Winterstock, Turm I, (2,903m), via "Varinia", 6b, 280m

After climbing the Eggstock on Friday we got a "reset day" off from work on Monday. The weather was still great and we were itching for some granite. Since the Winterstock turned out to be one of the best climbs I have ever done, we decided to return for seconds.

06:30 in the morning. Quite a view to wake up to!
Mark on the approach.
We'll be climbing the hunk of granite to the right of the main tower.

This was complicated by the fact that the Furka pass road is still closed and not even the parking lot at Tätsch is reachable at this time of year. So we braced ourselves for a long approach. Luigi and Mark would bring ski touring gear while I'd don snow shoes. We put the kids to bed and left Zürich at 9pm on Sunday. Luigi has since upgraded his camping equipment and is now a proud owner of a (used) campervan. Not only that, but he also has a roof tent. 5 star accomodation for the three of us. Zürich is scorching hot, even during the nights. This leads to restless sleep for me. Parking the van just above Tiefenbach at more than 2,000m altitude meant we got close to freezing temperatures at night. Bliss. Without kids, without work and with cool temperatures I slept like a rock. When Luigi's alarm woke us up in the morning I just went "fuck you" and we slept for another hour, getting up at a leisurely 6:30.

Luigi on the approach.
Balcony with a view.
You don't see the sheer vertical drop below my feet...

It's a long approach. Initially we could still see other people, ski tourers, heading up in the morning. But once we passed the Albert Heim Hut over into the Lochberg valley we had the entire area to ourselves. And were smiling at the ski tourers - what they considered a big day out, for us was only the approach and appetizer to the main course of climbing.

After crossing the Bergschrund into the second pitch.
View from above.
Luigi on the sharp end.

The final ascent towards the Lochberglücke goes up a 300m tall, steep snow field. Fully exposed to the sun this was like climbing a parabolic mirror and scorching hot. After this exhausting bit of gaining altitude, the next part is an exposed traverse on a patch of snow over a sheer drop. I scouted the path there, being very aware of both the abyss below me but also the even more treacherous abyss of the Bergschrund, the gulf between the rock and the ice, above me. Luckily this turned out to be mostly well attached to the wall and crossing over from the snow onto the rock proved less difficult than feared. It better, as most of the first pitch was completely burried under snow and we came to the rock at a very steep section.

Cruising up the crack...
...and negotiating a tricky traverse.

It took us a while to spot the tiny bolts and find our route, so we finally started climbing at around 11am. While not quite at the level of the neighboring Mangolyto, this route nevertheless still features fantastic climbing and bomber rock in beautiful surroundings. Props to the Rauchquarz team for setting it up in 2011.


Luigi led the two crux pitches. The first a delicate traverse and upswing on tiny crystals and knobs sticking out of the otherwise smooth granite. This felt a bit like a bouldering section - the difficulties of that pitch were concentrated in just a few short moves. The second crux pitch however is delicious. Big, bold, powerful whole body layback moves up a corner with a splitter crack. Strong Motörhead vibes for this one. Extra spicey because you need to place your own gear. The crack takes bomber pieces, you are basically attached to planet earth itself. No worries there. But it does add to the mental and physical requirements to fiddle with gear while getting pumped out of your mind. Chapeau Gigi!

Rapelling back down. Nice straight lines.
Switching shoes while still on the wall.
Climbing the second pitch again.

We topped out (a bit anti-climatic on this route - you don't actually gain the summit but just some random point on the ridge) and started rappelling. Rappels go down in a straight line and take advantage of the full 60m length of our ropes. Thus we were super fast and got down in short order. We were already celebrating and putting on our ski/hiking boots at the base of the climb when the ropes snagged while pulling them down. No amount of wiggling, pulling or shaking would get them loose. No helping it, one of us had to go back up.

This is the flake that snagged our rope. No chance of pulling it out from below. It was difficult to yank out even from above.
Until next time. Visible: the somewhat dicey approach on a steep slab of snow over a sheer drop.
While the others were still donning their skis, I had already glissaded down this slope.

So I donned my climbing shoes again and climbed on the end of the rope we still had left. First following the bolted original route, then traversing to where the rope was stuck. Properly jammed behind a flake. Difficult to pull out even while sitting right on top of it, no chance at all from below. I got it free and rappelled off a sling that I slung around an even larger flake.

Marmots sounding the alarm of my approach.
Mission accomplished.

For the way back to the car the skiers had a big advantage over me on snow shoes. So they carried most of our gear and I left early while they were still putting on their skis. This strategy worked out fairly well. We arrived back at basecamp not even ten minutes apart. In the end we had a full 12 hours roundtrip time. Moving more or less non-stop. Big day. Definitely served the intended effect of getting my mind off work and showing up at the office the next day with a renewed understanding of what is important in life (notably, *not* work).

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