Climbing Roches d'Orvin

Eight of us headed for Roches d'Orvin on Sunday, a climbing area in Jura, one of the French speaking Cantons in Switzerland. It was a beautiful day for climbing, warm, but overcast so we were sheltered from direct sun.


I teamed up with Rafał and us two and Håvard and Tali initially stuck to the hardest crag in the area. Single pitch routes mostly in the 6-ish difficulty range, with one 7b+ route. Rafał sent most of them in short order and I tried to keep up. Worked OK-ish, although I did take a couple of lead falls and didn't flash the routes. My first fall in particular was annoying and caused some amusement for my onlookers. I had just successfully passed the crux and let out a loud sigh of relief and victory: "Finally!" when I suddenly slipped without warning and had to do it all over again. Just goes to show that you should pay attention at all times ;-)

Pro-tip: Do not celebrate yourself prematurely.

Rafał and I tried our hands on the 7b+ as well. Somewhat unsurprisingly we didn't really stand a chance. It was fun trying though and I guess as far as hard routes go this might be one of the easier ones. The difficulty is all in one or two boulder moves, the rest is trivial.

Me side-stepping the 7b+ crux to put in a top rope.
Rafał running up to the crux.

After exhausting most routes on this crag the four of us moved on and joined the others on the main section. The climbing here is easier but you'll be rewarded with multiple pitches and nice views. I always joke about our "Kamikaze Russian" Ivan. He's very enthusiastic and knows no fear. As a result most climbing days end with him bleeding. He didn't disappoint this time either. Taking a fall onto a ledge ripped his pants and earned him a nice bruise: "Bloody Ivan" indeed ;-)

Volodymyr pulling some moves.
Bloody Ivan is bloody.
Andrey packing up his trad gear.

At the end of the day we had been climbing for almost 8 hours with hardly a break. Great fun with a very international expedition - if you count my dual citizenship we had 8 people representing 8 nations.


Canyoning zynamics off-site

Our team went on an off-site yesterday. Canyoning the Chli Schliere. Quite an adventure. Quite cold too. 12°C air temperature and 10°C in the water. I was more tired afterwards than I like to admit - at least my climbing today sucked ;-)


Climbing Brüggler, Hiking Speer (1950m) and Chüemettler (1703m)

My brother Torsten's girlfriend, Sarah, diagnosed him as being "adventure deprived". She sent him to me for treatment. I got a whole weekend to cure this gravely serious infliction and I think in the end we've been successful ;-)

We started with an easy warm-up, climbing in the gym Friday evening. While having some prior experience Torsten isn't actually into climbing. So I gave him a quick refresher on belay safety, clipping on leads and general climbing technique.

Me in the first lead (please ignore the twisty ropes ;-)).

I picked up a rental car Saturday morning and headed for Brüggler with Torsten, Andrey, Ivan and Sasa. Brüggler is a 270m slab of limestone. It is well bolted and features climbing routes in a wide range of difficulties. Using 60m half ropes Torsten, Sasa and me made a three person rope team while Andrey and Ivan constituted "the Russians" climbing party.

Since the idea was to challenge them a bit the three of us started on via Priska. Rated at 6a+ (mandatory 6a) it is well beyond what you'd normally consider an entry level beginners route. I was leading, allowing the others to follow on top rope and climb simultaneously. We made good progress and sent the initial 5a, 5c and 5c+ pitches. However, at that point the route Andrey and Ivan were climbing traversed, cutting across ours. Andrey was belaying from an anchor just a few meters above us.

Torsten and Sasa

Not willing to waste time just "hanging around" (please excuse the pun) I decided to try and circle around him. Climbing with two ropes I figured it should be possible to minimize rope drag while doing so. However, since I was now no longer on a proper route the bolts were few and far between. I climbed a crazy zig zag line crossing several routes and through 6b terrain. Once I reached what I thought to be top I discovered that the anchor had been dismantled and only two naked screws were sticking out of the rock.


I kept climbing and traversed far away from my last clip. By now rope drag was insane and I had to pull on the ropes with force to have them follow me. While the terrain got easier a fall would not have been a good idea with about 7 meters of diagonal run-out.

"The Russians" - Andrey and Ivan

Just when I had finally found and set up a new station and Torsten was starting to follow me, we heard growling thunder and clouds started rolling into the valley. Soon after the first rain fell, making it just so much harder to climb on wet rock. We decided to retreat and I rappelled back down to Torsten and Sasa. Of course by now the sun was shining again and the rock on this south facing wall dried within mere minutes. We still continued our retreat all the way down.

The Wall in its entirety.

