Friday, June 23, 2017

Climbing the Lobhörner

This was a tour we did with the Basel SAC.

Since day 1 is just the short trip to the hut, we get a late start and aren't on the train until 11. After the train-train-bus-gondola trip to Sulwald it's a bit more walking up to the Lobhornhütte (along the way we get our first glimpse of the Lobhörner themselves... going to be fun!) and the friendly greeting from Irene. The views are fantastic (though the high mountains are playing hide and seek behind clouds) and we enjoy them for a bit until the re-supply helicopter arrives and we help out with the unloading. Greg then heads off to the lake with the rest of the group for a refreshing swim while Andrea does some more enjoying of the views and wandering around. After an unusually good meal we do a bit of tour planning and then head off to bed for our early start. Aside: the hut is full even on a Friday night; it's a small hut, easy to get to, and the views are great... the place is popular.

We're the first ones up at 5:30 (though some of the hikers come down while we're having breakfast) and have a leisurely breakfast outside on the terrace with the incredible view. It's so very, very cool that Irene set the breakfast up outside.

We're underway at around 6:30. We follow the normal hiking trail back to the alp at Suls and then up and up to the ridge and up and along to the foot of the Lobhörner. Now it's on with the gear and then the climbing starts. There are 5 of us, so the first rope has 3 people and Andrea and Greg are the second team. The route, the standard E-W traverse of the peaks, is a mix of scrambling and relatively easy climbing (one 4c pitch, otherwise everything is easier than that) and the protection is pretty good. There are some nice steep bits and a couple of fun traverses. We even get an abseil in the middle (from the Zipfelmütze). The transitions between walking, scrambling, and climbing do make some of the climbing bits seem harder than they otherwise might. There are sometimes clouds around, but it's mostly clear and the views are excellent. Being the second group and being behind a rope with three makes things take longer than they would if we were alone, but it's not too bad, and figuring out how to fit everybody in at the stands is sometimes entertaining. At the peak, which we hit sooner than it seems like we need to, we enjoy a break and some food and then abseil down to the saddle, where we pack away the gear.

We opt for the shorter trail to the hut, the one that goes back the way we came instead of further along the ridge. It's pretty warm and we're all sweaty so we stop off at the lake and enjoy a brief swim before heading back to the hut to enjoy some cake and a short break. We opt to take the later bus, so we get a bit more time with the views after the others run off. Then it's back to the gondola, then the bus to Lauterbrunnen, the gondola up to Grütschalp, and the train to Mürren (wow the tourists!) and our hotel, which we get to just as the rain is starting. After a decent meal (not as good as the hut!) we head off to sleep. On Sunday it's rainy as hell, so we just head back home.
 This was a great climbing trip, and something well worth doing again.

Here's the track of the tour:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Obersee to Innerthal via the Zindlenspitz

We're on our way under cloudless skies at around 8am. It's going to be a hot one! We start with a nice bit around the lake, with Brünnelistock and the rest of the range (including the Schiberg) mirrored in the lake and filling our view. We can even see the steep grass flank that's going to be the day's T6 component. We continue up the valley, spending a happy amount of time under trees, until hitting Sulzboden. Here as we're studying the slope and our map (with sketched route) a local couple who's walking by stops and asks us what we're planning on doing. After some clear skepticism about our answer, he ends up confirming our planned route and provides the additional very good tip that we can start in the woods outside of town instead of taking the path up to a clearing as we had planned. This wins us a few hundred meters of climbing in shade instead of the sun; that's huge.
Into the woods we go, up, and up. As we're breaking out the poles (we each have one with us) a local catches up and asks what we're doing. We repeat the skepticism exercise (greg thinks that a lot of this is because we're wearing low shoes and people aren't used to the idea that you can have low shoes with stiff soles), agree that we're going the right way and that we are aware that it is steep up ahead, and then bid him goodbye as he powers past. We follow a lot more slowly, up, up, up on a not always super clear path through the trees until we hit a cool hut (really almost a cave) at around 1400m. Here the trees end and we move out onto the grass. Up, up, up we continue, catching occasional glimpses of the local above us. It's steep and the sun is warm, so we aren't moving super fast, but it's dry and the footing is good so we make good progress. Most of the time we're walking instead of doing grass climbing, so having the poles is definitely useful. After a bit we enter an area of mixed grass and rock/scree. This requires additional concentration, but that's part of the fun. Once open rock starts to show up, we also start to see the occasional blue marker. Those are a nice affirmation that we're heading the right way. After a break or two, some more climbing and some more traversing we hit the final chimney (the left one!) that leads us up to the ridge between the Rossälplispitz and the Zindlenspitz. We celebrate briefly being on a more-or-less flat surface after a couple hours on a steep slope and then continue along the ridge to cross the face of the Zindlenspitz and then follow the normal hiking route to its top.

This is a red-white trail to a peak with a great view on a sunny Sunday, there are some people here. :-) The true peak is completely packed, so we do a nice, quiet lunch break alone (!) on the Vorgipfel and then head up to the actual peak for a quick look around before starting the long descent back. The route back down is a red-white descent with good views and a nice mix of terrain types. There are people on it, but it's not stupidly full, so the hiking is still enjoyable. Once down at the lake we stop for a refreshing beverage at Oberhof and then continue the rest of the way to Innerthal in a leisurely manner (we have plenty of time before the next bus comes). Back in down we sit in the shade for the 15 minutes til the bus comes and enjoy the mild chaos caused by a local club event (giant cow bells, accordion, very Swiss).

Stats: 14.9km, 1165m up, 1230m down

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Schiberg via the Brennaroute

Finally a weekend with good weather on both days! There's still maybe a bit too much snow to go high, so we opt to head to the region around Glarus.

