Roche des Nants, "Mustapha", 200m, 6b

We were eager to follow up Saturday's cragging with a longer multi pitch route. The weather forecast predicted rain for most of our usual stomping grounds in the high mountains, so we looked North-West to the Jura instead. Since this mostly consists of hills and low mountains there are few choices for long routes, the most famous one I've already climbed. We settled on the "Mustapha", 200m of consistently hard limestone.

The lower section of the wall.
Luigi in the second pitch.

Mark and Andrey made up one rope team while Luigi and I were the other. Since Mark and I were involved in the outing we of course had to get lost trying to find the route. We parked the car in the wrong spot and headed up a trail that fit the description in the route book pretty well. We explored a T-junction to the right for a few minutes before heading up the other direction for another 20. Both turned out to be wrong and we retreated back down to the car, driving back where we came from for a few hundred meters before finally setting out on the right path.

Nice belay cave.
Luigi dangling off the final needle.

Rock-paper-scissors determined that Luigi and I would go first and that I would get the first lead. It was quite chilly in the morning and touching the cold rock made our fingers go numb right away. This improved once the sun hit the West facing wall around pitch 4 or so. The start of the route features a tricky move to get off the ground at the very start but then continues very easy, hardly warranting a 6a+ grade. Luckily it got harder and more consistent in the later pitches.

Cruising to the top.
Proof that it's steeper than it looks in the previous pictures...

We decided to climb the harder 6b variant for the final exit pitch instead of the normal 5c. The needle of rock ahead looked too beautiful not to climb it. It was Luigi's lead and he had a total blast in that pitch. It's vertical with crimpy side pulls on superb rock. It features a giant jug halfway up which Luigi used to dangle off with just one hand, enjoying the views monkey style. Climbing hardly gets better than this ;-)

All smiles...
...standing on the top.

The descent proved a tricky affair of scrambling down steep slopes with loose gravel and pine cones. Very slippery and oftentimes quite exposed over vertical drops. The guide books can't really make up their mind on whether to suggest rappelling down the route or walking off, with some editions recommending one and some the other. Now we know why. When we make it back to our car we see the only other car that shared the parking lot with us in the morning has its window smashed in. Supposedly to get to the stuff left on the back seat. Driving back we pass another such car. Switzerland is usually very safe and people generally trust one another. Disappointing to see counter examples like this ;-/

Andrey contemplating the climbing potential of a wall on the descent.

I make it back home in time at half past 4 to meet Mel and Christian and stroll through the wildlife park together. Mel had promised to take family pictures of Anita, Leonie and I as a birthday present to Leonie and we took advantage of the beautiful weather to do just that. Thank you!

Luigi and I are psyched and try to turn Saturday and Sunday's successful outings into a hat trick by going again on Monday. Unfortunately there's been so much fresh snow in the mountains that we had to bail. Can't win every time.


Climbing Brochne Burg

We explored a new crag on Saturday. The Brochne Burg is an old castle ruin sitting on top of an outcrop overlooking Liechtenstein. You can climb all around the castle in the old defensive moat. Short routes, but lots of them. You can choose the best wall to climb on based on the position of the sun, which is very convenient as a cold wind was blowing.

The main canyon. The castle used to sit on the top right.

Andrey and I teamed up and Oscar and Catherine. We climbed a whole bunch of easy routes before setting up a top rope for Nachtshiisser, 7a. It features a bouldery sequence through a small roof right from the start. Once you've mastered that it becomes easy. It took a few tries, but we eventually figured out the correct sequence. There is a surprisingly large number of overhanging routes in a very reasonable difficulty range (6a-ish). This is rare, and leads to some very satisfying and fun climbing moves. Usually overhangs are much harder.

Another (the same?) castle on the neighboring ridge.
Nice picnic spot on the old walls.

The place is just over an hour of driving away from home and features an approach of a leisurely 10 minute stroll. Definitely worth returning to.

I climbed:

  • Nachtschiisser, 7a
  • Finale, 5c+
  • Briefkastendächli, 6a+
  • Buuch, 6a
  • Eggli, 5c+
  • Lotti kneift, 5b
  • Dagoberts $, 4c
  • Beim Teutates, 6a+
  • Foxi, 6b
  • Wissä Sunntig, 5c+
Andrey in the roof of Nachtschiisser.
Me, climbing out of the same roof.


