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.

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