Schwarzhoren (2928m) via Schwarzhorn via Ferrata

For our Sunday trip Volker and I chose the Schwarzhoren at Grindelwald. It's a technically easy mountain that still gets you to relatively high altitude of nearly 3000 meters. To make it a little more exciting we elected to go up via the via ferrata and use the normal route only for the descent. We also wouldn't use any of the many cable cars and shortcuts in the area which brought the total elevation gain to 2000 meters while covering a distance of about 25km.

The monarch: Eiger.
This part was called the marmot trail. For good reason: we saw dozens and dozens of the critters.

I own only one via ferrata kit which I gave to Volker. For myself I improvised a whip with regular carabiners and a piece of climbing rope. This would give you a little bit of elasticity/dynamism in the event of a fall, but you really don't want to test this kind of setup. In all likelihood it would break your back before finally snapping. Anyway, the via ferrata is really easy and nothing happened. In fact, I did most of it without any protection.

Volker the cow whisperer.
We came up on the right and will go down on the left.

When we started in the morning I was wearing shorts. I didn't apply sunscreen to my legs because I thought once we got to altitude it would get cool and I'd extend my pants to cover my legs. It never did get cool and I got the worst sunburn in years. My calves served as a kind of sundial where I could tell my orientation towards the sun by how much my calves were hurting. I didn't even know you could feel the sun this directly and instantly. A few days later I was shedding my skin.

The Schwarzhoren and surrounding mountains are piles of rubble. You can see the ladders marking part of the via ferrata.
On the ridge.
On the ladders...
...and my view of Volker.

While we were hiking up the Schwarzhorn we got beautiful vistas towards the Eiger. Which gave me a wistful longing, knowing that one of my regular climbing buddies, Arne, was on the mountain that very day. We later learned that he had already gained the summit and was on the way back down by the time Volker and I left the parking lot to start our day ;-) The difference between a "proper" mountaineering objective and a tourist hike...

Slabs on the ridge.

After three days of back to back climbing and hiking we decided to take it easy on Monday and just went swimming in the lake with Anita and Leonie. Good fun and a nice way to bring Volker's visit to a close. Maybe we'll get to climb a 4000er next time ;-)

Dozens and dozens of chamois.
A herd of chamois to our left and another one behind us. I have never seen this many in one place.
Sunburn is good for your skin.


Climbing Holzegg and Hiking Grosser Mythen (1898m)

After climbing Brüggler we contemplated an alpine route, either climbing a tall mountain or rock climbing some granite. It was a scorching hot day which made escaping to high altitude appealing. Unfortunately there was also a significant chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, so we decided to play it safe and go cragging instead. We went to the Holzegg at the saddle of the Grosser Mythen. Although the Mythen is one of my goto mountains to bring visitors on, I have only ever been to the climbing crag once. A shame, as it is really nice and barely an hour away from our home.

At the base of the Holzegg crag.
Sören in "Alpinist", 6a.
Sören in "Hü+Hopp", 6a+.

Luigi joined us and the three of us hiked up to join a group of climbers already at the crag. We climbed a bunch of 6a-ish single pitches and a weird extension of a 5c route. Neighboring climbers, who were struggling on 5cs and saw us cruising up our routes, challenged us to attempt a 6c+. I gave it a try but got shut down on the first few moves. It was hot enough that I was sweating all over and everything felt grimy and slippery. The others didn't even try and we went for the restaurant on the ridge instead.

Luigi in "Alpinist".
Volker in "Hü+Hopp".

Volker was interested in hiking up the Mythen. Luigi, the Italian (!), thought it was way too hot and decided to stay in the shade. This gave Volker and me an incentive to be fast so Luigi wouldn't have to wait for too long. When we gained the summit after 40 minutes we passed a sign that suggested a time of 50 minutes for the way down (!). Satisfying ;-)

View towards lake Lucerne from the restaurant at the top of the Mythen.
On the summit of the Grosser Mythen.
Nice ridge on the way down.
Waiting for a well deserved beer.


Brüggler (1777m), via "s'Zigerträumli", 5c, ~150m

My old university friend from Germany, Volker, was visiting for a few days over an extended weekend. We had a glorious weather forecast, so I tried to give him a rundown of the local mountains. He's an avid gym climber with little outdoor experience. I still had to finish s'Zigerträumli on Brüggler properly. We had climbed the first two pitches of it when we couldn't go on the route we originally wanted to with my brother back in April. That time we had to continue on a different route because we didn't bring any trad gear and s'Zigerträumli is bolted only very sparingly, meant to be climbed as a trad route. Thus it seemed like a good introductory climb for Volker. I'd lead all the pitches, taking care of protecting it, while he could get used to the idea of multi pitch climbing outside.

