Läged Windgällen, "Zentralpfeiler", 300m, 6a

Anita and the kids were travelling to see her parents in Germany. This left me with a long weekend on my own. Not only that, but a long weekend with a great weather forecast. It was ON! For Saturday I recruited Luigi to head for the Klausenpass and climb the Läged Windgällen via the central pillar. Fairly sustained 10 pitches of up to 6a difficulty. The approach looked conveniently close from the pass road, but in the end we still spent quite some time on it. There's only the faintest of trails leading up to the wall, so we spent quite some time scrambling up pathless steep terrain.

Convenient approach on a side road of the Klausenpass. We walked, but you can also pay to drive this restricted access road.
I'm frequently amazed by old infrastructure like this natural stone wall. Someone manually collected all the rock to create and fence a meadow. So much effort.
Steep scree on the final few meters to the wall. Our objective is the central pillar in this image.

Once we started climbing we quickly realized that this was graded according to old school burly mountaineer's standards. Not only that, but it also seemed somewhat inconsistent - sometimes a 5c felt easier than a 5a and the 5a (usually well within our comfort zone) would make us swear. Two thirds of the way up there is a bit of an interlude where you have to traverse an easy pitch from the pillar to the main wall. This was only made memorable because there was still snow in the depressions that we awkwardly tried to avoid in order to keep our climbing shoes dry.

Luigi looking over to Clariden, trying to count how many people are still going ski touring at the end of May.
Sören on the sharp end.
Luigi on the sharp end.

According to the route book we are only the second party this year to complete this route. The book dates back all the way to the early nineties and it seems that most years only see a handful of ascents. Past the route book we still had two more pitches to go - the crux 6a and a bonus 4a scramble to top out. It was actually quite a amazing that there was any line at all to the top. On the left, a massive and massively overhanging cave that was running with water. Completely impassable. To the right, a series of smooth roofs. Also completely out of the question for us. But between them runs a slightly overhanging crack. This is where the route snuck through. Very athletic and satisfying moves. I always appreciate routes that follow the logically weak line up a face the most. Contrast this to many modern routes that artificially seek out difficult sections in order to ramp up the grade of the climb. Feels forced.

Growing exposure.
Beautiful pitch high above the deck.
Lots of air under my butt.

Two rappels from the top bring us to a ledge that we walked into a different route from where we climbed up. This is harder (I think 7a?) and thus correspondingly steeper. This makes for a comfortable and smooth rappel experience. Walking back to the car we pass a small alm and a single hut. This was deserted on the way up, but now there was a group of 10 very drunk and very loud women singing on the terrasse. Celebrating a bachelorette party they sent the bride to be to us with shots. She apparently had to share a certain number of drinks with random men and they were starved for men up here. We happily obliged ;-P That's how to end a climb in style: have a bunch of women sing "You are cool guys! You are cool guys! Shalalala!" after you.

We had to walk this exposed ledge to get to the rappel route. Not particularly difficult, but high consequence if you do fall...
Me working up the crux pitch. Hard to tell, but this required a bouldering move to leave a small cave at the anchor. Then a ton of slightly overhanging layback moves.
Yeti out of the fog.
Setting up the rappels.
Nice rappel anchor. A single pillar of rock to stand on with steep (sometimes overhanging) walls around me.
The free hanging rope gives an idea of how steep the wall is.


Teufelstalwand, "Zeichen der Freundschaft", 250m, 6b+

We are experiencing an unusually cold and wet May in Switzerland. Luigi and I were still itching to go climbing. So we took our chances on Saturday. Driving up to Andermatt in the morning it didn't look good at first - the road was thoroughly wet. We could catch some glimpses into the "devil's canyon", our chosen climbing area, from the road, and the South facing wall looked mostly dry. Thus we figured we should at least try the approach and see how it goes.

Luigi on the approach. High above Andermatt.
Admiring the wall. Extending both lower into the canyon and higher than the photo frame.
Rappelling into the canyon.

