Monday, 31 January 2011

Hot Ice in der Schweiz


A destination found in our Alpine Ice book, with a cluster of moderate routes in a pretty amphitheatre. The aspect was north, the altitude was high enough - so there were good prospects for it being in fat condition.

We were not disappointed with the thickness of the ice!
Being the weekend, there were a number of other climbers there too - all Swiss, and once again being Australian marked us out as something a little different. That we were also free camping in the (paid) parking lot - hey, it had a loo and was at the end of the valley, in no-one's way - perhaps also raised some eyebrows. But after we returned expensive gear to a group of new climbers - who had dropped it, then the next day left more behind on a belay - we're pretty sure our free parking was ignored.

These sunny days and very cold temperatures have not been the best for the ice, however. Much of it was brittle to climb on, or extremely wet. On the third day, we climbed the couloir on the right. After getting soaked on the first pitch, we were astounded to find such hard and cracked ice on the following two pitches. How can an icefall be dripping when it's always in the shade and it's -16 overnight?! And then why are the next two pitches so cold and hard?!

Jen leading ...
... and smiling, bad ice or no!

However, there was one particular highlight - Saule, the steepest line there, on the left hand side. Two sustained, steep pitches. The second pitch was lots of fun, as the easiest way to climb it was to step completely inside the goove, being careful how you swung your axes of course but having steps for the feet front, right and even behind. At once stage, you could even take seat against the ice behind you. Stepping back out onto the face was a little tricky, and made even more intimidating for Mark on lead as a crack in the ice became visible (don't worry, we know now it's solid enough) - but all good fun, of course and a pretty impressive lead for Mark.

Mark leading the first pitch ...
... and heading off up the second, just out of the groove.

Having exhausted the lines we wanted to climb, we didn't spend more than three days here. And then it was back to asking hard questions - where to next, eh?

(On a side note, did you know there was a World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this weekend? We didn't either ... but worked it out when we were stopped by the police for an "identity check" just outside the valley, before being stopped in queues of traffic ...)

1 comment:

  1. I'm amazed they didn't ask you to speak at the WEF :-)