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.