Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hiking the Oberbauenstock

The original plan for the three-day weekend was to do some mountaineering and climbing around the Cabane de Moiry. We cancelled that due to the crappy weather forecast for Sunday and Monday. This trip is our "let's take advantage of the good weather on Saturday" alternative. It's a bit dialed back from what we might normally due since greg is still recovering from a bad cold he had during the week. The hike is adapted from one of the "more interesting hikes" books.

We start with an early train-train-bus trip that ends up with us on the first (8:00) gondola up from Emmetten to the restaurant at Niederbauen. From here we follow the path towards the Niderbauen Chulm. The weather is beautiful, there are lots of flowers, the views are great, it's a really nice hike up. We briefly enjoy the views from the peak (along with a fair number of other people, not quite clear where they came from) before heading down, past the blue-white path leading down to Weid, down, to the turnoff to the Hundschopf, We ignore this and turn right to contour around back towards the gondola station. At Merlieggen we turn to follow the road a bit and then take the path steeply up, past the big erosion feature, and up, up towards the Faulberg. Once on the step we continue, now on a blue-white path, up towards the Oberbauenstock. Up, up towards the towering face, then around the West, across a scree field, and then up the face to the shoulder. The route is steep but easy (it even has cables) and, though we're slow, we make it up on to the ridge without problems. There's no danger of us getting lonely up here, it's a beautiful day, a nice hike, and not too difficult. We follow the ridge up the last hundred meters to the Oberbauenstock itself were we do a food break with very, very nice views. Some of the previous hikes we can see from here: Engelberger Rotstock, Brisen, Gitschen, Rigi Hochflue (twice),  Eggberge, Krönten (just barely), Stanserhorn, Buochserhorn,  Pilatus. The view is just great.
view from the top of the Oberbauenstock

view from the top of the Oberbauenstock
After lunch we head back and follow a very nice path along the ridge and to the saddle below the Zingel. Neither of us are at 100%, so we opt not to continue the ridge (though we'll have to do this at some point) and start our way down. At the devision point near Haseneggli we opt to head down through the valley to Emmetten instead of going to Stockhütte and taking the gondola. This starts as a nice path through the woods, next to the stream and ends up as a bit too long on the road, but we make it down to town with time to spare to grab some refreshment before grabbing the bus that starts the trip back home.
more views
This was a great use of a beautiful day.


Saturday, July 09, 2016

Climbing around the Grimsel Hospiz

We finally got an entire weekend with a good weather forecast, so off we went to the mountains. A weekend of climbing was the obvious thing for both of us. We wanted to do multi-pitch and Greg was really strongly in favor of granite, ideally slabs. So off we went to the Grimsel.

After a fairly early start on Saturday and the usual train-train-train-bus action we got off the bus at the Chutzelentannen stop under the Rätterichsbodensee. After a short (~15 minute) walk we were at the foot of the route Bazi und Bizi. Andrea managed to convince the two Dutch (?) who arrived just before us to climb another route, so we put on the gear and started climbing. This is a pretty easy, super fun climb. A large part of it was slab climbing, with little in the way of obvious handgrips, but very grippy rock. There were a couple of "yeah, this is 5a" bits in some of the 5a pitches, but it is more or less 10 pitches (Andrea combined two into one) of fun in about 2.5 hours (the climbing isn't that tough and we don't screw up the rope logistics badly at any point, so we were pretty quick). We don't want to abseil, and finding our way over to the foot path down is a bit of an adventure - tramping through and over the shrubbery - but eventually we make it down to the bottom.

Onward we go, past the path to the Bächlitalhütte and then along the side of the Rätterichsbodensee. This path is officially still closed due to snow, but the one patch still blocking the path isn't hard to get around. The various climbing routes here (the Seeplatten) are still quite well occupied. Onward we go, around the end of the lake, and then up, up. to the Grimsel Hospiz, where we're staying the night. We start with a cool drink on the terrace (with a fantastic view) and then check into our (very nice) room that shares the same view. An aside: if we get to the point that we can comfortably climb 6b's, the sector Maree, right next to the Hospiz, looks interesting. After showers and a bit of rest we enjoy a great meal and then head off to bed.

We're underway again by 8:30 the next morning (after a good breakfast, again with great views). We head back to the Rätterichsbodensee. The first couple of groups have already started, including a group on Tim and Struppi, which was the route we'd thought about doing. Greg is already kind of in the mood to do more practice rather than a long route, so we opt to move on to the Azalee Beach sector (which has shorter routes) instead of waiting. We'd seen this lovely slab the previous afternoon and thought it looked great, if somewhat crowded (it's the closest set of routes to the parking lot below). We're happy to be the first ones there, so we can scout around and pick the route that looks best. This starts with lovely 5a and 5b pitches and then moves onto a 5c. Greg's lead climbing this and manages to get up onto the step that (he thinks) is likely the reason for the rating without too much trouble (a couple of decent grips allow this). Unfortunately this is followed by a traverse just above the step of a section of 5b slab without anything there for the hands (we realize later that the name of the route is "Traverse stupid"... that makes sense). After thinking about it for a bit and looking for other options, Greg decides to head back down a bit and cross over to the next route, which is not too far away. This goes pretty quick after he falls while climbing down from the step. The next route over, Härdöpfel, pretty soon thereafter hits its 5c bit: a short steeper stretch without anything for the hands. After trying for a bit, Greg wimps out and heads back down. Andrea heads up and, after managing to place the carabiner at the top (using a sling), makes it through the stretch. Greg, now rested, follows. The last pitch includes a fun stretch of crack climbing and then we're at the end. After abseiling down we take a short break and then head over to Grimsel Life (I think). Here we do the first two pitches before abseiling down.

