Fuck snow, go alpine climbing!

Well yea, a bit rough for a title I reckon, but hey, how to better deal with a winter situation that clearly decided to do without much white, thus far? Exactly: Either, stay home and cry a little or go out and climb a little. Or, a little much, if you really mean it.

Autumn and the young winter 2015/16 has not blessed the eastern Alps with a lot of snow, barely anything to be precise, but to make up for it, with pretty much perfect climbing conditions. The same was true for much of the recent years as well, but in a way, this season topped it all off: The last days of a dying twothousandfifteen saw almost 15 degrees (Celsius! plus!) and cloudless sunshine for weeks (in Tirol, that is). Can’t be global warming, could it? Well … here’s some action:

„Da Capo“ (7+), Waidringer Steinplatte, Lofer

Situated at the far right end in this endless sea of rock, Da Capo takes a beautiful line in 7 pitches, starting off with an almost impossible slab start (6+?!). Best of all weather, best of all rock, what a place! The climbs around Wermeteigen Alm are more than just idyllic, they are ridiculously idyllic. This was on the last day of October, and doing an out-of-this-world pumpy 40m 7a baseclimb at the seemingly forgotten crag in the last of this days sun rays and almost collapsing from overheating, well, this was a clear sign that there might be something slightly “wrong” with the weather this season.

„Mon Cheri“ (8-), Schüsselkar, Wetterstein

One more on the list. It is always special to climb a route set up by your dad and dedicated to you mum, there are not too many of those routes around. 1991 that was, Schöpf/Knabl. Back in the day, Mon Cheri was among the first fully bolted routes in this area, quite a thing. 15 years later, we take this perfect October day to repeat it in style, what a climb! 7 pitches of continuous tricky climbing, starting off with the crux pitch testing all your on-sighting skills. Finally done!

„Freie Verschneidung“, Söllerköpfe, Wetterstein

Alex: „Let’s do something really alpine.“ Me: „Well, alright.“ Yea, almost the famous last words. We can now quite confidently claim that this route did not see many repeats in the last 37 years. First ascent: 1978, graded 6+, one of the test-peaces of free climbing. Normally, this grade is an easy warm-up for us, but up here, it proved to be our very limit. Mentally and physically. The first crux is to actually get to the start of the route („100 m Schrofen“ my ass), about 200 m of free soloing through questionable terrain you finally reach the route, and it proves to be all but easy. Almost without fixed protection, besides a (very) few rusty pitons and slings, the climbing took a lot longer than we thought, and it was a lot harder than we thought; finishing off with a 6- offwidth crack; never been so thankful for seconding a pitch! Well, and then this was of course in December, and days in December tend to be short. Of course, getting down that thing was the second half of this story, and thank the spaghetti monster that we had both headlamps. What followed was a highly sketchy repel / downclimb action on properly aged gear, and let me say that, quite out of my comfort zone. Well: alpine we wanted; alpine we got.

„Das Schweigen der Hämmer“ (8+), Plattenspitzen, Zugspitz-Massiv, Wetterstein

Another project, long on the list: Skitour -> climb -> ski. Finally made possible this year on the south faces of the Plattenspitzen, touring up from Ehrwald. A (to me) new and beautiful area with lots of base climbs as well. The route we chose, Das Schweigen der Hämmer, well lets say that the 5c’s are definitely 6b’s and the 6c+ is … hard. Very fragile slab climbing on mini-holds, and as this was December as well, we repelled after pitch 5 for the day was deciding to end, slowly.

„Pfeiler-Mix“ (7+), Waidringer Steinplatte, Lofer

One last alpine climb end of December, still in t-shirt, still at 1.500 m. Back to the good old Steinplatte, the conditions are incredible, and we choose to go for a mix of few tours on the Akkupfeiler. Beautiful rock as always, beautiful day as so often. Good times out! Topping out into a skiing area where people are actually skiing is something quite surreal, but well, everyone follows his or her passions. We chose rock!

So much for the longer routes. There as been an awful lot of great sport climbing, too, but what do you want to blog about that? That’s just always cool, and that’s it. So much for the alpine autumn and early winter, and now it’s all waiting for snow. It’ll come, it always does. Thus far.

