Climbing Aaterästei (near Engi)

We woke up to fresh snow last weekend. It got worse and the complete weekend drowned in rain. Sucks. So we spent the days playing worms all day and planning future vacations in a hangout with my brothers (Torsty in particular apparently is "adventure deprived" and was calling out to me for help. I'm sure I can arrange for something ;-)). The forecast for this weekend was abysmal as well. On the other hand, Thursday turned out to be a beautifully sunny day. So I decided to take Thursday off and work Saturday instead.

Waking up to this at the end of April. Quick, close the blinds again!

So it was that Andrey, Ivan, Volodymyr and I went climbing to Engi on Thursday. We mostly had the area to ourselves and climbed from 9 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon. Andrey and Ivan even arrived an hour earlier at 8. Quite the workout. Quite successful too. I mostly climbed new routes, unknown to me. One notable exception was Senza Stumpä (6a+) - an old nemesis of mine. While it should be well within the range of my ability it gave me trouble before and did again today. It's continuously hard, as opposed to some routes which are easy but feature a single hard move to warrant their rating. Anyway, I needed a rest on my first attempt (unfortunately at a point where I was quite a bit above my last quickdraw, so I smashed Andrey into the wall good). Then Andrey tried it and had to bail from the crux. So I had to go again to rescue our gear. The second attempt was finally successful.


I've tried another route which looked doable but was missing in our topo (a typo apparently. The list of routes jumped from route number 48 to 50, skipping 49). Thus we didn't know what it was rated at. I failed miserably on the initial two moves and had to traverse onto the route from another, neighboring one. It's funny how different climbing outdoors feels from climbing in the gym. I can climb much harder routes indoors. The fact that artificial routes follow the logic of their human creator and a very predictable rhythm makes quite a difference. Maybe even more importantly: all the holds are clearly marked and I can finish a hard route by "running" through it, blindly trusting the next hold because I know exactly where it is and that it was meant as a hold. Outdoors you need to be much more static in your moves, always holding back some reserves for carefully scanning the rock for the next hold. Always prepared that the nub you are reaching for turns out to be shit and you'll have to try again somewhere else. Much more interesting!

My Walter Sobchak look.

I climbed:

  • Besäfrässer 6b
  • Sternä-Pizza 6a+
  • 2x Senza Stumpä 6a+
  • Mc Suworow's 6a
  • Only for Members 6a
  • Rauhfinger 1st 5b / 2nd 6a-
  • Götterspass 5c
  • Missing Route 49 6b-6c?

This was followed by a very successful evening in the gym on Friday where I finally completed two 6c+ projects I had been working on for while. A long, continuous roof and a vertical, very technical route, which may well be the nicest one I've ever climbed.

In other news - our living room furniture finally arrived. There should be less echo now ;-)


Climbing Aaterästei (near Engi)

The weather was even better on Sunday so we could go a bit higher up. We went to Engi to climb on the Aaterästei. This is a huge boulder (a 60m rope is barely enough to climb on it!) that came down the mountain in an avalanche as recently as 1999. It has been cleaned and bolted and now features about 60 routes up to grade 7c. We were a group of 11 this time (Alex, Linus, Ivan, Ilya, Volodymyr, Sonja, Anton, Eduard, Anita, Sören, Andrey), making it feel as if this was a private picnic and climbing area.

The anthill.
Andrey in action.

The day turned out beautiful. Luckily you could choose to climb routes in the shade. Even so, at the end of the day people had funny patterns sunburned into their faces, with the helmet straps clearly visible as white lines.

Eduard belaying Ivan.
Scale reference.
Anita on top. Pointing out ambitious future goals.

Anton, who was visiting from Munich, climbed Psychodelic (6c), believing it was a 6a when starting on it (we should learn to read topos...). Still, he made it look easy. Much later, when he had already left, I tried it too. Struggling and needing a rest (damn!) half-way through, I shouted over to Volodymyr asking what Anton usually climbs. His laconic response: "Matterhorn, Eiger, shit like that". Well thanks for the inspiration dude! ;-)

Linus looking for holds.
Me in Senza Stumpä (6a+).

The train on the way back was crowded, so we decided to sit in the restaurant instead of a regular coach and order beers. Seeing the menu and hearing their stomachs growl our table of 6 Russian speaking guys ordered food too. Due to some language confusion (I think we had 4? nations represented at the table) they ended up with an extra dish causing much hilarity. Joking about this the waitress surprised everyone by answering in Russian. Apparently she was from Bulgaria.

