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.

After a bit through town, the ascent starts. Past the old Schloss, up past some houses, through the fiels 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 iwe 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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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

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. :-)

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

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.

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)

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.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Eulengrat, and a couple of bonuses

We had originally thought about doing a snowshoe tour for the weekend, but the weather was so warm and sunny that we decided to go climbing instead.

We ended up doing the Eulengrat together with a couple of other folks from the SAC Basel. This is mostly the same approach as we took for the Balmflue last year, but shorter. We weren't super early, so we weren't completely sure what to expect for crowds, but we ended up only seeing one other group on the route (must be because it was Saturday). The route was quite nice, good rock, enjoyable climbing, only greasy in a couple of places, great views (unfortunately it was hazy, so no Alp view for us). Definitely one to go back to for early-season fun. :-)

Since we were pretty quick (~2 hours for the 9 pitches), and the day was so nice, we decided to do another route, so on the way back to Oberdorf we stopped by the Bubikof and did the easy two pitch route to the top there. This time there was no risk of being lonely: no surprise that there were loads of people on the routes and that we spent a bit of time enjoying the views and waiting to abseil down.

Since we had some time before the train back, we then walked to the spot where you can see the big dinosaur footprints preserved in the wall (it wasn't a wall back then, of course). Really impressive and cool (and somewhat surprising that we'd never been there).

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Climbing above Court

The climbing area "Dalle de Court" is one we've known about for a bit, but haven't gone too since all the routes but one (a 5b) are in 5c, 5c+ range. Oh, and the public transportation connections are pretty bad. Yesterday we decided to go anyway.

We took the train to Moutier and then walked the 6km to Court from there instead of waiting 53 minutes for the next train. It ended up being a lovely walk through the gorge, so it wasn't bad at all. The crag is a big slab just above town.

We started by taking the 4c up to the grass band, and then from there climbed (route numbers from the SAC guide):

  • 4 (5c), both lead, then both toprope to practice a bit
  • 2 (5c+)
  • 1 (5b+)
  • 6 (5c+)
  • 7 (5c+)
This was really, really nice slab climbing, with not much at all for the hands on most of the routes, and mainly of small stuff for the feet. You could really put your feet just about anywhere, so long as you were careful about it.

We left when the weather started to turn, right about the time it was forecast to do so. We'd just missed the train from Court (and that has a bad connection in Moutier anyway), so we walked back through the gorge again, doing it pretty fast since the weather was only going to deteriorate. We didn't get tooooo wet. :-)

This was very fun climbing and we definitely want to go back.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Climbing above Oberdorf

Another warm sunny day in February, so we went climbing in the area Oberdörferchlus.

The routes don't have names, but here's what we climbed, numbers from Plaisir Jura, counting left to right:

Sektor Platten:
  • 5 (5a)
  • 7 (5a)
  • 8 (5b)
  • 6 (5b)
  • 9 (5c)
  • 12 (5c)
  • 11 (6a)
  • 10 (6a), G didn't make it over the step on this one, but A had no problems.
And then, as dessert, on the Bubikof: the 2 pitch Südwand (4b, 4c)

A great day with some very fun "Platten" climbing.

There are soooo many of this areas in the Jura that we haven't been to yet.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Another Gerstelgrat traverse

Since the weather was great and very non-February, we went up and did the Gerstelgrat again. As usual, it was a ton of fun. This is a great little tour and awesome to have so close by.

We were pretty efficient this time and only did static belaying on the two bits with actual climbing. The total time on the ridge, not counting breaks, was about 2 hours.

A note to our future selves, if/when our climbing skills improve significantly, the south wall here looks like a great winter climbing area.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Climbing above Orvin

Somehow we've never climbed in the area above Orvin before... weird.

We picked the area because it's south facing and, even with the great weather, we weren't 100% sure about the temperature. Didn't need to worry about that: it was great.

After walking up out of town we followed the unofficial (though marked) path up, up, until hitting Sector Dalle de l'Y, from here we traversed (not the easiest traverse) to Sector Grande Dalle, where we spent the rest of the time climbing.

