Faltschonhorn (3022m)

Without any alarm I awake from my bivvy 6 o'clock sharp at sunrise. Pack my backpack and off I go. Unfortunately it does not turn out to be possible to continue in a straight line towards my destination (who would have thought that this may turn out difficult in the mountains?!) so I have to go down and loose around 300m elevation.

I meet some other hikers, some of which have camped at a creek. A group of three is heading up the Piz Aul, an impressive hunk of rock. The Faltschonhorn (3022m) on the other hand is a simple walking peak, marked white-red-white and only made difficult by its height and long approach. I meet several people who gave up and turned around half way up the summit ridge or even from the pass just below.

I reach the summit around 11 o'clock and for the first few minutes share it with a young guy and his dog before I have it to myself. The view is even more spectacular than yesterday. Not a single cloud in sight. If I squint I can see all the way around the globe onto my own arse.

Going down, again the other direction from where I came up, it gets hotter and hotter. While I enjoyed a slight breeze on the summit (enough to create small dust devils dancing around me) and the high altitude made the temperature bearable to begin with, it's now just painfully hot. I stop at every creek crossing (lots!) and soak my hat and shirt in water (damn you quick drying synthetic fabrics!). I'm also drinking like a horse.

Nearing the picturesque village of Vrin, people are again making hay. Some of the slopes they mow using the specialized tractor are so steep I'd be afraid to walk them, let alone drive a motor vehicle. Either way this seems like a lot of very hard work, especially when it's hot like this.

The ten minutes wait until the Postauto (as the buses are called here) arrives to take me to the next train station in Ilanz are made more interesting by a group of female hikers who wait with me. What's the most important thing to bring on a hike? Why, a pair of fancy shoes with heels of course! Seriously, one of the women gets out of her hiking boots and dons a pair of high(-ish) heels from her backpack. Some things have to be seen to be believed.

The train ride back to Zürich is quite torturous. While the temperatures were bearable or even nice high up, the valley and badly air conditioned train cars feel like a 40°C sauna. To top it off the trains are hopelessly overcrowded and mostly with sweaty and smelly hikers. 3 hours of type two fun.

9 hours, ~28km, ~1200m up, ~2000m down

Dawn (that is the polar star, not the moon!)
Piz Aul
Now is this the most beautifully inviting todo list ever or what?
Virn in the distance. A very beautiful and very steep valley leading there.
Apparently these things can even drive upside down on the ceiling.
I'll stick with my desk job, thank you.
Awesome feature all over Switzerland: cold, fresh, perfect drinking water in unlimited supply.

Fanellhorn (3124m)

Weekend! This means getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning and heading for the mountains. This time I'm aiming for a 3000m double feature, starting with the Fanellhorn (3124m). I take the train to Vals in Graubünden, the canton where some people speak an even less decipherable gibberish than the usual Swiss German ;-) Arriving 9:30 in the morning I take the long route through the Peil valley - direct approaches are boring. It is already quite hot with hardly a cloud in the sky.

The valley is quiet and secluded. While I meet a couple of people at first it gets more and more deserted as I make my way up along the Peil creek. Reaching the pass at 2710m the trail is now marked as a "blue" difficult route and follows the north east ridge up to the summit which I reach around 15:30. The view is spectacular, only a few cloud fragments are drifting through the deep blue sky. The little book used as a summit register is hidden in one of the cairns on the peak. The cairn stands taller than a man and pulling out the stone hiding the book feels like a dangerous version of Jenga ;-)

Descending from the pass in the opposite direction which I came up I pass the beautiful lake Guraletsch. No time for a bath though, since I'm trying to reach the Zervreila hut in time for dinner which is served till 19:00. I had called them a week ago, asking for accommodation. Of course they are fully booked, so I at least want to get some food. The hut is located just below an impressive hydroelectric dam which dams up the valley and flooded a village when it got built in 1957. The lake is named Zervrailla after the village it destroyed. I get served a big plate of Schnitzel mit Pommes, just what I need right now. The innkeeper is very nice and, seeing the sleeping foam mat fastened to my backpack, offers to leave the door open tonight so I can use their bathroom.

I have other plans however and cross the dam. I want to head as far up the mountain and towards tomorrow's destination as the remaining daylight will allow. With the weather as good as it is people are making hay everywhere. I meet a farmer who's stuck in the mud with his loaded hay transporter. I offer my help and together we try to get it free. Hopeless, the central drivetrain sits on solid rock while all four wheels are spinning helplessly in almost liquid mud and dirt. I leave him waiting for his buddys to arrive with more equipment (and meet them some minutes later, coming down from the farm).

Continuing in the general direction I need to go for tomorrow I scramble up pathless terrain until dusk forces me to pitch camp. So I throw down my foam mat some 300m above the treeline at 2250m altitude and bivvy right there. A view for kings. I had trouble sleeping the last couple of days since the nights were too hot. Not so now. I'm wearing a wooly hat against the cold breeze and immediately fall asleep after dark. I wake up once during the night (funnily enough I think because the cows and sheep stopped moving about and the constant bell sounds stopped ;-)). Moonless night with not even a single cloud. Even sleepy eyed and without my glasses I can see every single fucking star in the whole Milky Way. Glorious!

~20km, ~2300m up, ~1300m down, 12 hours from start to bivvy

View towards the North-East: My approach route through Peil valley to the right, Lake Guraletsch to the left.
Summit ridge
Towering cairn
360° View
Lake Guraletsch
Zervreila dam
Good night!


An argument in favor of just winging it

Last weekend's planning fiasco made me ponder my attitude to planning and life in general. There seem to be two very different personality types, the planner and the improviser. I'm very much the latter.

