Brüggler (1777m) climbing the 200m south wall

We went for two whole days of climbing this (long) weekend. On Sunday Björn, Håvard and me rented a car and went to the Brüggler. We climbed the "Spreizrinne". Multiple pitches of fine limestone. Our topo rates it at 6a+ (UIAA VII-) but stops just below the summit tower. Of course we had to go all the way and discovered that the final pitch was by far the most difficult. Wet undercut holds in partly overhanging terrain. I led it but didn't manage to climb it clean. I needed several rests, hanging in the ropes and even cheating by using a bolt as a foothold. The others didn't fare much better and used additional aids. We rechristened the top part of the route "crazy ass pitch from hell" which was followed by the "insaaaaaanely exposed ridge".

The objective

On Monday Andrey, Håvard, Ian and me went to the same wall again. This time we climbed "Sonntagsweg". 7 pitches with the crux at the very end, rated 6b (UIAA VII). I managed to climb everything clean this time. A bit painful since the limestome is razor sharp in places and my big toe was sticking out of my worn and torn climbing shoes (already ordered two new pairs and a lot more gear ;-)). The others chose an alternate route to avoid the hard bit at the top. We had a scary moment when Andrey was leading the second but last pitch. I was belaying him and he had just climbed into a very easy walking section out of sight from me when I suddenly felt a lot of slack on the ropes followed by a surprised scream and a head sized boulder crashing down the couloir two meters away from me. Andrey had slipped and fallen head first down the slope. Fortunately no one got hurt. Again we felt the need to improve on the names: "impossible one finger pull" and "canyon of painful death".

A very successful, very fun and very international expedition (Norway, Sweden, Scotland, Russia, Germany).

Håvard in action
The long Rappel back down (you can just make out our backpacks to the right)


Säntis attempt and long weekend continued...

After Volker and Anita arrived from Germany on Thursday we went for a short hike over Uetli on Friday to have some food at the Google office and spend the rest of the day in the spa. The spa occupies a building that used to be the Hürlimann brewery. Thus it features an interesting architecture with the hot tubs placed in underground dungeons where the beer kegs used to be. It also sports a huge pool on the roof with a fantastic view over the city of Zürich.

We went to see the Avengers in 3D afterwards. Pretty unremarkable and boring movie. I just wanted to give 3D another chance, seeing what all the hype is about and updating my dated experience with it. Didn't convince me at all. I found it blurry and inconsistent. Didn't add to my enjoyment at all. Ah well. Maybe we just have to learn how to use the medium properly yet?

On Saturday Volker and me set out to climb Säntis. Anita stayed home sick (3D motion sickness? };-> ). We made good progress for the first 10km or so up until around 1700m. The snow cover got really thick at that point. We were actually sitting on the roof ridge of a building having a rest. Still we pushed on. The sun was scorching hot and walking on snow felt like being under a magnifying glass or walking in a parabolic mirror. The snow was correspondingly bad: wet slush that got worse and worse the more the day progressed. Despite using our snow shoes, ice ax and walking poles as best we could, progress was slow and dangerous. We crossed some avalanche areas and triggered some smaller snow balls ourselves. It was really tricky not to slide down the steep slope and go over the cliffs at the end. We did actually fall and slide a couple of times but managed to stop after some meters every time. Just minutes after we witnessed a spontaneous and quite big rock slide on the opposing mountain face a boulder the size of two human heads crashed into the snow a mere two meters in front of me. Maybe we weren't really supposed to be here. Early afternoon, from an altitude of 2080m we decided to call it quits and turn around. Descending was even more tricky than going up, but we made it back down to safety. Beautiful day and fun tour - although pushing on would have been suicidal. 23km, 1300m.

We went climbing in the gym on Sunday. Volker flashed a 7a which I repeated and we solved some tricky/interesting/fun boulder problems. I think Anita might have enjoyed the slack line more than the climbing ;-)

Fun times.

Others have come before us and failed.


