Sunday, July 26, 2015

Up to the Wasserflue the adventurous way

We've been to the Wasserflue a couple of times, today we took more of a blue-white route.

After a short train/bus ride, we get out at Benkerjoch Passhöhe and then walk down through the woods to the valley floor near near Fischbach. On the way down we catch sight of the Alps (the Wetterhorn region) through the haze in the distance. We follow the marked hiking path for a short distance and then turn off path and head up towards the ridge and Herrenmatt. Through the woods, past some highland cows, past an old trail sign, and then we're on the ridge, on a well used trail, following blue markers up, up.
This gets progressively more interesting and scrambly as we go up, it's a nice bit of T4/T5 hiking. The last bit, which comes too quickly, takes us up through a chimney, then through a last bit of bush and over the railing onto the platform of the Wasserflue (we get the expected strange looks from the people already there). The views of the Alps are quite good, it's a bit hazy but most everything is visible from Alpstein to past the Bluemlisalp group.

After a bit of admiring the views, we head off along the ridge (lots of people around now), past the restaurant at Salhöhe and further along the ridge towards the Geissflue, stopping for a lunch break at the at the highest point in Canton Aargau (amusing gipfelbuch here). From Geissflue the path takes us down, down, along the road a bit, past an observatory where they've brought out the telescope for some event (too bad it's overcast now!), past the very playful and friendly dog at Fluhberg, and down to Zeglingen. We have a cool beverage and then grab the bus/train back to Basel.

This was a nice hike; the blue-white bit was great fun (though too short). It's fun to have stuff like this more or less in our back yard. :-)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hiking around the Melchsee, the slow way

The ridge that runs above Melchsee-Frutt, described in one of our "more interesting hikes" books, has been on the list for a while, today we took advantage of a great-weather day to actually do it.
The ridge with the Rothorn on the left and the Hochstollen on the right as seen from Melchsee-Frutt
From the gondola station at Melchsee-Frutt we, along with a bunch of other people, follow the signs for Abgschütz (this is the way we came down from the trip with Yvonne) and then turn to follow the trail to the Hochstollen. Despite noticing that we've done a fair amount lately (tired legs!) we make good time and are up top in 1:45. As expected on such a great day, there are plenty of other people underway. The views are really spectacular: we can see the Berner Alpen (including Dossen, Ränfenhorn, and Hubelhorn from last week), Titlis, the Gross Spannort, the area around the Tierberglihütte, the Trift glacier, etc. After a very short break at the peak we follow the trail (still red-white) further along the ridge and down until we meet the blue-white trail coming in from the left at Hohsträss. This takes us back to the ridge which we follow towards the lift station under Glogghüs. Shortly before getting there we stop for a food break and to appreciate the views while sitting still.
view to the Bernese Alps
Now we start to get into the blue-white part of the tour. The route up to the Glogghüs includes some nice scrambling (with a convenient, and new looking, cable there for people coming down) and is great fun. Of course we aren't alone: it's way too nice of a ridge to have it all to ourselves, but it's certainly nothing like crowded. We both remark on the contrast in the quality of the rock to the ridge we took to the Gaeltehore: it's so nice to have things be stable and solid! From the Glogghüs we head steeply down into the saddle before the Rothorn (you have to go down in order to go up!). This is one of those fun "look at the other side of the saddle and figure out how you're supposed to get up the other side" stretches: for most of the way down it really does look like the other side is just vertical. Of course it's not; the trail continues, helped at times with cables, steeply up the other side to the Rothorn.
on the way down from the Glogghüs, looking along the ridge yet to come
Another short break and then we continue a bit along the ridge before realizing we've made a mistake. Back towards the Rothorn we go and then off along the ridge to the East towards the Talistock to start the descent back to Melchsee-Frutt. The route down is also a nice blue-white path (easier than above) that takes us down, down, down to the red-white trail running between the Balmeregghorn and the Melchsee. Down further to the lake itself and then around (oh the crowds!), past all of the tourist silliness, to the gondola station and the trip back home.

A great ridge, great weather, great day! :-)

The track:

Stats: ~14km, 1120m of vertical

Friday, July 10, 2015

Climbing the Chly Diamantstock

We do the early breakfast thing again in order to be out before the kids show up. There's another couple who has the same idea and we leave for the Chlyne Diamantstock routes at the same time. It's an absolutely perfect day: not a cloud in the sky, but still cool. This is the first time that we've really ever actually seen the mountains around the Bächlitalhütte; it's great!

We don't end up taking the best route to the foot of the routes, so there's a bit more unstable rock scrambling than strictly required, but it's not too bad. The other couple gets there a bit before us, we're doing the same route (Piccolo Diamantino 5a) and they start first. They end up being pretty slow, even by our standards, on the first pitch. This and seeing the big group of kids coming behind us puts some very bad thoughts in Greg's head (trapped between a slow group and kids all day!) but we compromise and decide to go ahead anyway. Fortunately the couple in front of us actually ends up speeding up quite a bit and the kids are super slow, so we are neither pushed nor slowed down. yay!

