Vorderer Eggstock, (2,448m), via "Sambolero", 6b, 400m

With the whole company red-lining from the pandemic induced work from home situation, and extra demands placed on us and our infrastructure, Google tried to incentivize people to take their vacation: Take a minimum of four days of vacation during the first half of 2021, get an extra day for free. Friday looked to have great weather, so Mark, Luigi and I decided to go climb the Vorderer Eggstock to fill my 4 days of vacation. I had already climbed "Sött mögli si" in 2013, so this time we aimed for the less well known and more difficult "Sambolero".

Luigi on the approach.
Mark brought some rather unusual climbing provisions.
Mark getting ready for the first pitch.

The cable car to the restaurant at the base is not yet running, so we had a fairly long approach on foot. Braunwald is a car free village that you can only reach via a furnicular. So our journey was: car -> furnicular -> cable car -> hike. The cable car is on a leisurely summer schedule and only runs once every thirty minutes. We were the only customers far and wide and had a nice chat with the guy running the station during our 20 minute wait. He warned us that the via ferrata (that we relied on for the way back down the mountain) was not yet open for the season and that they had gear taken out of it for the winter. He couldn't tell us what gear though. We decided to risk it and see.

Nice corner. Very alpine.
I enjoy this style of climbing. Easy to find good resting positions that don't tax your arms. But exposed.
Luigi leading the "leap of faith".

We finally made it to the base of the climb by 11am. It was not off to a good start - the first pitch, while it looks like nice climbing, has been completely destroyed by the via ferrata. They bolted the metal wires and ladders directly over the climbing bolts and protection. We tried working around it, but in the end just climbed the via ferrata for a bit. The second "pitch" is a walk up a steep grassy slope, only made a bit exciting by patches of winter snow. Our hopes for the route sank. If it kept going like this, this would turn into a huge disappointment.

Getting a foot across is easy enough...
...but pulling up on those crimps isn't entirely trivial.
Luigi heading towards the crux of the route.

Luckily the route redeemed itself with the next pitches. Great quality rock, great alpine exposure and climbing style. Interesting difficulties, but never too hard. We had a fantastic time climbing it. Once we gained the summit, we had to decide which way to go down on the via ferrata. We chose the wrong way. Via ferratas are typically designed as one way tracks in order to avoid traffic jams with people going in opposite directions. With the route still closed we were the only people around and this was not an issue. However, the second reason they are directional is that you tend to choose the difficult climbing on the way up and the easy climbing on the way down. This meant that we had the hard stuff to go down on now.

Mark following through the 6b crux.
Mark demonstrating his wingspan and the bearhug technique he used in the crux.

At one point we reached a fork: left or right. Mark chose right while Luigi and I continued on the left. It turns out that Mark chose ... poorly. Once we reconvened at the base of the mountain, we discovered that Luigi and my path was graded K3, "Difficult", while Mark's variant was graded K5, "Extremely Difficult", the second hardest grade they assign to such routes. He vowed to never again climb any overhanging metal ladders. Made more risky by the fact that he didn't even bring a proper via ferrata kit. So he improvised with regular climbing gear which means that the "whip" didn't have a dynamic break and falling was really not an option. Even a best case fall on a via ferrata with proper gear is dangerous and painful. In our case it's likely to either break your spine or tear your sling and lead to a groundfall - not a desirable outcome either way.

A curious choice of route book.
We snagged the 34th ascent after the route was opened in 2003. First this year.
Descent via the via ferrata.
Mark. "He chose ... poorly".

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