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Summer 2015: Going big, reclimb the classics

As always, life is too busy to write blog posts. More precisely, I tend to organize life’s events way too narrow to write blog posts. And events, even more precisely, equal climbing trips, as of speaking. With a new occupation on the horizon, I decided to make best use of the students’ flexibility remaining, which means in plain English: Organize as many great climbing trips as possible in a row. Now, I could easily write ten different blog posts about the happenings of the last months, but also I need to move to a new city, which is why I’m happy to type only a few lines instead. But a few lines are necessary, at least, as summer 2015 seems to have a very bad conscience about the rainy something the year before, so apparently, it’s only sunshine and heat this year. Which, for any climber with sense, means an escape upwards, into the greatest rock-faces of the Alps. And escape, we did!

What follows is a subjective list of what I found to be the most impressive routes and the ones I do recommend to anyone without the blink of an eye.

May: Oceano Irrazionale (VII, 525m), Bergell / Val di Mello, Italy

So I feel quite fortunate to claim that I have seen some very beautiful places around the world, especially those where huge rock faces grow out of the earth. I’ve heard people talk good about the ‘Mello’, especially boulderers who, for some reason, think it’s cool to define and find a lot of problems, sometimes even solutions, when they come here. I bet that’s fun, too, but look at the 800m faces of perfect granite just behind those boulders! Wah. What a place! Not even a proper road finds its way into the Mello, half of the valley is a nature reserve without even hiking paths, and waterfalls nurture the crystal-clear Mello river. To call this valley idyllic would be an understatement, this place is beyond idyllic. Coming there in May on the weekend after the famous Melloblocco boulder festival, we basically had the valley for ourselves with only very few other climbing folk in sight. Even if you’re not a climber it is worth going there, simply for you will have a totally new experience of the color green. And it will be a good one.
As of the routes, we had to tackle the big classics, of course, so we started with “Luna Nascente” (7, 300m, E3) and “Il Risveglio di Kundalini” (7-, 400m, E3). Two incredibly fantastic routes finding their way through, I have to repeat myself here, incredibly fantastic granite. Generally, the long Mello routes tend to be an exciting mix between well-protectable cracks and (almost) non- protectable run-out slabs. You’ll learn to trust your rubber here.
On our last day, we decided for the route with the neatest route-name of all times: “Oceano Irrazionale.” First ascended by Ivan Guerini (coolest dude in town!) in 1977, Oceano introduced the 7th grade to the Alps and is for this historic reason more than worth such a name, as is the impressive piece of rock it tackles (“Precipizio degli Asteroidi“). The line is incredibly logic and diverse, leading through perfect cracks (the 5b’s feel like 6c’s here) and roofs up the the ‘Eremit’, a lone tree mid-way the wall. From here, the Oceano gets slabbier and easier, but still some way to go; we just managed to reach the foot of the crag by the very last rays of the day’s light, descending and then going for a horribly tiring 5h drive back to Innsbruck: no fun. Luckily, we all survived and somehow managed to stay on the road before dropping dead in our beds, so now we can keep this journey as a perfect climbing trip in our memories. Mello Love!

June: Le Marchand de Sable (TD+, 6a+, 300m), l’Envers des Aiguilles, Mont Blanc Massive, France

The next course on the menu was crossing pretty much the entire Alps length-wise to get to the Western part and the place where the rock is so good that it plays in its very own category: Chamonix granite. Golden-red cracks and green-orange slabs lure the engaged alpinists up to higher grounds, the ever-strenuous glacier approaches are the price to pay. As last year, Seb and me decided to venture up to the massive walls behind the Refuge d’Envers des Aiguilles for we still had some open tabs there, getting rained out a bit too soon. This year, we arrived at this gem of the alps early in the season, the hut still closed and other climbers rarely seen. We knew that pretty much all routes done by Michel Piola and friends were *****-lines, so more of this drug!

An ultra-classic of the Envers is “Le Merchands de Sable” (Sandmännchen) as it was among the first routes in the alps where a brand-new invention changed the course of our beloved sport: the expansion bolt. Drilled in 1983, the Merchands suddenly opened up totally new grounds for climbers: Slabs, previously not protect-able. And how tricky they still are! Rated with 6a+, a grading that we’d both climb as an easy warm-up when sport climbing, we had to fight pretty hard to hold on to the tiny nobs and crystals that prove to be your holy chance of not slipping down the wall. Ingenious climbing, but this can be said true for pretty much all routes at the l’Envers: We could also do “Guy Anne” (6a+, 370m, TD+), “La Piège” (6a+, 200m, TD sub.) and “Elle a du le Faire” (6b+, 140m, ED-). Beyond all those perfect cracks, thanks for those bolts, Michel.

