2016-01-17

Ice Climbing in Sertig

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.

Whoever thought rear wheel drive was a good idea?!
Approach. Ilona the only one on skis which should prove fun later.
Approach. You can just make out the falls in the fog.

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.

A Yeti on belay.
Wasn't there some Disney movie called Frozen? Maybe I should watch it.

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.

Village vista.
Ilona leading the second pitch.
Yours truly coming up.

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.

Vladimír
The ice curtain provided a very welcome shelter from the wind.

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.

A long rappel.
The Abalakov anchor for the second rappel.
Tools of the trade.

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 ;-)

Good times!

Finding our gear at the base of the climb. There is more than one backpack in this picture ;-)
Vladimír
Ilona