Climbing Eldorado, "Motörhead", ~500m ,6b (attempt)

Luigi and I have been chasing the snow line retreating up the mountain on the Grimsel pass all this year. The pass finally fully opened which allowed us to go after the climbing crown jewels of the area: the red brown granite cracks of Eldorado. Long, daring lines up perfectly compact rock. No loose rock or vegetation here. Considered by some the best climbing in the alps.

Stairway to heaven.

Dam construction site. The excavators on the opposite side were making daring maneuvers right over the abyss. Scary to watch. Also very cool crane construction. Multiple steel cables connect with a sled runner that can reach most points of the site. Similar to the drones used in soccer stadiums.

I think they started lowering the level of the lake a while ago.

Monday was a public holiday with picture perfect weather. Thus we left our homes by 5 in the morning and headed for the mountains. The normal approach leads over the Grimsel lake dam. This is currently inaccessible because of a massive construction site where they are preparing to replace the old dam with a new one directly behind it. Thus we had to park a bit away, extending the approach.

Tons of melt water.

We saw kayaks running these rivers. Usually submerged by the lake, now a fun playground.

We chose to climb the über-classic of the area, the route Motörhead. Opened by the famous Rémy brothers, who went on a rampage and did first ascents of dozens and dozens of routes in the area in the 80s. They are notorious for sparsely protecting their routes. Motörhead is no exception, 50 meter pitches are commonly protected by just two bolts. As it turns out someone considered even this too much and removed the hangers from the bolts. As a consequence some of our pitches were now entirely unprotected except for the stuff we could place ourselves. The rock quality is outstanding and the route follows a series of cracks, so this is technically possible. In fact, I think one could likely trad climb the entire route safely. However, it does add a significant mental component to an already difficult climb. If you are far above your last placement, unsure where and if you'll find the next one, while your arms are getting pumped and you are fumbling around on your harness for a fitting piece of gear, your mind tends to wander off into bad places...

The first pitch. Still trivial. Passes the roof just on the right.

The first 6a+ crack. Superfun and pumpy to climb. Keep pressure on your feet on the smooth granite or jam your feet into the crack.

I was quite happy to reach this small ledge to rest on.

The route also felt completely sandbagged to us. Maybe it was the altitude, our lack of training or the mental component of having to trad climb what we expected to be bolted. Either way, we were struggling a lot. Considering that this route at 6b is nominally easier than the 6c I climbed just a few days earlier seemed like a complete joke. This felt *way* harder. I fought my way up an early 6a+ pitch and needed a rest even in that.

View from the top of the pitch. Traversing out from the crack onto the black rock was the hardest part for me. No visible protection or gear placement and you were shooting for small underclings over a smooth traverse.

Luigi leading our final pitch.

Luigi at our high point.

Luigi was struggling from the beginning. He felt slightly nauseous right out of the car and the two hour hike in. He was entirely in the wrong headspace for this climb. Where on normal climbs he'd sing (shitty pop songs from the nineties - one of the things you have to put up with ;-)) and complain and whine all the time (he's Italian...), this time he was just quiet. When he led a dicey 5c, just before we were about to embark on the difficult crux pitches, he lost it. He didn't want to continue, even as a follower. Nevermind that I'm not strong enough to lead the entire rest of the route anyways. Thus we decided to call it quits and rappel. Live to climb another day.

Still debating what to do.

The way ahead: TODO

The path that led us here: DONE

It took a while to lift our spirits again. A bit unwarranted really. By most standards this was a great day out. We hiked for 4 hours, climbed more than 250 meters and generally had a good time in great weather. It's only that we fell short of our own ambition and the goal we set for ourselves that made this feel like a failure. We do agree that this is a fantastic route and that we want to return once we've gotten a bit stronger. And in any case, in all our climbing history together, this is only the second route we had to bail from, so I think our track record is pretty good. We'll be back ;-)

Going down again.


Hiking back out.

Quite a spectacular path. I believe they have to construct such new paths before flooding the original in the valley?

The path even includes a tunnel.

No comments:

Post a Comment