Climbing Sommerloch, "Baal Integral", ~170m, 5c+

Another good weather window, another trip up the Grimsel pass. This time with more complex logistics: Luigi and Luigi are the advance party and climb Fair Hands Line on Friday. Anita, Silvia, Marzia, Leonie, Lukas and I drive up the same day, but later. We find a good spot to spend the night, set up camp and play with the kids. Luigi joins us in the afternoon while the other Luigi goes back to Zürich for a friend's birthday. We spend a nice day, exploring the forest, the creek, caves, boulders and a stroll on the Räterichsboden dam.

Leonie, checking out the surroundings.

The campspot we eventually decided on. Right next to a creek and some chalked up boulder problems.

Leonie building a family of cairns. "This is daddy, and the small ones are mommy and Lukas and Leonie!"

Come Saturday morning, we break camp and cram the three kids with Silvia and Anita into the bigger of the two cars. They return back to Zürich while Luigi and I set out to climb the route Baal Integral. This was the very first route we intended to climb at Grimsel this year, but had to fall back to the Mittagflue because of too much snow. There's still a lot of snow on the approach. The easily accessible routes directly next to the lake have a few parties climbing on them, but nobody ventured all the way up to the Sommerloch. Suits us well, we get the entire wall to ourselves.

Marzia and Leonie using our "couch" as a bouncy castle and having a blast.

Hiking around the dam.

Anita and Silvia posing.

We have to solve a bit of complicated logistics to cross the bergschrund while keeping our climbing shoes at least somewhat dry. Once on the wall the climbing itself is an absolute joy. The route follows a somewhat illogical line, often ignoring the easier solution (a crack or dihedral) to instead go up more difficult slabs. Doesn't matter much since it's well within our ability - and after a few prior outings to Grimsel this year, we have our slab Mojo on. The easier pitches are somewhat sparsely bolted, requiring confidence on slabs. Since this is Switzerland, there are a few bunkers sticking out the middle of the wall. Strange to think that there are supply tunnels running beneath our feet. The route actually takes advantage of some holes drilled during construction of the bunkers and uses them as holds.

Training the next generation of climbers.

They almost got too confident scrambling around on the rock...

And into the darkness they went.

We run up the 7 pitches in less than two hours, despite all the hassle with the Bergschrund and switching shoes. Only annoying bit is that the pass reopened that very same day and there's a constant stream of motorcycles roaring up. We are back home in time for a late afternoon play with the kids. Another great climb and I think the kids enjoyed plenty of adventure as well.

On the approach. Still slabs of snow around the lake.

Luigi preparing to cross the Bergschrund.

They call it Sommerloch ("summer hole") for a reason ;-) Switching from hiking boots to climbing shoes at the start of our route.

First pitch. Luigi's boots on the wall.

One of the beautiful and super fun 5c+ cracks.

And another one. This time Luigi's lead.

One of a few steep sections. They all feature huge jugs and are easy and fun.

Final slabs.


Another steep bit with a giant jug to pull yourself up.

"Summit" selfie - we forgot to take one, so this is during the rappel.

Nice position for putting on shoes ;-)


Climbing Schwarzbrunnenfluh, "Ds Traugottli", ~200m, 6c

Another pilgrimmage up the Grimsel pass. This time with Mark. We are headed for a smaller wall than the usual suspects, the Schwarzbrunnenfluh. While not as tall as most of the other Grimsel granite, it is significantly steeper. This suits me well. I don't particularly like slab climbing where all you can do is sneak up low angle smooth rock. Our route instead follows a series of cracks and flakes. It's nestled in a small canyon cut into the mountainside. A waterfall falls from the top but little of it makes it all the way to the bottom. Most of the water gets dispersed into a fine spray by the wind. This means that we are moving in a mist most of the time. It also means that we are basically farting rainbows: looking back you can usually see a nice rainbow in the mist below us.

Approach. Our wall on the right.

The waterfall.

First pitch. Promising!

The route is quite sustained with only a minor blemish half way up where you have to traverse a bit over easier terrain. I led the first pitch and at seven pitches total this would have gotten me the final, crux pitch, as well. However we somehow confused an anchor on the easier terrain in the middle and climbed an extra pitch. This means Mark got to lead the money pitch. It's a long pitch that starts out as a diagonal traverse on easy terrain. It would probably be a good idea to split this into two sections to avoid excessive rope drag. We didn't and Mark continued up over a small roof section that we expected to be the crux. However that part actually turned out fairly easy - you could reach a giant jug and pull yourself up on that. The real difficulty was the steep terrain after that. It offers only tiny ledges and structures and requirs delicate technique. Mark almost managed a clean on-sight but ended up having to rest on the rope for a bit to figure out the sequence. I had it much easier as the follower and managed a clean ascent of the entire route.

Mark following on the first pitch.

Nice surroundings!

Rainbow halo.

