Holzwangflue via Nordlicht (150m, 6a+) and Wintersonne (150m, 6b+)

First day in a long time with a robustly good weather forecast. Björn and I decided to head for the Holzwangflue on Pilatus. While Pilatus is quite the tourist attraction with lots of infrastructure on its summit, the Holzwangflue sits on its flank in a wild and rural setting. The approach requires hiking for about 500 meters elevation gain and scrambling over a scree field. We found the route without any issues.

Not everyone who walks here survives...
Scree field at the base of our wall.
Me leading the first pitch of Nordlicht.

The rock is compact limestone, reminiscent of climbing on Brüggler. We decided to start on Nordlicht, the easier of two routes. Depending on which guidebook you want to trust, it is either 6a- (Plaisir Ost), 6a+ (SAC) or even 6b (route book). I guess a lot depends on how much you stick to the intended line vs taking advantage of vegetation or deviating left or right. The slabs require precise footwork and good balance. They didn't cause us much trouble and we topped out quickly after scaling the 120 meter wall.

Björn setting out to lead the crux pitch of Nordlicht. Use the tree to balance / push yourself onto the steep slab.
Me coming up.
We'd later climb this overhang as part of Wintersonne.

Rappelling back down was fun - the line goes into a giant half-cave. We had some calories at the base and decided to also attempt the second route, Wintersonne. This one is harder, graded 6a+ or 6b+, again depending on how you climb it and which topo you want to believe. Instead of sticking to the less than vertical slabs it moves directly through a big overhang in the middle of the wall. The overhang is well protected and you can reach a giant jug from a solid standing position on a big ledge. I managed to pull myself up from that, but then struggled in a crouched, fully compressed, position on desperate feet. What I needed would have been another handhold higher up, but all I could find were too close to me and didn't allow me to unfold myself from the crouched position. In the end both Björn and I had to give up on doing this move cleanly and resolved to climbing it by pulling on a quickdraw like the topo suggests with its "p.a." rating.

Final few meters to the top.
Comfortable anchor.
Oh yeah! That was fun. Shall we do another round?

To me the most satisfying pitch to lead was the third of Wintersonne. A 6a+ slab with marginal smeared feet and desperately small crimps. I was tempted to cheat multiple times but in the end lead it in good style. Unfortunately not without taking a fall when I turned the corner down from the slab to step on an outcrop in the roof of the cave which broke off under my weight. So frustrating. This was meant to be a resting position and it ended up spoiling a clean on-sight of that pitch.

Rappelling over an overhang / cave.
Björn floating down.
Huge jugs to hold onto. Not.

Both routes are extremely well protected, almost to climbing gym levels. We alternated leads for most of the day, except for the last few pitches when the circulation in Björn's hands started to give him trouble and his hands went cold and numb and I took over. As Björn put it, we "earned an XP (experience point)" for both taking a lead fall. Me, when my foothold broke off, Björn, when he stepped on a slimy wet bit of rock. Overally an extremely satisfying and fun day out. Makes me want to climb more and harder ;-P

I was undecided whether to refer to this section as the "cheese grater" or the "rope cutter". Super sharp limestone ridges.
Topping out route #2.
Sofa at the top.
Rappelling can be fun!
My turn to float.
The local mountain guide who bolted the routes grades them harder than our guidebook: 6b and 6b+ respectively.
Pretty cool how plants take advantage of any nook and cranny in the rock.
We had to wait for these guys to pass. Who'd have thought that we'd get stuck in a traffic jam up here?

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