Bockmattli, Grosser Turm, "Direkte Nordwand" (6a+, 450m, 12+ pitches)

Scorching hot weather. A good opportunity to climb a wall with a northerly aspect. Andrey and I chose the "Direkte Nordwand" up the large Bockmattli tower. A classic route in the bomb proof limestone that is typical for the area. We park the car at the shore of W├Ągitalersee. Even though it's still early in the morning most parking spots on the narrow road are already taken. Our guess is that half of the early risers will be climbers while the others are anglers, boating around on the lake.

Scrambling to the start of the route.
Rega helicopter flying around below us.
Rega landed on the gentle ridge below.

It takes us not even 50 minutes to hike up the first 600 meters and start scrambling around the base of the huge face in search of the start of our route. We rope up and start climbing around 9 in the morning. The first pitch is short and a bit weird: It starts off with a somewhat powerful bouldering move (5c+) before traversing a bit towards a rappel/lowering down section. The following two pitches are similar - easy climbing and mostly moving sideways rather than up. We're basically still moving into position at the base of the face. It's obvious why you'd want to do this here instead of walking on the grass below - the face is overhanging between us and the ground.

One of the easy traverse pitches in the beginning.
Andrey pulling his way through the 6a power-pitch.
Cruising terrain on 5c pitches.

Just when we are finally about to start the route proper, a helicopter circles into view and proceeds to land close by. It's Rega, the Swiss rescue service, picking someone up. Luckily this time not us. Still makes me feel a bit queasy whenever I see that chopper.

Comfortable belay stand on a pillar.
Andrey managing our rope.

We can see another party of two a few pitches ahead of us. We seem to be moving much faster than they are, so we expect to catch up with them. This should turn out to be a misconception. While we are indeed moving fast and efficiently we grind to a halt when Andrey sets out to lead the crux pitch. A long and sustained 6a+ that takes him nearly 50 minutes to conquer. I get to lead a short but super powerful 6a pitch after that. It traverses under a roof and requires pulling hard on underclings to keep enough pressure on your feet. Neither one of us manages a perfectly clean on-sight and we need to rest on the rope and step on a bolt. Oh well.

Scrambling over the many smaller towers on the way down.
Looking back to the summit over the descent route.
Surfing down the remnants of winter.
Snaky trail.

Once through the crux pitches it's cruising time all the way up to the summit which we gain at 3pm after just shy of 6 hours of climbing. We don't waste much time as we've been warned that the descent is not to be underestimated. And indeed it turns out that it involves a bunch of rappels and exposed scrambling over a series of small towers before climbing another two (easy) pitches up to the grassy slopes of the Bockmattli. We finally arrive back at the car at around 7pm.

Picturesque climbing hut. Well frequented on that day.
Andrey with the Bockmattli towers as backdrop.
Our route.


Rigi Marsch 2018

"Endurance is the struggle to continue against a mounting desire to stop"

My seventh annual Rigi Marsch was also the one with the worst weather yet. It started raining at 3 in the morning and never stopped again until we finally reached the furnicular from the summit of Mt Rigi 6 hours later. At that point everyone was soaking wet and shivering in the wind. According to the organizers this was the worst weather since the beginning of the tradition in 1991. The only Rigi hike that was more challenging for me was the one after I fell off a mountain and participated while still recovering from surgery. But it was fun! Right?!

Good mood on the way in. Me after a regular work day, the others after travelling through the better part of Germany.
Queuing for our wristbands.
One of our starting groups.
Now with me in the picture.

This was also the Rigi Marsch with the highest turnout for my recruitment efforts. I'm particularly fond of the gang from Germany: my brothers Torsten and Richard travelled from Cologne and Dortmund respectively, Helmut and Ronny arrived from Stuttgart and my best man Thomas even flew in all the way from Hamburg! Then there were a whole bunch of colleagues from Google, so many in fact, that I lost track of who's who. A core group of people from my immediate team and the climbing community at Google, but also a bunch of first timers and people I only know from past Rigi Marsches. Thanks everyone for joining! So much easier to struggle in good company.

Second checkpoint. Conversation still going strong.
Third checkpoint...
...showing some signs of fatigue. Just before the rain started.

We didn't manage to stay together as a single group all the way. A nearly impossible goal anyways as everyone needs to find their own pace over the entire distance of 50 kilometers and 1500 meters elevation gain. So people split into smaller and smaller groups during the course of the night. Quite a few dropped out, some reached the summit alone and some in small groups. Conversations tend to die along the way as you run out of topics and energy (with the notable exception of Helmut who I believe is impossible to shut up). The group I stuck with for the night started at 8pm and boarded the train on the summit at 9am. The final tally is that of 2000 people 1024 made it all the way. A significantly higher dropout rate than on previous years.

There were a few type II fun moments in the pouring rain.
Fourth checkpoint. Torsten and Richard decided to bail from here, just at the base of the mountain.
Morning coffee at 5am.
Iron-willed Thomas at the final checkpoint, halfway up the mountain.

The German gang stayed at our place for the rest of the long weekend for some nice hygge time with the kids. We recuperated with traditional Swiss raclette, BBQ, a visit to the Park im Gr├╝ne and lots of board games. Good times and a chance to forget the suffering and make plans for returning next year! ;-)

Summit selfie!
On the train back down.