Vorderspitz (2619m) via "Näbel und Chempä", 400m, 6a+

Mark suggested a route on the Engelhörner: the "Näbel und Chempä" up the Vorderspitz. He had been to the area before with the intent of climbing that very same route. However, Piotr and him screwed up and hiked up entirely the wrong valley. They lost too much time before they realized their mistake and so had to turn around without climbing anything. They did bring back nice pictures of the objective though. Luigi and I didn't need any more convincing than that to join for a "revenge" trip to the Engelhörner.

On the approach to the Engelhorn hut.
Mighty Kingspitz.

We drove up the adventurous private gravel road to the Rychenbach alp early in the morning and hiked to the Engelhorn hut. The hut guards the entrance to the Ochsental - a small valley enclosed by the massive looming limestone towers of the Engelhörner. Impressive to behold and tons of good climbing opportunities. This time Mark and Piotr could guide us towards the mountain without problem. It involved scrambling up a steep and wet couloir. Not easy and exposed enough to make falling ill-advised.

The approach was not without its difficulties. Narrow, wet and exposed couloir.
We stayed in the couloir for too long - should have gone out on the rock sooner. Next time.
A race on the first pitch.

We searched back and forth at the base of the wall but for the longest time couldn't find the start of the climb. We finally spotted a lone bolt and could start climbing. At this point it was already 11 o'clock - quite late for an alpine objective of this magnitude. Luigi and Piotr raced up leading the first easy 5a pitch simultaneously. The second pitch was marginally harder at 5b. However, it was also wet running with water. Nobody was keen on leading slippery wet rock with large gaps between bolts. It looked like the climb might be over right there. Eventually I took heart and led that pitch for the entire party.

Me leading the wet second pitch.
Everyone following.
Dry rock! Steep rock! Yay!

After this somewhat bumpy start we finally gained the main wall. And what a wall it is! Steep and extremely sustained with most pitches between 5c+ and 6a+. Relentless. Even the supposedly easy 5c+ pitches are often vertical or slightly overhanging. You do get nice big jugs to pull on, but it's a good workout nonetheless. Pumpy! Luckily this part was now exposed to the sun and dry.

Luigi coming up.
Luigi on the sharp end.
Piotr posing for the camera.

We made good progress with alternating leads. At some point Piotr struggled a bit with dizziness and nausea. Mark led the remaining pitches for their party. Luigi got to lead the final 6a+ pitch to the summit. The topo hinted that something about it might be special: a very uncharacteristically large number of bolts protect a relatively short pitch. And indeed it turned out that this part featured the hardest individual moves of the entire route. Delicate moves on small cracks. Super fun. In general we found the route to be bolted somewhat strangely. The pitches are long and often start out with a reasonable bolt density only to then suddenly become super runout towards the end. We kept joking that the people bolting it ran out of gear for the pitch again. Very inconsistent in that regard.

This is fun!
This route is relentlessly steep.
A short traverse.

During the entire climb we had great views into the Kingspitz Northwall and a climbing party heading up there. Even while we were still climbing our route we were already decided to make that one of our next objectives. It just looked too beautiful. We didn't waste too much time on our summit. The guidebook warns of a long and alpine descent, so we made haste to avoid coming down in the dark. Turned out to be not too bad. We made it back to the hut for quick celebratory beers by 8pm. Another great day out and one of the most sustained and hardest (by average difficulty) alpine climbs I've done so far. Success ;-)

Sitting around at the top.
Look at all this limestone! More work to be done here.
Mark about to join us at the summit. Hardest pitch? Definitely the hardest single move.
View across the Kingspitz to the Rosenlaui glacier. Who wouldn't want to stand up there?!
Mission accomplished.
Unprotected steep scrambling on the descent.
More alpine terrain on the descent.
Mark coming down. Looks worse than it was.
Waiting for the others to catch up.
Back into the morning's coulois. This time rappeling down.
Evening mood.


