Hoch Geissberg (2396m)

Sitting at the breakfast table with the family, getting the kid ready for school. Looking out the window into a gray, overcast and rainy day. Scrolling around the weather map on my phone. Found the one spot in Switzerland that showed just a cloud symbol instead of a cloud with rain. Rain was expected, but only later in the afternoon. Applied a ton of wishful thinking and spontaneously decided to go climb the nearest interesting looking mountain in the vicinity. Dropped the younger kid off at Krippe, bought some supplies at Migros and continued on to the mountain. This is how professionals plan and organize hiking trips ;-P

Very nice trail across the pastures. It continued like this for a long time. Hard to imagine how much (manual) labor it must have been to built these walls.
First glimpse of the summit.
Dammed lake with overflows.

My gamble should pay off in a big way! Not only did I get super lucky with the choice of mountain and route, but I even had a few hours of blue sky! It's a T4 trail with a few exposed sections that are protected by metal cables. The higher I got, the more doubts crept in whether the route would actually be possible in these conditions. I had to cross successively larger and dicier patches of snow. But once I reached the bottom of the ramp to the summit there was no stopping me. With the target in sight I activated beast mode and dug steps for 500 meters of elevation gain through wet snow. Super satisfying to get the engine going and motoring up a slope like that.

T4 trail.
Blue skies! My gamble is paying off!
A cross on top of the steep cliff. The summit is still 500 meters or so of climbing away.

It was windy and cold on the summit and dark clouds were moving in menacingly. I didn't spend much time and quickly started my way back down. Raindrops started falling 20 minutes before I got back to the car. Success!

16km, 1777m, 5:21h

Long ramp.
Steep to the left.
Steep to the right.
Lone footsteps. The juxtaposition between civilization in the valley and my position in this snowy deserted wilderness felt unreal. Two worlds, so close and yet so far.
This required effort!
Summit ridge.
Different stride length on the way up vs down ;-P
I'd often be balls deep in the snow. Tiring. Also a perfect fit for my running shoes ;-P
Curious cow came running towards me.
Love how they repurposed / changed the sign.
So many waterfalls crossing the road. One more beautiful than the next.
Bench with a view.
Back in the rain. Just in time.


Hintisberg attempt

Weekend. Everybody was excited to go climbing. Yet our options were still limited. The entire month has been so wet that most multi pitch routes were still running with water or burried in snow. Thus we decided to go with a safe option that we already knew to work from the previous week's exploit: return to Hintisberg in the Bernese highlands. We needed two cars this time: Luigi and Tobi shared one, while Arne, Mark, Björn and I took our car. The tiny payroad up to the mountain had been cleared of more avalanche debris since we drove up the last time. Good. But our little VW Golf loaded up with four people still had insufficient clearance and we scraped the gravel with the bottom of the car quite a few times. On the way back the car would rattle and screech as if some of its metal parts had broken off. None of us could identify the problem though and by the time I got it to a garage for inspection two days later the symptoms were mostly gone. The tentative diagnosis was that we picked up some pebbles that got stuck in the brakes and the undercarriage. Made for scary driving.

Sorting gear while having breakfast.
The wall. So much to do here...
The holy trinity of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

Mark and Arne paired up to climb Reisefieber (5c+), Tobias and Luigi went for the neighboring Escalera (6a) while Björn and I intended to climb Wärze (6b) on the other side of the wall. We got the advantage that our side is much steeper and thus had dried off more. The Eastern side of the wall where the others were climbing was still running with water in places. The disadvantge is that our side is much steeper ;-P

Me, inspecting our options and the water on the wall.
Steeper than your (well, mine anyways) usual fare! A sequence of small roofs.
Tobi belaying Luigi.

I got to lead the first pitch which we assumed to be 6b. I managed most of the way up before I took a lead fall. Like a total noob I reached for the rope while falling, damaging the skin on my right index finger by burning it on the rope. Don't do that kids! I continued on to what I assumed to be our anchor. It was protected like one, but the position didn't really agree with the topo and the difficulties suggested there. The next pitch was supposed to be an easy 5a, but we were right underneath a pretty significant overhang with an abandoned quickdraw dangling a few bolts above us, indicating that others had given up at this point before. I lead the second pitch as well. Cheating a move, but mostly fighting my way up.

Me, resting after taking my fall.
Belaying Björn.

