Saturday, July 06, 2019

Not climbing the Fisistock, but a nice hike around Kandersteg

Our plan was to take a nice T5 route up from the Gasteretal to the Üssere Fisistock based on a description in the Berner Oberland "Interesting Hikes" book and some Hikr reports. We saw this face last time we were in the area and it looks like a great location for some alpine hiking. According to the weather forecast we've got a good window to actually pull this off, so we get an early start from Basel, take the small bus up into the Gasteretal (instead of hiking it like last time we were here) and are hiking by 9:00.

We start a bit along the road, then turn up through the woods on an easy to follow path that leads us up, up the face. The path is enjoyable and pretty easy to follow up until we get to the end of a gorge. We're pretty sure that it's supposed to head left from here, and can maybe see where things continue at the top, but there's a bit in between that is quite exposed and looks ugly. We decide to explore what might be a path up to the right, but a couple minutes of scrambling up there convinces us that this isn't right. There is another guy further in the direction we're heading, but it's pretty clear it's not the way we're supposed to be going. G is extremely skeptical at this point, but we decide to head back to that ugly bit again in order to check it out. The picks come out (we've got them along in case we encounter snow, but they make steep faces much easier too) and we start down. As we're almost there the other guy shows up. He's a shepherd who keeps sheep and goats up on the Halpi above us. We talk for a bit, he confirms that we want to go to the left, expresses extreme skepticism about our shoes (we're wearing the approach shoes) due to the amount of snow he says is in front of us, and then continues back down the mountain. We opt to head down, we're both sure we can do more in the approach shoes than he thinks we can (we've had this before), but there's no sense being stupid and that step in front of us is ugly. So back down we go.

At the bench where the trail rejoins the road we have a food break and plan a spontantour for the rest of the day. Back down the road we go, pick up the road and go past the Waldhus and then start heading up, up, up towards Sunnbüel. This is a fantastic path, mostly shaded, switchbacking with nice views up the side of the valley. We do another food break at an idyllic picnic table at the flat bit around 1700m. During this a giant group (12 people?) of trail runners shows up and picks the same spot for a break. Idyll over... onwards we go, up, up, the last bit to the valley of the Spittelmatte. The trail runners pass us on the way up since they're walking faster than us. :-) We were last up here more than ten years ago and it was winter that time, so this is our first visit in the summer. It's really lovely! We decide to follow the road for a bit in order to push off any actual decision making. We've essentially decided to the loop through the Arvewald, but the sign pointing towards the hotel at Schwarenbach (and the thought of the refreshing beverages awaiting there) changes that... so we head up a bit more until we get to the hotel. The weather is starting to look ugly, and a quick glance at the weather radar confirms that there is a big cloud heading our way (so much for the detail forecast we looked at in the morning). We should have about an hour before things really cut loose, so we finish our drink and then start heading back towards the gondola station, moving quickly.

In order to make things more scenic, we opt to not take the fastest way back and divert via the Arveseeli. This is indeed scenic, particularly the rain drops hitting the little lake. :-) The rain slowly increases in volume until it becomes real. We put on our hard shells and then continue as the thunderstorm arrives. Entertaining walking into the driving rain and hail for a few minutes until it blows over and we finish the rest of the walk to the gondola station without further precipitation. We get tickets, take the gondola down, and decide to walk the 3km back to Kandersteg instead of waiting 30 minutes for the bus. Of course the sky opens up on us 10 minutes into that walk, and this time the rain doesn't stop. We're pretty wet by the time we get to the train station. :-)


Track:
Stats: ~22km (the last 3 to Kandersteg aren't on the track), up 1400m, down 884m


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Hohgant Integrale

One of our long-standing "we should do that" items was to build an overnight into one of our hikes. Further push for this was added by greg reading the microadventures book, so we picked up a pair of bivvy bags last week and set out on Sunday to do a long hike followed by a bivvy and then a short walk to catch the first bus on Monday (the weather on Saturday was forecast to be crap, thus the odd timing).