Noteworthy on the trip back. Instead of taking a seat in Interlaken, we grab a table in the restaurant car and enjoy a pretty good meal away from the hectic of the sunny Sunday train. When this works, it's definitely a good way to make the trip back from the mountains more enjoyable.

Overall a very nice weekend of climbing; we both really enjoy climbing granite slabs. We've made a ton of progress over the last year: 5a on slabs is now no problem, 5b is challenging, and 5c is at the edge. The area wasn't nearly as full as we might have expected given the good weather and the renown of the region.

Track with the hikes and the climbs (both days):

Sunday, July 03, 2016

T6 over Thun: Ralligstöck

The second trip to make up for the canceled three-day tour. Since today was another good weather day, Andrea picked a hike from one of the "more interesting hikes" books and we set off to climb up the Ralligstöck ridge.

We followed the normal path out of Sigriswil up, up, up and around the end of the ridge towards Justistal. Just at the end of the ridge we took the use-trail behind the old bench to start our way up the ridge. This is a good long ridge with lots of fun in it. We had a mixture of nice walking through the forest, scrambling, exposed scrambling, and scrambling using tree roots (like in the Jura!). Great stuff. The path finding wasn't always completely simple, but knowing that we were supposed to stick to the ridge when possible and that the climbing wasn't supposed to really get above II (we both agree that it was more like III in places, but that may be because we didn't find the simple route) made it doable. We had our climbing belts on while doing the ridge, but we never needed to unpack the rope. Really great fun for about 2 hours. At the end we join a normal hiking path for a bit more climbing through the woods before coming out into the sun and following another foot path that takes us to the base of the route up the Spitzi Flue.
scrambling along the ridge
This looks completely doable via scrambling, but since it is very exposed and we had the rope, we broke that out and made our way sensibly to the top. Here we enjoyed the really, really nice views and the sunshine while having a second food break. After climbing back down (also nice to have the rope for that), we rejoin the path and continue along to the alp at Unterbergli. We pass this and then take the (marked... Our book is 10 years old and wrong about that) path that leads us under the Rothorn with great views down into the Justistal and across to Niederhorn (been there before, need to dig out the link).
views from the Spitzi Flue
After a bit of very enjoyable walking we hit the Schafloch, a 700m long tunnel through the mountain that will take us to the other side. This is another real experience. We have headlamps with us for this, which is good because it otherwise would be completely undoable (it's pitch black). Andrea's battery is low, so her lamp keeps going out, which adds a bit of drama as we walk through the (easy) tunnel in the cold dark and get dripped on from above. As Andrea said after we came out: "it's a very good thing that there were no bats in there".
Schafloch cave, the entrance to the tunnel
Back in the light we take the path down, down, down, moving pretty quickly, until we see the sign telling us that it'll take us 40 minutes to get the Schwanden. We have 30 until the next bus. We make it in 20 by enjoying ourselves doing a bit of trail jogging and the usual fast walking. Trail jogging downhill is a new game to make the descents from tours more enjoyable. :-)

A great tour on a great weather day. I think we'll probably do this one again.

The track:

Friday, July 01, 2016

The Gastlosen Traverse

The original plan was that we were going to be doing a three-day trip around the Baltschiederklause, including climbing the Jägihorn; the weather forecast put an end to that. Since the forecast for Friday was good, the organizer switched to a one day tour: a traverse of the Gastlosen. Only one other person from the original group could make it, so there were four of us total. This tour isn't easy to do with public transportation (it's really impossible to do in a single day), so we go by car.
part of the Gastlosen chain
After parking at the lot under Ober Gastlosen and Grat, we head along a path following the stream for a bit and then turn and climb up steeply to the Oberbergpass. This might be a fun path under normal circumstances, but the group was not moving slowly and the packs were heavy, so we were both mainly concentrating on breathing. At the pass we take a break to have a snack and put on the climbing gear and then start climbing. Andrea is climbing with the tour organizer and greg with the other participant. The climbing isn't especially difficult (mostly 4s), but the bolts are not close to each other and things are times quite exposed, so it definitely keeps us focused. After the most difficult pitch (steep and really worn; 5c+or 6a when climbed free, but nominally 4c with help; fortunately with closely placed bolts so using help is straightforward) we catch up to the pair in front of us and end up overtaking them at the Eggturm. Up here we put the approach shoes back on, descend steeply, walk around the Daumen, and then climb the Pyramide in the approach shoes. We do the descent to the next saddle by abseiling (you could theoretically climb down, but it's verrrry exposed), have a fun alpine-climbing-logistics situation at the bottom of the abseil, and then do a couple more pitches and some more walking to the peak of the Glattwandspitze.
A short break to enjoy the views and eat a bit more, and then we abseil down to the next saddle. From here is all walking (though at times "interesting" walking) until we're on a normal hiking path along the last of the ridge. The path finding through this bit wasn't trivial and, even with the very correct sketch on the topo, I'm not sure we would have found the right way out without someone with us who had done it before.
along the ridge
The last bit along the ridge is really nice, great views, plenty of flowers (too much stinging nettle!), and good weather. Then down, down we go until we hit the "Chalet Grat" (basically a farmhouse with some rooms to rent). There we stop for a refreshing beverage in the sun with good views back along the ridge before heading down to the car and the long drive back home.

All in all a great day of climbing. It was good to have done this with others and to learn from watching someone more experienced handle the challenges of alpine climbing.

Track (drawn by hand, greg didn't bring the watch):