Friday, August 02, 2013

Spannort trip day 2: Climbing the Gross Spannort

We're on hochtour schedule, so it's breakfast at 4 with the other four people who are planning to climb the Gross Spannort. We're underway at 4:30, following the blue-white marked path up the moraine with our headlamps on because it's definitely still dark. It's amazingly warm already/still (18 degrees), so we're out with t-shirts on. The path is pretty easy to follow, but quite steep and sometimes a bit slippery. Up, up, up we go. At around 5:00 we can see well enough to turn off the headlamps. Up, up, boy is this a long 700m climb, up. At some point, the Gross Spannort, towering above us, takes on a silvery color. The reason for this becomes clear as the last visible bit of moon comes into view through the saddle ahead. There's only a slim crescent there, but boy is it ever bright!

Eventually we hit the first snow field, guess which way to continue on the other side, scramble a bit up to a big stoneman  (we guessed wrong, but it's ok), cross another snowfield and do the last climbing up to the Schlossberglücke. While we enjoy a nice rest, the other two groups of two catch up. We rope in, put on the crampons, and head out across the glacier behind one of the other groups (they did a short rest). Up and around we go, through the end of the rocks that have fallen off the Spannort, slowly climbing and circling around the mountain. It's amazingly warm on the glacier: about 19C on a glacier at 7am at 2700m... wow!
Gross Spannort from the Schlossberglücke
After we've walked halfway around the mountain we get to the Spannortjoch and the beginning of the route up. Now things start to get interesting. :-) We watch the first group go across the first climbing stretch while we take off our crampons and transition to climbing gear, then we follow them up. Andrea leads the first bit of climb around a corner and then belays Greg up while watching the other two vanish around the next corner (good to know where to go). We can walk the stretch (rough footing, plenty of scree laying around, but still walking) to the next climbing section. This is a very enjoyable scramble up 20-25m or so, then another walking stretch following the "trail" left by countless other climbers, many of whom were wearing crampons (lots of little scratches on the rocks to follow). One last climbing/scrambling bit and then we can see the peak, about 100m further above us. The two in front of us are already up there (wow were they fast). There's been enough snow melting that we can do the last bits without heading onto the firn, so we can just slowly walk up the rest of the way to the top. Woo hoo! we made it!
ontop the Gross Spannort
We ditch the packs, enjoy the views, rest, have lunch, take pictures, enjoy the views, and in general enjoy ourselves enough that we're the last to leave. Down we go, down to the last climbing bit. Here there's a set-up for abseiling down past the step. We take advantage of this (our first experience doing this alone, so we aren't exactly super fast), then walk down to the next step. Again we abseil past this. As we're getting ready to move on, Greg realizes something is wrong: he managed to leave his backpack at the top of the abseil. Doh! Stupid! Andrea (not sure why it's Andrea, probably because she's faster), carries the rope back up that fun scrambling bit, collects the pack, and then abseils back down. Nice extra practice! Greg is going to be hearing about it for quite a while! Down some more to the next climbing bit, another abseil (no forgotten pack this time), and then we decide to skip the entry scramble by just abseiling directly onto the glacier. This has a fun "kick off the wall to clear the bergschrund" bit at the bottom. :-)
Greg abseiling down
Back on the glacier safely, we congratulate ourselves, rope back in, and then head back towards the Schlossberglücke. We're not wearing the crampons, so the descent is an excellent, and very fast, combination of plunge stepping and glissade. Seems like the six of us from the Spannorthütte were the only ones out today and we're the last of the six out, so we get to enjoy the very unusual experience of having the entire glacier to ourselves. Very cool! Back at the pass we take another break, eat our second sandwiches and then cache the crampons and ice axes for the next day. Now we just have the long descent on the moraine back to the hut. This is long and at times irritatingly steep and slippery, but we hit the hut at around 1:30.

After a rest and some cool beverages and cake, we do a bit more climbing. It's hot and we are both somewhat tired, so we keep it short. We each do a 4c route in climbing shoes and then attempt a 5a+. Greg gives up on this quickly (stupid when the challenging bit is at the bottom where it's most hazardous!), but Andrea powers through to the top.

Back to the hut, a refreshing shower/splash in the the stream (cold!) and then a nice quiet dinner (there are only four of us eating tonight) before we go to bed early with our heads full of great images. What a day!


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