We took the bus to Kemmeriboden (nice bus ride!) and then started hiking up the valley. The route follows the road (now mostly closed) for the first bit and then turns up the hill. At Hübeli we leave the marked route to take an unmarked (but quite clear) path up, up, up through the woods. We're taking it pretty slow today since we've got all day and the packs are a bit heavier than normal. We manage to miss the fork that would have led us up to the Birchegütsch and remain in the woods under the ridge for a bit longer than planned. The weather is lovely and the views of the Brienzergrat withe the Berner Oberland peeking out above it are great. Snack break with nice views in a clearing just under the Chmmeribodeflue. At some point along the way we come across a nice spring where we can cool down a bit and fill up the water bottles (there's a picture of this, so we should be able to find it on the map).

Just past the Brünneligrind we head up to the ridge itself at p1809. Now it's a lovely bit of ridge hiking, with a bit of light scrambling mixed in, following a trail that's generally clear, until we get to the step up to the Furggegütsch. This has a bit more light climbing, fairly exposed, and generally more ridge fun, until we get up to the peak itself. Here we see the first two other hikers of the day. We have a food break and enjoy the views before continuing on, following the other two hikers who are yodeling as they walk (which is very, very cool) down a bit to traverse under the ridge and then to a crossing. There's another spring near the crossing, so we fill the bottles again before continuing.

There's a trail that leads up to the Hohgant from here, but that is currently crossing a steep snowfield, and scrambling is more fun anyway, so we head steeply up to the saddle to the foot of the first of the three Bären. A bit more scrambling/light climbing gets us to the top of the first one and then it's more of the same (though a bit easier) to get across the other two and onto an easy ridge that leads us up to the broad, flat top of the Hohgant.

Here we're in a cloud, so there's not much to see and even figuring out exactly where we want to go isn't completely trivial (the downside of the broad, flat ridge!). With help of the phone we find our way to the path and continue, eventually coming out of the cloud. Around the Aff and then easily along the ridge to the Hohgant West (not named on the map, p2069). Now further on to p2062 and then we start our descent. Past through a field at around p2032 with great views that would be an excellent (though very open, and no water except melting snow) bivac location - two women are already there hanging out and waiting to pitch their tent. Onwards and downwards we go, down a step via some fun ladders in a couloir, and then up to the Trogehorn. Here we take an energy bar break and enjoy the views one last time before starting our way down, down down the end of the ridge. Above Arni, which is where plan to sleep, we hit a nice stream and fill our water bottles before descending the last bit to Arni.

The blue lines on the map here are not lying: this area is pretty swampy. There's some flat dry space around the hut, but unfortunately the sheep are up (they must have *just* been brought up), so that's out. We find a mostly flat and mostly dry spot under some trees that would likely work as a bivac location and go ahead and make and eat dinner (the beef stroganoff isn't too bad, particularly after adding chipotle powder to it!). During the dinner prep Andrea spots another possible spot a bit lower (at around p1475 on the map). Since we aren't super enthusiastic about where we are, we put on the packs and go check that out. This turns out not to be great, but from the trail leading there we have a good view into the valley and can see that the alp at the end of the valley (p1344) looks empty and has no cows around it. Bonus! Down we go, following the forest road until we get to the alp which is, happily, not yet occupied. There's a flat, mostly dry, spot with nice soft grass behind the hut where we set up our bivvy bags. A bit of a wash in the trough, some repacking to make sure everything is protected from the dew, and then we go to bed and fall asleep to the sound of the cowbells from down the valley.

