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.