June: Noli Me Tangare (7a+, 270m), La Maladière, Vallee de l’Arve, France

When driving from Geneva towards holy Chamonix, one tends to be almost too focused on the granite giants straight ahead and thus ignoring the limestone cliffs to the left and to the right. But wait, give them a chance! You’ll soon find out that not only the granite in this area is superb, but so is the limestone. And also here, in the Vallee de l’Arve, Michel Piola envisioned climbs that are of the same quality than the famous ones higher up: Five-star-potential everywhere. Noli Me Tangare translates to ‘touch me not’, but touching, we did. Being incredibly sustained throughout its ten-pitch-entity, namely 6b+, 6b+, 6c, 7a, 6b, 7a, 7a+, 7a+, 7a, 7a, (!!), I found this line to be the perfect on-sight challenge.

July: Tschechenplatte (8-, 200m), Schnittlwände, Speckkarpitze N-Wand, Halleranger, Tirol

Why travel far when the best lines are just around the corner? On ‘the list’ since long, and described as the “best crack climbing in the entire eastern Alps” (I would add: best limestone crack climbing), in July all conditions finally aligned (a few days of hot & stable summer weather, a few days worry-free days to spent bivouacking up in the mountains, personal fitness, and above all, a strong & motivated partner) and we gave Tschechenplatte a go. The route itself is not too long, but very sustained and self-protected climbing in all its six pitches. Put your jamming gloves on, water-eroded limestone is especially rough on your palms. Incredible to have such a line in the otherwise mostly (heavily) brittle Karwendel. But many of the routes here have comparable quality: We also climbed “Hundertwasser” (8, 200m) and “Coach Crack” (8, 200m); priceless experiences, magic place!

July: Comici (VII, 550m), Große Zinne N-Wand, Italy

For the grand finale, the grand-est of all names: Comici, north face of the infamous tre cime; it’s not a regular that when you see a rock face for the first time, you go something like this: “…. uh ….”, but this one definitely causes effect. Again, the weather in July was simply amazing, so there were finally no excuses left, Comici we had to do! A bit scared by the aura of fame surrounding such a big name, we thought strategically and decided to start later than all the other teams to not get into a traffic jam on the route, and climb fast thereafter. Well, we started late, but we didn’t climb all that fast, so we got to ‘enjoy’ the most beautiful sunset from the top of this massive piece of rock, just not too happy to have a horrible three-hour grade III downclimb ahead of us … quite likely in the dark. But what comes up goes down, so we managed to get down safely just with the very last of this day’s light. But what an up-climb it was!

These were the great classics climbed in summer 2015, May ’till July. Summer goes on, but Simon goes back to work now, so the available time for big walls will be more limited. So long, and thanks for all the fish; but even more so, so long and thanks to you restless souls venturing on the above adventures with me! Good times, good times; best of times!

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Turkish Standard: Geyikbayırı

Sport climbing at its best. That’s quite essentially what the area close to Geyikbayırı, Turkey, is all about. Not much more, but also nothing less; simply perfect climbing. The lack of distraction is also what makes this place so special, it’s climb-eat-sleep-repeat. We’ve been there for ten days, and even though we had honest and well-reasoned attempts to do a few rest-days, we simply couldn’t manage. We had to climb ten days in a row. The routes we found ourselves looking at, mysteriously, were just too good not to be climbed. The result, of course, was an unparalleled continuous pump in especially my left forearm, also lasting for around ten days.

There is, of course, much more to be found in this place than just the mere repetitiveness of climbing: The Mediterranean sea close by, some two-thousand year old Lycian ruins close by, ‘eternal’ flames happily and steadily burning for pretty much as long, and a market every Sunday, unveiling the whole diversity and deliciousness of Turkish cuisine. And the Turkish people, who are quite definitely among the most friendly and hospitable folk on this planet. Just not a lot of climbers to be found among them, quite probably for cultural reasons, but a small scene is developing. A good thing, because the potential for highest quality rock climbs in Turkey is close to endless.

So what we came for, primarily, is to lay hands on a very tiny fraction of this perfect limestone, mushrooming everywhere you look. For the Geyikbayırı locals, we found out while hitchhiking up and down, it still feels a bit strange to see a bunch of highly developed apes arriving from all corners of the planet just to hang on rocks, those rocks they have always been passing mindlessly while driving up to their village. Why, they asked us, why on Earth do we all come here? What do we want? And how, on Earth, did we get to know about those rocks? Legitimate questions, and I honestly struggled to find an explanatory answer. Doesn’t make much sense, if you really think about it. Basically, it’s just what climbers do. The only answer I can give is compressed in the below pixels. It roughly translate to: That’s why.

