Climbing Schöllenen Gorge, "Geburtstagsweg", 330m, 6a+

Good weather, but not enough time or energy for something big. So we elected to go to the Schöllenen Gorge on the pass up to Andermatt. We've driven through this gorge many times and admired the granite walls from the comfort of our car seats. But we had never climbed a route there. Some research revealed that it has plenty of bolted routes in relevant difficulty grades. "Geburtstagsweg" is supposed to be one of the nicer ones, with a comfortable 15 minutes approach from the car park. And barely a 1:15h drive from our doorstep. It's amazing to live in a country where all the great playgrounds are this close!

The most verbose sign for a route I've ever seen. Note how somebody scribbled "bollocks" next to the grade. We also thought the route was quite sandbagged.

Getting ready at the base.


Despite the nominally short approach, we of course manage to miss the route and scramble around the sheep meadows for a bit before we finally find it. This is doubly ridiculous, as you could actually see the giant sign marking the start of the route right from our parking lot. Ah well. Mark and I have a reputation to maintain. If we screw up a climb, it's usually by getting lost on the approach ;-)



Luigi and Mark following up the first slab.

The route is a bit of a mixed bag. It follows an artificially difficult line, intentionally electing to go up smooth rock where more structured options would have been readily available just off to the sides. There's also quite a bit of vegetation. And finally the traffic noise from the pass. The downside of a short approach. The road leads up to the Gotthard pass and since the Gotthard tunnel is notoriously backed up for many kilometers, quite a few motorists decide to take the road across the mountain rather than through it.

Luigi starting up the 6a+. Still easy at this point...

Mark demonstrating friction climbing technique in the 6a+ crux. Note that he has exactly nothing to hold onto or stand on. So even a successful attempt will always be precarious.

Mark's lead into steeper terrain.

The two crux pitches of the route are smooth slabs. The guidebook describes them as requiring some "engagement". In other words you'll be terrifyingly far above your last piece of protection. The route has been rebolted in 98, but the original rings from the first ascent in 85 are still present. Even in it's current state it's definitely not over bolted, but the first ascensionists must have had nerves of steel (or been high on drugs). 2 bolts on a 45 meter slab with no way of placing any additional gear...

Finally some climbing! Not this sneaking around on slabs.

Mark topping out.

Luigi topping out.

I lead the first 6a slab, but screw up the crux move twice, loosing my feet and taking a long fall. No damage done and I eventually manage to sneak my way up in good style. Mark slips and falls in the same spot, redeeming me somewhat. Next up was Luigi to lead a 6a+ slab, the crux of the entire route. He made a valiant effort but in the end resorted to pulling himself up on the nearby bushes. The rock was just too smooth. Neither Mark nor I manage to climb that section cleanly, even on top rope.

Summit selfie.

Simultaneous rappelling. The safe variant: we fixed the rope at the anchor and only the third person down would undo that and rappel normally.

On the way down.

Past the slab difficulties the route gets steeper, more exposed and more enjoyable to climb. Luigi was breaking in new shoes and struggled with painful toes. So I end up leading 4 of 8 pitches while the others got two each. Everyone of the eight pitches was 40 meters or more, so we had to perform a full eight rappels to get back down to the ground. We sped this up somewhat by simul-rapelling on one strand each for the first two to go down. In the end we started at a leisurely 10:30 in the morning and got back down to the baseby 15:30. We all agree it was a nice day out, but a rather mediocre route, especially considering how spoiled we were recently by highlights like "Mangolyto" and "Enfer Doux".

No comments:

Post a Comment