Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas on Tenerife

stub.....to be completed

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving in GA-TN-NC

this is a stub, to be completed

Sunday, October 21, 2018

From Fluonalp to Brienz via the Dirrengrind

After a nice breakfast we start the day not really sure what the plan is, except for knowing that we're going to walk and enjoy the weather. We figure starting towards the Höch Gumme is as good as a way to kick things off as anything, so off we go. Up, up we go, along normal hiking paths and enjoying the sun and views, up, up to the cross at Mändli. Since it's there and we can, we scramble up onto the bit of rock that's a bit further along the North ridge. Great views back towards the Rossflue and yesterday's fun. This is a good example of the "it doesn't look like there's a path there" effect: the route that we took to get from the SE ridge to the Chringe looks really unlikely.
the route down from the Rossflue we took yesterday
Further along the ridge we go, continuing to climb and enjoy the views (great shadows thanks to the low-angle Fall sun) until we get to the Höch Gumme. First decision: continue onwards towards the Brienzer Rothorn instead of heading back to the gondola. Onward we go, continuing along the ridge and now starting to encounter other people in steadily increasing numbers. At the saddle below the Arnihaaggen we opt to head up the slab next to the trail (same as last time). Up top we stop for a lunch break, enjoy the views, and are astounded by the number of people underway - it's clear that this would be a popular destination, but the numbers really are something. Second decision: onwards and down towards Brienz via the Dirrengrind; we had talked about not doing a T5 today, but the description sounds too good to pass it up.
along the ridge towards Arnihaagen
After the break we continue along the ridge to the Eiseesattel, where wave goodbye to the Brienzer Rothorn over us (not today!) and then turn downhill towards the lake. The good path leads us down (less crowded!), down, down to the cluster of small houses at Gibelegg. Here we top off our water bottles and then continue along the obvious and well-used, but unmarked trail that continues along the face. After some nice hiking through the woods we reach the ridge at p1764 and see the Dirrengrind for the first time. Wow! Impressive looking bit of steep landscape and, from where we are standing, no immediately obvious route through it. Good thing there's a trail. :-) Onwards we go, putting on the helmets (which we've been carrying with us, along with ice axes in case of steep grass, all weekend) since there are chamoix above us kicking down rocks, following the well-made, though pretty exposed, trail across the face. Lots of cool (and somewhat subtle) protecting walls in here; 
there's even a small hut about halfway across (that'd be a fun place to bivvy!). 

through the south face of the Dirrengring

On the other side we rejoin normal hiking trail, which we follow past an awesomely situated and well-maintained hut, to the Felsentor. Short stop from here to enjoy the views and look up at the hotel on the Rothorn, and then we head down on a nice trail through the woods to Planalp. It's going to be about 30 minutes until the next train down (and greg is skeptical that we'll get a seat on it anyway), so we skip that experience and opt to walk down to Brienz instead. We follow the pretty nice path down, down, crossing the road repeatedly, down through the woods, down along the train tracks, down to Brienz. The (quite full looking) train passes us a couple of minutes before we get to the station. Good call on walking. :-)

At the station we have a break while waiting for the bus (there's construction on the train tracks) that will start the trip back home.

Another really nice day of walking with great views through varied and interesting terrain!

Stats: 17.2km, ~1100m up, 2080m down.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Traversing the Giswilerstock

First day of a trip to take advantage of lovely fall weather. Today's route comes from combining a couple of tours from one of our "more interesting hikes" books.