I don't want my life to feel like ticking off a grocery shopping list. Executing a never ending todo list, comparing each new experience with my expectations for it. Better to be surprised every day and enjoy it. I saw a terribly depressing drawing once: rows of little boxes, 12 to a row, 80 rows. Those represent the months in your life. Cross off the first bunch according to your age. A very sobering countdown... Better stick to schedule, get your diploma, get married quick and get it over with! Hurry!

Instead I try to preserve the optimism of a child that each day will never end, I'm invincible and everything is still possible. Change the world as you once wanted to.

I don't want to know the weather forecast - I want to go out and have fun regardless.

I love imagining being an explorer, being the first to discover the area I'm in. How it must have been like without any traces of humanity, no footsteps to follow. That experience gets completely destroyed by overloading the travel guide with post-its and slavishly following a tight schedule.

That dreaded interview question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I don't. I'm enjoying myself right now, why should I envision myself to be somewhere/somebody else? And no, this does not imply I'm without ambitions ;-)

Retirement planning, better do what you want to do now. If you see an opening, get a chance, seize it. Don't wait for something better or more safe to come along, it might never happen.

I find plans to be incredibly restraining and burdensome.

TL;DR: Live today - you might not be around tomorrow.


Ortstock (2717m)

Helmut and Susanne visited me over the weekend. Of course I had to take them to the mountains. Perfect weather forecast, the planning wasn't quite as perfect though. It turns out the hut I originally wanted to go to burned down a couple of years ago and was rebuilt as a restaurant without any overnight accommodation. The alternative was fully booked. So I figured it was a good idea to just head out to a different one blindly...

We take the cable car up to Braunwald, one of Switzerland's car-free villages, and follow the well marked and well maintained trail to the Bärentritt. Beautiful alpine meadow with quite a few people around, some even camping for the night. Crossing a few small patches of snow we scramble up the pile of loose rock that forms the summit of the Ortstock (2717m). We can already see our destination for the day from here but it's still about 10km away. We meet a Swiss couple living nearby who can see the Bös Fulen from their balcony. They are climbing the Ortstock as a training mission for the Fulen and declare me insane for having climbed it alone. Anyway, glissading down through loose gravel is quite a bit of fun and also a rather fast way to get down ;-)

I jump into the (cold!) Glattalpsee for a quick refreshment and we continue on to the Cable car station down to Bisistal. The cabin has capacity for eight people with around 70 waiting around to get down. Since a single round trip takes about 20 minutes and there is only a single gondola that means quite a bit of waiting. With Helmut and Susanne queuing in the sun I head up to the Glattalp hut to inquire for available beds. Hopelessly overcrowded. I hike back a bit to a private hut and restaurant but they are fully occupied as well. So down it is.

Of course by now it's way past the usual closing time for the cable car and it is doing overtime to get everyone down. That implies there will be no bus to get us out of the valley. Fortunately Susanne talks to some fellow hikers who generously agree to wait for us and take us down in their car. Father and son who regularly go on hiking trips together. They are extra nice and take us all the way to Rotkreuz from where it's just a quick hop back to Zürich. The main station is crowded with the drunk and drugged left overs of the Zürich Street Parade.

Beautiful sunny day. ~15km, ~1600m elevation gain, ~900m down.

On Sunday we hike the Uetli ridge and return via Zürich and a cruise over the lake.

Helmut in action.
Glattalpsee and the hut.
Susanne in action.
Taking the easy way out.


Return to Brüggler

Wilson, Linus, Gintare and me used the Swiss national holiday 1st of August to go climb the Brüggler south face again. This time we chose the "Namenlose" ("nameless") route. A 6a with a crux right at the start - a short overhanging section. A beautiful sunny day - by the time we finally got down again we were out of water and dying of thirst. Fortunately we passed a watering tub for the cows on the way down, fed from a spring. The barn a little bit further was even better: self service beers with a piggybank. Much appreciated!

Coming back to Zürich we crashed Henrik's rooftop BBQ party and watched the fireworks going off all around us in the city.

Great day!

The objective: ~270m of razor sharp limestone.
Start of the first pitch of the "Nameless".
Good throw!
The final rappel back down.

Climbing near Kröntenhütte (~2000m)

The weather forecast was mocking us with 5 days of sunshine, followed by 2 days of thunderstorms and heavy rain on the weekend, followed by 5 days of sunshine. Unfortunately it turned out to be right and we'd get a lot of rain. Nevertheless Linus, Gintare, Ben, Wilson, Andrey and me headed out for an overnight stay at the Kröntenhütte which features a lot of climbing areas in the immediate vicinity.

After a much longer hike in than expected (~15km, 1500m) we climbed some nice boulders (bolted) right next to the hut until we got surprised by a torrential rain shower, drenching us in minutes. Fleeing to the safety of the hut we spent the night playing board games and drinking some evil Jägermeister knock-off our Russian friend Andrey brought along.

The weather wasn't looking much better on Sunday so we headed for "the roof": a ~30m overhanging wall that offers natural protection from the rain. The hut crew bolted it and mounted some artificial holds to make it climbable. Quite exhausting - one tends to underestimate the effect overhangs have on your endurance. One route is called "endgeil" ("way cool", but it's also a word play in German for "the end is cool") and offers an awesome swing out over the valley once you've climbed it and are coming down again. Feels like flying weightless into the void.

Andrey, Sören
I've explained before that Linus has this rare disability that prevents him from making a straight face on photos.
Glatt glacier
Evacuating the belay spot and hiding from the rain in some cave.
A fitting board game that'll have you visit Swiss mountain huts and collect mountaineering gear.
Only cool people get to walk on snow in July.
Nice trail through a canyon with lots of waterfalls.