For day one we're doing the Brennaroute up to the Schiberg. This is considered to be one of the reference T6 tours and seems a perfect kickoff to the real mountain season. :-)

After train-train-bus we start in Innerthal. The path leads us out of town and then up, up, up towards the Schiberg and Bockmattli. From the path up we can certainly see the route we'll be taking up the face of the Schiberg, but it's certainly not obvious; this is going to be fun! As one would expect for a sunny Saturday, there are people out and about but it's still early so there aren't really crowds yet. Despite the early hour, there are already a couple of groups climbing the route Namenlose Kante on the Bockmattli; it's a great looking route, but probably not something for a weekend.

At the Bockmattlihütte (which is teeny, but very nice looking) we turn off the hiking path and follow a trail steeply up to to the rock. Here we put on our climbing harnesses (just in case we need them at some point) and helmets and start scrambling up. This really is a great route: a mix of scrambling and walking, easy to follow thanks to blue markings and a use trail, really nice views (well, there are some clouds, so it's not what it could be), everything you could want. We're even mostly alone in the route: the only other person we see is a local(?) who powers by us while we're having a food break on the way up. The crux of the route is a 5m down climb that would be scary/tricky (anticipation of this is why we're wearing the harnesses) but someone has put a rope loop in at the ideal spot so it ends up being no big deal.

After the down climb we head up some steep grass, then rejoin the ridge for the last bit to the peak at the end of the ridge. We celebrate the successful scramble (boy was it fun) and then head along the ridge, across the wild limestone formations, to the peak at the end and its cross. Here we do another food break and enjoy the occasional views through the clouds that are all around us.
 After the break we head down to the saddle and pick up the blue-white path that leads us across the Schneeschmelzi underneath the ridge of the Schiberg and back to Bockmattlipass. Now it's up, up again to the Bockmattli itself, where have a quick look around before continuing along the ridge towards the Tierberg. At the fork in the path we opt to head down. Now it's down, down, steeply down, along a not-heavily used but well marked blue white path until we hit the houses at Hinter Ahornen. Another short break here and then we continue on down the road towards Obersee.  This isn't the most exciting bit of road-hiking ever (though certainly not the worst either), so we're super happy when a local stops and offers us a ride down to the hotel.

After refreshing beverages we check in, have showers, do a stroll along the lake, and then have a nice meal before heading off to bed.

This was a really nice tour. The feel was almost hochtour, but everything was green. Fun!

Stats: 12.5km, 1330m up, 1130m down.

Gear: this was Andrea's first tour in her new halbschuhe.

Monday, June 05, 2017

The Leenflue

The forecast isn't great and it's been raining too much for us to expect to be able to do any interesting climbing, but it looks like we have a window in the weather so we opt for a T5: the Leenflue above Oensingen.

Following a couple descriptions on Hikr, we head out of town towards the lovely ridge, follow a path around the East nose, and then pick up a path marked with blue that leads us steeply up onto the ridge itself near the power mast. From here navigation is pretty easy: follow the ridge; there is even a pretty clear use trail up here. Onward we go! This is a mixture of walking combined with some good scrambling. It's not super exposed, but there's enough there to make you think about it. There's one steeper bit with a choice of going through a not-particularly-pleasant looking chimney or heading outside (to the right) and past a couple of bolts (with rope slings in them to use as grips). We take the outer route, which is plenty exposed. Definitely some careful foot placement here (particularly considering that the shoes are a bit muddy). It was on the outer edge of what was comfortable, so on top of that step we break out the rope and climbing gear and continue along the ridge (which is now flat and pretty broad... of course). Right about now it starts raining, first some sprinkling and then real rain. After a bit more walking we get to where we can see the final bit of climbing. Here we decide that it's just too wet to continue. We head back a bit to a saddle and follow the blue marked path down and under the ridge (and under the big flag hung on the cliff) through the woods to the saddle on the other side of the Vordere Leenberg.

We pack away the rope and gear and take the normal hiking path back down to Oensingen and the train home (stupid thing here: we didn't check the train schedule so we get to the station just as a train is leaving... ah well, it's only half an hour of waiting).

We'll definitely have to go back and do this one again; it's a nice tour and the views would be great. It's also low enough that it should certainly be doable in either early or late season.

The track:

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Walking the Swiss-German border along the "Eiserne Hand"

The weather forecast isn't what you'd hope for in the mountains, so we opt to stay local and do a hike from a book we have on hiking around the border of Basel. In this particular case we pick an area that's also the border to Germany.

Starting from a tram stop in Riehen we do a goofy "there then back" to cross the train tracks before turning off into the green and heading up a bit to hit the border at marker 47. Following the path we cross the border and then zag back and head up into the woods to hit marker 49 (48 is in the field somewhere behind us). After taking the second picture of Andrea with a border marker, it's clear what we're going to be doing for the rest of the hike. Normally we'd end up with greg on all these pictures, but since Andrea doesn't have her camera with her greg's taking pictures with his phone, so we get more pics of Andrea. :-)

We continue along the border through the woods, along the amusing finger that leads to Eiserne Hand, back into farmland at Maienbühl, back down into the valley at Hinterengeli, then back up again to Orthalde and so on until we pass the tower at Chrischona and hit the restaurant, where we stop for refreshment and to enjoy the views (the Alps are visible from here on a good-weather day, which today isn't really). We manage to get photos of almost all the border markers up to number 100, which we hit shortly before the Chrischona.

The way back down to the Rhine is along another very nice path through a mix of woods and fields, down, down, down until we hit the bus stop near the border crossing on the Rhine.

This was a nice walk through some surprisingly green and rural bits of Basel.

The track:
Stats: 15.8km, ~500m up, ~500m down