Friday, August 01, 2014

Up the Gitschen

A few years ago we noticed a very appealing looking mountain while looking out the window of a train heading along the Urnersee. Of course we whipped out the phone and fired up the map to identify it as the Gitschen and realized that it was even more impressively prominent than we had thought: the peak is more than 2000m higher than the lake below it. Awesome! The obvious next step was checking to see how tricky it is to get to the top. Verdict: doable (~T5) but, at the time, probably on the edge for us. It's also high enough and far enough away that it requires some planning. Ever since then the Gitschen has been on the list for a weekend (or long weekend) trip.

On Friday the Gitschen hit the top of the list. The weather has been dodgy, but the forecast was for a sunny day with rain/t-storms in the late afternoon/evening. Saturday's forecast was similar. We hoped to do the Gitschen on Friday, stay in Musenalp, and then do the Uri Rotstock on Saturday if the weather played along. So we were on the 5:30 train from Basel on Friday morning. A few changes later and we caught the bus from Altdorf to Istenthal. This is a fun bus ride: the road from the lake up to the hanging valley is very narrow, winding, and exposed.

From Isenthal we set out on foot up into the Chlital. After a bit on road, a bit on path, and then a bit more on the road (with plenty of cars passing us... definitely not going to be lonely today!), we hit the bottom of the gondola to Gietisflue. After a short wait we took the small gondola (very nice views of the valley from the gondola!) up to Gietisflue. From here it's up, up, up through a rain-saturated field and a bit of woods until we hit the saddle above Hinter Wang. Turning right and more up, up, along a blue-white path that takes us to the hut at Oberberg. There's a good-sized group sitting outside the hut already. We take a break to enjoy the views and have a snack and then continue our way steeply up the slope, stopping occasionally to "wow" at the views towards and along the Urnersee, until we get into the rocks under the peak. Now the path leads us around the corner and under the East face of the Gitschen. This is a nice, very exposed, path with quite a drop off the left side. Greg gets to enjoy a nice elevated adrenalin level for much of it.
The trail under the Gitschen
Looking back on the band under the Gitschen with the trail barely visible
Towards the end we pass a group of nicely setup bivouac sites that have been occupied by a large group of locals who are preparing for tonight's Bergfeuer (it is, after all, the 1st of August!). Past the bivouac sites, the path leads us around the corner and then steeply up to the saddle between the Gitschen and p2540. On this bit we cross two groups heading down (yay!). From the saddle we follow the ridge towards the peak, crossing another couple heading down (yay!). There's an interesting short descent with a cable to secure it, a traverse with a steep and long drop below (more adrenalin!), then up a steep chute to the broad peak. Amazingly, we have the place to ourselves! We find a good place to sit, eat a bit, soak in the views, and take some pictures. Greg's gets a bit of the shivers from the wind and the adrenalin wearing off, but that wears off once we walk around a bit more. As we're eating another group comes up, but they head off further along the peak, so it's like we're still alone.

After lunch we head back to the saddle and then continue along the ridge up the other side. We're now following a faint, but well marked trail that leads us along and down the north face of the ridge. Very, very nice walking with fun views made mysterious by the clouds that keep coming in and then receding.
View of the Uri Rotstock and our way down
At p1989 we hit the path coming down from the Uri Rotstock and stop to eat a bit more, say "hi" to the couple of groups coming down from the Rotstock, and then head on.
More nice, narrow, path along the cliff face, a fun crossing of the Firnbach (even without the water being particularly high, it's nice that they have the cable here), and then more nice path leading us down to the Musenalp. We sit down, order some cool beverages, and relax. It's fun to look back at the wall at the end of the valley and try to pick out our route. :-) At some point it starts raining, so we finish our drinks inside, take a nap, have a nice meal, do a bit more enjoying the views (the rain has stopped), have dessert and a digestif, and then head off to bed. The fireworks don't really wake us up.

The weather on Saturday morning is dodgy: plenty of clouds over the mountains with rain forecast for the early afternoon, so we opt to skip the Uri Rotstock and head out early. After a nice walk down to Isenthal we catch the first bus down and are back in Basel before lunch.

Sub-optimal weather, but a great tour. We definitely need to go back to repeat the Gitschen tour and do the Uri Rotstock.

An aside. Many mountains have very different faces depending on the angle you see them from. The Gitschen is no exception:
The Gitschen from Fl├╝elen, from behind (the "skull view"), and from Musenalp.

The track:

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