Rigi Marsch 2012

A colleague of mine, Felix, suggested we should participate in this year's Rigi Marsch. A hike through the night (start is around 1930) over 50km and 1600m up to Rigi Kulm. It is organized by the Rigi91 club which provides a nicely marked trail (candles!), provisioning stations and first aid and safety services for around a thousand participants. The weather forecast predicted rain and snow down to 900m, despite this being May. Fortunately, it turned out to be wrong. We did have some short rain showers and the coldest 16th of May in 30 years, but the weather was generally beautiful and perfect for a hike like this.

Five of us, Felix, Dominik, Jonas, Konstantin and me set out for the hike directly after work. Spirits were high and we were merrily marching along in a huge queue of people following dirt tracks along the Reuss river. Over time the queue would thin and stretch out over a longer and longer distance. While Dominik and Jonas were charging ahead as a close team from previous desert hiking and joint holiday adventures, Felix, Konstantin and me were strolling at a more leisurely pace. We'd meet up at the checkpoints later.

It's funny how psychology works. The first time I could get a glimpse of our destination, a flashing antenna tower on the top of Mount Rigi, it was so far away, the concept of walking all the way there seemed abstract and non-threatening. When I could see it the next time, 20km later, and it still didn't seem any closer it was a bit discouraging.

At the fourth checkpoint, sometime around 5 in the morning, after walking a Marathon distance of 42km with only 3 short breaks of 10 minutes each and just before starting the ascent proper, Felix and Konstantin gave up and went home. They had self sabotaged in a way and were now experiencing the consequences. Konstantin showed up in a leather jacket and regular leather office slippers. He had not only ruined his shoes by now but also discovered that they are quite unsuitable for a trip like this. Felix on the other hand had bought Diablo3 on launch day a couple of days earlier and hadn't slept properly in a while because of that.

While I had been relatively slow on flat terrain, finally reaching the mountain activated me. I had been seeing Felix and Konstantin off at the checkpoint while Dominik and Jonas went ahead in order to stay warm. I set out to catch up with them and charged past dozens of other tired hikers. I had recovered a bit from the sleepless night, the sun was dawning, providing beautiful vistas and I had found my rhythm on the ascent. Caught up with Dominik and Jonas but kept going and went right past them, waiting for them to arrive at the final checkpoint before the summit. It was here that Jonas had to give up due to another case of self sabotage. His cardiovascular system (Kreislauf?) was giving him trouble because he donated blood a mere two days ago. Not a good idea before an endurance sports event!

So Dominik and me climbed the last couple of kilometers (and height meters!) together. Enjoying fantastic vistas and scenery and trying not to slip and slide too much on the frozen snow trail. We reach the summit around 0715 in morning. A little bit of waiting and the 8 o'clock special cog train gets us back down. Arriving back home I have only very few hours of rest before Anita and Volker come for a visit and a weekend of adventure, but that's for another post...

Tired? Me? Why no, not at all!
Full map of the trip. Note that my gps app split it into two sections, we did reach the summit you just have to page through to it ;-) http://g.co/maps/hnr5k


Sunday hike: Adliswil to Zug via Albis

We had a pretty fun day of rafting on Saturday. Tim's stag party. It was raining continuously, so unfortunately we weren't allowed to go on the river we originally planned for (apparently they let too much water through the dam, upping the whitewater grade beyond what's allowed for commercial tours. All my begging didn't help ;-/ ). So we went on a more tame river rated at 2-3. High water made it interesting nevertheless - we had whole trees floating by and had to watch out continuously for low hanging branches over and into the water. Fun. Continued with a BBQ and lots of booze at Tim's place. Got home around 5 in the morning, just before sunrise.

I was pretty hung over on Sunday and got up late. Since Mama Google is feeding us well during the week I didn't have any food in the house. Slaughtered a chocolate Easter bunny for breakfast and went for a walk up Albis. The ridge looked nice, so I kept going. Motivating music on my ears, clouds, but no rain, I got into the rhythm of the hike. Saw a lake on the horizon and headed for it. Turned out to be lake Zug. So I kept walking for 30.54km climbing a total of 870m. Arrived in Zug just in time with the fast train back to Zürich, buying my ticket via the phone while boarding. Pretty cool day and I think I've worked off my hang over ;-)


2012/05/13 14:14 auf einer größeren Karte anzeigen


Rheinwaldhorn (3402m) pre-season attempt

What do you do when the weather service issues a "severe weather" warning, the national avalanche bulletin marks the area for "significant risk of avalanches" and the shelters are still closed for the winter? Why, you go for a mountain hike of course! Sad really, here I am, sitting in the office all week while we have perfect sunny weather outside, waiting for the weekend with an abysmal weather forecast. The opportunity costs of selling lifetime.

