Sunday, October 19, 2014

A ridge above the Kloentalersee

text to come


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Schwaendli to the Kloentalersee via the Vorder Glaernisch

text to come.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Climbing the Galtigentürme

This climbing tour along the Galtigentürme was on our list from earlier in the year: we had signed up to do it with the SAC, but then the tour ended up being cancelled due to bad weather (like so much this summer). Since we had good weather forecast for Sunday, we decided to give it a try on our own. It's been raining a fair amount, so we figure a climbing day is better than doing one of the "more interesting" hikes involving steep grass slopes.

After the train to Alpnachstad we buy tickets for the cog railway up the Pilatus. The woman at the counter lets us know that if we want to come down on the cog railway, we will need to reserve a slot for it. She recommends that we do this "as soon as possible" once we get up top. Yikes... guess big crowds are to be expected! Mixed in with the large group of Asian tourists waiting to board the train are a fair number of climbers (recognizable from the helmets and/or ropes on their packs)... not too much of a surprise that we're not going to be lonely on the mountain today. ;-) We, along with the rest of the climbers, get out at Ämsigen and head up the trail towards Matt. This takes us up, at first through woods, then up, up along a nice, if somewhat muddy, trail.  When we hit Mattalp we can already see at least two groups on the "standard" route up the Mattalpplatte and there are three groups who've arrived in front of us who are waiting and at least one behind us. Hrm. That's a crowd. There are other routes up the face, but we don't have a real topo with us and aren't sure which ones are both of an appropriate difficulty level and go all the way to the top, so we opt to skip this first bit and go straight to the first of the towers.
crowd heading towards the Mattalpplatte
There seems to be something like a path along the cliff to the left, so we head up that way along with another pair who seem to not be interested in waiting. Partway up someone calls them back and directs them around the cliff the other way; being stubborn (imagine that), we continue up. The traces of trail are steep, particularly once we get into the grass, but the footing is good, so it's no problem to get up to end of the face and then around it and back to the entry point for the first tower. Here we wait for two groups to clear the way and then start climbing ourselves. The first three towers don't have anything more difficult than 4a, so we climb in our boots (as does pretty much everyone else we see).
view down along the grat of the 1st towers and further down to Mattalp

The ridge is a fun climb: it's not particularly difficult (though quite exposed), but it's interesting and the views of the surrounding mountains rising over the sea of clouds are great. We do some waiting because of the two in front of us, and cause the two behind us to wait a bit, but there's enough room at all the stands so it's not overly cramped and the atmosphere is good. We do an ok job with the communication bits, certainly better than on the Brüggligrat, despite the occasional noise from the cog rail below us.
climbing above the clouds

Between the third and the fourth tower we take advantage of the broad grass ridge to take a lunch break. It's a nice spot for a break, but this turns out to be a strategic mistake. The first pitch of the fourth tower is the trickiest bit on the ridge (4c), so it's a natural choke point. By the time we're done with lunch there are two groups climbing the first pitch and another four groups waiting to start. We opt, reluctantly, to skip it rather than dealing with that line. It might have been better to do lunch "in line" at the bottom of the tower (though that still would have resulted in climbing in more of a crowd than Greg is enthusiastic about).
long line at the bottom of the fourth tower

Up the steep grass slope to the right of the tower we go, until we hit the ridge at it's top, from there along the ridge, with a bit more scrambling, until we hit the Rosegg. From there we opt to head up to the Esel. This bit ends up being just as fun as the climbing itself. There's a clear use path that leads us to the wall below the Esel. From here there are blue markings along with the use path that lead steeply up, up, up. There's a great mixture of scrambling and steep grass, snaking back and forth, at times very exposed, great views all around (and down), until the path ends at the walkway down from the Esel to the Pilatus Kulm. We climb the fence, getting some funny looks from the tourists atop the Esel, and walk the last few meters up to the top to enjoy the views. Looking down, the funny looks are completely understandable: it really doesn't look like there's a way down there. :-)
view from Pilatus Kulm

At the Kulm itself we manage to get a reservation for a train leaving in an hour and half, so we go grab some cool beverages and enjoy the people watching, mountain views, and the memories of a very nice tour.

The track: