Dry-Tooling at Urnerboden

Winter is coming - and so is Luigi ;-P He's been anticipating the cold season for a while now. Spending a lot of time at the "pig farm", a private training gym, where he practices dry-tooling and ice climbing. There's not super-much ice just yet, so we headed to Urnerboden to check out the conditions and do some dry-tooling. We had the entire area to ourselves and practiced laps on a wet limestone wall. We tried routes up to M6+ according to the guide book. Luigi was my rope gun while I basically just flailed around on top-rope. My severe lack of training definitely shows. But then I have the additional excuse of climbing with dual frontpoints when you really only want a single crampon tip for the delicate balance and moves required on rock. Dry-tooling is weird in that regard. On the one hand it is utterly amazing how you can somehow stick even the tiniest depressions and protusions in the rock. On the other, you get very little advance warning before you come off. Shift your weight just a little in the wrong direction. Pull your tools ever so slightly outward. Pop. There he goes. For regular rock climbing you tend to have both more advance warning when your grip is losening and a more gradual failure curve instead of the sudden all or nothing of dry-tooling. Definitely something to get used to. It was a fun exercise, but I need more gym time before I can enjoy it properly.

Ooooh, yes!
Luigi on the sharp end.
Love me some winter.
The tools of the trade.
Me picking my way up.
Luigi trying some steep moves on top-rope.
Last time I've been here this creek was frozen and snowed in. Now we actually had to ford it. Hurray to waterproof heavy winter boots ;-P
The walls on the right are still running with water. Ice will hopefully come later.


Ofen (2185m) via Spitzmuis, 140m, 6a

Arne had promised Tobi to climb at Melchsee Frutt on the "Ofen", "oven", wall for a long time. With only three more days to go, before access is forbidden to preserve wildlife in winter, we had to hurry. Luckily the weather forecast was good, so we teamed up as two parties: Arne and Tobi heading for a difficult 6b+, while Mark and I chose a more mellow 6a in the neighboring sector. As is our custom, Mark and I got lost on the approach. It takes about two hours of walking to reach the wall - we had all done this part before and this was in any case still the shared part for the four of us. But once under the towering wall, Tobi and Arne had to head around a buttress on the right while Mark and I were meant to go left. We started left but somehow ended up back on the same trail with the others. Just as well. We have a reputation to maintain after all ;-P

On the approach. The left sector is called "Dach" (roof). Not difficult to imagine why ;-)
Arne and Tobi getting ready. What a daring line straight up that looming wall.
In t-shirt. At 2000m altitude. In November.

We fixed our mistake by traversing along the wall and found our route without too much trouble. The climbing turned out to be just the right difficulty - challenging enough to be interesting but not too hard to be intimidating. I was out of shape for lack of training while Mark had had another Covid booster just two days prior (and in fact ended up testing positive a few days later). We enjoyed cruising up the wall. Despite the fact that we were higher than fresh snow on the opposing North facing slopes we could climb in t-shirt all day. It seems the name oven for this South facing wall is well deserved indeed.

Mark posing for the camera.
Hanging around.
Comfy belay ledge.

We topped out at 1:30 pm and started rappelling right away. Back down on the ground we went back to the start of the other route and were surprised to see Tobi and Arne still moving up. So we surfed down the steep scree and settled into a position that allowed us to spectate the climb. It got very chilly as soon as the sun sunk behind the ridge behind us. The others realized that they wouldn't finish in daylight and decided to bail two pitches short of the top. This means poor Arne will have to return a third time to finish off this particular route ;-P

Tobi in the other route. Steep!
Top! Mark demonstrating his rappel knot. "European death knot".
Rappelling over a cave.

We hiked back to the car and drove to a burger place to meet up with Tobi's girlfriend and friend who spent the day paragliding nearby. They intended to sleep in their campervans in "the spot" that night.

Scree surfing on the way down.
Beautiful vistas on the hike out. That layer of haze in the valley is from a single big wood fire!
Intense colors.
Well deserved!