Üschenen, via "Diagonale", 220m, 6a, 1p.a.

Third day of continuous climbing action. Third day where I left the house before 7am and only got back late at night. It was starting to take a toll on me so I asked my climbing partner of the day, Arne, for a plaisir route. He suggested the "Diagonale", which he had climbed in the past. Nominally a 6b, but the crux is a single hard move that most people climb by stepping on a bolt.

View up the Üschenen valley.
Our parking spot at the restaurant. Accessed via an exciting gravel road.
Arne pointing out the massive roof we'll have to navigate somehow.

This required a drive via Bern for a total time of roughly 2.5 hours. Just as well, as Arne and I hadn't talked in a long time and enjoyed the opportunity to catch up without distractions. As it turns out I wasn't the only one who was a little bit tired. Just the prior weekend Arne had completed a 600 km (!) bike ride interrupted by only three hours of sleep. He's training for some even longer self-flagellation tour. "Quäl dich du Sau!". I have done long bike rides in my day, but 600km in one go is something else. Chapeau!

First pitch. Steep, but extremely friendly and fun to climb.
Chickenheads. A relief to finally reach them on the blank slab.

To make up for the long drive, getting to the rock itself only required a short stroll up a cow pasture. And what a rock it is! A hugely overhanging wall that makes you wonder how there could be any climbable line through it, let alone a 6a. Embedded in beautiful alpine surroundings with views towards lake Oeschinen, commonly regarded the most picturesque of Switzerland's smaller lakes. Off to a promising start!

Arne coming up.
Look at that piece of rope! Imagine hanging in that position. A privilege reserved for hard movers, not us...

I got to lead the first pitch. Graded a 5c+ it felt much easier. Steep, even occasionally mildly overhanging, but with big friendly jugs to pull on. A great confidence builder for the start! But as it turned out, the following slabby pitches, while nominally easier, proved far more challenging and mentally taxing. Arne was sufficiently intimidated by his memory of one of the pitches that we swapped leads so I got to do that one. Which of course also meant that he got to lead the king pitch: the overhanging 6a sneaking out from under the massive roof. Athletic big bold moves. Super satisfying and fun. Framed by a curtain of glittering water droplets flying off the lip of the cave like so many pearls on a string.

A bunch of 3000ers.
Arne in the steep 6a.
Some athletic moves. The crux sequence is quite pumpy with hard pulls and high feet. Luckily on good holds.

Once out of the cave comes the route's namesake traverse pitch. Not exciting in terms of climbing difficulties (it's a 4c), but with dramatic exposure and great views. The final pitch contains the 6b boulder move. Starting from a comfortable plateau that you can walk around on, one needs to gain a small ledge. The problem is that the wall below the ledge is overhanging with nothing for your feet (and hard to see to begin with). I puzzled around on it and tried several variations before finally giving up and using the bolt as a foothold. Arne remembered the move from the first time he climbed this route, so he knew what to do. But in the end he also had to admit defeat and use the bolt for aid. A tiny blemish on an otherwise clean ascent for the both of us.

Me demonstrating a hands free rest even in a steep wall ;-)
Hanging out. Lake Oeschinen in the background.
Arne in the traverse pitch.

We topped out on a wide plateau and walked for some hundred meters or so to reach the top of another climbing area where a lot of easier routes converge. Another party was getting ready to rappel so we offered to share ropes. We made it down in only a handful of quick maneuvers. A great finale for a great weekend!

Sören and Arne.

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