Vorder Feldschijen Turm III (2828m) via Westgrat, 6a+, 430m

Sasha and I drove up to the remote Göschenen valley to climb on the Feldschijen. The guide book praises the West ridge route as one of the most beautiful granite climbs, on par with the famous Salbit ridges. The only fly in the ointment is a two hour approach. Now Sasha is a well trained endurance monster, regularly going on 100+km bike rides and spending most weekends on the rock. Not to mention his Eiger-Northface-in-a-Day (!) ascent. Poor ole dad bod me had a hard time keeping up. We still made it to the base in the time allotted by the guide book, so I guess I'm not quite retired just yet.

Cool art at a highway reststop.
On the approach.
You can see almost the entire route from the approach.

I got to lead the first pitch: a beautiful 5c+ following a series of cracks and flakes. Not trivial, not hard - perfect plaisir climbing. We alternated leads and quickly got into an efficient rhythm. It's a long route of some 14 pitches and 430m of elevation gain. As a ridge, the interesting steep pitches are interspersed with more mellow traverses. These we ended up linking together and simulclimbing as blocks of 2-4 pitches.

First pitch. Beautiful flakes and cracks.
Sasha coming up.
Hanging out.

When the route got rebolted the restaurateurs decided to change its line slightly and stick to the direct approach up the ridge instead of an easier detour around the back. This made the climb slightly harder, 6a instead of 5c, but the reward is by far the most beautiful stretch of the entire route! Razor sharp ridge. Great exposure to either side. But always just enough holds to make the climbing pure joy. Amazing!

Backlit Sasha.
A cruising 4b crack. The easier pitches were still fun on this route!
A traverse.

Sasha got to lead the crux pitch of the route: a 6a 3pa (6a+). 3pa implying that you are expected to cheat by pulling on/stepping on gear for three moves. It took a bit of puzzling, but Sasha ended up climbing it in good style without using any aid. Chapeau! Especially as I was struggling with the overhanging off-balance move even as a follower.

Duelling photographers.
Getting steeper again.
Setting out on the money pitch: the 6a ridge.

After that was done, it was easy cruising terrain all the way to the summit. A single quick rappel got us back down to the saddle. The climbing barely took us 3.5h. Not too shabby, considering the length of the route, my current lack of training and the posted time of 4h+ in the guidebook.

Glorious! All along the razor's edge ridge, with dramatic exposure on either side.
Sasha on the last few moves of the ridge pitch.
View to the other side.

For the way back the recommendation is to bring good shoes. For good reason. It's a steep scree slope interspersed with some massive boulders. Again Sasha was charging ahead - despite his declaration that he'd take it slow because he had just gotten stitches removed from his shin - the consequence of loose rocks in terrain just like this cutting him to the bone on an outing a few weeks ago. Anyway. We make it back down to the proper hiking trail in good time. And stop dead in a traffic jam of goats. There are some 200 of them living up this alp and they were all marching down in single file with us. Overtaking on the narrow and steep path was difficult. You'd get the best opportunity whenever the animals would make one of their (frequent) stops to scratch themselves. I've tried pushing some out of the way, but they turned out to be stubborn, sturdy as rocks and not at all in a hurry. So I contended myself with a goat herder's pace and we made it back to the car exactly 8 hours after we left it in the morning. Fantastic day!

Sasha just past the crux of the 6a+ pitch. Harder than it looks!
The summit book dates back to the year 2000.
Summit selfie.
Our taste of Half Dome's "Thank God Ledge". Not quite as dramatic, but at this point we were also unroped and it was *very* steep and *very* far down...
A long descent over loose boulders and scree.
The bridge was closed for human traffic ;-P
Stuck in a traffic jam for the walk back down.

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