Sunday, August 30, 2015

Climbing the Gletscherhorn via its East ridge

After getting up at 6 and breakfast at  6:15, we're on our way by around 6:45. The first bit, up the Schwarzwändli, is the same as last time we were in this area (though this time there is no snow field to prevent us from doing the normal start) and the weather is perfect. Once up in the high bowl we head off to the right, past the power masts, sticking close to the edge, until we get to the end of the ridge that heads up to the Gletscherhorn. We see the couple who had left the hut 10-15 minutes before us following the route towards the Glarner Vorab (bonus!). The starting point from the trip description, where the light colored rock from above meets the darker rock below, is easy to find. Here we put on the climbing gear, rope up (with about 15m between us) and start climbing.
getting ready and roped up
After a short steep bit (the whole route is bolted in critical sections) we hit p2458, the top of the outcropping at the end of the ridge. From here there's a bit of up and down (which isn't as bad as expected; having bolts available really helps) and we end up lengthening the rope between us to closer to 20m, before we hit the long, sharp ridge. This we do with a mixture of belaying and moving simultaneously, taking advantage of the occasional bolt, but mainly using rock jags. The rock is great, the weather is perfect, the views are fantastic, we have the route to ourselves, we have a blast.
along the ridge

along the ridge
The sharp ridge ends and broadens out as it steepens to head up to the peak. Here we start in a chimney, then some more steep (route finding is now important... didn't need to worry about that on the spine), before ending up on a small platform in front of the tower in front of the last wall. We take a short food break here, enjoy the views, and gather ourselves for the last push. We head around the tower to the right, across some not-so-nice scree, and then head up through a couple of chimneys until we reach the top, stopping to sign the "wall book" along the way. Now it's walking, with a bit of scrambling, along the broad ridge until we get to the peak of the Gletscherhorn itself. Another break, a bit of food, some view enjoying (though not the views of the Glarner- and Bundner- Vorabs... those are pretty ugly) that includes both the Säntis and the Bernina Massif, and then we pack away most of the gear and start down.

The goal is to follow the normal route to the Vorab back down, so we head a bit back down the ridge we came up, then contour more or less along the 2600m line, following the edge of the steep drop, past the ridge that comes in from p2605, until we see the sign post and markings for that path. The way down is straightforward and well marked. On the way down we pass a couple who's been doing some climbing (the second other group we've seen today on this side of the Schwarzwändli); knowing that they are behind us give us a bit of push to do the descent of the Schwarzwändli quickly (don't want to have stuff kicked down on our heads!). This turns out to be a lot of fun. :-)
looking back along the east ridge we just climbed
Back at the hut we rest for a bit and have some cake and cool beverages before starting on the path down. We make our usual decent descent time down to Nideren and the lift, where we discover a long line for the small gondola. Rather than waiting we opt to just walk down the last bit. It's only 400-500m of descent, the sign says 1:15, we know it's a nice path, why not just do it? It takes us less than an hour to get down to the valley bottom (it's hot down here!). The last bit to Elm Station along the road we've done before; we make it to the bus stop about 3 minutes before the bus does. Excellent timing!


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Martinsmadhütte via the Mittetaghorn

We tried this tour last year, but ended up not doing the peak because the weather was crap. This time the weather is pretty much perfect. After the train, train, train, bus trip we do the same beginning as last time, but instead of turning off to Nideren at around 1620m, we continue on along the very nice, shady path. At Firstboden we come out from the trees and continue with great views under the sun. We do a short food break and rest on a quiet (we're not alone in the mountains today!) step above Firstboden and then continue on our way. Now we're on the ridge and it's getting steeper. The blue-white path is well used, easy to follow, and not particularly blue-white as it takes us up, up, up along the ridge and over a couple steps. After another couple of hundred meters of climbing we reach the top, which we have to ourselves, and enjoy another break. Ah! the views!
looking ahead to the Mittetaghorn
great views from the top
After the break and plenty of views, we walk a bit further along the ridge and then follow the path down the other side towards the Martinsmadhütte. This path is at first pretty steep, but there's no real scrambling, and it softens out pretty quickly. A bit more walking later and we're at the Martinsmadhütte. We have some cool beverages, enjoy some cake, and generally laze around enjoying the weather for the few hours until it's dinner time. The food is, once again, quite good. Too bad this is the hut warden's last year! Unsurprisingly on a great-weather weekend, the hut is full, but with a capacity of only 40, things are still not insane. We hang out for a bit after a post-dinner stroll and then head off to bed for an early(ish) start the next day.