We get off the train in Lungern, under a layer of hochnebel. Super nice: there's a van waiting for the train to take people to the gondola station... saves us 1.5 km through town... bonus! The gondola quickly takes us up and we emerge from the fog into fantastic sun under cloudless skies. Oh yeah!
emerging from the fog into the sun
From the gondola we follow mostly road towards Fluonalp, where we'll be spending the night. From the top of the first rise we get a great view of the Giswilerstock massif, which we'll be traversing. Oh yeah... this is going to be fun.
this shows the route of the day
We continue past Fluonalp (just as a group of motorcyclists arrive... going to be a busy day there) and then follow the trail up, up, across the face of the massif until we emerge at the Giswilerstock itself. Great views from here, which we enjoy while having a snack before continuing on. Now the path (no longer official, but easy to follow) takes us along the ridge, at times on the ridge, at times below it because of the Legföhren, nicely past a couple of really good bivvy spots, enjoying great views and easy walking (this is T3)  the whole way, until we get to the cross at p1940. We are, amazingly, still alone with no other people in sight. From here the path gets more adventurous (T5): the ridge gets narrow, and scrambly, including a bit of down-climbing and a fair amount of exposure. Good stuff!
on the ridge towards the Schafnase
At the base of the Schafnase we round the corner and follow the last of the NW ridge to the peak (we're going to have to do that whole ridge some day... we've got a description of it and it sounds great) with a bit of light scrambling and some steep grass (with good steps... this peak is one people visit). Up top we are, once again, with no one else in sight. Crazy! After a bit of rest, some eating, and plenty of gawking we continue along the ridge: scrambling down to the Furgge at 1908m. Next step is the climb up to the vorgipfel of the Rossflue. We make this more scrambly than it needs to be (why not... the rock is good and the going is fun) and are up in no time. The descent to the saddle before the Rossflue itself is a bit more adventurous, particularly when Greg accidentally deviates from the easiest route. Another nice short ascent with a bit of scrambling and we're atop the Rossflue. Here we do another break to enjoy the views and have another snack. From here we can see people, but they are all far away on the path between the Brienzer Rothorn and where we are. Fun to see them off in the distance and have this peak with its awesome views to ourselves. A partial catalog of places we've been that we can see: Rigi, Rigi Hochflue, Säntis, the Mythen, Stanserhorn, Buochserhorn, Arvigrat, Nunalpstock, Arnigrat, Wandelen, Gross Spannort, Kleiner Tierberg, Dossen, Ränfenhorn, Bluemlisalphorn, Tschingelhorn, Niesen, Stockhorn, loads more. We discuss briefly which route to take down; the three routes that don't involve going back are all T6-, so we're going to be having some fun. We check out the beginning of the south face, decide that doesn't look particularly nice, and opt for the south-east ridge. The descent down the ridge is quite nice: not too steep and generally good rock (except when we move too far out onto the face). We make good time down to the small pine tree that the description uses as a landmark (there's a marker on the rock adjacent to it) and then leave the ridge to traverse back across the face. Some traversing of the steep (and somewhat loose) face, a descent through a short (and somewhat loose) couloir, and then a bit more traversing and we're at the Chringe and back on marked paths. We follow the path back towards Schönbuel a bit before turning off and descending cross country back to the Fluonalp and the crowd there. 
descent from the Rossflue
We celebrate a really, really nice tour with cool drinks and a cheese plate in the last of the sun before checking in, having a quick nap, enjoying a good meal (really, really good Älplermagronen!), and then heading off to bed. What a day!

Stats: ~12km, ~1080m up, ~1060m down.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The complete Mythen traverse