We're both sleep surprisingly well (though are awake enough to appreciate how good the stars are!) and are up early. Greg needs the headlamp when starting at 4:30, but by 5:00 it's light enough to pack that away. We enjoy a couple cups of coffee/tea while getting everything packed to the sound of the cowbells. There's plenty of dew all over everything, but we stayed dry in the bivvy bags. As planned we are underway, with big smiles on our faces, by 5:30. The walk down the valley in the morning light is great and we are at the bus stop in Innereriz for the 6:30 bus with a few minutes to spare. The bus takes us to Thun, where we grab some breakfast and then get the train that takes us back to Basel. It's fun to be on a train full of commuters after having woken up under an open sky to the sound of cowbells. :-)

Note to our future selves: 2l of water is plenty for an evening + coffee and tea the next morning.

Track (missing the last bit of day 1, the obvious straight line connects the spot we had dinner to the spot below where we camped that my watch found the GPS):
Stats (day 1): 9:32, 16.9km, 1950m up, 1350m down
Stats (day 2): 0:57, 3.7km, 0m up, 288m down

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Rautispitz Traverse

There are a couple of really interesting routes up to the Rautispitz that have been on our list for a couple of years. Today's plan was to do the NE ridge, which is a T6 with some climbing. The hotel at Obersee was full (on a Friday! outrageous!), so we ended up staying down in the valley (definitely worth going back to the Lintharena), giving ourselves the "opportunity" to do an additional 500 vertical meters. The weather forecast called for things to be dry all day and then rain starting in the early evening, so everything looked good. Unfortunately a stripe of rain went through during the night, raising a question as to whether or not our planned route is doable. Since we can always take the normal route up if the more adventurous one looks bad, we opt to head out anyway.
Rautispitz with NE ridge the night before
We're underway by 8 and make good time through Näfels and then up, up, up on the nice path through the woods that leads us to the Obersee. We've stayed here before and it is a really nice setting. It's not hot, but it is super humid, the packs are heavy (climbing gear and ice axes), and we're making good time, so by the time we make it up to the hotel G is totally soaked through and even A is showing signs of sweating. There are a bunch of cars here in the parking lot and people getting ready for a day of hiking or fishing. It's pretty obvious at this point that the ground is way too wet for us to be doing the steep grass slopes and scrambling that's required (the rock is probably dry, so the climbing would be fine) on the NE ridge, which is currently under a cloud, but we don't have to make the actual decision for a while, so we continue on.
up up up under clouds
We continue on the path, up, up, up and take our first break where the (steep!) road turns off at p1169. Someone passes us here, but otherwise we haven't seen anyone underway. During the break we make the (obvious) decision not to do the planned route and to just take the normal route up to the Rautispitz instead. We can decide whether or not to do the planned traverse of the Wiggis once we're up top and see what conditions are like. Onward and upwards we go. Neither of us notices the crossing at p1279 that would have been our route if we'd be heading towards the ridge (worth remembering for the future: that one is easy to miss). At p1358 we turn off to take the normal hiking path to the Rautispitz via the Geisschappel. Up, up we go, crossing two people on their way down, up to a reasonable spot to take an energy-bar break and enjoy the views. There are plenty of low clouds around, but we've still got good views. After the rest we continue up, through a quite steep bit onto the first step and then around the corner of the Geisschappel. Here we have a nice view across the bowl we're about to traverse and the next parts of the route up. There's a surprising amount of snow still in all of this, so we're not at all unhappy to have the big boots on and to have ice axes with us.
through snow and clouds
Across the bowl and some snow patches and then up, up, sometimes on snow, sometimes muddy grass, starting to hit the first of the low clouds ourselves now, up, up, up until we get to the ridge above Gumen. Here we stop and take a food break and enjoy the dramatic/mysterious views - the combination of the snow and the clouds makes this whole thing feel more dramatic than normal hiking paths normally do. After the break we continue up the last couple hundred vertical meters to the Rautispitz itself. As we're arriving the guy who passed us below is leaving (we haven't seen him again 'til this point, so it's likely he came up the other hiking path) and there's one other person on the peak. There are no views to speak of due to the clouds, but we still take a quick chocolate break before continuing on.
views from the top of the Rautispitz
The plan for the rest of the trip is to head up to the Wiggis, taking either the blue-white marked standard route or the more scrambly route right up the ridge, and then to continue the traverse down from there. We head down from the Rautispitz to the saddle where the other hiking path comes up, then continue along the ridge. There's still way too much snow (cool, high-alpine looking snow!) in the East face to follow the blue-white trail, so we take the scrambly way (which we probably would have anyway). This is secured with a cable, which is quite comforting in a couple of places, and helps to make the route clear throughout. We're up at the cross sooner than expected and continue from there to the actual peak. We're completely in cloud at this point so there's no question of enjoying the views.
steep gras on the last part to the Wiggis
The path continues along the ridge for a bit and then descends pretty steeply towards the saddle at p2140. This is all way muddier and slipperier than you'd like, so it's pretty slow going. From here we go around the corner and through a dramatic bit under the overhanging walls of the ridge before heading steeply down again. The path here is too muddy/slippery to be fun, so we follow an older track down through the snow field (very nice to have the ice axes with us!) until that ends and then just carefully descend on (or near) the path until things are less steep. At Auerenalp we take another food break and enjoy the intermittent views. We opt not to head down to the Klöntalersee from here, but continue down towards Netstal. The first bit of this is pretty good, but the long descent through the woods - along the trail that the cows just came up - does get a bit monotonous. Just below the big bunker complex at around p740 we get diverted onto a different trail (the other one is closed due to damage from an avalanche), which is a bit longer but has the advantage of at least being a different type of walking. Finally down at Auli we follow the road into Netstal and the train station. Fortunately we get to the kiosk 5 minutes before they close and are able to get important provisions for the trip back home. :-)
down down down
This was entertaining and a good training tour, but we really missed out on having views to enjoy. We'll definitely have to go back when conditions are better and do the NE ridge as originally planned! Oh, and then go back again and do the Schnüerli route up to the Rautispitz... that one also looks wild.

