HPV summit attempt

We had the first week of real snow so Andrey and I set out for a snow shoe hike up the Fluebrig. To make it more interesting/challenging I decided to attempt an HPV (human powered vehicle) expedition. Thus we biked to the mountain and back. In my mind we'd have perfectly dry asphalt roads right up to the mountain where it would immediately turn into deep snow. Surprisingly that's not quite how it turned out. Starting at 5:30 in the morning we had about an inch of fresh snow already with more coming down. Since we were sticking to the back roads we were using them before the snow plows had a chance to come through. This proved quite challenging. We'd slip and slide, spend a lot of energy on otherwise easy ascents and fight with clogged and frozen gear shifts. Our water bottles turned to ice and we generally had a mighty good time ;-)

Arriving at the mountain we parked our bikes at the woodshed of a local who was feeding his rabbits and donned our snow shoes. This too, proved more exhausting than anticipated since the snow was very deep, very fluffy and we were the first to break a trail. Plowing our way through, sometimes up to our balls in the white stuff, we made it to the Fläschlihöchi at 1368m. It was at this point that we wisely decided to change our destination to a more modest peak. The original plan had us going up the Diethelm at 2092m. However, it was already too late in the day, we had expended too much energy and the required steep traverse looked too dangerous considering that the avalanche bulletin had issued a significant/severe warning level for the area. So we hiked a long and quite beautiful ridge to the Rosenhöchi at 1507m instead.

Back down and on our bikes we started to ride back. This proved to be by far the most dangerous part of the trip. There was some kind of rush hour going on from people driving home from skiing trips. Motorists don't seem to fully appreciate how fragile a bicycle (or car for that matter) handles on frozen roads when you only have very few square inches of contact with the ground. Even 20km/h on a downhill ride are breakneck speeds when every little ditch or crack in the road will throw you without so much as a split second warning. I could hardly see anything, my glasses and puny bicycle lamp being baked with snow, being alternately blinded by oncoming traffic followed by complete darkness. Brakes nearly useless because of wet rims and fingers frozen too stiff to use them effectively anyways. Yet cars would pass so close I could touch them by simply lifting my pinky from the handle bar. Reckless fuckers showered us in slush too.

Coming home I was completely exhausted. Sitting on the warm cozy nice and soft naked concrete floor of my basement, getting out of my gators and hiking boots, it required a conscious effort not to fall asleep right then and there. Instead I had a hot bath and dropped into bed. Slept from 9 to 9, only getting up briefly at 2 in the morning to have some food ;-) Andrey actually spent Monday at home for rejuvenation. I went to work and to the climbing gym afterwards.

In total we traveled from 5:30 to 19:45, cycling more than 90km covering 800m elevation up and down. Another 10km and 700m elevation gain in snow shoes served as dessert.

Great adventure, great fun! Props to Andrey for being a strong and cool companion.

All photos here.


Schiberg (2043m), Plattenberg (2082m)

When you step out of the bus and see your destination for the first time it's intimidating. The mountain towers huge, insurmountable cliffs, peak somewhere far in the distance, hidden in clouds. Impossible!

Yet at the same time you get swept with anticipation, you've done this before, you know how this works. So you set out. Carefully measured breaths, preserving your strength. You warm up to it, find your rhythm. Step by step the mountain shrinks under you. Before you know it there's nowhere left to go - you are on top. You smile. And turn around.

Back home in the soaking hot water of your bathtub a satisfying kind of exhaustion takes hold of you. A smug feeling of pride. You remember today's rest between the sheer vertical rock. Perfect silence, perfect solitude. How majestic, how humbling, how ancient it was. You are spent, the mountain barely noticed. Infinitely patient, safe in the knowledge that it'll always win in the end.

See you next time puny human.

The weather forecast predicted rain, strong winds and snow from 1700m onwards. It proved accurate. I chose some smaller mountains to accommodate. Still turned out to be quite challenging. For one thing the wind, when tunneled between the cliffs, was so strong it made breathing difficult. At times I was literally swaying, trying to find my footing. The trail was quite spectacular, following very exposed ridges and steep traverses. It was also closed due to the slippery wet snow. I didn't know and the signs were only just below the summit (hint: if you mean it, post warnings at the trailhead instead of halfway through!), so I went ahead anyways. Crampons and ice ax were sorely needed, but other than that it proved quite doable.

Startled by some mighty rumble I witnessed several larger rockfalls. Impressive. The mountains seem to have an unlimited supply of debris and gravel. At least it keeps piling up at their feet while they don't seem to change their face at all.

I reached the second summit around 1 o'clock and intended to climb two more. However while the weather was just mildly uncomfortable getting here it turned positively annoying now. A complete whiteout with snow drifting horizontally and piercing my face. With only about 3.5 hours of daylight left I decided to call it quits. And promptly got rewarded with the weather clearing up ;-)

This is the very first hike where I actually looked up the public transportation return schedule and had my ticket booked in advance. So I ran the last 10 minutes on the road to arrive just on time with the bus. Only to have the driver come out and say: "Oh yeah, this is the weekend schedule, no trip for another hour. The information on the internet is wrong.". Grmpf. Next time I'll just wing it again, then I'm at least not feeling rushed.

  • Hiking time: 7h (8:00-15:00)
  • Distance: 22km
  • Elevation gain/loss: 1400m
All photos here