Valle del Sarca, "Via Romantica", 300m, 6c+

For our second climb in the Sarca valley we split into three parties: Luigi and I went for a 5 star classic 12 pitch route "Via Romantica" (6c+); Tereza teamed up with her mom to climb the 13 pitches of "Zanzara" (7a+) and Mark and Laurence went cragging. I had tried this particular route before but had to bail from only the second pitch because my climbing partner at the time brought the wrong pair of climbing shoes. This time Luigi and I got to top out.

Sitting at the anchor.
Luigi figuring out one of the roofs halfway up the wall.

The route fully deserves the five out of five star rating in the guide book. It is beautifully varied; exceptionally well protected; on perfect rock and a very aesthetic line up a giant cliff. The very first moves are already on slightly overhanging rock before continuing up a slab. The second pitch is the 6c+ crux and a traverse on tiny drip holes in the rock. I tried to lead it cleanly but had to give up and resort to pulling on gear. I just didn't have the strength to remain attached to the wall long enough to find the next hold. Luigi didn't fare much better and the party following us didn't even seem to care, cheating most moves even on the first 6b+ pitch.

Exposure in one of the corners.

The route continues over ramps, through caves (weirdly athletic lean back moves), over a series of small roofs, out on a very exposed ledge and bracing up corners. Difficulties mostly in the 6a/6b range and just super beautiful climbing. We mastered all of this cleanly until we arrived at the second but last pitch, rated 6c. It was my lead again and at this point we were quite tired after nearly 5 hours of climbing. Still I gave it my best and came within an inch of a clean redpoint. Alas, I had to rest once ;-( While graded similarly to the first crux of the route the difficulties here are much different: The face looks nearly blank except for a few small slots big enough to accept a few fingers and a sloper half way up. So the sequence is obvious to read, it's just a matter of executing the long, powerful moves required to get to the top. Super fun.

Likely the best multi pitch I've ever climbed - thank you Luigi for a great day out!

Hanging around in the final crux. It's steeper and harder than it looks from here!
Proper way to use a baby buggy: transport your newly purchased climbing gear!
Arco's city center is one climbing shop next to the other. One even specializes exclusively on gear for kids.


Valle del Sarca, "Moonbears", 250m, 5c

It is a tradition among many climbers to travel to Arco in Italy around the Easter holidays. Tereza and gang introduced me to the idea last year and this time we joined as a family. Anita and Leonie spent a few nice days in Riva del Garda at the shores of the beautiful Lago di Garda while I spent two days scrambling up steep limestone, rejoining them in the evenings for proper Italian gelato and dinner.

The village of Arco is 100% dedicated to climbing.
Leave it to climbers to interpret a fence as just another obstacle to be scaled.
Label at the base of the route.

As a warm-up we chose a route called Moonbears. It starts by climbing over a fence of the local dam and then follows a series of corners for 250 meters and 9 pitches of easy and well protected climbing. Luigi and I made up the lead team while Tereza, Mark and his brother Laurence followed as second party. Weather was great and the climbing pure joy. Just difficult enough to be interesting but never truly challenging so it was pleasant cruise to the top. Of course Tereza didn't even bother putting on her climbing shoes and just floated up the route in approach shoes ;-)

The village of Sarche.
Luigi leading the way.
We even had a video conference in the middle of the wall ;-)

Luigi and I topped out after just over two hours of climbing and then hung around for another 1.5 hours waiting for the others to catch up. Just as well as we had a nice little outcrop with good views of the valley to spend the time on. I lay down and quickly dozed off - nights with an infant are short and you learn to catch up on sleep whenever and wherever you can...

My lead. Looking at the route from below I was afraid it would turn into a giant bushwhacking action. Luckily that turned out not to be the case - the line elegantly avoids all of the vegetation.
The final pitch.
Crazy climbers on the descent.
Nice trail on the way down.
Mark aid climbing a weird dam (?), avalanche barricade (?).


Climbing Balzers

Our baby gave us one hell of a night. We couldn't sleep more than two hours at a time. Still we were determined to take advantage of the still gorgeous weather outside and go climbing. Arne suggested the crag at Balzers which turned out to be a perfect choice. It's just across the border in Liechtenstein right at the river Rhine. A beautiful spot, sheltered from the sun by trees. Hard as it is to believe, this was an advantage, because it was very hot (in April!).

Crowded crag but very relaxed atmosphere with open fire barbecues and good mood all around.
Luigi negotiating the roof of Bananäschalä.
Arne in Bananäschalä.