We met up with the Russians again and had some lunch. At this point Izabela and Rafał joined us. They had followed the planning email thread and had decided to come without telling anyone ;-) Apparently they had been climbing a few routes over from us and even shouted across, but we didn't hear. It didn't take long for the rain to return and this time it wasn't just a warning shot. We reached the car dripping wet.


Speer north face. Our trail is crossing the snow field and heading up the left(-ish) ridge.

On Sunday we picked up Ben and went to hike the Speer (1950m), Europe's largest Nagelfluh mountain. This is a weird type of rock, some sort of molasse conglomerate that looks as if someone had cemented lots of pebbles together. We chose the Kletterweg route, leading up the steep north face. It is almost a via ferrata, featuring lots of steel cables and metal pins as climbing aids. They were much appreciated as it was still quite muddy and wet from the rain on the day prior. Muddy round pebbles are slippery ;-)

Climbing family.

We overtook a family of four on the way up. Mom, dad and brother and sister. The kids were quite young and dad was belaying them by tying them into some sort of leash. Looked funny and quite daring as the route was exposed and not easy at all. In fact, I wouldn't want to climb it in rain or ice. We had to cross some small patches of snow as it was.


The summit is a bit anti-climatic as the approach from the other side is easy and popular and lots of people crowd around the summit cross. We still enjoyed nice vistas and my traditional summit Wasabi nuts. For our return trip we decided to hike the ridge leading to Chüemettler (1703m). While not as high we enjoyed that summit all to ourselves and consequently liked it much better. We found another via ferrata type trail leading back into the valley where we parked our car. At some point we deviated from the trail proper and scrambled down a very steep slope for some extra excitement.

Summit crowd.

Back on the gravel road towards the parking lot we stopped for a quick bath in a beautiful pool below a waterfall that had already caught our attention on the way up. Cold but very nice and refreshing on a hot day - washing off all the sweat and sunscreen.

"Winter is coming" - the wall ;-)

We were home quickly enough that Torsten and I could still enjoy a barbecue and beer for dinner on my terrace before I dropped him off at the train station for the return to Germany. Fantastic weekend!

Only for "Bergtüchtige", no kidding.

950m elevation gain, 10.2km


The Great Rigi Traverse

The weather forecast predicted frequent thunderstorms and rain. So what better thing to do than go hiking? Andreas, Ralf and I set out to climb the Rigi Hochflue (1698m) followed by the Rigi Scheidegg (1656m). We were lucky and the weather turned out to be fairly stable. It was overcast, but we only had a slight drizzle for rain. More importantly, no thunderstorms and no lightning. That would have been bad because a lot of the route is almost like a via ferrata, featuring lots of metal rungs, ladders and steel cables. You don't want to be caught in a lightning storm high on an exposed ridge hanging from what amounts to a lightning rod...

Lake Lucerne.

It was the first tour for the three of us together. Ralf and me knew each other from work and had been following each others exploits for a while. Andreas participated in many of the same SAC trips Ralf did. This made for quite a strong group. We set a fast pace and beat the posted time to the summit by 45 minutes. I was the first to turn around the final corner and catch a glimpse of the summit cross. The sight was a bit, how shall I put it?, unusual. Directly underneath the cross was a couple fornicating in the grass. Fucking with a view ;-)


My sudden stunned stop had the others bumping into me and we discreetly waited behind some bushes, chuckling and talking loudly. Another hiker arrived on the scene, first looking at us, bewildered why we didn't continue for the last couple of meters to the summit proper and then, realizing what was going on, laughing and joining us. The startled couple shuffled to get their clothes on and practically teleported of the mountain without a word or looking back. Funnily enough they had signed the summit book and praised the solitude of the place. Not so lonely after all.

This is the "crime scene".
Going down.

We had a short rest on the summit and continued down a metal ladder towards the Rigi Scheidegg. This is a tiny village of vacation houses on a ridge. We had some cake and drinks and parted ways. Andreas and Ralf wanted to go down by cable car as planned. I decided to take advantage of the surprisingly good weather conditions and continue hiking the remaining summits of the Rigi ridge.


The most exciting part of the trail behind me it was mostly burning kilometers by now. The area gets more and more touristi, culminating in the Rigi Kulm (1798m) with a big Hotel and restaurant on top. I earned some surprised stares when I opened an almost invisible gate in the fencing around the observation area and walked off what looks like a vertical cliff from above. In reality it's just a regular white-red-white hiking trail and not even particularly steep.

View from Rigi Kulm towards the two Mythen in the background. The train station in the center of the image is my destination.

When we separated we had climbed ~1800m. By the time I reached the train station in Arth-Goldau I totaled ~2500m up and down again, covering a distance of ~27km. We started walking at 09:00 in the morning and I arrived at 18:30 in the evening. My step counter for the GCC read 45.000. Long day!

The track in Google Earth...
...and real life.