Another trilogy that's been on our list for quite a while: doing a complete traverse of the Mythen massif. 6+ years ago we hiked up to the Grosser Mythen, back down the same way, and then up to the Kleiner Mythen and down the same way. This time we did a full traverse: Haggenspitz, Kleiner Mythen, Grosser Mythen.
Kleiner Mythen and Haggenspitz from Brunni
We start under a blue sky (it's a beautiful day!) at the end of the bus line in Brunni Talstation with the masses of people who are headed to take the gondola up to Holzegg; it's going to be a busy day up on the Grosser Mythen, hopefully we get to see it. :-) Our route takes us up out of Brunni towards the Haggenegg. Up, up, up we go, along the red-white path, through the woods, and then across a field until we arrive at the street and the parked cars (oh yes, people are out today...). Here we turn left and follow the ridge, with its clear use path, towards the North face of the Haggenspitz. This is one of those great "if we didn't know that there was a route up there, we wouldn't think it's possible" faces. The use trail takes us up and along, catch up to another group of three, up, up until we reach the bottom of some climbing routes. Here another hiker encourages us to head up a chimney that's marked with a green arrow next to the climbing routes instead of continuing along the use trail. Sure, why not? So on with the helmets and we get to start with a bit of nice scrambling. Up, up we go, staying with the other hiker (really him staying with us), up, up along a reasonably easy to follow route with the occasional red marker, until we hit the Müller Kamin. This is as exposed as promised in the route descriptions, but not particularly difficult (aside from the risk of the backpack getting hung up in the tight chimney!). We've got a rope and a bit of climbing gear with us, and there are a couple bolts available, but we opt to solo it. Up, up we continue with some more light scrambling, until we hit the peak. This is unexpectedly full (5+ people there... unbelievable!), so we have a very quick food break to enjoy the views and then continue on our way. Our temporary companion stays behind (guess he wants a longer break) as we start down towards the saddle between the Haggenspitz and the Kleiner Mythen.
trying to find space in the Müller Kamin
This is a relatively easy route down, though we manage to lose it a few times and end up scrambling more than we need to. Once at the saddle we continue up to the face of the Kleiner Mythen and follow the very nice (and straightforward to follow) route up. This has a couple of good scrambly bits and is just in general loads of fun. The peak of the Kleiner Mythen is even more full than the Haggenspitz was (10+ people!), so after taking a few pictures we continue on our way. For the first time today we're repeating a route we've done before. With all the practice over the past few years, this isn't nearly as dramatic as it was back then. Still fun though! And very populated... tons of people making their way up to the Kleiner Mythen to enjoy the views. Back down at Zwischet Mythen we stop for another food break (longer this time) and enjoy the views and the sitting (haven't done much of that so far today!).
on top of the Kleinen Mythen
After the break we follow the easy hiking path around the foot of the Grosser Mythen towards Holzegg. At the big scree field we leave the path and head up the left side of the scree. After a bit of height gain, there's a clear zigzag trail through the scree (which is nice, because this isn't the nicest surface to move steeply upwards on). At the top of the scree we hit the first of the pink markings which will lead us the rest of the way to the top along the Chalberstöckli route. The route is really, really nice. Definitely a bit easier than either of the other two ascents we've done so far, but still with great views (and exposure). We absolutely enjoy ourselves until we hit the main hiking path up to the peak. After collecting the usual funny looks as we climb over the railing and take off our helmets, we continue up to the peak and the absolute madness up there. Another short break to enjoy the views and the madness and check the bus schedule, and then we start our way down. We have about 75 minutes to complete the 85 minute descent to Brunni. Should be no problem! The first bit is pretty slow due to the masses of people underway, but we finally manage to pass the big clot in front of us and then do some trail running for the rest of the descent. This starts as a bit of a joke but it works really well and is quite fun, so we continue until close to the bottom, where the footing isn't as good since the rocks are more covered with dust. We make good time walking the descent from Holzegg and are at the bus stop with 20 minutes to spare.
scrambling up towards the Grosse Mythen
What a great tour. We're definitely going to have to do this one again!

Stats: ~12km, 1380m up and down.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Climbing at the Mattstock again

Due to other travel stuff we only had one day this weekend to be outside, so we opted for a day of climbing at the Mattstock. We've been here before and were looking forward to another day of climbing the "Wasserrillen".

After travelling to Amden on Friday night, we take the chairlift up at around 9:00, hike up to the base of the routes (two other teams there, one already started, one climbing the route next to us), put on the gear, and then start up the route Südostwandplatte (5a). Five pitches of really fun climbing with great views later and we are at the top. The abseiling this time goes reasonably efficiently.

Back at the bottom of the routes we have lunch and then decide to do part of another route. So we head over to Dä Mond and start up that. More very nice climbing through the first three pitches and then we abseil down. After packing the gear up we head down (pretty quickly... it's getting late for the chair lift), take the lift down, and catch the bus for the trip back home.

A really nice day of doing a particularly enjoyable type of climbing.

This was greg's first trip outdoors in his new climbing shoes (Black Diamond Momentum).

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pilatus T5-Trilogy

One of our "interesting tours" books includes a couple paths on the North side of the Pilatus that sound great but that only be done when it's dry and late enough in the season that all the snow is gone. Today was one of those days, so we linked up a couple of the paths with another trip up the Esel (also in the book) to form a Pilatus T5-trilogy.

