Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kandersteg -> Adelboden

The SAC Hochtour that was planned for this weekend was rearranged due to weather, so we did a mountain hike on our own.

After an early start it was tram-train-train to Kandersteg where we got off the train with a bunch of other people. Greg had fears of a very crowded day that were somewhat relieved when more than half of the crowd got on the bus to the gondola station at Sunnbüel (which we've also taken before). Almost all of the rest of the crowd turned off at the KIKA lift station, so after walking through the masses of kids at the scout center (luckily still preparing themselves for the day), we ended up having a quiet path.

After not too long we started the steep climb out of the valley along a very nice path under trees. About 2/3 up the path moved into a gorge along the river, unfortunately that bit was closed do to rock slides, so we had to do the last bit along the road. We ended up in a typical Alp hanging valley (whose name I can't find) full of farm houses, cows, and sheep. Along the valley a bit and then steeply up the valley wall through the rocks, flowers, and meadows, with excellent views towards the Altels, the Tatelishorns, the Balmhorn, the Gasteretal, Oeschinensee, and the Bluemlisalp group (including the amazingly situated Bluelmisalp SAC hut).

After about 500m of climb up the side of the valley we reach the Alpschele, where things flatten out for a bit. From here we can clearly see the ridge we're going to cross towards Adelboden, and it looks cloudy over there, so we opt for an early lunch to enjoy the last of the views and then continue on. Past more cows (including the famed Alp snow cows), up up towards the Alpschelegrat. About 20m below the edge of the ridge, we turn and cross the scree to do the last 100m up to the Bundnerchrinde. Memories of the Breche de Roland as we come to a break in the stone face inside a bunch of clouds, but luckily from the break itself we have clear views on the other side down to Adelboden.

Very entertaining first bit of descent along a quite steep scree slope (unusually "diretissima" for an Alp path), through a lovely green hanging valley, a quick break and snack in the green, and then onwards. The small Bergrestaurant along the way is just too tempting, so we stop for a refreshing beverage and enjoy the views down into the valley, back the way we came, and towards the very interesting looking Lonegroup (including the Lohnerhütte from the SAC). Then down, down, down to the valley floor.

When we get to Oey, we'd have to wait 40 minutes for the next bus, so we do the 100m up to Adelboden itself, wander briefly around town, and then get on the bus for the trip home. The way back is the usual "Sunny Summer Sunday in Switzerland Situation" on the trains, but of course everything works and we make it back with no problems.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Liestal -> Pratteln

Another short Jura hike brought on by unstable weather. The plan was to start in Liestal, head towards Bad Schauenburg and then play things by ear.

Just outside of Liestal, Andrea spotted the first wild strawberry. And, unlike last year, they were ripe. Wow! ripe wild strawberries! After a bit of walking and picking and eating we dumped out the Nalgene bottle and started collecting more seriously. By the time we made it to Pratteln we had managed to gather about 400ml of berries.
Between berry-picking stints we had a nice Sunday stroll through the Baselbiet. We did lunch on top of the Schauenburgflue, with views out over Frenkendorf, Füllinsdorf, Liestal, and Sissach and then continued on to Egglisgraben for a cool beverage (unfortunately not, there was some kind of riding event going on instead) before heading down into Pratteln and the train back home.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

SAC ice course: Tierberglihuette

This was our second time doing the SAC-Basel ice course. The bus dropped us all off over the Steingletscher lake (lots, and lots, and lots of people on the lower bits of the glacier) where we divided into groups and then headed up onto the glacier to start the course. Last time we had to climb almost 1000m before getting to the glacier; this time it started pretty much at the parking lot (thus the lots and lots of lots of people).

We started with some practice on using the ice axe to stop yourself from sliding after falling (with some more adventurous practice runs than last time), then roped in and practiced handling someone else falling while moving on the rope. After some good fun, we put on the crampons and headed up the glacier to the Tierberglihuette. Neither of us is a big fan of hiking on a rope, but we both more or less (Greg more, Andrea less) got used to it along the way. In complete contrast to last year, it was an absolutely beautiful day, so we had great views of the surrounding area (the Sustenhorn, the Gadmertal, the back side of Titlis, etc.). We also saw a couple of very nice ice falls along the way that served to demonstrate quite vividly why you don't walk under broken bits of glacier. Upon reaching the hut, the day was more or less done; we practiced a bit with the rope (shortening the rope and packing it up), but that was more or less it aside from enjoying the views. The hut was completely full (~60 of us, another group of around 10, and one or two people alone), so the atmosphere was predictably entertaining.

We started Sunday with a little tour to the Vordere Tierberg. After an early breakfast (we were underway by 7:30), we roped in and headed up to the Tierberglücke. Along the way we wondered at a couple of ski-touring people climbing (ice climbing) the essentially sheer North-East face of the mountain. At the saddle we switched to a short-rope technique and climbed the very steep last 100m to the peak. The top was pretty crowded (the two crazy touring-ski people, another group from our course, a group of snowboarders with dog), so we just stayed a few minutes before turning around and heading back down to the hut. I guess this counts as our first real mountaineering tour. :-)

The next part of the course was practicing rescue techniques on the nice ice wall next to the hut. We did the same basic technique as last year with the inevitable modifications due to different people being present. To wrap up we were each lowered over the wall and then we practiced climbing up under our own power (but with two ice axes to help).

The way down was along the summer hiking path (blue-white). There was still plenty of snow so we did most of the vertical by heading straight down firn fields. This was also nice practice for moving in steep territory and butt-sliding technique. :-) At the bottom we met up with the rest of the groups and had a rest until the bus came to take us back to Meiringen and the train home.

Once again we shared the train back with kids coming from the open-air festival in Interlaken, but this time the timing was different so they didn't completely fill the train. So the train ride wasn't as entertaining/horrifying as last time. :-)

Unfortunately we forgot to turn the tracker on for the trip down, so that's sketched in by hand.