Mittagfluh South face, "Durststrecke" VI+

The weather was too good not to go climbing. Anita was nice enough to take care of Leonie on my last day of paternity leave (Thank you!). Thus I recruited Arne, Pia, Mark, Tereza and Luigi, who all took a day off work to join me for climbing the Mittagflue South face at the Grimselpass. A good decision it turned out to be!

Arne wearing his harness like a cool 90s hip hop kid.
The approach over some old avalanche debris. You can see the steep west face and slabby south face in the center.

It started out as a bit of a junk show with Arne forgetting his ropes at home and stopping in Meiringen on the way to buy a new one (the advantages of climbing on a weekday!). Luigi and I teamed up and started up the 350m granite slab on the route "Durststrecke". Pia and Arne would follow us. Pia needed to be back in Zürich late afternoon and the idea was that we could make rappelling more efficient if they shared our half ropes on the way down. Meanwhile, Mark and Tereza started up the much harder route "Abadia" on the West face. They'd rejoin us later when their route merges with the "Südkante" halfway up on our face.

You can barely see me, but I've just crossed the magical line into the sun!
Luigi brought luxurious food.

It was cold in the morning and everyone wore gloves and down jackets. But once the sun hit the rock we immediately switched to all out summer mode. Luigi climbed shirtless and started humming Summer Jam on endless repeat - getting this awful song thoroughly stuck in my head for the day. Thanks, but no thanks for that!

Mr Summer Jam Luigi coming up.
The route's namesake. "Durststrecke" (dry spell) which supposedly ends here.

If there's anything to criticise about our choice of route it's that it is too easy. Some guidebooks grade it as 5b+ while others imply a 5c/6a. We agreed that on the length of 9 pitches there were maybe a handful of single moves that warranted a 5c or 6a grade, but the entire rest of the route was very easy. Luigi and I simul-climbed and linked pitches. I started dismantling quickdraws and use the carabiners separately when I started running out of gear to place. Luigi didn't bother and simply clipped only every second piece of protection.

Arne, Pia, Luigi.

We topped out in less than three hours. Arne and Pia quickly caught up with us and we didn't waste any time on the rappel so Pia would make her appointment back in Zürich. While she and Arne headed back right away, Luigi and I chilled in the sun, waiting for Mark and Tereza to finish. We had passed them halfway up the wall when they were still headed up while we were already going down.

Tereza cruising up the easy but very scenic "Südkante".
Mark on the "Südkante". Maybe oh so slightly cheating with the camera angle to make it look steeper ;-)

A super fun day in the sun. While not challenging as a climb it was quite satisfying to confidently run up a wall without any difficulty. Thanks to the gang for sharing their photos with me - especially Arne who took all the best pictures because he was the only one carrying a real camera instead of just a phone.

A tradition to uphold: Luigi dropped his helmet down the slope. A tragedy unfolding in slow motion, unable to do anything about it we just watched and cheered it to stop whenever it'd slow down or looked like it got stuck on a lump of snow or some grass. Quite a scramble to retrieve it.
The pass is still closed at this time of year. We just ignored that and drove on with no issues.


Climbing Haldenstein

Our newborn daughter, Leonie, is a week old and we've had our first two nights in a row where I could get more than two hours of sleep at a time. This leaves enough energy to go climbing! And so we did. Arne, Luigi and I were looking for a multi pitch route, that is close by; at low altitude (so it'll be climbable this early in the season); with a short approach; South facing; and climbable within a time window of three baby feeding cycles (roughly 8-9 hours). A tough set of constraints to satisfy. Yet Haldenstein near Chur delivered in spades. A beautiful crag right next to a parking lot off the Chur highway exit. Perfect.

The wall.
Luigi and Arne.
Luigi in action.

We chose the classic "Plattenwand" line. Five pitches of steep slabs graded 6b. I got to lead the first easy warm up pitch and the final two crux pitches at the exit which we linked into a single one. As the name implies the route is mostly about delicate footwork on steep slabs using small crimps for your hands. The crux traverse is sparsely protected and any fall here would lead to a nasty grating pendulum swing. Better watch your feet! I gave away a clean on-sight when I failed to find the crucial hold past an overhanging step in time and took a lead fall. Annoying.

Great weather!
Blurry Arne.

Arne and Luigi had their own little adventure while following when a hold broke in Arnes hand and he fell in a way that nearly castrated Luigi with the rope. Good times! This crag was a great new discovery and I'll definitely return to climb more routes here. The only drawback of the line we climbed is that it was zigzagging a bit too much for my tastes and crossed a few too many other routes. I prefer routes that follow the logical line up the wall, always sticking to the path of least resistance and ideally going straight up.

If this had been a first ascent and I were to name the new route I'd call it "Who needs sleep anyway?!". I nearly fell asleep at the steering wheel on the way back - great day that we ended with pizza and beer on our terrace! ;-)

Weird dance across the slabby traverse.
Luigi running up the final slab.
Topping out after an easy finger crack that is pure joy to climb.
Comfortable descend.


Climbing Gallerie Amden

Switzerland was enjoying a good weather spell of a week of sunshine and clear skies. I was itching to go climbing. At the same time I was somewhat constrained by the fact that this was the calculated due date of Anita's pregnancy and we were expecting our first child real soon now. This ruled out long approaches or multi pitches. To maintain a 1 hour back-to-home, on-call SLA (service level agreement) with Anita we decided to head for the classic crag at the Gallerie Amden. Nicola, John, Luigi and I had a pretty good outing. Luigi and I climbed Brillätidi 5c, Zigerchrapfe 6a and 6a+ and Glanerriss 6a+. We proceeded to try Goldmarie 7a. Luigi had a pretty good go at it and managed to work the rope all the way up by breaking the route down into a sequence of boulder problems with a lot of rests at the bolts. I attempted it on top rope, but didn't get very far.

Our kid didn't even think about coming out yet ;-)

John and Nicola.
Lake Walen.
Luigi coming up...
...in style.
Crowded crag!