Saturday, May 18, 2019

From Sargans to the Gonzen via the Follaplatte

The forecast called for the weather to be better in the East, and the snow situation is still not really great, so we decided to head up to the Gonzen via the Follaplatte again. We did this a couple of years ago in the fall and really enjoyed the tour but didn't end up making it all the way to the peak since the wind was pretty bad. Uh, and I didn't ever get around to actually writing the blog post... we just have pictures.
The Gonzen as seen from Sargans
After a bit through town, the ascent starts. Past the old Schloss, up past some houses, through the fields and past more farm buildings, up, up into the woods where we pick up a forest road. Then up, up, up in zig zags until we get to the fork at Cholplatz. From here we follow the unmarked (though easy to follow) path to the left. We don't do a great job of finding the path (early season isn't super easy) towards the end, but we make it to the slabs easily enough. We again take a somewhat sub-optimal route through the slabs (yay for the approach shoes!) and hit the actual "trail" just before the rope that marks the beginning of the ascent to the wooded shoulder. Short food break here to enjoy the views, and then up, up the last bit to the shoulder. Up the shoulder, around the corner, and then through the couloir to the "cave" formed by a few massive boulders. There's tons of super loose stuff in here (it's early season) and a bit wet in a couple of places, so the last bit is sketchier than last time. Through the "cave" and up the last bit to the saddle.
across the Follaplatten

through the cave
Last time we had the feeling that we didn't do this quite right, so this time we've read a good description on Hikr and feel prepared to be able to find the "intended" route. This immediately starts off with a bit of challenge since there are a couple of trees down across the saddle, adding fun to get through the saddle and definitely wiping out whatever use trail might have been there. Ah well. We carefully make our way down the steep other side (this is also a bit sketchy) until we hit a short flat stretch and then start traversing the face. For future reference: a right thing to do here is to head down to that flat bit (pretty visible from the saddle), and then to traverse to the bottom of the rocky ridge that comes down from the right. There's a trail (and the first marking that we saw) that's pretty easy to locate here. Now we follow the trail more or less next to the rock, past a small cave, always climbing. There are a couple of snow-filled gullies to cross, but we did think to bring trekking poles with us and the snow is soft, so these aren't too dramatic. The final gully to the ridge is full of snow, so we opt to continue along (as we did last time) until we come out of the woods into a field (the building at Folla is now visible). From here it's up to the ridge that leads to the Gonzen itself. This has a somewhat surprising amount of snow on it (shouldn't be that surprising really... it's the North ridge), but it's no problem to follow to the peak, which happily doesn't have any snow on it. After a nice lunch break enjoying the views, we head back down the ridge to Folla and then follow the tracks through the snow down to Rieterhütten. Quick conversation with a trail runner here (he's not thrilled about the idea of heading through that much snow to the peak, so he turns around), then down, down, down until the blue-white trail towards the ladders turns off.
lots of snow on the ridge to the top
There's plenty of snow visible in the woods down here (North side... makes sense), but we figure we can always turn back if it gets too dodgy, so we head off along the lovely path to the ladders. There is some snow in here, but it's really not bad and by the time we get down to the ladders themselves it's all clear. More lovely walking (it is a nice path) takes use back to Cholplatz and the path back down to Sargans.
down the ladders
This is quite a nice tour to a peak with great views that's also a good training tour. It's worth keeping the snow in mind for future trips.

Stats: 16.4km, ~1500m up and down

Monday, May 13, 2019

Spring hiking: Ridges between Olten->Waldenburg

Today was a day of Flües. It's been raining, so we don't want to do anything too tricky, but it's not supposed to rain today. We haven't really done much hiking this year yet, so part of the idea is that this should be something of a training tour. To that end Greg tosses a couple of ropes into his pack to add some additional weight; Andrea's not playing that game. :-)

