Saturday, June 21, 2014

Climbing around the Wiwannihütte

We had been talking about doing alpine multi-pitch routes for a while, this weekend we actually went and did one. We picked the Wiwannihütte as a starting point due to the large variety of reasonable sounding routes in the area, some cool pictures we ran across, and the fact that we haven't been in Wallis in a while.

Saturday morning we took the early train out from Basel. The Lotschberger from Bern was still pretty full, but since we had seats it didn't matter. ;-) The walking started in Ausserberg, where a bunch of other climbers also got out and switched to a bus/alpine taxi up the first stretch. Hah! alpine taxi! Who needs that?! Walking up the whole way with the heavy packs is good practice!

ascent to the Wiwannihütte underneath the Wiwannihorn
Up, up, up we go. First through town, then a bit of crossing fields and some woods, not particularly well marked, then a real trail up, up. It's a really nice trail and a beautiful day and we're mostly sheltered from the sun, but the packs are definitely heavier than we've been carrying and we certainly end up doing some real sweating. Past the end of the road (with the nice wooden platform built out over the drop to allow cars to turn around) and the parked cars, up, up, past the avalanche barriers. We do a lunch break and enjoy the views under some of the last trees and then continue on. At some point the hut becomes visible: small and nicely sited on a saddle. The last bit up is across a broad, green meadow full of sheep; how idyllic. :-) At the hut we check in, rest for a bit, enjoy the views, survey the area (nice!), get the stuff we don't need out of our packs, and then head up to the Schepfjipfiler to do a bit of climbing.
Panoramic views from the Wiwanni hut

We pick the two-pitch route Katzenauge (4a, 4c) in the Schepfjipfiler area. The routes are well labelled and easy to find. We haven't climbed granite before, so this is really new: smaller features in the rock, but excellent traction. We've heard people talk about "Reibungskletterei" in this area and now it's quite clear what they mean; it certainly seems to call for a different technique. The 4c pitch, which Greg leads, is a bit more adventurous than expected for the rating, but manageable (definitely need to do more practice on granite!). We manage to do a reasonable job with the multi-pitch technique but make a bit of a mess of the abseil preparations; ah well... we're here to practice. Very enjoyable climbing!
Andrea in the Katzenauge (4a, 4c) in the Schepfjipfiler area
Back at the hut we have a snack (mmm, freshly baked carrot muffins) and then hang out and soak in the spectacular views until dinner. The hut is completely full (Andrea reserved the last two beds), but they are well organized and everything goes smoothly. We both sleep quite well.

Sunday morning starts comparatively late for a mountain hut (it's all climbers and they don't need to get an early start). After breakfast we head back up, this time to the foot of the Klein Augstchrummenhorn (what a mouthful!), find the start of the route Enzian (4a, 4a, 4c, 3c, 4b, 4b) and get ready to go. There's another pair climbing the route Salamander next to us (they are already a pitch in) and the couple we had dinner with shows up to also do Salamander, but we've got Enzian to ourselves. Off we go! The climbing is, once again, quite nice: the granite is grippy, the bolts are nicely set, the stands are spacious... great stuff! Andrea ends up leading the 4c pitch in the middle, which also has a nice "wow are there not many hand holds" section, but the rest of the climbing is not particularly challenging, just very fun. The transitions at the stands go smoothly and, before we know it, the six pitches are done and we're at the end. Yay! Our first multi-pitch alpine ascent. We're not quite at the top of the mountain, so we switch to a short-rope technique and do the last bit of ridge to the top alpine-style. Up top we take a break to enjoy the views and eat a bit. The weather is looking somewhat threatening (some dark clouds around), so we keep it reasonably short.
Andrea following Greg's lead in Enzian
along the ridge to the Chlys Augstchrummenhorn

Instead of abseiling down past the groups still coming up, we put on our boots and head down via the West ridge. This is a quite entertaining piece of walking/scrambling. There are some bolts set along the way to use for belaying, but there are plenty of convenient rocks to use, so we opt for the alpine method. After a nice bit of ridge we turn downwards and descend the steep side of the ridge into the bowl to the south. Down, down we go, across a nice long snow patch, and then through a herd of sheep to a saddle. On the other side of the saddle we stop to pack away the climbing gear. During the break a group of 10-15 black and white Walliser goats shows up and comes down to investigate us. The sheep, of course, keep their distance but the goats are fearless, so they walk up to play, sniff, nibble, etc. We manage to get everything packed away despite the entertainment and then head down towards the hut. The goats come with us. Descending a steep slope surrounded by a bunch of goats wearing bells is pretty funny: the two lead goats wouldn't go first, but they definitely wanted to go second, so Greg always had a goat or two directly behind him. If we stopped and Andrea got right behind Greg, as soon as we started walking again a goat would push by Andrea to get in the second position. Back down in the talus, we pass a group coming the other way. They find the situation hilarious (of course). We hope the goats will get distracted and start following them, but no... they stick with us. As we descend the last bit to the hut, we attract a fair amount of attention: there's a line of people standing in front of the hut; I'm sure it's almost as amusing to them as it is to us. :-) We lose our escort once we get to the hut.
greg found a new friend....
Back at the hut we have a break, enjoy the views, eat a bowl of soup, and repack for the descent. The route down is more or less the same as the way we came up (less false starts on the way down) though we enjoy the very nice trail even more heading down than we did while going up. Rain threatens along the way, and we even get a few drops, but we make it back to the train station in Ausserberg without getting soaked. Our timing is once again good: we've got 7 minutes to wait for the train. The train ride back is the usual Sunday-afternoon-in-the-summer chaos, but since we've gotten on the train early we've got seats.

It was a very nice weekend of climbing. We could do more of this. :-)

Track (just for the route up at the moment):

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