  1. Les Bénévoles (5a), first pitch
  2. La Ramassoire (5a), first pitch
  3. La Ramassoire (5b), all three pitches
  4. La Brosse (5a)
Great climbing on lovely rock, relaxed level of difficulty, fantastic weather. Pure fun!

After finishing we followed the unofficial (though marked) path up, up some more until it hit the normal path (a forest road, snow-covered) which we turned onto and followed down to Frinvillier.

It's worth pointing out that we used the new SAC Tourenportal to help plan this, Andrea has a subscription for the site and it's just excellent!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Snowshoeing towards the Klein Mythen

Our first attempt to recreate (part of) a fun blue-white hike on snowshoes. The weather forecast is dodgy for the afternoon, so we have something reasonably short planned: heading up to the Klein Mythen Vorgipfel on snowshoes and then doing the ridge to the Klein Mythen itself with crampons.

We start under clouds in Brunni and start our way up to Zwischenmythen. The snow is packed enough to just walk the first bit, but once we're in the woods we put on the snowshoes. Up, up we go, following the remains of a track, but still having to do a fair amount of trail making. Once past the alp at p1353 we lose the old track and it's trail breaking the whole way... slow going in the deep snow, but fun to go through the woods like that. Once we get to the cross at the pass we turn up the ridge and start to climb more steeply. Route finding is interesting here in the steep woods, and breaking the trail makes us quite slow, but up up we go until we emerge from the trees.

The last steeper bit up to the ridge has less snow, making for easier walking but feeling more precarious, so out come the ice axes. By the time we get to the ridge itself greg is ready to stop and doesn't have much interest in putting on the crampons and traversing the narrow ridge, so we stop for a break and to enjoy the fantastic views. The sun even comes out, yeah!

After the break Greg puts on crampons for the first, steeper, bit of the descent and gets to enjoy plunge stepping his way down. Andrea follows with the snowshoes. Once we're out of the steep bit we have a quick lunch break and then head down through the woods, more or less following our route up. Descending in the deep snow sure is easier than ascending was!

Back at the alp we realize that we've got a ton of time before the next bus, so we do an extended break before heading back down the way we came up. We've got time to have a cool drink before getting on the bus and starting back to Basel.

This was a nice trip! For planning future stuff: trail breaking in deep snow, particularly uphill, is slooooow. Greg needs to get used to doing slopes above 30% on snowshoes (with the crampons it was no problem). Doing a narrow snow covered ridge is going to be a psychological challenge. :-)

Track, obviously somewhat screwed up:

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Snowshoeing in the Rätikon

The plan for the weekend was to do a snowshoe tour with the SAC up to the Tilisuna Hütte (not staffed at this time of year, so we would carry our food up with us), climb the Sulzfluh, and then find an interesting route down on the Austrian side on Sunday. The weather and avalanche situation changed that: the avalanche danger is already orange and with more snow expected on Saturday night, it's not going to get any better. We have a joking conversation on the train about having to spend a couple of days in the hut, but it's pretty clear that we're going to have to change plans.

The bus drops us in Rüti and we start walking up into the valley. It's foggy/cloudy, so we don't see a whole lot as we go, but we can maybe convince ourselves that it's getting lighter. At Äbi we put on the snowshoes and then continue along, heading off the well trampled path now, up the last bit to the Alpenrösli hotel (this is where we stayed during an SAC avalanche course some years ago). By this point it's clear that, even though the sun is currently shining, we're just going to be doing a daytrip, so we ditch the food and overnight gear at the hotel, have some hot drinks, and then set off up the valley with lighter packs.

It's great to be out in the sun and the mountains are just lovely, so this is very fun walking. We follow the valley until we can see where it starts to get steep at the end, stand around for a while enjoying the views and looking at the route we originally planned, and then turn back to the hotel. We get to see several small avalanches coming off the face of the Wiss Platte and Schijenflue, which is fun. By the time we're back the clouds have closed up again (bye bye sun). We have a quick snack (really, really good spice cake!) and then head back down the way we came.

It's too bad that the weather/avalanche situation cut this one short; it's a beautiful area and we'll have to go back. Still, it was great to be out and moving and to get at least a bit of time in the sun.