Globi Children's Trail Lenzerheide

Immediately after our return from the Dolomites, Anita's childhood friend Sabrina visited with her husband Bernd and kid Eske. They stayed with us for a few days. Anita and I had to work, so we didn't have too much time for large excursions, but we did make it to Lenzerheide to do a kids' trail. Eske is a bit older than Leonie, but the two got along great. So relaxing to just send the kids off to play and have them gone for an hour or so. Looking forwards to Lukas and Leonie becoming more independent ;-P

One of the stations along the trail. This one was a marble/ball run.
Another station: Information about the Rega mountain rescue service and their helicopters.
Energy levels oscillated wildly between whiney "I can't walk anymore!" to running excitedly.
Playing in a little creek.
Leonie and Eske built this house and forest. Leonie was devastated when she asked whether it would be around forever now and I told her truthfully that the next rain would likely flush it away.
The kids were playing wild horses and were excited to encounter real horses.
Man-made pond to feed the snow machines in winter. I went for a swim.
Climbing to reach one of the slides on the playground.
Our house, in the middle of the street...
Handmade adventure playground. Someone clearly realized their childhood dreams here and improvised all kinds of exciting contraptions.


Lagazuoi (2835m) and Dolomites Wrap-Up

Two great weeks in the Dolomites came to an end. We spent the first days in the Val di Fassa, staying at a hotel close to Luigi's parents' vacation home. Then Mark and Kai came by from Zürich to climb with us for a few days. For the last week we moved our base to a campground near Cortina. It worked out beautifully. Great company. Great climbing. Great Italian food. Thank you!

Leonie exploring the caves and canyons in the Città dei Sassi "the City of Stones" at the Sella pass where we took the kids climbing. Both Leonie and Marzia had a great time scrambling around on top rope.
Small hike to the restaurant.
Anita and Lukas. Who checked out ;-)
What a great playground for kids and grownups alike.
This is the restaurant Anita and Silvia spent a lot of time with the kids while Luigi and I were climbing some face on the surrounding mountains. Lots of gelato and cake were had.
Playhouse at the same place, the Malga Sella alm.
Our favorite food place in the area: the Vecchio Mulino in Pozza di Fassa. Fantastic food and kids friendly garden.
Leonie exploring the playground in the Conca del Ciampac high mountain park.
Feeding the locals.
Swing with a view.
Training never stops...
...until it does.
A bunch of riders stopped at the playground to have food at the local restaurant. Leonie petted the horses. And to my great pride critized the dilettantish knots used to tie them up.
Lukas' first week in a tent. We can't put him in a proper sleeping bag yet, because he'll just slide in all the way. But this compromise worked very well.
Going down after climbing the Cinque Torri. Chairlifts with little wiggly kids are a special experience.

As our farewell trip we took the families up the Lagazuoi mountain. This is a historic site that preserved some of the trenches and tunnels from WWI. The Austrians and Italians battled it out high up in the mountains in impossible circumstances. Shooting artillery and sniper rifles at one another. But also intentionally triggering avalanches on the enemy and blowing up entire mountain tops. Over the years they dug in and built some crazy infrastructure to sustain and protect themselves high up in the mountains. We hiked down one such tunnel: a circular staircase climbing some 600 meters of altitude. Dark and wet with low ceilings and high steps from rough cut stone. Leonie made a great effort to climb this on her own. The steps often reached as high as her hips. She had to give up eventually and I ended up carrying both kids: Lukas on my back, Leonie in my arms, while ducking the low ceiling and trying not to slip on the mud. This way daddy got some exercise even on a non-climbing day ;-)

On the Lagazuoi.
Leonie scaling the lookout.
Starting the WWI trail down the mountain.
Old trenches.
I guess they weren't really built for three year olds.
Into the darkness they went.
One of the many windows to take pot shots at the enemy and ventilate the tunnels. Some of these were entirely without any protections and open directly into the vertical mountain face. Luckily Leonie was very responsible about not leaning out too far.
Exposed trails.
"Tschüss Schafe!"