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.


  1. Great post! It looks like you guys took some cams / friends with you. Were these helpful or not needed? Thanks for all the great posts :)

    1. Thank you. Yes, on a long alpine multi pitch like this I always bring at least a minimum set of trad gear. IIRC we did not need it, but don't take my word for it. The topo should say...