We topped out at 3pm and expected a quick rappel and hike back to the car. As it happened, instead our ropes got completely stuck on the second rappel. We were both down at the next anchor, trying to pull down the ropes. Try as we might, they wouldn't budge even a little bit. So Mark starts ascending the ropes to get them unstuck. At first we didn't have the technique dialed in perfectly for doing so and since he needed to climb almost the full 60 meter rope length, it took the better part of an hour. Meanwhile, the sun had moved on and at this point we were in the shade. This meant the spray from the waterfall was no longer drying off and the wall was getting wet. And I, standing around idle at the anchor, got cold and started shivering.

Climbing a relatively fresh scar in the rock. Remember this for later.

View across to the Mittagflue wall.

Having a terrible time.

Mark rappeled back down to me, untwisting the ropes as he went. We started pulling down the ropes and - again - they got completely stuck. This time it was my turn to climb back up. A chance to warm up and employ our newly improved technique. I got up significantly faster. Once there I used the little saw on my pocket knive to cut away branches of the bush that caused us grief and rethreaded and retied the knot at the anchor. Third time is the charm, this time they came off without any issues.

Mark negotiating the small roof in the crux pitch.


View towards the dam at Räterichsbodensee.

The wall shows some fresh scars from broken out rock. Quite a few of the bolts have been hammered and bent by rockfall. We cleaned a few more lose boulders from the wall. Some intentionally, some involuntary when pulling down the ropes. Definitely a more alpine experience than on the neighboring well frequented Mittagflue wall.

That little snafu on the descent didn't spoil a fantastic climb and a great day out. I wish there were more routes like this! So good, you fart rainbows like some climbing unicorn ;-)

What an enticing ridgeline!

Farting rainbows even on the descent.

Remember the scar from earlier? It's all wet and difficult now.


Climbing Handegg, "Schiefer Traum", 490m, 6a+

We returned once again to Grimsel. This time we brought crampons and ice axes so we'd be able to negotiate the snow patches in the couloir on the approach to "Schiefer Traum". A route we wanted to climb last time but had to give up on because of the weather and the snow blocking the approach. This time the weather was glorious. The snow patches still presented a formidable obstacle however. Luigi led this pitch-0. It was a gnarly undertaking because of the tricky mix of unstable hollowed out snow bridges and smooth granite slabs running with water. Very few opportunities for protection. In the end, he managed to claw his way up using climbing shoes first and mono-point crampons on ice and rock later. It was uncomfortably exciting to witness, let alone climb. It would have been very hard for him to retreat, so success was really the only option, even after taking a scary fall when his crampons lost purchase on the rock.

On the approach.

Luigi, working his way up pitch-0.

Luigi's view from the top of pitch-0 while I put on crampons.

After this exciting prelude we started climbing the route proper only at around noon. This late start might have been a blessing in disguise as it allowed the sun to come up and dry off the wall completely. As we'd soon discover this is vitally important on this particular face. Pro tip: if a wall is called "Mirror-Wall" (Spiegelwand), do *not* attempt to climb it. Move away quickly. The entire wall is a single enormous smooth slab of granite. It's not particularly steep, but the crux pitches present no structure whatsoever. No quartz cristals, no cracks, nothing. Small dents and irregularities in the rock is the best you can hope for. This means the only technique available to you is friction climbing. Careful, delicate foot placements and hands pressed flat against the rock.

The first proper pitch. Still wet, but lots of structure and fun to climb.

This is where it got serious...

...smooth as a baby bum.

Climbing like this is fine for a few meters, but if it keeps going like that, it becomes nerve wrecking. You never have a solid position. Every single step is precarious and the slightest shift in balance can make you come off. You yearn for a single good hold, something, anything, to calm your nerves. I had the additional complication that my broken ankle with all the metal in it doesn't like being bent at maximum angle all the time, so my foot would go entirely numb from lack of circulation. My crippled right middle finger similarly doesn't allow me to place the hand flat, so I had to improvise. In the end both Luigi and I fell and resorted to cheating, spoiling a clean ascent.

Luigi trying to figure out how to get over this black parabolic mirror he got himself into.

Me sneaking up the slabs.

Finally some structure again. The final pitches were much more comfortable to climb.

We topped out at around 4pm. Happy to go down again. At least rappelling this wall is easy: no chance for stuck ropes, missing an anchor or getting lost. We kept alternating leads throughout the ascent, so it ended up with Luigi leading the dicey mixed pitch-0, one 6a and most of the 5cs. I ended up getting the crux 6a+, a 6a and a bunch of the easier 5s. While we were grunting and swearnig our way up, we could occasionally hear happy children's voices float across from the neighboring wall. We had met Marcel Dettling of Kletterblog fame with his wife and two kids at the parking lot in the morning. They proceeded to, on what I assume must be an average family outing for them, climb the much harder 6b/6c routes on that wall in the same time it took us. Completely outclassed by a bunch of kids. Well, kids that are winning climbing competitions and are basically growing up on rock, but still ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Hey ladies! ;-P

We referred to this as our bivvy ledge. The thing Luigi is standing on is so generously big by the standards of this wall that it would comfortably fit two sleeping bags and a stove.

Running up the final slabs.

"Hey Gigi! Show me how you feel about slab climbing!"

On the rappel. At least the ropes won't snag anywhere. Note that this is also the route of ascent - you can see the bolts on the right.

Luigi posing for an ad for pure meltwater.