Wiggis (2282m) and Rautispitz (2283m)

Volker, an old friend of mine from Germany, visited me over the weekend. We hiked Wiggis (2282m) and Rautispitz (2283m), leaving my apartment at 6:30 in the morning and coming back 22:30 in the evening. Almost 12 hours of straight hiking in between. Beautiful weather with bright blue skies and freezing temperatures. I wisely chose two smaller peaks because we had quite some snow in the preceding weeks and I wasn't sure about the conditions on top. We had to cross some patches of snow and particularly the north faces presented quite a bit of scrambling action. It proved difficult to stay on trail sometimes because most markers were hidden below the snow and we were often the first to leave tracks.

We had one "interesting" traverse to solve. A steep section just below the peak of Wiggis to reach the ridge between Wiggis and Rautispitz. Although we met some other hikers no one dared going there. Luckily we brought crampons (thanks for borrowing Steffen!) and managed to negotiate the difficulty. A very steep slope over a ~1500m drop straight down into the valley. It's usually secured with steel cables which were now all covered with snow and unreachable. A thin layer of powder on top of a hard crust of ice. Quite a technical and psychological challenge so hats off to Volker who managed very well with little alpine experience.
In the end we totaled 2024m elevation gain and loss and a distance of around 30km. Respectable ;-)

After giving Volker the obligatory Google office tour on Sunday we went climbing in the local gym. I managed to clear a long, constantly overhanging VII UIAA route (5.10c for you Americans, 17m high, 13m overhang) while Volker flashed a lot of routes on sight, including an VIII- (5.11b).

All in all a very successful and fun weekend! ;-)

All photos here.


Engelberger Rotstock (2818m), attempt, returned from 2604m

A long day, 17 hours on the road, from 5:20 to 22:20. It got off to a bad start. I didn't sleep well and was feeling sick with a sore throat, running nose and slight case of diarrhea. My desk neighbor at work has been sick and spewing his gems all over me for the last week, so this was probably having an effect by now. The weather looked depressing with low hanging clouds and not a bit of blue sky in sight. Not one to be easily discouraged I still headed out with the goal of climbing the Engelberger Rotstock (2818m). And a good decision it turned out to be!

I started in the valley in the tiny village Oberrickenbach. Ascending through frozen meadows I would soon eclipse the clouds to a stunningly beautiful alpine panorama. Perfectly deep blue sky and the sun shining down on an endless sea of clouds stretching far beyond the horizon. Topped by an almost full moon still hanging in the sky. Dreamlike. The clouds drowned out all the noise coming from the valley so the silence up here was absolute and deafening. Not a bird or insect. No human. No plane, nothing. Mountain tops would peak through the sea of clouds like islands. In fact, you'd be tempted to dive right in and swim a little.

Reaching the first ridge I was supposed to traverse for a while before crossing over to "my" mountain. Unfortunately I missed the trail due to the markers being buried in snow and descended too far. So I had to scramble up again, adding the 200 or so odd meters to my path that I'd needed later. On this side the snow was packed hard and mostly frozen. Good to walk on in crampons. Unfortunately for me, crossing the summit ridge the snow was exposed to the sun and turned to wet slush. Very exhausting to navigate as you'd sink in every step. I was the first one to break a trail which made it even more strenuous. About 200 meters below the summit, at around 4 o clock in the afternoon I decided to give up and turn around. After a climb of almost 2000m, and close to 20km I was quite exhausted in my current almost-sick condition. And even if I turned around immediately I'd get down to the valley in the dark.

I stopped at the Rugghubelhütte on my way down to get some life saving calories. Half a liter of coke for instant revitalization and a big slice of cake with lots of cream. Took me all of two minutes to gulp down ;-) I earned some looks of disbelief when I answered questions of where I just arrived from and where I was going. Apparently everybody else was taking the cable car and sleeping in the hut before even attempting the summit. They thanked me for breaking the trail ;-)

I got slightly sunburned and was glad I brought my new sun glasses. The reflections on the snow would have been blinding otherwise. I have paid 1000CHF (!) for this pair of glasses, making them the most expensive (of any kind) I have ever owned. Disability tax. I need sunglasses suitable for the extra radiation at high altitudes, with a strong UV filter and covering the eyes completely. So far, no problem. But I also need corrective glasses. Problem. For my particular sight issues I had the choice between exactly three models, all equally expensive. I've tried clips to my regular glasses before, but they don't work. They are too small and have issues with fogging and collecting lint between the glasses. So I bit the bullet.

Totals for the day:

30km, 1987m elevation gain, 1887m elevation loss. Hiking time from 8:00 to 19:30, 4 hours of which in crampons. Absolutely perfect weather and some of the most stunningly beautiful vistas yet.

2011-10-15 Engelberger Rotstock

BTW, these were all taken with my new camera: A Nikon D7000 with an AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm lens. I'm still learning the ropes using it. Noticeable difference? If not I can avoid carrying a huge, expensive and unwieldy 1kg chunk of equipment around ;-)


Winter is coming

To quote Game of Thrones: "Winter is coming". I had planned an ambitious hike for today, covering 3 peaks and a long ridge in between. I wouldn't even reach the first one. The weather forecast predicted some amount of fresh snow for the weekend. In reality winter launched a full force frontal assault. There were around 15cm of fresh snow even in the valley. The peaks in the area received more than 80cm (!) and it just kept coming while I was slowly plowing my way upwards. Stuck waist deep in the stuff, wet to the bone, with zero visibility and more than 8 hours to go I decided to call it quits and turn around. And a good decision it was too. If going up was difficult going down proved to be even more so because now you'd start to slip and slide. I was glad that the terrain was still relatively easy and forgiving.

Aside from the snowflakes falling gently and my own steps crunching in the snow it was absolutely silent. This made it even more startling when huge branches would suddenly give in to the weight of the snow and come crashing down. I witnessed a small avalanche on the opposite slope later - another reason why it was probably wise to turn around. The snow was wet, heavy and not properly settled yet. From my limited understanding dangerous avalanche conditions.

~10km, ~800m elevation gain/loss, turned around at ~1600m. Now I have snow shoes on my shopping list ;-)

Photos here

BTW, for reference, this was last week in Germany (26°C):