Track
Stats: ~21km, 1950m up, 1930m down

Saturday, June 08, 2019

A Gantrisch traverse

The forecast rain and thunderstorms for Sunday afternoon and Monday led us to cancel our plans for a long climbing weekend, so we went for a nice hike instead.

From the bus stop at Schwefelbergbad we follow a few other hikers up the trail and through the woods. When the trail turns right to start heading up through a field we turn left and cross the stream on a bridge and then head up the grassy ridge on the other side. There's not even a use trail here, but the direction is clear: up up up to the Chlyne Ochse. It's all grass flank, so the route is pretty direct: straight up the broad ridge to the peak. Towards the top things get a bit steeper and there are some rocks and bushes, but there are no technical bits: just up, up the steep grass (yay for sticks!). Once at the peak we take a short break and read some descriptions of the next bit up to the Ochse. The couloir that is the obvious way to do the last bit to the peak is full of snow, so we're not doing that. The shoulders to the left and right of that don't look super promising, but we figure we'll go look. We continue along the ridge, past a few gendarmes and then up the steep last bit of grass to the peak (it's a lot less dramatic than it looked). Here we aren't alone: a couple of other groups who were on the bus (they've come up the standard trail) are also there. We do a lunch break, enjoy the awesome (!) views of the Alps, and plan where we're going to go from here. Conditions on the Gemsgrat look great, and the ridge after it is appealing, but we'd like to end up in Simmental today and going that way will lead to a long stretch through the valley. We decide to leave the Gemsgrat for another time.

Now we follow the path down to the saddle at Alpiglegalm and then pick up a use trail that heads up to the Hane and the next ridge. This is a lovely thing with a bit of scrambling, a couple of really good spots to bivac (aside from the lack of water) and ongoing great views. The rest of the ridge is a T6 thing that we aren't necessarily ready for today, so we follow a bit of use trail down into the South face, descend steeply for a bit (we're wearing the big boots today and they are just soooo good on steep grass), and then traverse to the pass at Grenchegalm. There are a couple of snow fields in there, but the conditions are good and with the exception of one short stretch (Greg uses his ice axe here while kicking steps) it's not particularly steep. At the pass we re-meet a group of four hikers who had been on the bus and who had left the peak of the Ochsen not too long after we got there. Now we're on a marked trail that takes us up, up to the peak of the Widdersgrind. Here we do another food break and enjoy the views some more before continuing along to p2025 and then following the use trail along the east ridge. This is a nice bit of walking down to the fields around Holzmad, where we take the direttissima descent to the buildings at Nässli. From here it's a marked trail down the rest of the way to Oberwil.

