Monte Marzio (880m), Monte Piambello (1129m)

Another trip with the SAC on Saturday. After a very early start, leaving my house at 5:15 in the morning, I meet with the rest of the group at Zürich HB. Something is weird, as I'm the only one carrying snow shoes. Typical for me I must have missed a memo ;-)

Border crossing.
Slightly different climate ;-)

Instead of heading for Mergoscia to climb Madone (2039m), described as a "challenging snow shoe hike", we are instead headed for Ponte Tresa on the border with Italy to climb Monte Marzio (880m) and Monte Piambello (1129m). A less ambitious tour that's easily doable without snow shoes. Oh well.

Lago di Lugano.

The trail is mostly following well maintained paths lined by cute walls of natural rock. While there's some snow it's easily negotiable with regular hiking boots. A single steep section through the forest is a little slippery and requires careful foot placement, but the rest is easy cruising. The summits offer 360 degree views over the Italian country side and the Lago di Lugano. Unfortunately it's a bit hazy so we only get glimpses of the majestic Monte Rosa range to the North.

Lots of walking along minor roads and through small Italian villages gets us back down to the lake where we spend 40 minutes in a cafe, waiting for the bus. The long train ride back home offers a lot of opportunity for conversation and getting to know the group. Cool bunch. Especially our leader, Ernst, has been around with the SAC, and in particular UTO, for a long time and has been instrumental in a lot of its development.

~1000m up and down, ~22km distance


Stöcklichrüz (1248m), Gueteregg (1275m) Snowshoe hike

While Anita and me have become members of the SAC (Swiss Alpine Club) as soon as we arrived in Switzerland we haven't actually managed to go on a tour with them. A lot of the more interesting expeditions are booked out months in advance and my planning horizon usually extends to the next weekend at most. Anyway, last Sunday it finally worked out and we went on a "Schneeschuh Schnuppertour" (Snowshoe beginners/introductory hike).


We were a huge group of 18 people. The itinerary from Willerzell to Lachen wasn't very ambitious and the trail well broken in. Even if it hadn't been - our fearless guide and leader Peter paved the way and 17 pairs of snow shoes following him turned it into a highway.

Rays of sun.

Unfortunately the weather wasn't great and we spent most of the time in the fog. Still we got glimpses of the Sihlsee and lake Zürich.

First attempts negotiating deep snow and a steep ditch.
Break for tea.

Stopping at the hut Gueteregg we were served a very delicious hot soup and found some time for chatting and getting to know one another. Very friendly and nice group.

Snowshoeing Zombies streaming down the mountain.
Lake Zürich in the background.

Spirits were high and the way down to Lachen great fun. At this point even those who were trying snow shoes for the first time had become reasonably confident and we were running/tumbling/laughing down the slope. As a last resort you could always slide down on your bum if it became too steep ;-)

Slippery ;-)


Ice Climbing and Dry-Tooling at Urnerboden

Andrey, Volodymyr, Håvard and me went to Urnerboden on Saturday. It is apparently a dry tooling paradise and indeed it turned out to be. We took a 4x4 Mobility car sharing car from Glarus which meant that we could park just a 100m away from the ice - a very luxurious approach.

Håvard all geared up.

Volodymyr and me teamed up and climbed one of the smaller, non-vertical water falls. Vovik lead the first pitch, which I repeated on top rope, before leading it myself. It was my first time on the ice and the technique does take some getting used to. Note to self: don't buy cheap-ass Russian ice screws - they are a pain to get into the ice! While our more recent Grivel and Black Diamond screws would practically slide into the ice, the Russian ones require a pneumatic hammer or something.

Volodymyr ready to go.
The playground as seen from the parking lot. Spot the climbers!