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FA “Der Letzte Schöne Herbsstag” (7c) & “Muas da wuascht sein” (7a), Galerie, Martinswand

Gut Ding braucht Weil. Sagt man so. Als Lukas ‘Siggi’ Sigl und ich im Oktober 2011 beschlossen, eine neue Linie im oberen Stock des bei den Innsbruckern wegs seiner Panoramablicke und hohem Solariumfaktors sehr beliebten Klettergartens Galerie einzubohren, kannten wir zwar das Sprichwort, aber nicht die Relevanz für unsere neue Route. Etwas später bohrte Lukas dann gemeinsam mit Sandra Liebold enthemmt noch eine weitere Linie links davon ein, und so kann man nun langsam wirklich von einem ‘oberen Stock’ sprechen.

Topo Galerie Oben Rechts
Topo Galerie Oben Rechts

Die Routen sind als zweite Seillängen über die Einführung in die Physik (6b+) oder die Route rechts neben der Einführung in die Physik (ca. 6b) zu erreichen. An einem überaus gemütlichen, vom Innsbrucker Verschönerungsverein großzügiger Weise gesponserten Standplatzbankerl angekommen, befindet sich der/die Wiederholungsaspirant_in nun vor einer lebensphilosophischen Entscheidung: Wählt er/sie die linke Linie, erstbegangen durch Lukas Sigl am 13.01.2014, so begibt er/sie sich auf den Pfad des “Muas da wuascht sein” (7a). Der Routenname ist den tiefsinnigen Worten Flo ‘Flow’ Brunners nachempfunden, der in einem Moment spiritueller Erleuchtung die Quintessenz all seiner Lebenserfahrung in die Kraft dieser vier Worte zu bündeln wusste, und spiegelt die pragmatische innere Einstellung wieder, dass einem tatsächlich im Leben oft einiges wuascht sein muas. Muas da wuascht sein, wenn vor lauter Nebel die Hand vor Augen nicht siehst. Muass da wuascht sein, wenn die Finger vor Kälte erstarrt sind. Muas da wuascht sein, wenn der scharfe Fels Spuren hinterlässt. Muas da wuascht sein, wenn’s Projekt wieder nicht geht. Oder akronymisch: Mdws.

Wählt der/die motivierte Kletter_in die rechte Variante, “Der Letzte Schöne Herbsttag” (7c), dem ich am 09.01.2014 die erste Rotpunktbegehung abringen konnte, so vertritt er mit seinem/ihrem Versuch die Einstellung, sein/ihr Leben möglichst so zu gestalten, als ob der gegenwärtige Tag tatsächlich der letzte schöne Herbsttag sein könnte. Die Betonung ist stets auf den bewusst gewählten Konjunktiv II zu setzen; man besitzt doch nie Gewissheit. Auch soll dies keineswegs den herannahenden Winter herabwürdigen, auch dem ersten schönen Wintertag ist durchaus viel Positives abzugewinnen; doch den ersehnten Durchstieg des aktuellen Kletterprojekts kann man wohl vergessen, denn der Winter ist da, und im Winter geht man gefälligst Skitouren. Resümierend lässt sich daraus folgende philosophische Grundregel formulieren: Lebe jeden Tag so, als wäre es der letzte schöne Herbsttag. Quasi carpe diem für Kletterer. Und was macht ein jeder Affe am letzten schönen Herbsttag? Volle ziachn gian. Alles andere muas da wuascht sein.


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L’Opium du Peuple! Tour Va Mal!

It’s probably not overly exaggerated when I say that I probably never put as much effort into climbing a route than into this one. Or two, to be precise. The first and almost most difficult effort was to wait in Chamonix. Wait for stable weather, which was rare, this summer. Wait and look at the topos. All those topos! All those routes! All this perfect granite! And us, stuck in the valley, condemned to do some sport climbing. Bah! What an effort. But then, finally, our new favourite site meteocham preached no rain, for three days! Off we go. Quite slow actually, because as it happened, we had to carry our massive bags containing topes, trad gear, tent, sleeping bag, mats, food for three days, cloths, but no beer. Still heavy. Seb was dubbed ‘the walking barrel‘ as the sheer size of his haulie almost exceeded his body size.