We start in Olten (first hike started from there) and head through town and onto the path up up to Trimbach and then further to the Rumpelflüe. The nice path through the woods takes us along the ridge, past the restaurant at Rumpel (Greg has loads of fun with this name), under the Rumpelhöchi, and then up, up to the Naturefreundehaus (I'm sure there are awesome views from here on days when the viewing is good). Not too long after that we leave the marked hiking path and follow a use path up onto the ridge (there's a bit of very, very light scrambling here). Now we've got a very nice ridge walk above the Hornflue, with great views, a few chamois (don't think we've seen those in the Jura before), including one really curious one who lets us get quite close and seems as fascinated by us as we are by him. Past the Homberglücke and then back up onto the ridge for another good bit until we start to descend. Before heading down too far, we stop and have a food break. This is cut short when it starts to lightly rain. Ah well, we pack up and head on and the rain stops in a couple of minutes. The descent along the ridge down, down to the road gets pretty steep at the end, but is no real problem (still, it's good to have shoes with stiff soles).
along the Rumpelflue
After following the road for a bit we pick up the path towards Hägendorf, which we follow for a bit before turning off towards Allerheiligenberg. Here we're looking for a bit of ladder/short klettersteig to get us up past the wall of the Burgerrain. We just have a couple Hikr descriptions and some not particularly useful GPS points, and there's not much of a use trail, so this takes a bit of looking to find. Greg takes a picture or two and marks it on his watch, just so we have the GPS point (but it's plainly visible on the track below). Up the ladder and then along the ridge of the Burgerrain. This is another really nice path that's also clearly not used all that often. We find a nice spot during a bit of sun and sit down for another food break. The sun is gone within 3 minutes of us sitting down and a few minutes after that it starts to very lightly sprinkle and then hail. Hail! We pack up and continue on; the hail stops within a couple minutes (starting to detect a theme here). We continue along the lovely ridge until we get to the end and descend (not as steeply this time) to the road. Here we pick up another trail that takes us down into the Oberi Schlucht (this is the end of the Teufelsschlucht, which we've done before). After a bit of the lovely gorge we head up towards Rüteli, further on through the open valley to Bärenwil, and then along and around the corner to Langenbruck. There's a bus waiting there, but we opt not to take it. 3 minutes after the bus leaves, and a minute after we sit down for a snack, it starts raining (!). Fortunately there's a bench under cover, so we can have our break without getting rained on and by the time we're done the rain has stopped.
in the Oberi Schlucht
After the break we head through Langenbruck and then briefly along the road to Oberer Hauenstein, where we  pick up the trail towards Waldenburg. This ends up being a really nice mix of panorama and forest and river until we get to town. Through town we go, Waldenburg is longer than we remember, and we get to the train station about a minute after the train has left. Ah well... we grab hot beverages from the kiosk and wait half an hour for the next one.
Aside from the "amusing" weather, this was a really nice day out. Super varied hiking and a nice line on the map. :-)

Stats: ~22km, ~900m up, ~400m down

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Spring Climbing in Provence

As part of our somewhat theme this year of improving our climbing skills we decided to do a concentrated week of climbing with a group. Last time we tried this we had fun, so we figured why not try again. This time the destination was Provence...

We met the gang in the cold drizzle at the train station in Bern on Sunday, piled into the van, and then drove down to Eygalières (with an amusing shopping stop in Avignon, the only place we knew a supermarket would be open) and the nice weather. After installing ourselves in the villa we had a nice apero, did a real round of introductions, and then talked about what was to come during the week. We followed up with dinner prep, a good meal, and then headed off to bed.
Villa Las Rosas
Intro day, make sure everyone knows the basics and that the guide has some confidence that we're not going to kill each other while climbing.
Climbing in Orgon, Sector Beauregard Mur du quatre
Lots of easy routes and general practice

G, F, E, C
Orgon, Sector Beauregard, Mur du quatre
Unusual day since we didn't climb together. Nice location with some longer routes and good views, though it did end up getting rather crowded

Aureille, Sector Latran
E, H, I, J (top rope), K (tried and failed top rope), R (tried and failed lead and top rope)

A, I, E (lead and top rope with approach shoes), J (top rope)

Sector Rue du Moulin
C, D (top rope speed - there unfortunately wasn't time to do it in lead)

For dinner we did some grilling. We didn't actually have any charcoal or wood easily available, so creativity was required. :-)
Climbing with views
Drive down to Calanques, hike into Le Pouce, climb, long drive back.
Topos from the new version of the Calanques book, we only have photos.
Fun climbing with nice views on limestone that was almost white; plenty of other people around.

Sector Le Pouce gauche:
N, O
Sector Le Pouce droit:
B, I, F, A, C
I again as a crack climb and to downclimb
F again, top rope in approach shoes
A with downclimb by us bothand, again quasi-speed from Greg
Calanque de Sormiou, Le pouce in upper left corner
Mouriès Nord, Prairie
Idyllic location, great slab climbing and we were mostly along (just one other pair in one of the other sectors).
It rained gently for a bit less than an hour just after Greg finished the first route, but we waited another hour (doing knot practice and drinking coffee) and everything dried out and was great.

U right, U left, S, T, X, Z, A (top rope Andrea, Greg failed on top rope), X again (greg)

Nice dinner in Eygalières afterwards.
lovely meadow and rock at Prairie
Today we did a bit of projecting.
Orgon, Acteur's Studio
Nice place to climb, only one other group near us.

V (lead and toprope), P (project - we were supposed to do this redpoint, Andrea made it to the second to last bolt, greg flashed after watching Andrea), I (greg failed), H (Andrea failed, greg lead), M (greg failed on lead)
project at Acteur's Studio
packing up and heading back to Bern and, once again, crap weather.

Not something we'd want to do every year, but we had a lot of fun and learned a good amount. The group also worked really well and we ate well, neither of which is a given. :-)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Easter climbing near Locarno

It's now definitely a tradition for us to spend the Easter weekend (or at least some time in spring) climbing around Locarno. This time we stayed in Locarno itself in our "usual" hotel. We were wel organized with dinner reservations, again, and made dinner reservations for Fri and Sat on Thurs evening. So Thursday was pizza in the hotel, Friday was Osteria Borghese, Saturday was Citadelle, and Sunday was Loconda Locarnese (we noticed this after dinner on Thursday and made the reservation on Friday). We ate very well. :-)

The climbing:

Thursday afternoon
The usual warm-up climbing at the Rovine del Castelliere.