The climbing is great - granite is just fun to climb - and we're done with the first three pitches (the first wall) before we know it. This puts us on a broad step, where we enjoy a break and scope out the route across the talus and snow to the base of the next part of the route. We think that the other couple has opted to switch to the second (a bit more difficult) route, but realize on the way up (via a shouted conversation) that they've just confused themselves and ended up in that route accidentally. Ah well. We have another four pitches of big fun and then we're on the ridge. We do another break, enjoy the views, take some pictures, change back into our boots, shorten the rope, and then set out to figure out how to get from where we are down onto the broad flat shelf on the other side of the ridge (there's a 2-3m drop from where we are down to the shelf). This takes a bit of improvisation, but we figure something out and head towards the saddle. The ridge is nice going: broad enough to not be hairy, but still with great views, particularly into the Grüebenkessel. At the saddle we take some more pictures, meet back up with the other couple (who catch up to us), and then head down. We'd been anticipating an unpleasant loose talus descent, but there's enough of a track through the steep first bit that it's really no problem. Further down, more talus, some nice snow sliding, more talus, etc. until we need to decide between trying to find the top of the abseil route down the last face or taking the T5 path. We opt for the path, pack away the climbing gear, pass the other couple (who are using the bolts that are present to abseil the first bit of the path), and follow a fairly obvious route down to join the traces connecting the hut to the glacier (the route to the Gross Diamantstock, which we will also have to do at some point).

Back at the hut we have about 45 minutes before needing to head down to grab the bus, so we have a cool beverage, eat some more cake (mmmm, sooooo good), pack up the rest of our gear, and then head down. We don't hurry and do enjoy the views, but we still make good time and don't need to worry about making the bus. We cross the dam, walk down to the bus stop, and enjoy the last bit of outside sun before getting on the bus and starting the long trip back home.

What a great day!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Climbing around the Bächlitalhütte

Today is a climbing day. We make an early start of it in order to avoid the kid-chaos, and then head out. We opt not to start with Büchelplatten, figuring that 7 pitches at mostly 4c is a bit heavy as a kick off and go to sector Platten instead (fun walk down to the start point there!). The route Späck u Brot is a great "getting started" route for the granite slabs in this area; we have a blast, though with the clouds and the breeze it does end up being "a bit" chilly.

After heading back to the hut we head to a sector with an assortment of single-pitch routes: Heidiland-Steinfrau. This takes a bit of finding, but we manage it and do several routes (Sandweg, Sunneschijn, ...). After a lunch break (in the sun!) we head back to the hut for some cake and a bit of rest, then we follow the rough trail and the arrows down, down, down to the start of the Schwarzwälderplatten sector. Here we do another multi-pitch slab route (Menu 1), this time wearing our boots instead of the climbing shoes. It's not a difficult route and we both have an absolute blast; it's fun to do these kinds of routes in boots. One of the amusing things about the two routes in this sector is that they both end about 30m from the hut (they are only-half-jokingly described as a possible approach to the hut), so the walk back is nice and short. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Gaulihütte to Bächlitalhütte

It's not raining any more when we get up, but the clouds are very low (including a layer below us). We opt to stick with the new plan: hike down to Innertkirchen, grab a bus from there for Rätterichsbodensee, and then hike up to the Bächlitalhütte. The route down is a really nice one, well it would be if the we weren't hiking through a cloud with the path itself wet from the night's rain. It's certainly a ton cooler than when we hiked up it before! ;-) 

Most of the way down we come out of the clouds and have a great view of the Urbachtal and the awesome wall of stone that defines one side.

The Urbachtal is really nice, but unfortunately the "trail" through it is just the road. This does start to wear on the nerves pretty quickly when wearing the big boots. We eventually do get down to Innertkirchen, grab a quick lunch, and then get on the bus up towards the Grimsel pass.

The path to the Bächlitalhütte is almost certainly very nice (as well as being very well maintained: almost a staircase), but we are once again doing it in a cloud, so we really don't see much. By the time we hit the level of the step under the hut we are between two layers of cloud, so we do get a nice view of the hut perched on the side of the valley: it's really a great location. 

The hike is a short one, so we are at the hut in less than 2 hours. We get settled in, eat some cake, enjoy watching the cloud play, discover that there are a lot of kids and teenagers staying at the hut (oh no! We are the only adult guests that aren't associated with the kids!), have dinner (schnitzel in a hut? Wow!), and head out for a short reconnaissance walk before bed. Surprisingly there are three or four groups starting the route Büchelplatten at 8 pm. Given that the first two pairs seem pretty slow and that it's a seven-pitch route, it's a good thing that most of them seem to be wearing headlamps. Night climbing, what an idea!