The third pitch confronted us with yet another dilemma. Again the topo gives it an easy 5b grade, but the terrain we were looking at was anything but easy. Overhanging crumbling rock. Worse, from our vantage point, we could only spot a single bolt. I still set out to lead it and made it up quite a ways. I ended up in a crack of badly crumbling rock, bombarding Björn below me with fragments. Still no bolts to be seen. I usually bring a handful of cams on multi-pitches as back-up. Thinking that maybe the crack is meant to be protected manually I placed gear and pushed on. But when I still couldn't see where this was headed I decided to bail. Climbing into the unknown on just the few pieces of emergency gear seemed too risky. Neither the route nor the difficulties agreed with the topo. So I had a bit of adventure climbing where I downclimbed while collecting my gear from the wall.

Tobi in one of the early steeper sections of Escalera.
Björn coming up to me.
Steep corner. You can just make out the abandoned quickdraw. If this was the anchor we expected to be at, we'd be looking at 5b terrain.

We rappeled back to the base of the wall and hiked over to where the others were climbing. They were still going up, so Björn and I figured we could still get a few pitches in after them. We raced up Escalera. The first three pitches are 5b, 5c, 5c+ and we alternated leads this time. They were a great confidence builder. After getting our asses kicked on whatever we climbed earlier, these pitches were a joy to climb. Unfortunately we didn't get to finish the route in time. The others topped out and started rappelling, meeting us halfway up the wall. We didn't want to leave them waiting and Björn also had to get back home to relieve the dog-sitter. Thus we bailed.

A party of hardmovers high above us on the center of the wall. Where the 7+ routes are. Impressively overhanging roofs. Not only did the climbing look very impressive but one also needs to have good rappelling technique dragging fixed lines to get back to the wall.
Tobi, Luigi, Mark.

A bit of a bummer that we didn't get to finish any route. But at the same time we got some hard climbing in and I'm quite proud of the effort we made. So overall still a great learning experience and day out!

We bailed from this anchor. Not quite our high point because I made it a few meters up from here before turning around. Note how steep the wall behind us is!
The lone bolt and crack I followed until I thought it was no longer justifiable.
Björn coming down.
Luigi enjoying some of his "climbing orgasms" in the king pitch of Escalera.
Björn and I in Escalera. After we migrated to the other side of the wall.
Good mood.
Arne on the way down.
Mark on the way down.
We shall be back!


Cragging at Bättlerchuchi

The month continued wet and rainy. I still wanted to go climbing outside and suggested a crag that had only recently been discovered by my climbing chat group and promised to be convenient to get to and non-committing. Thus if we should have to bail, it wouldn't be much of a loss. So Björn and I drove up to a small pass in the Jura to visit "Bättlerchuchi" ("beggar's kitchen"). Convenient approach is almost an understatement for this particular crag: you drive right up to it and could belay from the comfort of your car seat if you drove a convertible (c.f. Top Rope Tough Guys).

A sector in the forrest on the left that we haven't tried yet.
Park right at the rock. Convenient.

It was raining by the time we got to the crag, so we decided to find the nearest gas station first before trying to climb. I had cut it pretty close and we had arrived on top of the pass with barely one litre of Diesel in the tank ;-P This strategy worked out and half an hour later we scaled a few of the routes at the parking lot. We stuck to the easy ones at first while the wall was still wet, but ended up climbing all of them once it dried off a bit.

A bird's nest halfway up one of the routes. Mother bird would nervously wait for us to leave to check up on her offspring.
Slippery when wet.

The pass road sees little traffic. On this day there was a constant back and forth of tractors towing trailers full of cows though. An old guy on an e-Bike stopped and harrassed Björn, who was belaying me at the time, with pictures of his grand children climbing the same route. Irresistable need to show off it seems. Another guy parked his car, got out and leaned on his crane to observe our climbing for quite a while. He seemed to get really into it, cheering us on while we were puzzling out a trickier 6b.


We also tried a nearby sector in the forest. This one is on average much harder than the parking lot wall. And consequently we got our asses kicked quite severely. We climbed a bunch of the easier 5 something routes which went well. But then we attempted a long diagonal 6a+ and found it really hard and pumpy. For some reason we didn't seem to get the technique right and it felt like climbing an overhanging roof instead of a diagonal crack where you should be able to support yourself more easily. In our defense, there were two other parties on that wall, both climbing the hard overhanging grade 7a and up routes. Both remarked how they struggled with our diagonal and found it "sketchy". Blame it on the moisture.

Puzzling out the diagonal.
Björn. Just after coming out of a "full body jam" resting position.

We also met a military instructor training with two soldiers. He pointed out another nearby crag that apparently usually has better weather. Another good reason to return.

Nearly dry towards the end! Optimism pays off!