Mittagflue, "Südkante", ~300m, 5b

Day two of my long weekend without kids and wife. This time, Björn and I took Lode out for his first alpine multi-pitch climb. He graciously agreed to write about the experience from his point of view:

I had only a very small amount of climbing experience from the climbing gym a few weeks before, and a few climbs in the Ardennes in Belgium long ago but those were much smaller than today.

Lode and Björn on the approach
Mittagflue looming large.

First we had a hike from the parking near Guttannen to the rock face, which took less than an hour. The rock face looked very impressive, from a distance but especially close by. We could already see some climbers on the rock from a distance.

Lode at the base of the wall.
Off to a good start!

The climb itself went well but this was thanks to help and encouragement from my companions. They were also the ones lead-climbing and following me, with me in the center, so I didn't need to handle the safety critical things and collection of gear, just try to climb up with my legs and arms. It's amazing how fast time flew by, since it took over 4 hours to climb up the entire rock but it felt much faster, likely because there were around 10 pitches, subdividing time into 10 individual goals to reach. Each pitch had difficulty levels ranging from 3c to 5a, with most around 4b. These are considered easy by experienced climbers, but definitely not for me. Each pitch was around 30 meters and ended with a small ledge that in several cases barely allowed taking off your backpack to take a sip of water. Standing with your feet and hanging off the rope was the better method to "comfortably" hang out on these ledges but I was not very comfortable with that yet initially.

Good mood at the anchor.

On most pitches, I succeeded in climbing up, on the harder ones I needed a lot of help and encouragement related to where to put my hands and feet. Björn gave the advice to feel with your hands as you don't always see the ledges, and Sören said at one point, when I thought I wouldn't be able to use my foot on a diagonal piece of wall, that the force would point in the correct direction when actually moving there, and I felt that indeed it worked! On the very last pitch, however, I wasn't able to find any place for my feet even with help. I instead got offered to use Björns rope to pull myself up from - which succeeded in the end, and allowed me to reach the summit! I regret not making that part on my own, but should try similar conditions on a much lower pitch instead to practice this.


The weather today was very sunny given what the year was like so far, however there were some small drizzles of rain happening at regular intervals during the day, never big enough to be considered an issue, fortunately it never required us to turn back early.


To get back down, there were two options: rappel down the way we came, with as only minor issues that some groups of climbers were still climbing up below us and the ropes were 50m which was just too short to allow comfortably going down 2 pitches at once. Or, hike by going to the nearby waterfall, and rappelling down 3-4 pitches there.

The village of Guttannen. Framed by the steep walls of the Abadia (7a) route through the West face.
Final approach.

Sören had earlier experience with this hike down with spring snow and described it as "slippery scrambling with immense exposure". Originally the plan was to rappel. However, today we noticed most climbing groups in front of us took this route (or, at least, we did not see them rappelling down), so we decided to take it again as well.

A last bit of scrambling to reach the descent trail.

To start off we had to ascend a bit more with ropes, but with regular hiking shoes though which makes a big difference. Then was a relatively normal trail, just with some rocks or trees blocking it every now and then, but this trail was the easiest part of the whole way down. After a small detour due to reaching an unmarked dead end, we started descending. This was really scary since a lot of the descent was not actually a hiking trail, but rocks to climb down from bare, sometimes even requiring experienced climber manoeuvres for placing hands and feet similar to the climb up, except this time without equipment. I got a lot of help and advice from Sören and Björn for this. There were at least a dozen of such sections of around 10 metres high to be conquered on different parts of the way back, as well as longer sections that were less extreme but still required use of both hands and feet to get down, and one section where we had the choice to rappel (and did).

Not a good idea to fall here...
Scrambling down wet rock.

In the end we reached the beginning of the final 4 rappels, with a very awkward ledge to start the first one. This went pretty well and much faster than hiking and climbing! However this also had its challenges: I was not used to rappelling on this type of rock wall (but more vertical walls), which had quite a few diagonally angled parts. At one point I was avoiding bushes on the right side, which made me climb on such a diagonal part to the left, which eventually caused me to swing freely with the rope towards the right, smashing me against a rock right next to those bushes. This was quite an important lesson on keeping your legs spread wide open while climbing down, and keeping an eye on the shape of the wall and the rope direction.

More descent.
Rappelling next to a waterfall.

Overall the climb down took longer than up! Sören mentioned the theory of type I and type II fun. Type 1 is just direct fun, type 2 is when the moment itself can be miserable, but is fun in retrospect. This event definitely was more on the type II end of the scale, but the enjoyment as soon as hitting the bottom ground, and the food afterwards, were the most fun and rewarding I had in a long time!

Well deserved ;-P

No comments:

Post a Comment