Gelmerhörner (2,502m) via "Rösti Pfiiler", 6a+, 450m

A lot of discussion of where to go. Luigi had great ambitions while I was still recovering from the stomach bug I caught a week earlier and was severely lacking in training. Mark was open for anything. In the end we compromised on "Rösti Pfiiler", a 500m route up the Gelmerhörner on typical Grimsel granite. This means fantastic quality rock - you won't find any loose rock here. On the other hand it also means glacier polished smooth slabs - and nobody likes those!

Kai on the approach to the lake.
Below the dam - people write their names by arranging rocks.

At the very last minute Kai decided to join us. So instead of one party of three we'd be climbing as two parties of two: Luigi and I would go first while Kai and Mark would follow us. We had vague hopes of a super comfortable approach using the Gelmer funicular. Unfortunately due to Corona restrictions that required advanced booking and we were way too late to get any of the tickets. Thus we hiked up all the way from the parking lot. Just as well as the trail is quite beautiful.

The lake. Super touristy because the Gelmerbahn funicular gets you right there.
Outhouse with a view.

When we reached the base of the wall there was already a party on the first pitch. A husband and wife duo. Bad luck considering how few repeats this route gets. They were also quite slow with her leading all the hard pitches and him climbing beyond his limits, not even trying to climb cleanly but pulling on quickdraws and stepping on bolts right off the anchor.

God rays. Nice trail on the left.
Luigi on the first pitch. Note the abundance (not!) of bolts.

The first pitch was already quite a gatekeeper. Graded at 6a it features smooth slabs with a dicey traverse. The somewhat easier later pitches follow a system of cracks and require placing you own gear. I appreciate this style of bolting: protect the anchors with a drill but leave the cracks untouched, these can easily and safely be protected using cams and nuts. This leaves room for some creativity and adventure and making your own trade-offs with respect to risk tolerance.

Me coming up the first pitch.
If you squint, you can spot the Gelmerhut in this picture. Odd location if you ask me. Seems inconvenient to reach and still exposed to avalanches.

Luigi and I were making good progress and frequently had to wait for the party in front of us to clear an anchor. Mark and Kai took forever on the first pitch and by the time they topped out on that one, we were already three pitches ahead. The husband and wife team from the very beginning planned to bail after the sixth pitch. This is where the first ascent ended and where all the difficult pitches are already behind you. It is also where the route book is and most parties turn around.

My lead of a 5c pitch along a nice crack. You can barely see Mark at the first anchor below.
Luigi sneaking up a slab before the 6a+ traverse underneath the roof.

I tried to convince Luigi to keep going for the remaining 5 pitches. He was struggling with pain in his heel, a leftover from our Dolomites trip this year where a rock fell on his foot. Physical therapy that week had left it all bruised and discolered. We continued on for pitches seven and eight. The second of which was graded 5b and I really enjoyed it. The terrain finally got steeper and more structured. Instead of sneaking up slabs you could finally pull on nice flakes and push against cracks. However, it should not be. The heel really didn't allow us to continue so we started rappeling with three easy pitches left to go.

The route book at the end of the sixth pitch. Most people turn around here. This is still the original book from 1995.
Hanging out.

I was wearing my climbing shoes without closing them. This is more comfortable on the rappel. I didn't pay attention for a second and in the next instant watched one of my shoes tumble down the rock. It went over an edge and out of sight. I tried swinging over to see where it went, but there was a 100 meter vertical drop just beyond the edge and I couldn't see it anymore. Apologies for littering. I promise it wasn't my intention ;-/

The tourist trail around the lake. This time on the eastern shore.
Mark contemplating.

Mark and Kai had bailed a long time ago - Mark led the second pitch, but then they decided to turn around. Kai's feet were hurting and for some curious reason she didn't enjoy the suffering as much as the rest of us masochists. Strange. They had taken the long way back around the lake so that Luigi and I cought up with them after only a short wait on the beach. Beautiful day out, even if we didn't top out this time.


Sulzfluh (2,818m) via "Stanek-Neumann", 250m, VI+

A climb that was hard for all the wrong reasons. Anita and Leonie had just recovered from a terrible stomach bug that had grounded them for a week. It looked like I got lucky and it passed me by. Not so much as I would learn. It started as a beautiful Saturday morning with Mark and me driving up to St Antönien. Right when we got out of the car I felt somewhat weak and wobbly. I was slow on the 900-odd meters of altitude on the approach.

A man and the cows.
Me heading towards our objective.
Way steeper and more annoying than it looks. The scree field on the approach.