Track (both parts):

Stats: ~16km, ~700m up, ~1650m down.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

A day around the Gaulihuette

We get an early start (Suzanne leaves breakfast out for us) so that we have time to finish our tour before the afternoon thunderstorms: we plan to do the Chammligrat to the Hängendegletscherhorn. 

Instead of taking the route from the book, we follow a tip from Suzanne and head back along the path we came in on the day before. Just after turning the corner we turn to the right off the trail and head up to the end of the Chammligrat. From here we have a great view of the rest of the route along the ridge to the peak and then the first part of the route back down.

Greg isn't particularly happy with what he sees of the route: there is at least one longish descent along the way and there's no way to tell from where we stand how hairy that descent will be. There's no doubt some contribution from "confidence fatigue" after the previous day's trip. At p2720(?) we stop, survey the situation, discuss Greg's misgivings, and decide to turn back. First we do a nice rest where we are: the weather is great and the views *are* fantastic. We have cell reception from up here, so we are able to check the weather forecast, which is grim, grim, grim: rain through the night and for much of the following morning. It's clear that we won't be doing the planned tour (over the Hubelhorn and then through the saddle to the Lauteraarhütte), so we rethink our plans and decide to just directly to to the Bächlitalhütte via the Oberebächlilicke. We call both huts to change the reservations and then head down.

After getting back down to the hut (passing another group on their way along the Chammligrat) we grab our climbing stuff and head up to the small lakes above the hut. Finding the climbing routes takes some doing but we do, after a lunch break, manage to do so. There is still a fair amount of snow around, so not every route is reachable, but we get a few good routes in: ???

We spend the rest of the day being lazy, have another good meal, discuss the next day's plans given the crappy weather forecast (Suzanne strongly suggests that doing the pass wouldn't be a good idea given the conditions), and then head off to bed.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Dossengrat, Dossen, Ränfenhorn, Gaulihütte

An early start - breakfast at 4:30 and a planned departure at 5:00 - somewhat delayed by a quick rain shower. We depart out under cloudy, but dry skies and follow the route scouted the day before up to the Dossengrat with all its fun. This is definitely an entertaining route: good scrambling, bits of cable, rungs in the wall, etc. Good going despite the wind and somewhat dodgy looking sky.

After a good bit of fun we hit the Dossensattel, where we rope up and then start the climbing. This isn't difficult, but we do have to search for the best route and dealing with belaying is a fun challenge. We enjoy our way quite a bit and hit the peak after a totoal of just under three hours. It's windy as hell, so we don't hang out long but continue on our way along the ridge towards the Ränfenjoch. After a bit of the ridge we find a wind-sheltered spot (a bivak) where we can have a good rest and a bit to eat, then its further along the ridge. This is a nice ridge walk up to the last bit where we head steeply down, past a lot more bivak spots, to the glacier. The snow is soft, so we don't need crampons, just a quick switch of the rope to glacier mode and then we start out across the glacier and up to the Ränfenhorn. This is no problem at all and the weather plays along: quick moving high clouds but no rain, good views, and not too hot. The snow is definitely soft, but given how warm it has been, this is no real surprise.

We have a short break on the peak and then head down the other side. According to the book, getting back down to the Gauligletscher is the trickiest bit of the tour. Thanks to the snow, we manage to do the first part without problems, but it does take us a while to find a not completely optimal (but functional) track down to the glacier (lots of loose crap getting down that last bit of moraine, not too much fun). Now we follow the glacier down until it is completely bare and we reach about 2560m, where we transition back to the rock. After a short break we head up a bit to find the blue-white path that takes us to the Gaulihütte. We had done this the other way in the early morning on the Ränfenhorn tour, but we didn't really appreciate it then: it's a nice path! At the hut we settle in, have a cool beverage, have a rest, do some planning, have a nice meal, and then head off to bed for an early start the next day.


Stats: ~11km, 1128m up, 1587m down.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Up to the Dossenhütte

After an early start with train, train, train, bus we started at the Rosenlauigletscherschlucht on the way up to the Dossenhütte. This is a very nice path that we really enjoyed coming down after the Ränfenhorn tour a few years ago (though that was a bit too hurried), and it's even better - surprise! - going up. Lots of good views and an excellent scrambly blue-white path.

It's too hot, but we tough it out and make it to the hut in good time. We do a bit of scouting and a bit of resting, have an interesting meal (lasagna? in an SAC hut?) and then head off to bed. There are some really interesting weather phenomena in the evening: crazy hail storm, horizontal rain, big wind, and later a great rainbow.

2015 Hochtourenwoche: Berner Oberland

The planned trip:
  1. Rosenlaui Gletscherschlucht to Dossenhütte.
  2. Dossengrat, Dossen, Ränfenhorn, Gaulihütte
  3. Hangendgletscherhorn via the Chammligrat
  4. Ewigschneehorn or Hubelhorn to the Lammerenhütte
  5. Fellenberglicken to the Bächlitalhütte
  6. Chly Diamantstock
  7. Climbing and departure
The actual trip (post weather and ability adjustments):