"Der Vogel und das Kind" (6a+, 200m, 7 pitches)

Switzerland enjoyed another bout of beautiful weather. This was predicted to end on the weekend where we'd get snow down to a thousand meters or so. Arne decided to take a day off from work on Friday and recruited me (paternity leave for the win!) to climb "Der Vogel und das Kind" with him. It's a 7 pitch, 6a+ route in sector Ofen near Melchsee-Frutt. Now Ofen means oven in German and implies the South facing wall gets warm. We figured this would be a good thing if you go climbing up to 2188 meters of altitude in early November. The area is closed to climbers every winter starting November 15th for the benefit of wild animals. Thus this would very likely be our last chance this season.

View towards the Melchtal. The faces on the other side also offer spectacular climbing.
The scree field. More annoying than it looks.
Our route goes up to the left of that giant roof.

The approach is a long 2.5 hour hike mostly along a boring forestry road. This road is closed to the public. We parked at the start and set out to walk up. Not five minutes in, a van stopped next to us and offered us a ride up. We graciously accepted. Two older climbers from a neighboring canton who just ignored the restriction on the road. Good for us as it cut the approach in half.

Looking up the second pitch. 6a.
Arne and bird "Der Vogel und das Kind" ;-)

Hiking up to the wall from the higher parking lot still took us about an hour. It's a nice trail up to the final scree field just at the base of the wall. Working up the loose gravel was exhausting and tedious work - for every two steps forwards you slid one back down.

Arne following a 5c pitch through a narrow cave like roof.
The first 6a+ pitch, moments before he came off.
The second 6a+ pitch traversing under the roof.

We found the route without problems and I set out to lead the first pitch. We alternated leads all the way which meant that Arne got two short 6a+ pitches while I got the final long 6a+. The first crux pitch is a steep section of beautifully structured limestone. Lots of horizontal cracks. What makes it tricky is that many of the cracks are not big enough to actually fit a fingertip and it's hard to tell from below which ones will turn out good. Thus you spend quite some time looking for and testing holds. Arne managed a clean lead all the way up to the very last move where he finally ran out of steam and fell. No damage done but spoiling an otherwise clean on-sight for him.

Just about to exit the roof.
Me following the roof pitch.
Fumbling the clip before giving up.

The next crux section was again Arne's lead. A traverse getting out from under a big roof. You get decent grips but only marginal feet. This makes it extremely pumpy as you are almost doing pull-ups all the way. Arne seemingly cruised through this. I on the other hand was panting and puffing even as a follower and eventually gave in to temptation on the last move and rested on a bolt. Impressive lead!

Final moves.
Exciting rappel line.

The exit 6a+ pitch was my lead. Between the three crux pitches this one seemed to be the easiest one. It's long, but offers good rests along the way. Since this is near the ridge the rock is more exposed to rain and formed the razor sharp droplet holes characteristic for limestone. This makes the rock very sticky affording good foot placements almost anywhere.

Looking back.
View towards some big names.

We started on frozen ground in the morning and hiked past patches of snow. The climb on the other hand was hot enough that I welcomed the occasional breeze and shade to cool us a down. In November!


Tällihorn (2684m), Wuosthorn (2814m), Börterhorn (2696m), Witihüreli (2634m), Jatzhorn (2681m), Jakobshorn (2589m)

Switzerland has been enjoying a stretch of stable good weather for about ten days. Anita and Leonie have been travelling to Germany to visit her parents. I have a weekend to myself. It'll be one of contrasts: I sleep in on Saturday and don't leave the apartment (or my desk chair for that matter) at all. My brother Richard and I indulge on a cooperative session of the role playing game Divinity: Original Sin II. My fitbit heart rate curve for the day is essentially flat. I make up for this on Sunday.

The handful of houses that comprise the village of Sertig Dörfli.
Fall colors!

Mark and I head for Sertig Dörfli above Davos in Grisons. I have suggested the modest goal of climbing the Tällihorn with an optional extension up the Wuosthorn. Neither one should be particularly difficult depending on the snow conditions. We quickly dispatch the 1000 meters of elevation gain and enjoy the second summit of the day in beautiful weather - not a cloud in the sky and it's warm enough to be in short sleeve shirts even at nearly 3000 meters of altitude. This after starting on frozen ground in the morning.

Sun coming up above our ridge. Tällihorn to the right.
Mark with a halo.

It's still only 11 am, so we spontaneously decide to continue along the ridge and try to tick off more summits. Our maps don't show any trails continuing from where we are, but we can spot a few (non-standard) markers. Without an idea of where they might lead us, or how difficult the path may be, we set out and follow the marks on the ridge.