As we join the trail there's a sign saying that it's 1.5 hours to Oberwil. The next train leaves in an hour. It's probably doable, but we decide not to push and just take the train in 2 hours. So we take a break in the fields below Nässli and then continue down along the nice trail at a normal pace. Just outside of Oberwil we realize that the train station is in view and that we have 7 minutes to catch the earlier train (WTF? there's no way the 1.5 hours on that sign was right). Rather than having to wait the hour, we do a bit of jogging and make it down to the train station just as the gates are dropping across the road. We have the 30 seconds necessary to buy tickets and then we get on the train, laughing, and start the trip back home.

Another great day of hiking in the Gantrisch. We certainly need to go back and to do more here. :-)

Track: Stats: 12km, 1415m up, 1955m down

Sunday, June 02, 2019

The Niesen North Ridge

The original plan to take advantage of the fantastic weather, but somewhat unusual snow conditions was to climb the Simmeflue, which is a tour we definitely enjoy. As we were waiting to change trains in Spiez the Niesen caught our eye (the normal hiking route up looks free of snow) and we joked around doing that instead. It was only joking around since Greg had done some trail running the day before and had pretty tired legs. On the train to Wimmis we notice that the North side of the Niesen is also largely snow free; we've talked about doing the North ridge a few times but whenever we've thought about it the conditions have never been right. We take some reco-photos and Andrea does some very quick Hikr research and by the time we get to Wimmis 5 minutes later we've more or less changed our plans. Another quick bit of reading and looking in Wimmis decides it: we're doing the North ridge of the Niesen, not the Simmeflue. :-)

We start through town, gently ascending,  until we hit the woods at the edge of town, where the forest road starts climbing for real. We ignore the "trail closed" signs (there was apparently a rockslide last year that took out the trail after Im hindere Ahorn, but we aren't planning on doing that anyway) and head up, up, up. We start with about 900m of climbing under the trees on a mix of trail and forest road, nowhere too steep, just up, up, up. In the clearing at Im vordere Ahorni we stop at the very nicely situated picnic table, have a food break, and enjoy the views. Another bit on the nice trail through the woods and then at the next picnic table we turn off onto a smaller trail and start heading up the ridge. From here on out we stay mostly only the ridge and are doing more of a direttissima. We do hit some snow patches along the way, but we've got ice axes with us and are wearing the big boots, so these aren't too bad (since some of them are over rocks we still try and avoid them to the extent possible). At around 2000m we come out of the trees, take another food break with great views, and then finish the last few hundred vertical meters to the top, where we get the fun of climbing over the ladder onto the tourist platform and into the crowd. It's a super clear day, so the views are spectacular. We hang out for a bit to enjoy the views, decide not to walk down (there's no way this is going to be fun for greg), and go wait the 15 minutes for the next funicular down.

It doesn't get much more "Andrea Special" than this: off the train and then 1700m of constant climbing. :-) It was a great tour: a nice route, lots of vertical, excellent views. No real scrambling, but you can't have everything. ;-)

Track
Stats: 8.1km, 1697m up, 28m down

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Not the most efficient way to get from Grandval to Gaensbrunnen

Snow conditions in the higher mountains are still a bit dodgy, so we took advantage of Sunday's nice weather by doing some more Jura hiking.

