Friday, August 09, 2019

A long weekend at the Rotondo hut

We had originally planned to do a three day weekend with the SAC, but that got cancelled due to a dodgy weather forecast. Fortunately we had a backup plan ready.

Day 1:
Hike up from Realp to the Rotondohütte. The first bit of the road is the same last time (though we saw two European adders/vipers this time!) but then we head off onto a trail that takes us to the Rottälligrat. Here we follow what is obviously the old route once we get past Stelliboden (the new route isn't on the map yet), but this still takes us up nicely into the fun alpine landscape. We rejoin the new (red-white) trail at the crossing of the trail towards Furkapass (there's a bunch of new/improved trail work up here, likely due to the growing popularity of the 4 Quellenweg). Up, up to the saddle and then we stay on the blue-white path the last bit to p2748. We're both glad to have the climbing done with - it's hot and the packs are heavy, so our legs are tired! Along the lovely block ridge with good views (though the Witenwasserenstock is in clouds), past the sign for "Mount Sunrise", and then down to the hut. We get settled in, enjoy some cool beverages and a piece of cake, rest for a bit, and then have a good dinner and head off the bed. The hut's a bit more than half full, everyone else seems to be hikers who are doing the 4 Quellenweg.

Stats:  10.4km, 1200m up, 220m down.

Day 2:
We saw the Leckihörner when we stayed at the Rotondohütte last year to climb the Witenwasserenstock. The traverse of the two peaks is also described in Dani's book and it looked really cool. That's the plan for today.
We start with decent conditions (though we still can't see the Witenwasserenstock) and follow the blue-white path down to the glacier. We rope up and start towards the Witenwasserenpass. When we get close to the long snowfield that heads up to the ridge it looks less steep than it did from the hut. Since snow conditions are good and the snow goes all the way up, we opt to head up that way. Once at the ridge we take off the crampons, get out the climbing gear and start our way along the ridge. We're in clouds and the weather is in general pretty crappy, so we don't have any views at all and the landmarks on the ridge aren't exactly easy to find/follow. At some point it actually rains for a few minutes, so we put on our hardshells and wait that out. In the approach to the Cli Leckihorn there's a spot with some 3c climbing and then an abseil we were planning on doing, but we end up taking the less technically challenging but more loose and exposed route around that since we think we're at the "reddish tower" we're not supposed to climb (the winner quote from G at the beginning of that: "there's no way going up this bit is second grade climbing, this must be where we're supposed to go around"). Eventually we end up on what we think is the peak of the Chli Leckihorn and we start to follow the ridge down to where we're expecting to hit a snow field we need to cross. At some point A catches a glimpse through the cloud of a snow field off to our left. To our left? There's not supposed to be a snowfield to our left! We figure out that we're heading down the N ridge instead of the W ridge, so we turn around to head back up. Along the way we get enough of a clearing in the clouds to see the snowfield we're supposed to be crossing and the saddle at the beginning of the ridge to the Gross Leckihorn that we're supposed to be crossing to. Yeah! We break out the ice axes, decide against the crampons since the snow is good, and cross to the saddle. A pitch of climbing up around a thin tower, a pitch of mostly scrambling, and then we shorten up the rope and continue along the really nice, mostly narrow and exposed, ridge to the peak. There's a bit of down climbing to the cross, where a family that's hiked up from the hut is sitting and gawking (must be funny to see two people emerge from the fog above you when you feel like you're alone at the top of a mountain). Total time including breaks to the cross is 5:20 (Dani says 4-5, so we're pretty happy with this).We pack the gear away, chat with the family for bit (three generations!), have some food, enjoy the occasional bit of view, and then start down. At the saddle (that G thinks is the Leckipass) we opt to head down the snowfield, which is a bit steeper than G would like, but definitely manageable. Down, down we go the rest of the way to the hut. Total trip time is just under 7 hours. Cool beverages, some resting, a dinner that's really not up to the expected standard, even for a full hut, and then off to bed. Thanks to all the fog, the bit of rain, and the difficult route finding (on a ridge!), it was not an easy day mentally, but we certainly enjoyed ourselves and are a bit proud of ourselves for having pulled it off.
Stats: 6km, 600m up, 600m down

Day 3:
Our original plan was a long traverse of the Muttenhörner, but after reading about an interesting-sounding route to the Gotthardpass in a book at the hut we opt for that instead. The day starts with lovely blue skies and the first view of the Witenwasserenstock that we've had this entire trip. We follow the blue-white path down to the lake at the foot of the glacier and then up, up the moraine to the Hüenerstock. A lot of work has been put into this trail and it's probably only still blue-white because they haven't gotten around to painting over the markings. By the time we get to the peak clouds have started to come in, so we have nice views back to the North, but it's spotty to the South. Now along the ridge on a really nice laid and (excessively) well marked red-white trail that takes us easily along the ridge with clouds blowing over from the South, past the Hüenersattel, and along the old military way over the Ronggergrat to the Passo di Cavanna. Here we take a quick food break out of the wind and then head down the other side of the pass, down, down, down until we hit the blue-white trail towards the Passo di Lucendro and the Gotthard. More nice hiking under the face of the Pizzo Lucendro, into the cloud, and then steeply up to the Cresta del Poncinetto. They're in the process of putting a bunch of chains in here to make the step easy (and, probably, to get this over to red-white too). Really high winds on the ridge and pass, but we manage to get out of the wind to have another food break by the old buildings near the pass. Given the low clouds, we opt not to take the interesting (and unmkared) route down to the pass, but stick to the normal hiking path. This takes us down, down, past the Lago di Lucendro, into ever more threatening looking clouds. About half an hour from the pass it starts to rain. Fortunately it only rains hard for a few minutes of that and we make it to the buildings at the pass before the sky really cracks open. We've got some time, so we grab some food before getting on the bus and starting the long trip back home.

Stats: 14.7km, 780m up, 1270m down

Thursday, August 01, 2019

A long weekend at the Albigna hut

We've planned at least one other trip to the Albigna hut and tried to do a climbing course there a couple of times, but something has always happened in the past, so this was our first trip there.

Things we did, some of these deserve their own posts; they are coming:
  • Thursday: the long trip down, the short hike up the hut, climbing Piccolo on the XXX, checking in, climbing Wassersymphonie on the slabs below the hut (a bit of fun with skipping stands), eating outside, fires, crazy rain
  • Friday: dodgy weather day: hiking up to the Pass da Casnil Sud and then playing a bit on the ridge before heading back to the hut for lunch and a quiet, rainy afternoon.
  • Saturday: early start to climb the Punta da l'Albigna along Via Meuly, the walk to the other routes, and then the last 6 pitches of Via Steiger to the North peak. From there a short stretch along the ridge to the South peak, two abseils, and then the hike back to the hut.
  • Sunday: early start to climb Mild West to the Piz dal Päl. Almost starting in the wrong route before Martin yelled at us from the hut, then on to the correct route. Pretty quick ascent to the top before hiking back to the hut and then heading back down to the gondola
We could easily spend a week at this hut and continue to have big fun on the granite.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

A Sunday stroll outside of Basel

The forecast called for a bit of a break in the heat, but rain in the mountains, so we did a relaxed morning walk close to home.
Stats: 16km, 340m up, 360m down.

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. :-)

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