After taking the gondola up to Fräkmüntegg we leave the crowds (sunny September Sunday on the Pilatus... there are crowds!) and follow the hiking path towards Alpgschwänd. Just short of the alp we turn uphill and follow another trail up, up, up through the woods, past some folks gathering mushrooms, up up, until we come out of the trees and things steepen up a bit. Here, above us in the first (very) light scrambly bit (there's even a cable), we see the first other people on this path: a large group working their way up. We're moving faster, but they're enough ahead of us that they aren't really a bother. Up, up some more with the views getting progressively better, until we come out at the Steinbockhütte. This seems to be the destination for the group in front of us (nice destination: the views are really great) so we weave through them and continue on our way. There's steep grass ahead, so we break out the trekking poles (we have ice axes with us, just in case, but they aren't necessary yet) as we traverse and climb on an easily followed trail through the Hängifeld.
Grass flank above the Steinbockhütte
We traverse to the top of the Sulzgraben (this bit of steep grass over a sharp drop is a bit of a pulse-raiser!) and then do the last bit of ascending to hit the East ridge of the Pilatus. We've done this bit of ridge before more than once and it's great each time. The ridge takes us up, up, up to the Rosegg. Along the way we do a quick food break and enjoy the views. From the Rosegg we traverse across to the steep wall of the Esel, which we scramble up (nice pic showing that line here, from this post), climb over the railing (plenty of tourists around wondering where the hell we're coming from), and then go up to the top to enjoy the views and the madness.
On the way up to the Esel
Now it's down to the buildings at the Kulm, through the tunnel, a bit down the standard trail, and then a left turn to star the third part the day's trip: the Nordwestpassage. This small, but easy to follow, trail takes us westward more or less directly under the cliffs leading to the ridge. There isn't anywhere that it's particularly challenging, but it is certainly quite exposed.
Part of the Nordwestpassage. If you look carefully you can see the path.
At the beginning of a big scree field, we descend steeply a bit along the last grassy shoulder and then traverse to pick up the broader path of the Alten Tomlisweg. This leads us up and through the wall, with a bit of easy (though uncomfortably wet in places) scrambling to the ridge. Now we're on a normal hiking path that takes us up to the Tomlishorn and the crowd that's up there (not as bad as the Esel since it's more walking). Another quick food break to enjoy the views, and then we take the normal hiking path back to the Pilatus Kulm (we'd thought about going down the Alten Tomlisweg, but the though of descending through some of the wet bits isn't particularly appealing). The easy and crowded path takes us back to the tunnel and the path down. At the saddle near the chapel we turn off to the right to follow the path down, down, down to Gsäss, and then back to Fräkmüntegg, where we enjoy cool beverages and watching the people in the rope park before hopping in the gondola and starting the trip back home.

This really was an exceptional tour and is one it's very easy to imagine doing again.

Stats: 11.4km, 1300m up and down.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Climbing around Salvan

track and text to come

Saturday, August 18, 2018

East Greenland Mountaineering Expedition: Overview

some text....
some tracks....
some pics...

some links:

Friday, Aug 17: Flight to Reykjavik
Saturday, Aug 18: Flight to Kulusuk, climbing in the afternoon
Sunday, Aug 19: First tour on Apusiaajik Island
Monday, Aug 20: Transfer day to hut
Tuesday, Aug 21: Second tour, mixed glacier, rock, steep snow
Wednesday, Aug 22: Practicing techniques, fishing
Thursday, Aug 23: Third tour on different island, very steep snow, not much rock
Friday, Aug 24: Transfer day to campsite on Ikateq Fjord
Saturday, Aug 25: Rock climbing
Sunday, Aug 26: "rainy day", hike
Monday, Aug 27: Fourth tour, "up the ridge" on Qianarteq Island, transfer to campsite towards Karale glacier
Tuesday, Aug 28: long fifth tour
Wednesday, Aug 29: Hike up to view point, return to Kulusuk
Thursday, Aug 30: The stormy day
Friday, Aug 31: Last tour, again on Apusiaajik Island
Saturday, Sept 1: Flight back to Reykjavik
Sunday, Sept 2: Flight back to Zurich

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Schlieren-Uri Rotstock traverse

