Saturday, August 17, 2013

Strahlegghorn traverse

This weekend we did a trip with the SAC Basel to the Strahlegghorn. [Aside: Baechli has a good topo for this tour.]

From the train station in Grindelwald, we walked through town (crazy!) to the Pfinstegg gondola station to take the gondola up and save some time. The path leads us from the gondola station up the valley, above the Gletscherschlucht, steadily climbing with a nice view across to the Ostegg (end of the Hornligrat from the Eiger). Up, up we go, with more and more of the end of the valley and the chaos of what remains of the two Ischmeer glaciers coming into view. At Bäregg we take a break and have some cool refreshment (mmm, Holundersirup) before continuing on the blue-white marked path around the next bowl. At the tip we do a lunch break, enjoying the amazing views of ice and mountains. From here it's up, up, up, along the path, over some ladders, past some chains, always climbing until we reach the Schreckhornhütte. Cool beverages, a refreshing wash in the fountain, some planning for Sunday, and lots and lots of marveling at the views. I'm pretty sure this is the best view we've yet had from an SAC hut. It's really too bad that the tour possibilities from here are so limited unless you're crazy-skilled and -fit. After a good dinner we enjoy the views a bit longer and then head off to bed to be ready for breakfast at 4:30 (the folks doing the Schreckhorn breakfast at 2:00. yikes!)

In the morning we are underway by 5:00. It seems we're the only ones doing the Strahlegghorn, win! The sky is completely clear and it's pretty warm (~8C) as we set off in the dark. First it's down a bit, then along the glacier, past the stream coming down, then off the glacier and up. There is some marking here, but it's not super easy to see (particularly with just head lamps), so we're both glad to have Markus up in front scouting the way. Up, up, up, we go. At times with quite good footing and at times in "two steps forward, one and half back, boy I hope I don't kick anything big loose and onto the folks below me" mode. Along the way we see a few ibexes; it's been a while since we encountered those. Up, up, up until we reach Gaagg, where tracks lead off to the left towards the Schreckhorn. A bit further along we stop for a break and to put on the climbing gear and crampons, then it's up the last bit to the Strahleggpass. It's great to be in the sun! :-)

At the pass we rope in (two groups of three), 3-4m distance, and then set off up the ridge. This is really nice climbing: stable rock, great grips, plenty of places to drape the rope for a dynamic belay (no idea what the actual translation of this is), occasional glimpses of sun (we're on the shady side of the ridge), just great. We're at the top of the Strahlegghorn all too soon (we all agree there). There's not a lot of room up top, but we all manage to find a place to sit, eat something, and enjoy the views. We've got clear views to the Oberaarhorn and Studerhorn as well as the Mönch, Eiger, the toweringly beautiful Finsteraarhorn, Schreckhorn, Lauteraarhorn, etc. Just great.

After a good rest we get going again. We head down the Southwest ridge. It's pretty easy going (walking, not climbing), though it takes plenty of concentration to not do walk-and-gawk. At around p3174 we put the crampons on and head down the firn, with a bit of rock mixed in, until we run out of snow. The crampons go back in the bag along with the climbing gear and the rope and we continue normally the rest of the way. At around 2880 we pick up the traces of the path we're going to follow the rest of the way down. Down, down we go, past the foundations of the old hut, down down, until we meet the trail we took up this morning. Onwards and downwards, back across the glacier, back up the last bit, and then we're at the hut. Another refreshing wash in the fountain, cool beverages, more appreciation of the views, and a good rest before heading back down the way we came up yesterday to the Pfinstegg. We get to the gondola a few minutes before it starts to rain. What perfect timing. :-)

It was a great tour and really good for us to have done something like this... now we want to do more. Track:

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