Saturday, August 18, 2018

East Greenland Mountaineering Expedition: Overview

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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.