You can park right at the crag, making it very accessible and kids friendly. As a consequence there were lots of people hanging out and climbing. Including families with small kids who demonstrated impressive climbing ability. Our own baby slept through all of it, just to spite us. After keeping us up all night she now slept five and four hours at a time and only woke up briefly for some food. Of course she'd later demand entertainment once we were back home. Her dull and boring parents never do anything with her. Grmbl.

Sören on the start of Blitzidee.
Anita and Leonie, youngest at the crag today.
Silvia and Luigi brought a veritable sofa to the crag.

We climbed:

  • Bananäschalä, 35m, 6a
  • Blitzidee, 20m, 6a
  • Café de Brasil, 35m, 5c

We also set up a top rope for a 6c+ and mostly figured out the sequence for that. Still a bit out of reach for a clean red-point, but not impossible. A very relaxed day in a beautiful location. More of this please ;-)

Luigi about to pull up onto the 6c+ slab.
Sören about to top out on a pitch featuring fantastic hand pockets and overall super fun climbing.
Studying the topo.
Anita, Leonie, Silvia.
We could have sent her floating down the river and she would have just slept on.


Wildhuser Schafberg, "Sandührliweg" 6b

Leave it to Luigi to come up with the soundtrack for a climb. If I thought "Summer Jam" was a low point when we climbed "Durststrecke" he proved me very wrong with Saturday's inspiration: He kept humming Samwell's "What What In The Butt" (click it! I dare you!). A terrible earworm and stupidly prolific setup for all kinds of terrible puns when you are climbing on cracks and holes... Anyway, from the beginning.

Von den blauen Bergen kommen wir...
The approach.
Gearing up for the wrong climb.

With a stable high pressure system, Arne, Luigi and I decided to go for another multi pitch climb. Our choice fell on the "Sandührliweg" (hourglass route) on the Wildhuser Schafberg. 7 pitches and 200 meters of climbing on a steep limestone slab of perfect quality rock. None of us had been to the area before, but the SAC guidebook praised the route thusly: "Grossartige, genussreiche Plattenkletterei. Sehr beliebter, oft besuchter Extrem-Klassiker." (Awesome, highly enjoyable slab climb. Very popular and often frequented extreme-classic).

Scrambling up the ramp to the proper start of the route.
See? It's even marked!
What What In The Butt!

The guidebook also warns about an exposed and alpine approach. We hiked up to the massive wall (so much potential!) in 1.5 hours and scrambled along the base. We passed a bunch of routes and eventually settled to climb one of them, thinking it was the extension of our desired "Sandührliweg". There was even another party of two climbers who also consulted their topo and agreed with us on the location. They started climbing to our right. Arne was on the sharp end of the rope and promptly got stuck at the very first bolt. He gave it his best and barely made it to the second bolt. Now this was supposed to be a 6a+ pitch, a grade that doesn't usually cause us much trouble. The other party didn't fare much better, hangdogging from one quickdraw to the next. We eventually decided to bail and abandon one of Arne's carabiners. A tradition by now: on each one of our outings one piece of Arne's gear needs to be destroyed, lost or abandoned.

Cruising up the beautifully structured limestone.
Slab-Dancing on the traverse.
The traverse pitch as seen from above.

So we scrambled up the steep ramp to the regular start of the route and Arne again led the first pitch. This time without much trouble. Whatever route we've been on before must have been way harder. We continued to make good progress. Luigi wasn't in the right headspace for climbing that day and felt insecure and clumsy. He abandoned his leads after the first so we ended up with the following sequence:

  • 45m, 6a+, Arne
  • 15m, 6a-, Luigi
  • 35m, 6a-, Sören
  • 15m, 6a-, Arne
  • 25m, 6b, Sören
  • 40m, 5c+, Arne
  • 40m, 6b, Sören

Look Ma - no hands!
Luigi on the final stretch of the last pitch.
Mission accomplished.

The two crux pitches of the route were a traverse on very delicate foot placements and the exit pitch which also required smearing feet into the smallest depressions with tiny holds to match. My favorite pitch of the route was the second but last one and supposedly easiest. A diagonal following a natural fault line in the rock, with lots of beautiful and interesting features. In particular, lots of hour glasses that allow for natural protection using slings. Taking advantage of this was a good idea, as the pitch is sparsely bolted.

We topped out just before five'o'clock in the afternoon. A clean on-sight and a great day out!

Rappelling back down.
Look at that beauty! So many more routes to return to.