Lauren and Andrei had started a bit earlier than us. This turned out to be good for us - we found where they parked their car and could take advantage of their footsteps through patches of snow on the approach. Thanks for breaking trail! ;-P The approach was actually a bit dicey at times. Slippery wet snow and brush on steep slopes over deep vertical drops. Unforgiving terrain. The last bit requires three rappels into the canyon itself. It's quite a peculiar setup, leading to a very committing climb: the canyon has been carved by a wild creek which enters and leaves via steep waterfalls. Both sides of the canyon are near vertical, requiring climbing to get out of. So once you've rappelled down to the creek you have to successfully climb something to get back out...

This is before we started climbing. These fixed ropes are still part of the approach.
Oooh yeah. The sun is out and we're in t-shirts!
Fantastic climbing.

Luigi and I had set our eyes on "Zeichen der Freundschaft". Eight pitches of 6a - 6b+. Quite sustained and definitely at the upper end of what I'm currently able to climb without sufficient training. But it's one of the easiest (the easiest?) routes on this wall and comes with high praise and a recommendation in the "Dreams of Switzerland" selection guidebook. Lauren and Andrei had originally set their eyes on something more ambitious but in the end we found them two pitches up in our route. Their original objective was prohibitively wet.

Probably my favorite pitch of the entire route: a beautiful 6a+ layback corner crack.
Cracks. Cracks everywhere.
Flaky cracks are still cracks.

The guidebook isn't lying: it turned out to be an amazing climb. Bomber granite. Beautiful structure. Dramatic scenery. Very well cleaned and protected. In fact, at times it felt like they might have overdone it a bit and put in too many bolts. The rock features lots of natural cracks that would have allowed protecting large parts of the climb with mobile gear. It was also a nice demonstration for how gym climbing insufficiently prepares you for climbing outside. The most common features on this climb are rarely found in gyms: entire pitches of layback corner cracks; cracks running straight up a slab and a wide chimney. All structures that are difficult and expensive to simulate on artificial rock and require very specific techniques. I like this style of athletic climbing, but at the same time I'm struggling with it. My crippled right hand and left ankle mean I have a difficult time jamming my limbs into the cracks at the required angles. And I tend to get a ton of abrasions because my scar tissue means I don't necessarily feel when I'm hurting myself. Thus we agreed to share the leads in a way that had Luigi lead the harder 6bs and me the easier 6a's. Worked out well until we arrived at the final crux 6b+ pitch. It was clear from the base of it that it was running wet with water and would be exceedingly difficult to climb in these conditions. Thus we unfortunately had to make the call to skip this one and go around it via an improvised pitch on easier and drier terrain. Good reason to come back and finish the route properly ;-)

This little guy followed us for a full three pitches. Notice how it's missing half a wing.
Luigi coming up.
Luigi "enjoying" a wide chimney. His favorite style of climbing - not 😈

We never caught up with Lauren and Andrei, but we did get to talk to the only other party in the canyon that day. A pair of climbers on "Wilde 13", a tough 7b. They climbed using a bigwall technique - instead of encumbering themselves with backpacks like we did, they carried up a haul line and dragged a big bag up behind them whenever the lead finished a pitch. Good idea! We enjoyed a lunch break in the sun at the top before starting the "descent". As it turns out that starts by scrambling up a few more pitches on fixed ropes before going down over a jumble of big rocks and traversing annyoingly snow covered slopes. When we got home we were greeted by Bruno and Ramona who came over for dinner. We sat on the terrace with good friends and celebrated a great day out with cold beers. What more could one ask for?

The final pitch. Unfortunately the streaks of water just under the most difficult part under the roof mean that we had to shy away from this one.
Luigi on our improvised alternative pitch.
Scrambling up the fixed ropes towards the descent.
Mighty Salbit in the background. Lots of amazing climbs on those ridges.
Scrambling through big blocks. You can see footsteps through the patches of snow on the opposite slope. That's the trail back.
The "sock mobile". Luigi dried his soaking wet socks by having them wave out our window.
Looking back into the canyon from the road. We climbed on the left wall of the right one.