The final bit is scrambling up a steep scree field. Horrible. Take a step forwards, slide back two. We weren't sure where our route started and scrambled up a ramp which roughly fit the description and seemed plausible. At some point we reached an anchor consisting of two bolts. This was strange as the start should have been a single muni-ring. We shrugged it off, thinking that we had accidentally traversed diagonally into the route and skipped the first few easy pitches. So Mark set out to climb a pitch. He made it about fifteen meters up, improvising protection with slings and tricams. When he still couldn't find even a single bolt we paused and I scrambled around the anchor ledge some more.

Heading for the ramp.
Mark on the blind pitch. Ultralight glider above us.
Finally found the route and got some exposure.

I found the actual start of our route some 50 meters to our right. Ah well. It would not have been a proper Mark-Sören outing if we had found the route right away. That's just not something we do. Mark climbed back down to me and we headed up the actual route, starting at around 1pm. Pretty late for an alpine climb...

Rock is getting better.
Mark coming up.
In the "Salon", a labelled cave halfway up.

Skinny Mark requires a constant inflow of calories so he won't fall over. He had a lunch break before our climb. I felt progressively more miserable and couldn't bear the thought of food. My stomach was burning as if I had gulped a gallon of lava. Not the best condition at the base of a big wall. However, considering we had already invested 6 hours of driving and hiking to get here, I wanted this investment to pay off and not turn around now.

Mark twisting his way out of the cave. A bouldery crux section before it got easy again.
Steep and crimpy just out of the cave.
Following up a chimney. This was a good lead for me in my weakened state. It was nominally VI- but allowed resting positions via full body jams ;-)

We alternated leads all the way up but arranged it so that Mark got the two VI+ crux pitches while I led easier stuff and a VI-. Still I was struggling. Miserably low on energy and with bad stomach cramps that had me double over in pain. The route, while hailed as a classic, was at best average. The lower half features brittle crumbling rock and not very interesting climbing. This gets better in the top half, but the climbing is still fairly inconsistent and not very satisfying. We agreed to rate it only 2 out of 5 stars.

Exposed traverse. The surroundings are pretty cool.
The guidebook describes this as "unattractive crack chimney". It got so narrow that Mark dragged his backpack behind him instead of wearing it to squeeze through.

Anyway. We topped out just before 6pm with a long hike down ahead of us. Mark kept promising me trottinettes starting from the restaurant a kilometer below us. When we finally got there, all trottinettes had already been rented out and there were none left for us. We reached the car with half an hour of daylight to spare. I worked a normal day on Monday and fell off my desk chair with stomach cramps during a video conference on Tuesday. Then spent the rest of the week with diarrhea and vomiting. A well. Still took advantage of a good weather day in between and made the most of it.



Dolomites 2021

We spent two weeks in the Dolomites this year. The first week at a nice hotel/organic farm and the second at a campground. Luigi, Silvia and Marzia stayed in their campervan the entire time. Luigi and I managed a big day of climbing every two days for the first week, but unfortunately the second had a *lot* of rain. At one point the entire campground was flooded in about a centimter of water. You couldn't even make it to the tents with dry feet anymore. Luckily we could still squeeze in the occasional hike or some cragging with the kids. This is a collection of photos to wrap up my climbing trip reports...

Bouncy castle on a great adventure playground right next to our hotel.
Gargamel's house on a mountain.
Mountain playground. Leonie loves trampolines.
Leonie, Marzia and a random kid they met on the playground.
Not the worst place we ever stayed at...
Leonie's drawing in a restaurant while we were waiting for our food to arrive.
This was cold! Leonie and Marzia went in as well, but didn't dare get their butts wet.
Cragging at the marmot wall.
Our hotel is also an active farm. The kids loved feeding the cows and other animals.
Another mountain playground. Keeps the revenue going for the ski-lifts in summer.
And yet another playground. This one in Pozza di Fassa.
Hello donkey.
The high rope park on the playground next door.
Italian food. Pure climbing power?
Same creek, but higher up.
Great restaurant with another big playground and trampolines. Giving parents some time to enjoy Aperol Spritz in peace...
The food was also acceptable.
Lukas' first time camping.
A small animal park next to the campground.
Leonie. We made up an obstacle course where you weren't allowed to touch the ground.
A small educational hut where kids could learn about the various animals and plants. The entire table is a puzzle.
Torrential rains turning the entrance to our tent into a pool.
A nice trail where the kids could collect stamps and hunt for metal bears.
Leonie cragging.
Dads could climb a few pitches worth about 180m too. Up to 6a+.