And what a pain it was. Frankly, the walk up to Refuge de l’Envers des Aiguilles (2700m) is breathtaking by itself, surfing the mer the glace, but with that damn haulie on your back … different story. Well, a few hundred curses later we arrived up there and found the snow retreated just enough to give way to a few flat square meters, setting up basecamp! Then, the route we planned to do that day didn’t quite happen; just as we roped up, it started to rain. And my stomach got bad. Seriously? After all that hauling? Mpf. Back to tent. More rain. One thought: La misere. Eyes close.

Only to open up the next day to, yes yes yes: blue sky! Finally we’re in granite-heaven, we decide for an easier introduction and an intriguing route name: L’Opium du Peuple (300m, 6a). Getting to the actual climb proved to be an adventure for its own sake, there are some cravasses to pass and then, the infamous bergschrund: depending on the season, route length can vary up to a pitch or so. Some routes are simply impossible because you can’t get to the rock at all. Climbing at altitude is a different game. But L’opium we got, a magnificent climb situated in a unparalleled and isolated scenery. And to watch avalanches play right beside you is interesting, too. Also, our decision to extend the route and to climb the second tower as well made for an adventurous abseiling action: through snow. Wet climbing shoes guaranteed. Back to base camp to witness a one-of-a-kind sunset, großes kino without an entrance fee.

Our big project is scheduled for the next day, Tour Va Mal (600m, 6c+) on the Auguille du Roc. And what a climb this one is. Starting out as a bolted slap route, it quickly steepens and the bolts make way to perfekt orange-coloured Chamonix granite cracks, occasionally streaked by 40m long quartz veins. Each pitch a beauty (as dirty as it may sound), each friend a bummer, each nut bomb-proof. But 600m are a long way to go, and the last pitch makes you pay your tolls. And cold, cold it get, at almost fourthousand, as soon as the sun disappears. Finally, what comes up has to come down again: All the way. Not too pleasant, considering that the entire route is named after a malheur while repelling after the first ascent. The cracks eat ropes. Ours too, but just once. Anyway, exhausted and no earlier than by sunset we arrive back at base. What. A. Climb. I won’t go into length about our cursings the next day when the clouds moved back in, and we had to haul all our stuff back to Chamonix. So were the efforts worth it? Judge yourself:

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Bohuslän, yes again

Yes Mats. This is definitely worth a blog entry. The tricky thing is just that all blog posts have to be written by hand. There really should be a automation process to it. Such a big effort! Maybe that’s why it took me three month to write this. Three month (I know you were faster)! But there really wasn’t any time whatsoever during the last three month to write a blog post; no no. So as of now, it feels like last year that we drove through a lot of flatland to arrive in Bohus yet again. So how should one possibly write about a thing in such a distant past, barely remembered at all? Well, a first step would be to copy-paste all text found scratched on a worn, torn, and rumpled sheet of paper. It reads:

  • Svaneberget, Bergkirstis Polska 6-, 35m: “beautiful sweeping line that requires footwork to the top”; “def. not in the trad-mindset yet.”
  • Svaneberget, Bohusvals 6-, 20m: “ex thinner fingers”
  • Svaneberget, Höstsonaten 6+, 35m: “!!
  • Hallinden, Pekkas Diplomtur 6, 22m: “excellent jamming lesson”
  • Hallinden, Prismaster 6-, 55m: “an exceptional climb: a classic for sure”
  • Hallinden, Fueled on Coffee, Powered by Bakon 7, 25m: “thank god for great granite, and thank god Daniel led this one”
  • Häller, Chapman 6, 35m: “a great, great climb”
  • Häller, Djurgårdsfärjan 6, 45m: “Simon led this classic Swedish horror show. Actually was a strange and wonderful cimb, with very unusual moves required. The traverse at the top is also pretty special”
  • Högberget, Karl Alfred 6-, 25m: “svamp?”
  • Högberget, Jäger 6+, 25m: “a line, a line, a line. worthy finale of a great trad trip”

(Thank you Sam, you slightly crazy English guy, for pre-thinking most of the comments. Will start my own routebook soon. You’ve got a good point there.)

Second, you quickly upload some pictures found on your hard-drive to the almighty cloud and add them to the blog post; makes for some good and colourful space and doesn’t require a lot of thinking. Go:

[AFG_gallery id=’22’]

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