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.

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. ;-)

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