Fünffingerstöck (2993m), via SouthWest ridge, 5c, ~14 pitches

There was a bit of a discusson whether we wanted to up the difficulty level or do something completely different for our next climb. We settled on doing something different and going for a long alpine ridge climb. So we drove up the Sustenpass on Tuesday night and camped right next to the road. As before, Luigi and I shared the 5 star luxury comfort of the roof tent, while Mark just bivvied on the ground. It was a beautiful night to do so too. We only encountered a few other human souls, but one of them set up a tripod to take long exposure shots of the moon hanging over the Sustenhorn and Steigletscher.

How's that for a view to wake up to?

Mark on the approach.

Final few meters of the approach to the ridge.

We started the approach by 6:45 in the morning and headed up the Obertal, following the namesake creek. Wild and serene surroundings. We donned crampons to traverse the frozen patches of snow and arrived at the saddle that marks the start of the climb at around 8. This was the first of many surprises and discrepancies compared to our rough topo which claimed a time of two and a half hours for the approach. I supposes this is just as well as the guidebook is "steil & wild" ("steep and wild") and focuses on lesser known climbs that require mostly manual protection and route finding.

Breakfast in the first rays of the sun on the saddle before roping up.

Mark leading the way.

My lead.

The first few pitches were easy and we climbed them on a running belay with Mark responsible for finding the route. You'd think that following a ridge makes it fairly obvious where to go. Not so. The ridge is wild with many towers and gendarmes and there are frequently many potential routes to follow. We kept leading in blocks, where the current leader would keep going until he ran out of gear. When it was my turn we had completely lost track of where we were relative to the route description.

Luigi. Terrain becoming more exposed.

Mark and Luigi digging out an old anchor. We also replaced the ancient rotting sling.

Dynamic traverse.

At that point a party of two Dutch guys had cauht up to us. We were mutually surprised to encounter anyone on such a remote route (the summit book had only a few entries for 2019). They had just finished university and were taking adavantage of their newfound freedom to romp through Switzerland. Well met! Unfortunately they also had no clue where we were and where we should be ;-)

Into the unknown.

Another random anchor we found.

Luigi and Mark coming up.

I just set off in the rough direction of "up" and "east" which seemed appropriate on a west ridge. It was a blast finding and protecting the route entirely without any guidance. I'd say the climbing was roughly in the 5c difficulty range, making it interesting but leaving enough safety margin that I felt completely comfortable. I improvised an anchor when I ran out of rope. By the time the others caught up to me I had discovered an old, half burried anchor made of pitons a few meters to my right. So we were on some kind of route, just not sure which one. We kept following traces of abandoned gear and the occasional rusty piton until we regained the ridge proper. There we found the route book in a military soup container. But that too, was not in the place it should have been - it was detached from its original mount point and at least a tower too early.

Walk the plank!


Plenty of nice granite.

We had mentally prepared for a long alpine epic, half expecting to be on the mountain until dusk. So we were quite surprised to find ourselves on the summit by only 2pm. The guidbook suggested a climbing time of 9 hours, so it was quite suspicious that it only took us 5, despite the route finding, improvisation and fixing anchors along the way. This left time for a leisurely lunch on the summit with original Italian sausages and fantastic views all around. Two rappels brought us down to the Obertalgletscher and we were on the road back home by 4pm. Great day out! And I think we succeeded the original test we set for ourselves: namely that as a group we could go on this kind of wild alpine route. More to come ;-)




Summit selfie.

Mark eating cookies. Luigi eating... a sock?!

Mark made a proper mess of the ropes on the first rappel, so Luigi and I had a great time sitting in the sun, commenting on his performance and mocking him.

The thinking man. Trying to understand what Mark is doing to the ropes.

Overhanging rappel onto the glacier.

The Obertalglacier was surprisingly steep.

On the descent.

Final bits of glacier.

Chaos while organizing, drying and packing gear for the way back.

Totally trustworthy slings we cut off the mountain.

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