler many of them with more than one visit; I completed my fourth Rigi Marsch; I went hiking and mountaineering to Lagh de Cama, Arena Sardona, Ulrichshorn, Säntis, Nesthorn, Gross Furkahorn, Balmhorn, Krönten, Bristen, Gulderstock, Montalin, Brisen and Buochserhorn; we swam across Lake Zürich and bashed our bums sledding. All of that in the company of great friends and family.
Here's to an even more awesome 2016!