We started in Grandval underneath the hochnebel and then headed up, up, up, mostly along a forest road, through the fog (with very cool light as we got towards the top of it) and eventually up to the broad flat top of Mont Raimeaux. We'd thought that the route between the two Combes above the climbing area would be dramatic, but that didn't quite pan out thanks at least partially to the fog. Up top we put on sunscreen and enjoy the stroll to the peak with its tower; we've been here a couple of times before. We enjoy the views, have a snack in the sun at the picnic tables (g: "too bad we don't have cards with us, we could hang out here and enjoy the sun for a while!") before continuing on our way.

The trail takes us easily along the ridge and then we descend a bit to Raimeux de Cremines. Just past that we take take a break to have some lunch at the view point (plenty of people starting to gather at these picnic tables). A bit more along the edge of the cliff and then we head steeply down into the gorge (Le Gore Virat). This isn't particularly long, but it's really nice (and popular, plenty of people coming up the gorge). Amazing that we haven't been here before.

Back down in Corcelles we decide to continue on for at least one more ridge. The forest road takes us out of town towards the Zoo, but we turn off onto another forest road before getting there and start a long, gentle (and very enjoyable) climb up to the next ridge. Up towards the top we see the first other hikers we've seen since the gorge. Along the ridge a bit and then we start the long descent down, down to Gänsbrunnen. As town comes into view we realize that we can theoretically catch the next train (we hadn't thought we'd be able to do that), so we end up jogging for about the last km. We get to the station with a couple of minutes to spare and are back in Basel in time to enjoy cocktails on the balcony. Nothing wrong with that. :-)

This was a nice day of walking. Note for future reference: with the exception of the bit through the gorge this would be a nice run. There's a longer descent from Raimeux to Corcelles that stays on the ridge longer and that could be a good alternative. There's at least one fountain in Corcelles, so refilling water is also easy.

Track:
Stats: 20.5km, 1375m up, 1275m down.

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.
The Gonzen as seen from Sargans
After a bit through town, the ascent starts. Past the old Schloss, up past some houses, through the fields 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 we 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.
across the Follaplatten

through the cave
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.
lots of snow on the ridge to the top
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.
down the ladders
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.

Track:
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).
along the Rumpelflue
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.
in the Oberi Schlucht
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.
views
Aside from the "amusing" weather, this was a really nice day out. Super varied hiking and a nice line on the map. :-)

Track:
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.
Villa Las Rosas
Monday
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
Droit:
Lots of easy routes and general practice

Gauche:
G, F, E, C
Orgon, Sector Beauregard, Mur du quatre
Tuesday
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
Andrea:
E, H, I, J (top rope), K (tried and failed top rope), R (tried and failed lead and top rope)

Greg:
A, I, E (lead and top rope with approach shoes), J (top rope)

Sector Rue du Moulin
Greg:
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. :-)
Climbing with views
Wednesday
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
Calanque de Sormiou, Le pouce in upper left corner
Thursday
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.
lovely meadow and rock at Prairie
Friday
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)
project at Acteur's Studio
Saturday
packing up and heading back to Bern and, once again, crap weather.


Fazit
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.

Friday
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:

Saturday
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.

Sunday
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.

Monday
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.


Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Sunday stroll on the Tüllinger Hugel


It's fruit blossom season, so we decided to do a nice Sunday stroll on the Tüllinger Hugel to check it out.
Nothing fancy here, just a nice walk with nice views on a lovely spring day and lots of different kinds of blooming trees.

A couple of bits:
  • As we were starting to get a bit hungry we saw a group of people ahead. When we got closer we realized that there was a stand selling food and wine. A stand run by the people we normally buy fruit from. Bonus! So we stopped and had a glass of wine along with some bread and schmalz. mmmm... civilized!
  • By the time we got to Ötlingen we were hungry again. The places that had outside tables were all full, but we happened across a cafe that was going to open up in 10 minutes. We grabbed a table and settled into wait. And not a moment too soon: people immediately started showing up and, by the time the cafe opened, there was a line. Good timing!

Track:
Stats: 11.8km, ~500m up and dow

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.




Track:

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.

Routes:
  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.


Rätikon