2017-04-02

Bockmattli, "Höhlenweg" 6a+

Don't trust Mark and me with paying attention to where we're going. We've again proven our incompetence on Sunday when we defied a mixed weather forecast and headed for lake Wägital to climb the "Höhlenweg" up the nameless tower at Bockmattli. We parked the car and headed up a trail. We had both hiked this particular trail before and thus didn't really think twice about the fact that we were headed for a different destination this time. Half way up the mountain we realized our mistake. We were on the correct mountain, but wrong side of it. We tried to traverse but headed into steeper and steeper terrain on muddy and slippery wet grass. Eventually we decided to give up and retraced our steps back down to the car.

Approach?
Bushwhacking before finally giving up and turning around.

Our second attempt was successful and we arrived at the base of the climb at around noon. Wasted one and a half hours and a few hundred meters of elevation gain. Chalk it up as training ;-) The "Höhlenweg" (cave trail?) follows a series of prominent caves for 11 pitches and 370 meters of climbing in great limestone. The line weaves into and out of the caves and crosses diagonally through a huge overhanging rock formation. As such it is extremely committing: bailing anywhere would be extremely difficult or impossible - the route is not setup for rappelling. You top out or you're in trouble.

The mighty walls of the Bockmattli.
Lots of great rock to return to. Just a 40 minute drive away from home!

Thus we were watching the clouds rolling into and out of the valley with some trepidation. Rain could really screw us over. The climbing itself was a ton of fun. Very inhomogeneous with some easy grassy pitches with hardly any protection and some pumpy overhanging moves on the steeper pitches. While the first pitch required a full 60 meter rope, many of the later ones were quite short to avoid excessive rope drag around the corners of the caves.

Mark in the first cave.
Me leading the first crux pitch out of the cave.
Mark doing his thing.

The hardest pitch was the final exit pitch. Thus you should be very confident in your ability to climb 6a+ and have enough reserves up to the very end. It's a bad spot to get stuck in. At the same time the final 4 pitches were really the most fun of the entire route. We were following a natural fault line in the rock. Very exposed in an overhanging wall. Each pitch progressively harder than the previous one but all following the same general idea: lean backs from nice juggy holds that become progressively more rare.

On one of the final traverse pitches - fun!
Me leading the exit pitch.
Hiking off the tower. This can easily become dicey if there is still too much snow.

Protection was a bit weird. On easy pitches you'd go for 20 meters without any gear while the first crux getting out of the cave had a bolt every half meter or so. This was clearly set up so you could aid climb it by dangling from one quickdraw to the next. Some topos marked quite a few pitches of this route as A0. I'm pleased to say that we did not take advantage of this and free climbed the entire thing in good style.

Mission accomplished.
A very satisfyingly large number of switchbacks are required to get us back to the start ;-)
Caves? What caves are you talking about? I don't see any.
Sweet location for a climbing hut.