  • Capretto: 5a 
  • Sibi: 5c 
  • Ramezzo: 5a+ 
  • Vespa: 5b 
  • Mich: 5c 

Very nice to be back in Tessin and enjoying the lovely gneiss.

Multi-pitches on the wonderful slabs at Placche Rosse

  • Lavori di giardinaggio (4c, 4b, 5a, 5a, 5a, 5b, Andrea started) 
  • Pation (5c, 5c, 5b, 5a, 5b, Andrea started) 

Unbelievably, we had the slabs completely to ourselves. This is such enjoyable climbing: a game with careful footwork, balance, and psychology. Loads of "well, let's just see... oh! that foot placement did work!" moments. The abseils went pretty well too. Each route took about 2 hours, including abseiling.

Since we're sure to forget, again, here's a photo of what the very well marked turnoff to the approach path looks like:

Quartzader, the long route on the Speroni that we also did last time. This time Greg started and did the whole thing free. A opted for a single p.a. on the 6a pitch.

Though we got there early, there was an SAC Jo group (9 total) there in front of us, and we ended up going up behind them. Lots of waiting ensued, but we switched ourselves to expect it and the two kids in front of us were amusing, so it ended up being fun. The route really is a nice one. Total climbing time, including all the waiting, was about five hours. If we'd been on our own it certainly would have been quicker.

After a nice lunch break up top (the group, thankfully, left relatively quickly), we opted to just walk back to Locarno. So instead of descending through the gorge, we traversed through the woods (on a mostly decent path) to p647 (above the hut marked Scogli on the map) and followed the trail/road/trail/road the rest of the way back to Locarno. This was a nice walk.

A new area for us: Balladrum. We took the bus to Ascona and then walked up. After a bit of extra walking (wrong turn along the way) we made our way to the crag, which has an awesome view out over the lake.

When we arrived there was one other couple there (beginners). We started with Dickschädel (4c on the wall, 5a in the SAC book), which was steep and more challenging than it seemed like it should have been (maybe the style change was just too extreme?). Then Andrea did Kathleen (5a), Greg's head wasn't in it, so he did the route in top rope. We both then top-roped Da chi o da la (5c).

We then did Der Pirat (4b) in our normal shoes (Andrea in her approach shoes, Greg in running shoes), which was hugely fun. We remembered that it's also good to practice downclimbing, so Andrea did that. Greg wanted to play too, so he did a speed climb back up in top rope and then downclimbed. After a quick lunch break we did Hunter (4c) in the normal shoes, with downclimbing, too. Really fun stuff and great practice for mountaineering season.

At this point we were ready to go back to "real" climbing, but unfortunately the crag had filled up and the routes we were interested in were all occupied. Rather than hanging around waiting (and then climbing in a crowd), we opted to just head back. The first stop was for a beer at the kiosk in the park at Premcagno. Afterwards, since it wasn't that far, we ended up walking back to Locarno instead of taking the bus.

After arriving in Ponte Brolla, Andrea proposed that we do one of the easy multi-pitches on Rovine del Castelliere wearing our approach shoes. We were early enough that it was unlikely to be crowded, so we did that. We started at the very bottom on the easy slab to get oriented (not super easy...) and ended up taking Coniglio to the top. At the moment it seems like 4a is about the best we can do with the approach shoes on that kind of slab. And that wasn't always easy.

Up top we enjoyed the solitude (alone!) and views during our lunch break with a great view. We walked around the corner and down to the first abseil stand and then did a few abseils to get back to one of the shelves with a lot of routes. And lots of people. Lots of people. Andrea climbed XXX (5b, in the climbing shoes), but Greg was too bothered by the crowds to feel like he could get back into climbing.

After descending to Ponte Brolla we took the bus back to Locarno, picked our extra stuff up at the hotel, had a snack break on a park bench, and then went to the train station to see if we could find a seat on the train at around 15:30 (we had seat reservations for the 16:30 train). Since we were 30 minutes early and the train was already there, this worked quite nicely... we got a pair of seats and then settled down for the long, full, train ride back home.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Sunday stroll on the Tüllinger Hugel

It's fruit blossom season, so we decided to do a nice Sunday stroll on the Tüllinger Hugel to check it out.
Nothing fancy here, just a nice walk with nice views on a lovely spring day and lots of different kinds of blooming trees.

A couple of bits:
  • As we were starting to get a bit hungry we saw a group of people ahead. When we got closer we realized that there was a stand selling food and wine. A stand run by the people we normally buy fruit from. Bonus! So we stopped and had a glass of wine along with some bread and schmalz. mmmm... civilized!
  • By the time we got to Ötlingen we were hungry again. The places that had outside tables were all full, but we happened across a cafe that was going to open up in 10 minutes. We grabbed a table and settled into wait. And not a moment too soon: people immediately started showing up and, by the time the cafe opened, there was a line. Good timing!

Stats: 11.8km, ~500m up and dow