The alp doesn't do really early breakfast, so we don't get the earliest start, but we are underway by shortly before 6:30. The weather is lovely: blue sky and cool. We start along the standard path towards the Uri Rotstock and turn up at the point where the path from the hut meets the traversing trail (where we scouted the previous day). From here it's steeply up the mostly grassy slope until we hit the entrance of the couloir. Here we put on our helmets and climbing harnesses (in case we need them) and then head up through the couloir. The first bit of this is the day's crux: an ugly bit of ascent over the first step on bad rock. With this behind us we take the right couloir and climb up and out onto the steep grass slope to the right. This we ascend to the ridge where we encounter the first of the blue stripes that we will be following the rest of the way to the Uri Rotstock. It's great to have those blue stripes too, because unlike last week this isn't a "just follow the narrow ridge" climb - the route finding would be "non-trivial" if it weren't marked.
on the ridge, ready to climb
This is another great ridge: mostly good rock, relatively straightforward scrambling, excellent views, lovely lovely. The exposure is considerably less than last week, so we end up not using the rope. We have a great time and are on top of the Schlieren before we know it. At the peak we take a short break to eat and drink a bit and enjoy the views. There's a fantastic view of the ridge leading up to the Uri Rotstock as well as the Rotstock itself the people standing on its peak. We've been alone to this point, but it's clear that ends as soon as we make it up there. 
on the Schlieren, with view of the ridge leading up to the Uri Rotstock
After our break we head down, down into the saddle (the Schlierenlücke) and then follow the ridge up to the Rotstock. This gets off to a great start with a nice narrow chimney, but is otherwise considerably less interesting than the ridge to the Schlieren, and once we hit the red parts the quality of the rock deteriorates considerably. The "gate" that we get to go through is pretty cool though. :-)
We hit the peak of the Uri Rotstock 4:10 after leaving the alp. That includes a couple of short breaks. Silbernagel suggests 4-5 hours, so we're pretty happy with this. It's a good thing that the peak of the Rotstock is broad, because there a tons of people up here. Loads of people enjoying the relatively easy blue-white path up from either Musenalp or Biwaldalp.
crowds on top of the Uri Rotstock
We have lunch and enjoy the excellent views and general madness before starting down the blue-white path that leads down the other side. This is initially crowded (holy crap are there a ton of people doing this hike!), but after the path to Musenalp forks off and we split off onto the "more difficult" route to Biwaldalp we are mostly alone. Down, down we go, along the moraine, past the Gitschenhörlihütte and then along a really nice hiking path that traverses and gently descends the slope under the Schlieren, leading us with great views back to Biwaldalp. The total tour time is just under 7 hours. Not bad.
on the way down
We've got some time, so we enjoy some cool beverages and have lunch at the alp while enjoying the sun and the views. After a good break we put the packs on again and follow the path down, down, down to St. Jakob, where we meet the bus that starts our journey back to Basel.

Another really nice tour!

An aside: this tour is from Dani Silbernagel's Hochtouren Topoführer Urner, Glarner, Tessiner Alpen. This is the second one of his E2 tours that we've completed on our own.

The track:
Stats: 9km, 1330m up and down.
The hike to St Jakob (not on this track) was 3.4km and 690m down.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Oberrickenbach to Biwaldalp via the Chaiserstuel

ascent to the Schonegg Pass
in the clouds on the Oberalpler Grat

sunset at Biwaldalp

The track:
Stats: ~16km, 1850m up, 1050m down

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Monte Leone traverse via the WSW ridge