Volker on the approach.
Sören on the approach.
At the base of the climb.

There's really not much more to report. We hiked in, climbed it, hiked out. I've climbed Brüggler enough times at this point that it almost feels like going to the gym. Great weather, great climb. It was one of these inversion weather days where it's warmer up high than down in the valleys, leading to a sea of cloud below us. Very satisfying to be in the sun while the stay at home crowd has to be content with gray and overcast weather ;-)


Innerkoflerturm (3081m), via "Calice", VI+, ~450m

The grand finale of our Dolomites trip nearly got cancelled. Marzia, Luigi's daughter and Leonie's best friend, broke her femur. I know what you're thinking: of course, that's what happens when you take two year olds climbing. In reality she just fell on the terrace of a restaurant. Tripped over the cord of one of the sun umbrellas. Fortunately no surgery required. "Just" a two year old with one full leg, her hip and half her good leg in a stiff cast for six weeks. A test of patience for the entire family. Luckily Luigi and Silvia had family visiting and thus could share the burden of entertaining the kid and running a household. The accident meant that they'd return home sooner than originally planned and in an ambulance to boot (can't put the kid into a regular children's car seat with the cast on). But we could still sneak in a day of climbing - thank you Silvia!

Langkofel group. We climbed the one on the left, but from around the back in this photo.
Early morning views of the valley.
Sören on the ridge.

Luigi chose the "Calice" route up the Innerkofler tower. A great classic in the area. 13 long pitches up to VI+ difficulty. With 450 meters of elevation gain this is among the longest routes I have ever climbed. Thus we started earlier than usual: after driving up and hiking in we were at the base of the climb around 8 in the morning. The route features three crux pitches: a smooth corner in the beginning, a slightly overhanging face and finally another dihedral just before the exit pitch. I got to lead the first two while Luigi finished off with the last one. The climbing is diverse, sustained and a lot of fun. The first crux was made hard by the fact that the rock hadn't been hit by the sun yet and our fingers and feet were freezing cold. It's hard to balance on delicate footholds when you can't feel your toes.

Our route goes straight up the black/gray pillar in the middle after starting in the yellow eye on the left.
Luigi on the final few meters of the first crux pitch. The actual pitch is in the corner on the left, you only traverse out at the very end of it.
Luigi on the sharp end on a beautifully structured V-something pitch.

By the time we reached the second crux halfway up the wall we were fully exposed to the sun. So while I was complaining about cold fingers before, I was now struggling with sunscreen running into my eyes. I actually had to pause midway through the pitch to get sunglasses out of the backpack. Annoying, as it would have been a clean lead otherwise. And while I'm huffing and puffing my way through that pitch I saw another party of three cruising up towards us as if it was nothing. We met several times on the route and it turned out that their leader is a professional mountain guide on vacation with his best friends. He was leading every pitch and is a veteran of such routes as "Moderne Zeiten" on the Marmolada (1000 meters of VII-VIII climbing). This made me feel slightly better about my abysmal performance compared to him. One thing that really impressed me is how effortless and quickly he could improvise bomber anchors out of seemingly nothing. He'd never trust the existing pietons or knots (for good reason!) and whip out perfectly balanced 5 point anchors in less time than it took me to close a screwgate carabiner. Practice does make perfect it seems.

Topping out the route left us on a complex fractured ridge with no clear path to the summit. We decided to rappel into a steep couloir and scrambled up for almost another hour before finally gaining the summit. From there we still had to find our way back down, which, as I was now accustomed to, was another adventure on its own. Rappels interspersed with steep unprotected scrambling and crazy traverses before we finally rappelled onto a steep scree slope in a canyon. Slipping and sliding down the scree was annoyingly difficult and poised to sprain your ankles. Anyway, we made it back down in one piece. The next day we celebrated our exploits and the end of a great vacation with a big barbeque and beer. Thanks for always being great company Luigi & Silvia & Marzia!

As I'm writing this, Marzia is already walking again and is almost back to her normal cheery self. She'll make a full recovery.

Topping out on the ridge.
View from the summit.
Finding our way down.
Scrambling on the way down. It's technically easy, but on bad rock and often very exposed.
Final rappel into the canyon.
It's hard to see, but I was standing on the torso sized boulder in the center of this image. Luigi was rappelling straight below me when the boulder suddenly moved and the crack you can see opened up. Quite a jolt of adrenaline. This would have been a definite widow maker. On the last 10 minutes of the descent, no less.
This looks easier than it was. Getting down this pile of loose rock meant half the time you were sliding down in some sort of mini rock avalanche.
Mission accomplished!