One of many.
Mark brought self made cookies. Delicious!
Summit selfie.

It's very exposed terrain requiring full concentration and quite a bit of scrambling but we make good progress. Until we arrive at a near vertical drop. We scout the snow covered chute at its side but think better of trusting the thin layer of brittle snow and ice. For a while we stand on top of the drop and try to make up our minds of whether we should turn around and play it safe or risk climbing down. The climbing itself looks quite easy. It is however, extremely unforgiving. A loose rock or misstep here would lead to a 100+ meters tumble.

Contemplating our options.
Scouting the snowy chute before deciding on the direct approach instead.
Falling ill advised.

Mark takes heart and proceeds to make his way down. We both arrive safely at the base. It was a bit more risky and committing than I'd like. With no idea what lies in store for us along the rest of the ridge we hope that this was the last dicey bit. Things like this do drain mental energy ;-)

Hanging around.
Dischma valley.

Our trail markers suddenly point straight down a steep and narrow couloir. This is bad news as it's the wrong way for us and scrambling in couloirs is both uncomfortable (finding purchase on loose scree and steep grass) and unsafe (the natural line for any rockfall). We agree there's probably a reason people laid down the path where they did and the ridge ahead will likely become impassable. So we work our way down. We haven't seen, let alone met, any other people all day, so we are justified in our hope there'll be no one coming up below us. All the rock and dirt we are sending down the chute would be like deadly shotgun fire.

Looking down the annoying couloir. Much steeper than it seems in the photos!
We tried to stay semi close together so that rocks kicked loose by the follower would not have a lot of time to pick up speed.

At some point we decide that we've deviated from our original line enough and that the ridge above us looks passable again. So we leave the marked "trail" and follow animal tracks instead. After some climbing we regain the ridge and with that the final summit in this direction, the Börterhorn. There's still a lot of daylight left and we are still feeling strong so we cross back through the valley to where we first gained the ridge in the early morning. The idea is to trace a giant figure eight, or infinity symbol, ticking off every peak on the ridge.

Crossing the valley back to the saddle we started on.
Looking back. We climbed all the peaks on this ridge, including the snowy ones in the back and the one on the left.

Heading North from the Tällifurgga is a properly marked hiking trail leading to a monstrous cable car station at the Jakobshorn, one of Davos' ski resorts. Thus we meet a first handful of people. We speed along the now easy trail and tick every named summit, including minor ones with barely any prominence. We even take a detour into a dead end to the unsightly Brämabüel just to satisfy our completionist urges. From the Jakobshorn we follow a trail cutting diagonally across the face of the mountain back down to the village of Sertig we started in. Since this trail is reachable by cable car it is popular with mountain bikers. A group of about 15 of them speeds past us. We'll catch up with them 5 more times on our way down. Each time one of them is fixing a punctured tire and greets us with "Hello again. Hopefully for the last time today!". It becomes a running joke between our two parties.

Sun disappearing behind another ridge.
Not a bad day...

In the end we've climbed about a dozen summits spanning 25 km and 2000 meters of elevation gain. We hiked from dawn till dusk and there wasn't a single cloud in the sky the entire day. A rare day indeed! Two days later, on Tuesday, I took visiting teammates from Mountain View and New York up the Grosser Mythen in similarly great conditions. I think they left with a great impression of Switzerland ;-)

...not a bad day at all!


Wängihorn (2148m)

Ralf, Andrey and I went for a quick hike on Sunday. We originally intended to do a much longer enchaînement of multiple summits but once we gained the first one we deemed it too dangerous to continue due to too much snow. It was still a good day out and we climbed more than 1500 meters of elevation gain in less than three hours without so much as a single rest.

On the ridge. The peak in the top right is the Wängihorn.
Looking back into the Schächen valley.
Ralf fooling around with his umbrella.
Walking on hail is surprisingly tricky. Feels like marbles. While you can stomp steps into snow, it doesn't work with these little balls of ice.
Summit selfie. Ralf prides himself in being "grumpy Ralf" and made his best grumpy old man face. Everyone started laughing which led to this all smiles photo ;-)
Our intended continuation. You can barely make out the trail cutting to the left in very exposed terrain.
Coming off the summit.
A bit of steeper terrain.
Beautiful cliffs and waterfalls. North facing. There ought to be some good ice climbing here later in the season.
Lots of hiking destinations.
This would be acceptable to me as a vacation home. Beautiful views of Lake Lucerne.