This is planned to be a long day, so we get an early start with breakfast at 4 and are underway before 5. We start up under a cloudless sky with a very bright quarter moon and head up, up from the pass along the route we scouted the day before. The going is good and the trail is easy to follow, particularly after we put fresh batteries in g's headlamp. 
early start
Up, up we go, noticing a group of four behind us, past the edge of one of the ridges of the Hübschhorn, and up some more until we hit a big talus field. This we traverse reasonably efficiently (good balance practice early in the day), and then find a reasonably easy route up the step beyond it, where we see the first of the green points that will lead us to the glacier. The group of four is about even with us now, but they pick a different route through the talus and never end up super close (thankfully! the solitude is nice!). The green points lead us up through some really nice glacier-polished terrain and, though we eventually lose them, we make it easily to the edge of the glacier. We have a short break (it's windy and is cold once you stop moving!) put on the crampons, break out the ice axes, and rope in, and head up the glacier. The group of four pass us at this point since they're doing the ascent without being roped in (doing a glacier without carrying an ice axe and without roping in is... um... yeah. We're certainly hoping that they are planning to do the normal route to the Monte Leone). Up, up, up we go, at first on good snow and then, once we hit the bottom of the ridge to the Breithorn traversing on ice that's not too steep and nicely grippy (yay! the nature of this stretch was the cause of a lot of concern... g was worried that we'd end up turning back here).
on the Homattu glacier, conditions good
At the saddle we pass the group of four (taking a rest) and continue to the edge of the snow before putting away the crampons, shortening the rope a bit (8-10 m), and the continuing on our way behind a guy traveling alone who overtook us on the way up the glacier (he was flying). We ascend a bit through the talus and hit the West-South-West ridge of the Monte Leone just past p3393. During the ascent we have and interesting angle on the ridge that makes p3424 look quite dramatic... going to be interesting to see how we get up/down that!
first view of the Monte Leone and the west ridge (left)
The ridge is just great. It's a mixture of normal walking, a some light climbing (3a-3c?), some narrow "balance-beam" bits, everything you could want. The rock is mostly quite good (though we definitely check all grips and steps before using them), there are normally decent "Zacken" to put the rope over when we aren't right on the ridge, and the views are really good. It's also quite exposed for most of the way. We simul-climb the length of the ridge with about 10m of rope between us. Andrea starts leading and we switch about halfway through. The whole thing takes us about 1:45 to do. Almost two hours of big, big fun. :-)
along the WSW ridge
Some clouds form, and move off, and form again as we're moving along the ridge. When we get to the peak we aren't in a cloud (yay!) but don't have the awesome views we'd otherwise have. Nice view down to Alpe Veglia though. The only other person on the peak is that guy who powered by us on the glacier, he's come up the normal route, and he leaves a couple minutes after we get there. There's no sign of the other four (who have also chosen the normal route). We have a quick food break (it's a long day and we can't do long breaks, plus the clouds are disrupting the good views) and then start down the normal route. This is considerably less nice (though easier) than the route we just took: lots more loose rock and general unpleasantness. The route finding is also more difficult than it seems like it should be, but maybe we're both just a bit tired. On the way down we cross the group of four, still on their way up. The place to descend to the glacier is reasonably obvious. On the descent we cross another group of three: an Italian guide with two customers who seem to be struggling. It's not early in they day, so that can't be much fun.
view from the peak down to Alpe Veglia
Back down at the Alpjer glacier we put on the crampons, lengthen the rope and add a few knots,  and then head out behind the other guy to cross the glacier. This is mostly a traverse at constant height, but we're not doing it slowly (dark clouds are moving in behind the peak) and the sun is out again, so it's plenty warm. We we come off the glacier we quickly take off the crampons for the stretch of rock (not really necessary, but certainly more comfortable), gather up the rope, and head on. Back at the snow again we put the crampons go back on and then head down. The first traverse/descent part goes easily (yay for sun-softened ice) and once we get back on the snow everything is super easy. You can't quite glissade with crampons on, but we maintain a good fluid pace down; fun stuff. Back at the rock we pack away all the gear and then head down, down, down. The route down is a bit different (in particular we aren't nearly as efficient in the big talus field below the step), but we make it back to the Simplon Hospiz with time to rinse off a bit, change, and pack everything away before getting on the bus and starting the long, hot trip home.
across the Alpjer glacier

down down down towards Simplon Hospiz
This was a long, but fantastic tour.

An aside: this tour is from Dani Silbernagel's Hochtouren Topoführer Urner, Glarner, Tessiner Alpen. This is the first one of his E2 tours that we've completed on our own.


Stats: ~18km, ~1600m up and down. We were underway for 11:20, including breaks.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Wasenhorn traverse

In order to escape the heat we opt to spend the weekend at the Simplon pass. We get a reasonably early start from Basel and are at the Simplon Hospiz shortly before 10. We check in at the hospiz, ditch the extra clothes and glacier gear, and then head out, under a cloudless blue sky, shortly before 10:30.