Our second rope team, Andrey and Håvard, were working on a steeper and taller tower of ice. They didn't make it all the way up and were thus faced with the problem of bailing without leaving any gear on the wall. They alternated climbing up and down the thing until Håvard finally solved the problem by climbing inside and around the ice pillar. That way he could rappel/lower down from the pillar itself. It looked ridiculous but worked very well ;-)


Since Håvard and Andrey basically destroyed the waterfall (seriously, they triggered a constant shower of ice, accompanied by the corresponding warning shouts of "ice!") I tried leading my first ever dry-tooling pitch right next to them instead. I found it much more difficult and much more scary than expected and cheated by using bolts with my ice tools. In my defense I have to say that the others struggled with the route as well, even on top rope.


The place is popular and since we had good weather it was quite crowded. Right next to us was some sort of super human Swiss climbing machine. I watched him for a while and admired how he calmly placed his tools into tiny invisible nooks (in an overhanging roof! climbing trad style!) and smoothly cruise up the wall. Inspired I decided to be a little more like him and a little less like me and ran up the dry tooling route again, this time without cheating and without much trouble (but on top rope).

Håvard preparing the anchor.
Ice rain. Never let a Norwegian and a Russian work on an ice-fall!

All throughout the day we could hear dogs howling and barking. The valley has a track for dog sleds which was heavily used. As a constant reminder that we were still in the Alpine, despite the seemingly tamed climbing gym feel of the place, we heard and saw avalanches rumbling down the opposite mountain face all day.

Me, trying my hands at dry tooling.
Volodymyr on top of "my" dry tooling route.

Great fun! I'll be back for more ;-)

Swiss climbing machine. His shoes have integrated crampons. I bet his toes do too!
Vovik's crampons fell apart.


Stock (1600m) snowshoe hike

After Switzerland's coldest night this winter (-36°C on the Glattalp in Muotathal) we had beautiful weather on Sunday. Freezing cold under a bright blue sky. Gintare, Linus and me headed for Unteriberg with the idea of hiking Stock (1600m) and maybe Biet (1965m) if we felt adventurous. Naive us.

Linus laboring upwards.

Immediately after leaving the village we had to break trail. Deep powder. Dry, light and fluffy as I have never seen it before. Nice to look at and ski down, insanely exhausting to walk in. We likened the experience to working out on a stepper in the gym (not that I have ever done this...), but with steps half a meter high, 15kg weights on each foot and a rubber band attached to your heel pulling you back. Snow plow all the way. Luckily in a group of three we could rotate the lead. On the way back I led for a whole 400m, which must have been the slowest and most strenuous 400m of my life. It was almost level terrain, yet I only managed an average speed of 1km/h, panting and puffing all the way.

We wisely decided to not go for the stretch goal of climbing Biet, but contended ourselves with Stock.

Biet, still a long way off...
Frozen Siehlsee and Zürichsee in the distance.
Roggenstock and the Mythen as seen from the summit.

It must have been the perfect winter day - not a single cloud in the sky. Just steam rising from the half frozen creeks in the valley. Beautiful 360 degree vista from the summit. We could see across the frozen Sihlsee all the way to lake Zürich and the "flatlands" beyond.

Linus and Gintare happily running off into the void.

On the way down from the summit I stumbled and fell over face down into the snow. It was difficult to get up again. I can totally imagine drowning in the stuff. Like a pool of balls for kids, nothing solid to support you. You get yourself upright with clumsy swimming motions, much to the amusement of your companions ;-)

Mt. Awesome Ridge, also known as Gantspitz
Gintare on the lead, trying a new technique.

While it was warm in the sun it would become chilly the second you stepped into the shade. I stopped to put on another layer of clothes. Once I started walking again my pants would make funny crackling noises. It only took the minute or so I needed to put on a pullover for my trousers to freeze.

These signs stand taller than a man...

Coming down we missed the bus from Studen by mere minutes. The next one would come in 1.5 hours, at which point we would have been frozen to death. So we walked the 4 odd kilometers to the next junction and bus stop, this time arriving just in time to catch the late bus from the ski resort. All public transportation that day was crowded with skiers and outdoor enthusiasts. We had a chance meeting on the bus with Henrik, Julia, Shauna and Steven who were on their way back home from a day of cross country skiing.

I told them to freeze while I took a composite shot.

~850m up and down, ~12km distance, about 5km of which we had to break trail ourselves.