"Look Ma! No Hands!" - the bus stop traverse.
Train rides can be fun!

I climbed (mostly as clean on-sights, although for a few routes I needed a rest on the wall):

  • Psychodelic 6c
  • Bolero 1st 5b / 2nd 6b+
  • Feigling 1st 6a+ / 2nd 6a
  • Murmelbier 6a+
  • Senza Stumpä 6a+
  • Äm Chrigel sini 6a
  • Miss Schweiss 6a
  • Rübis & Stübis 5c
  • Chez Madeleine 3a (barefoot)


Climbing Rivella (near Stansstad)

The first weekend dry enough to start the outdoor climbing season! Anita, Anton, Andrey, Alex, Linus, Ivan, Volodymyr, Sonja and I went climbing the Rivella near Stansstad, directly on lake Lucerne. One of the area's advantages is a very convenient approach in the form of a short stroll from the train station. The climbing is varied on good limestone. There's a choice of about 50, mostly single pitch, routes graded from 3b to 6b+. You can scramble up easy slabs or challenge yourself on slightly overhanging walls with tiny crimps.

Today we discovered that my rope, which I believed to be 60m, is not. Luckily Linus, who was belaying me at the time, was paying attention and noticed we were running out. Thanks man! This could have turned ugly. Anyway, a bit of creativity and I came down without problem. From now on we dutifully tied off the end of the rope. Some of the routes have two anchors, but we still climbed all of them as single pitches. This meant that we often used the full rope up to the last couple of centimeters. Long routes - good for endurance!

It was Anita's first time on real rock and we did some rappelling and easy slabs. Fun.

I climbed:

  • Knacknuss 6b+
  • Steiwampe 6b
  • Lärmzone 6b
  • Verschneidung 6a+
  • Abgespaltene Platte 6a+
  • Patchwork 6a+
  • Blächhoggeweg 5c+
  • Schmalspur 5c
  • Parallele Lärmzone 5b
  • Rote Phil / Platte Rechts 3b / 3c


Mittlerspitz (1899m) Snowshoe Hike

On Sunday Linus, Sasa and I went to Balzers in Liechtenstein to climb the Mittlerspitz (1899m) and Rotspitz (2127m). Weather was overcast and gray, just like it had been all month thus far. The trail is beautiful with a nice, constant slope, passing through varied forests, steep cliffs and deep gullies cut into the mountain by creeks. Just when we thought we wouldn't need our snowshoes we started a long traverse through a coniferous forest. Curiously the snow on and under the trees was already gone, but the space between the trees, and thus our trail, was still covered in a meter of snow. This had the effect of making us taller and hitting all the branches you'd normally pass under. Bushwhacking in snowshoes - a first for me ;-)

Linus (from Finland...)
Start of the Trail of Snow.
Bushwhacking Sasa.

We reached the summit cross on the Mittlerspitz (1899m) in dense fog. To get to the Rotspitz the summer trail traverses just below the ridge. That's what we did. It kept getting steeper and steeper. I was leading and cutting steps for the others because I was the only one who brought his ice ax. Suddenly I heard rumbling behind me and turned around to see Sasa tumble down the slope. There was nothing Linus or I could do but watch in horror as Sasa, seemingly in slow motion, kept going downhill. Sometimes head and face first.

Sasa walked right across this, while I almost disappeared into the hole, following in his exact footsteps!
Mittlerspitz (1899m) summit.
Mittlerspitz (1899m) summit.
Me, contemplating where Sasa went...
...Sasa recovering and scrambling back up, looking for his glasses. He stopped his fall a couple of meters below the spot where he is now.
Me scouting the path ahead. Yes, that is actually the trail. This is when we decided to call it quits.

Luckily he came to a stop on his own. Aside from some cuts and bruises (and a rush of Adrenaline) nothing bad came of the incident. We were all a bit spooked though. I tried going on for a while, but the slope only got worse, so we decided to turn around and bail. At this point it was already late in the day, the snow was getting worse and worse and progress was very slow. So we would have gotten into the dark anyways. Retracing our steps, descending straight down a slope that caused us much sweat and swearing on the way up, was tons of fun on the way down. We tried various techniques from running over skating to sliding on our bums (Linus!).

Fun on the way down!

~17km, ~1600m up and down

Don't try this at home kids. These are trained, professional stuntmen.