Up, up, up we go along the nice path towards the Monte Leone Hütte. We certainly aren't alone as we follow the lovely and easy path up, across a couple bridges, up, across some cool glacier polished steps, up, up, until we get to the saddle with its nice views up to the Wasenhorn and Monte Leone (that's for tomorrow!) and down to the hut and its lake. Great spot for a lunch break! After lunch we head up a bit more to the Mäderlicke where we put on the climbing harnesses (just in case) and helmets and join the West ridge of the Wasenhorn
towards Wasenhorn West ridge
Here the path takes us under the first peak to the Wasmerlicke, past the first climby bit and then up onto the ridge. The ridge itself is a nice mix of scrambling and walking, never particularly difficult, though at times pretty exposed. We pass a group of three that's roped in (that's not a quick way to move) and continue along the lovely ridge with great views until we come out at the peak of the Wasenhorn. Plenty of people up here. :-) We have a good break and enjoy the really nice views, pack away the climbing gear, and then head down the normal route (south ridge). Aside from one ugly (but short) snow patch, this is an easy descent to the plateau which leads us gently down to the Monte Leone Hütte. We opt not to stop here for a refreshing beverage (though it is super quiet). We continue on down, rejoin the path we've done already at the saddle, and then head down, down, down the path. Along the first steep stretch we cross a bunch of people coming up (the hut's not going to be quiet for long!) but mostly it's a bit less crowded than it was when we came up (no big surprise). Down, down, down we go, stopping for a refreshing break at one of the streams flowing down (hot feet in cold, cold water... nice!), down, down until we get back to the hospiz. After a refreshing beverage we take showers (luxury!) and then have so-so dinner - food is clearly not a priority here. After dinner we take a quick stroll to scout out the beginning of the trail for the next morning (we don't need to repeat much of today's hike). We actually have decent views up to the Homattu glacier and can see that the top bit no longer has snow. This prompts some thinking since that's one of the cruxes for tomorrow's tour, but we'll just have to see what it really looks like once we get up there. Regardless it looks impressive and very far away. :-) Back at the hospiz we head to bed to try and get some sleep before our early start on Sunday.
on the Wasenhorn West ridge
This wasn't a particularly challenging tour, but the ridge was tons of fun, the views were great, and we were high enough that it wasn't all that hot. Yeah!
view down to Alpe Veglia
An aside: this is one of the few E1 tours in Dani Silbernagel's Hochtouren Topoführer Urner, Glarner, Tessiner Alpen
Stats: ~14km, ~1200m up and down.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Climbing the Witenwassernstock

This weekend we did an SAC tour to head up the Witenwasserenstock (it's a pure coincidence that this is just a couple of peaks away from the Chuebodenhorn, which we visited a few weeks ago). The tour description is from the newest Silbernagel book. On Saturday we get a fairly late start; it's a long train ride, but we don't plan to do anything but go to the hut and the weather forecast is kind of dodgy anyway. From Realp we follow the road for a while (too long), then start to head up the Witenwasserental (again, too much time on the road). Eventually we turn off the road and follow a nice path up, up the rest of the way to the hut. 
heading up toward the Rotondo hut
As we go, the weather slowly deteriorates. 10 minutes or so from the hut it starts to rain for real (damn! so close!), fortunately without lightning. Once at the hut we hang stuff up to dry, get situated for the evening, and then hang out for a while until dinner. The hut is crowded, but it's not particularly chaotic. Uneventful except for the important cultural experience of having two Swiss teach us how to play Jass. :-)
After dinner (which is really good!) the weather has cleared up. so we head outside to enjoy the views and do a bit of scoping out/planning the route for the next day.
planning the route across the glacier
On Sunday morning we have breakfast at 5:00 and are underway shortly before 6:00. The hut isn't really a mountaineering hut, so we're the only ones getting an early start. The weather is great: clear skies and the full moon still visible until it sets behind the Lekihörner. We start by following the blue-white trial towards the Cavanna pass and then turn off to cross the talus towards the glacier. At the edge of the ice we put on crampons and walk on. When it gets a bit steeper we rope in before continuing up the steepening slope until we exit easily onto the talus. Crampons off, switch to two rope teams, and then head up a bit more before hitting the blue white trail that takes us easily to the east peak of the Witenwasserenstock. This is, by the way, a really nicely made trail along the ridge. The weather is perfect and the views from the peak (which is a watershed between the Po, the Rhone, and the Rhine) are great. We don't hang out very long, because this is where it starts to get interesting. We follow the lovely block ridge down a bit until we get to a wall. This has a couple of bolts in it and is easy to climb (3c according to the book) up to a stand - we do this part "traditionally".
climbing up the first wall
A bit more along the ridge, then up another scrambling bit - we simulclimb this - then more lovely block until we get to the final climb to the peak. The last ascent is also "real" climbing (no bolts here, but good places to hang slings). Since there's really no room at the top, each of the two rope teams does this individually while the other hangs out at the bottom and enjoys the views and nice weather. After both groups have been to the top and we've taken enough pictures, we reverse ourselves and head back the way we came. Great timing that the group that left an hour after us arrives at the foot of the peak just as we're leaving. Reversing a route is normally not our favorite thing, but in this case having more time to enjoy the ridge is definitely not a bad thing. :-) We also get in some abseiling practice, which is also positive.
the last climb to the peak
After getting back to the point where we left the snow, we put the crampons back on and then head down the slope (great snow conditions), across the ice, and back to the hut. After a refreshing beverage and gathering our gear, we make our way down to Realp. There's some chance that we can catch the train at shortly past 16:00 if we hurry, but we don't manage to hurry fast enough, and we have some time to kill. This works out very nicely as it gives us the chance to stop just before we get into town and have a very refreshing dip (water! cold! yikes!) before we get on the train. The trip back is, once again, long, but pretty painless.
down the ridge
This was a nice, not particularly difficult, combined tour and the ridge and views really were great.