Anyways, I aim for the Rheinwaldhorn, at 3402m the highest mountain in Tessin. This implies a long train ride through the whole of Switzerland but I'm hoping that the south side of the alps will have less snow than the north. Getting to my starting point, the little village of Dangio, causes some confusion. The bus is late by several minutes and by the time we should be at my stop we are at a village called Dongio (not Dangio!). Luckily I don't get off and reach the start as intended.

The bus being late is very unusual and must be due to this being the Italian side of Switzerland. The Swiss take pride in being very punctual indeed. A colleague of mine got on a train at the Italian/Swiss border, heading home for Zürich. The train wasn't leaving for a long time and he asked the conductor about it. The conductor explained that there are actually two trains servicing the exact same route, leaving only minutes apart. The first will be on time while the second waits around for the Italian connecting trains which are notoriously late. My colleague accidentally boarded the "wait for Italy" train.

It was raining in Zürich when I left, it is raining in Dangio when I arrive. The valley is quite beautiful from the little I can see when the clouds give me an opening. The trail is very nice, with a nice constant grade, perfect for finding your rhythm. Some fallen trees across it indicate that it hasn't yet been maintained and opened for the year. The rain doesn't stop until it turns to snow instead.

I arrive at the Adula CAS hut at 2012m, having started at 800m. It is not yet open for business, but all huts maintained by the Swiss Alpine Club allow for winter access and thus the door is open. It's tidy, damp and cozy at 5°C. I brought my stove and cook dinner consisting of pasta, pesto and chocolate as desert. Since I'm the only one here since early March (according to the log book) and will be alone tonight, I take the liberty of moving into the only single bed room, normally reserved for mountain guides, and go to sleep.

Although I originally planned for an early departure for the summit I changed plans and get up and out only at sunrise around 5:30. Reason being that it is so foggy and I don't know the route I want at least some light to try and orient myself. There has been close to a foot of fresh snow during the night and it is still snowing. I don my snowshoes and set out.

Climbing a steep slope turns into quite a struggle. The snow is wet, heavy and deep. My ice ax goes in for its full length and then some. My snow shoes sink in up to my knees. I fight for every meter, sometimes clawing my way up on all fours. After a very exhausting two hours which should have been one I reach the Capanna Adula UTOE at 2393m. The hut is only accessible by its winter entrance, climbing through windows two meters above ground. All doors are blocked by snow.

I assess my situation: Visibility is still shit; I'm on an unknown route with all signposts dismantled for the winter; headed for the Canton's largest glacier with its crevasses covered by fresh snow; against my hopes getting higher didn't give me a frozen surface but still a snow plow situation; weather forecast is abysmal; it's already late in the day and I still have to get back. In addition to that I can hear the mountains all around me rumbling and growling. While I originally tried to convince myself that it's just the echo of airplane jet engines I could since witness several large avalanches crashing down the faces when I could get a glimpse through the clouds. Long story short: turn around time.

Heading back I need my snowshoes almost down to 1500m. 500m more than the day before, my old tracks are almost entirely gone by now. The rest of the way down it is raining heavily. While this sounds bad it is not a lie when I say I am actually enjoying it. Waterproof boots and gators, I create my own little micro climate under my rain poncho and listen to the drumming of the rain drops on my hat. A steady rhythm and walking pace and it's almost meditative, sending my mind on a voyage.

Some shepherds, tending to their goats, offer to drive me down the rest of the way. I happily decline and continue my way. Unfortunately I have to wait for an hour for the next bus, but then I'm on my way and in my soaking hot bath tub ;-)