Since winter took a little break so did we. We were off to climb the Eulengrat (200m, 9 SL, up to 6a) one of the most beautiful multi pitch routes in the Jura. With all the time in the world it took us enjoyable 3 hours with a mix of sunshine and some clouds. The only pain was the wind which required putting on puffys & gloves on belay. But hey, it is December after all. On top of the “Owl Ridge” we drank some soup and enjoyed a picnic with the Alps on the horizon.
After massive amounts of snowfall spring has returned to the Alps. Still, above 2000 meters and on northern exposures the snow remains in great condition. It bonded really well as well so the conditions are ripe for touring.
After our annual Christmas party on Friday it was a painful wake up call at 5 in the morning to hop on the train south. Three hours later we were skinning up Winterhorn (2660m) again. This time though we avoided the main peak where all the rest of the groups were going and broke a new trail to one of the unnamed peaks with a nice little couloir leading away from the standard descent route. The snow was just fantastic all the way down to some 1800 meters where the scrubs are not yet fully covered and you have to be a bit resourceful to find your way down. Burger & beer followed.
On Sunday we hit another great northern flank, the north face of Piz Cavradi (2612 m). I am still amazed how come not more people do this tour. Everyone is crowding the surrounding tours while we only met one other small group the whole day. That meant more snow for us however and although the big couloir is still a bit too sharky we had great conditions on the ridge ride all the way down to Tshamut (1667 m).
First big (and it was big) snow dump of the season. Andermatt was in the center of it all with as much as 2.5 meters of fresh snow up in the higher regions. Some nice defensive touring on both Saturday and Sunday to wake the legs and fill the soul.
A little later than usual but still… :)
Another glorious weekend and since both Saturday and Sunday were so nice it only made sense to just stay in the mountains. We found ourselves staring at the seemingly impassable cliffs at the end of the valley in Kandersteg (1176m). But there is a way through! The Kander river made a steep gorge that you have to cross in order to reach the obscure and remote valley of Gasterntal. Far from the crowds and shielded on all sides by big mountains this hidden valley is a true alpine gem. We followed along the Kander river all the way to Selden (1537m) which is the only settlement and only populated during summer. The valley continues on towards the Kanderfirn but we turned right and started along the route up to Lötschenpass (2690m). The pass was used throughout history to traverse this part of the Alps as it connects Berner Oberland with Valais. Today there is also a hut on top and it was there that we finished for the day along with some 60 other people. The dinner was quite an event and most of us went out at night to enjoy the Milky Way in all its glory. Just amazing.
After an interesting night we woke up well before dawn, ate the breakfast, refilled and headed towards the wide ridge leading east towards our goal. As we were walking the sun started coming up and the view from the ridge was just spectacular. Lost for words. Soon though we had to start paying attention to our steps as there is fresh snow above 3000m and it was quite icy. We traversed the little snow fields to reach the north face of Hockenhorn (3293m). The last part is some fun block climbing made a little more spicy with all the fresh snow and ice that doesn’t melt anymore on the North side. The views from the top leave you speechless but eventually we started to slide down and got back to the hut just in time for the freshly baked pie and coffee.
Spent another hour enjoying the views in the sun and then started the long descent down to Ferden (1375m) in Lötschental. Amazing two days.
Pilatus is one of those mountain ranges that calls on you whenever you drive south towards the Alps. Located above Lucerne it is a very popular mountain with all the tourists taking the train or the gondolas up. Still, there are more solitary tracks that you can take where there are no tourists just herds of Ibex.
We started in the late morning at Alpgschwänd (1216m) just above the fog. The path is officially closed due to loose rocks but it has been like that for a few years now. It gets steep almost immediately, first through the nicely coloured forest but you soon rise above the tree line where it gets even steeper all the way to the little chapel just below Klimsenhorn (1907m). We were alone and managed to wake up a herd of Ibex catching the first sun rays below the massive cliffs of Pilatus. After the chapel it gets even steeper but i was wondering why the route is closed. One clue was presented when we reached the big hotel and railway station on Kulm – lots of underdressed tourists with fancy shoes :)
We left them behind and climbed Esel (2118m) and then traversed the ridge to Tomlishorn (2128m) which is the highest peak of the Pilatus range. All the time we enjoyed great views of the sea of fog below and Alps already covered with snow, bathing in the sun. After an hour or so of chilling in the sun our stomachs demanded attention so we descended down the same way and had some nice Rösti and beers before returning to the fog below.