Track (includes the route up from Realp):

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Hiking in the Sächsische Schweiz

Since we were in Dresden and had heard a lot about it, we decided to go for a hike in the Sächsische Schweiz. An easy train ride from Dresden drops us (along with quite a few other people) off at the station for Schmilka and the ferry takes us across to town. From here we follow the road out of town a bit (conveniently most everyone else heads through town to enter the park) before turning up on a trail and heading up, up, through the woods. This is a great trail through the woods with boulders and moss and roots and everything you could want. :-)

After a bit of climbing we make it to the Klein Bastei viewpoint and enjoy the views in both directions along the river. Then it's back a bit the way we came, more trail, a bit of forest road, some descending, and then along the mostly unmarked (but heavily used) use trail up into one of the canyons. We follow this, at times quite sandy (we're both wearing running shoes with mesh tops, which really aren't great for this) trail through the woods, around some great boulders, past the turn offs to a couple of climbing areas, to the end of the canyon and the beginning of the Starke Stiege. A short bit of fun scrambling (with convenient metal loops for hand grips/steps) takes us to the top. Now we're on a panorama trail that follows the edge of some cliffs and has great views.

We follow the good, at times fairly exposed, trail for a while, enjoying the views and crazy rock formations, until we reach the top of the Rotkehlchenstiege and turn left away from the edge. After a bit more trail and forest road, we head down into the next canyon and along for a bit until we hit another forest road. This is the one kind of boring stretch of the day: just a forest road without much in the way of views. Not long after the next set of rocks come into view - complete with a couple teams of climbers - we turn off to the right and climb up towards the woods towards the Häntzschel stiege. A bit of worry here as we run into a group of four just as we reach the bottom, but fortunately they stop for a lunch break before starting the ascent. This Stiege has some quite exposed sections, so it's outfitted with a cable for a klettersteig set; an option that seems to be commonly used. We're not doing that, so we don't have any prep to do and just start climbing. It doesn't take long to catch up to the group of two in front of us who are using safety gear, so we do a bit of waiting, but fortunately the first section isn't all that long and they head off to the viewpoint. We continue along until we get to the narrow crack in the rock that leads to the next bit of climbing. (We're really happy that the family that's considering this decides against it and continues along the trail!). Through the crack we get to a set of rungs that head up, up into the light:
We do a bit of waiting for the Dutch couple in front of us to manage to make it up (they're using safety gear *and* not so sure of themselves, so they are not speedy) and then head up ourselves. This really is fun: first heading up through a very constrained space and then opening up to be quite exposed. The first part is the kind of thing that would be a fun climbing challenge if it didn't have the rungs (though then we'd want to be able to place some gear too).
Once up top we take another break to enjoy the views and eat something and then head off on our way. After a diversion out to the viewpoint at the Carolafelsen (crowded!) we follow the trail a bit more before turning off and following the Heilige Stiege (very, very nice stairway down through the stone formations!) down into the canyon:
From here we just follow the trail and forest road until we're back in Schmilke. Here we stop for a refreshing beverage and some food at the bakery/brewery before taking the ferry back across the river. We've got a bit of time before the next train, so we get to clean the sand out of our shoes and cool our feet in the river before taking the train back to Dresden.


Stats: 15.2km, ~1000m up and down (from the running watch, so who knows...)