Sunday, July 17, 2011

Durrenbach to Grafenort via the Nünalphorn and Widderfeldstock

Last week's planned hochtour was cancelled due to the weather, so when this week's planned tour was shifted by a day due to weather and we couldn't go, there was some frustration in the household. The forecast for Saturday was good in the morning with clouds and possibly rain coming in as the afternoon passed, so we definitely had a window. The planning was a nice exercise:
"I'd like to do something strenuous"
"ok, what about the Arnigrat?"
"done that before, and since the weather hasn't been great it may be a bit dangerous"
"what about the Arvigrat?"
"yeah, we've talked about that before. we can definitely try that"
[some time spent looking on]
"here's one that starts in St. Niklausen that sounds interesting."
[looking at the map]
"a bit further South there's some interesting looking stuff... I wonder if we can get up the Nünalphorn or the Wild Geissberg"
[some more time spent looking on and the map]
"how about we start at Melchtal Durrenbach, head up to the Juchlipass, do the Nünalphorn, then continue along the ridge. There are several places to head down along the way so we can just go as far as our legs and the weather allow?"
So that's what we did...

We got an early start: the 6:03 train from Basel to Luzern. The bus drops us at Melchtal Durrenboden at around 8:15. After a bit of searching around we find the trail sign and head off. This is an Andrea special: the climbing starts pretty much immediately. The path up is nicely varied: woods, fields, steep bits, etc. We take advantage of our increasing fitness level (though Andrea's biking to work definitely gives her an unfair advantage), the cool morning weather, and the shade and make some good time. Conditions are pretty good, though there are some extremely muddy bits, particularly around the alps at Stäfeli and Nünalp (guarded by a dog and a pig :-), so our freshly cleaned boots are filthy again by the time we reach the Juchlipass. Here we turn left and head up the grass slope towards the Nünalphorn.
To this point we have been completely alone on the path, so Greg starts imagining a solitary lunch break on the peak. As we round the shoulder before the last bit of ascent, we spot a group of 6 in front of us. 2 minutes later, a group of four starts down from the top. So much for solitude. ;-) Up top we greet the other 6 and then have a quick lunch break while enjoying the fantastic panoramic view. Really nice.

From here we head briefly back the way we came, down to around 2200m, and then follow the path around the Worbi, do a bit of scrambling down some rocks, cross a steep grass flank, and then head steeply down another chute to the bottom of the bowl.
From here the path leads us to the Gruebi, where we take advantage of the chance to refill water bottles before continuing our way up to the Bocki Rotisand pass. Further along the ridge a bit, then through some cows and around to the alp in the bowl under the Widderfeld Stock. The path here gets somewhat unclear thanks to the cows, but it's clear where we're going, so we just head up the grass slope to the rim of the bowl and then walk around the top to the bench and cross at the Widderfeld Stock. The weather is still holding, though clouds are rising up out of the valleys and the top of the Geissberg massif is no longer visible. Who knows how it's going to develop? Another quick food break, alone this time :-), and then onwards. The path takes us further along the ridge, into some rocks, and then down the other side. This side is completely different: instead of grass it's all rocks and gravel. Down, down we go to the meadow at Hohmad (green! flowers!), then through another rock chute, this time with slippery rocks (slooow going), before the path hits the ridge again and takes us down to the Storegg. Another short break on the other side of the pass and then the discussion about what to do next.

By this point it's past 3pm. It's about two hours down to the nearest public transportation on either side. The weather is still good and not showing any signs of changing, so that doesn't enter into the decision. The next saddle (Lachengrätli) doesn't have paths down from it indicated on the map; it doesn't look unmanageably steep, but it's difficult to be sure. After some back and forth, we decide to head down to Grafenort from here. So down we go. We don't do full-blown "way down from the hochtour" pace, but make good time while still being able to enjoy the views and the really nice path. Past Eggendössli with its amusing gondola, past a couple alps with goats and sheep (scared sheep, curious goats), ever downwards. At some point along the way we realize we can probably make the 5:15 train from Grafenort if we make an effort. So we speed up some and do the last bit in high gear. We get to the train station with a few minutes to spare, drenched in sweat, with tired legs, but smiling and happy after a nice day in the mountains.

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