After a day on the bike it was time to go back to some rocks. We left early to Kandersteg and walked a short distance to the cliffs below Allmenalp. Spectacular setting with many waterfalls and big snowy mountains all around. We sped ahead of some big group of people which meant we had a clear way on our climb and didn’t have to wait for anyone. The ferrata is rated difficult (K4) and has some nice features like it’s own zip-line (two actually), a twisting ladder and some long hanging rope bridges.
Originally we wanted to extend the hike up to First (2548m) but it was so hot that we instead rather had lunch at the Allmenalp (1723m) and enjoyed the views.
Our boss doesn’t like being lonely and he convinced us to go with him on a little bike trip across (half of) Switzerland. Starting from Basel you first need to cross the Jura Mountains before you reach the Schweizer Mittelland or the Central Plateau. A very nice ride where you actually get to drive through all the little villages as opposed to speeding along on the highway. Unfortunately the last 30 km we had to deal with flat tires and ran out of patches and spares… So for the last 15 km i basically didn’t sit down on the bike but pedaled standing up. Good training… And a well deserved beer at the lake in Lucerne.
No pictures, but here is the map of the route :)
After some relatively good sleep and strong breakfast we set off for THE classic tour of the Mont Blanc area, Arête des Cosmiques. It is not too difficult but it does expose you to the best of what alpine mixed climbing is about. A super exposed ridge with great granite, wonderful icy chimneys and some fun abseils. And oh my, what views.
We had excellent conditions with plenty of snow and great ice in the exit chimney. We were also the first group thanks to our sprint on the initial ascent from the hut and so we didn’t have to wait for anyone. The traverse really is pure poetry and i don’t even know how to praise it enough. If you ever come to Chamonix, do yourself a favor and take the time to do this route.
The one thing that kind of spoiled it was my phone which of course died at the beginning of the climb. Luckily plenty of pictures from other people but it got me so pissed i bought a new camera with some extra batteries. If i ever learn to use it i might even start making nicer pictures. It has a lot of buttons though… :)
So again, pictures are mostly from my colleagues.
The weekend after our sales meeting was scheduled for some alpine adventures in Chamonix. We arrived on Friday afternoon just in time for the meeting with our guides where our groups were formed and objectives finalized. Our group planned to do some acclimatizing traverse on Saturday and then push for Mont Blanc du Tacul (4248m) on Sunday. Excited, we had some dinner and met some of our athletes & photographers before listening to stories from Korra Pesce about his adventures on the north face of Grandes Jorasses (4208m). Crazy. And that is only reinforced when you actually see the massive wall of the Jorasses.
Anyway it started raining really hard in the evening and in the morning we learned that there was some 30cm of fresh new snow on the mountain. When we arrived on Aiguille du Midi (3842m) it was obvious that Mont Blanc is off the table since the normal route up the north face of the mountain was covered in snow, heavily affected by wind. Time to adjust the plans then.
We descended down to the glacier and headed towards Pointe Lachenal (3613m). The traverse of its ridge is great for testing your performance on altitude and acclimatization. There are various routes you can take and since we were all feeling good we just tried and aimed as straight as possible. The traverse crosses three peaks with some great mixed climbing action on the main final wall and some nice rappelling and exposed traversing down the middle tower. After a short break we quickly descended back down to Col du Midi (3532m) mindful of the massive seracs that loom above on the Mont Blanc du Tacul. On the other side of the glacier we climbed up to the Refuge des Cosmiques (3613m) where we settled in for the night.
After all our groups returned home safely and almost overcrowded the hut (we were about 40 altogether) we reevaluated our plans for the next day, had dinner and some beers, shared stories and hit the bunks, hopeful for some sleep. I slept quite well considering all the snoring that was going on and only had a slight headache which was easily suppressed by some paracetamol.
Most of the pictures below are stolen from my lovely colleagues :)
The last month was proving to be very springish. Sunny and warm during the week but rainy on weekends. Not ideal for touring but we did get a lot of climbing and biking done. This weekend things finally turned and the forecast promised sunshine. Additionally we were graced by 50cm of fresh snow on Friday… in mid May… not complaining :)
The passes are still only partially opened and due to the heavy snowfall they were completely closed again on Friday. Luckily the road was cleared in the morning and we were able to drive all the way to Hotel Steingletscher (1865m) half way up Sustenpass (2304m). Snow everywhere, trees white, sunny, smiles everywhere. We started rather late since our first day we only needed to reach the Tierberglihütte (2795m). It was getting hot fast however and we did speed it up in the bottom section to get on the glacier proper and avoid the big serac fields where wet slabs were starting to roar down. And since we were in no hurry we made a little lunch brake enjoying the show and listening to the thunder.
Eventually we made it to the hut and joined the rest of our roommates for a day chilling in the sun, having beers and playing games. After some proper dinner it was time to watch the sunset and later the stars on the clear sky before hitting the bunks.
Next morning after an early breakfast we set off across the Steingletscher towards our final goal – Sustenhorn (3503m). Due to a clear and cold night the snow was perfectly frozen and the long skin to the summit was just amazing surrounded by huge ice fields and the sun coming up from the east. It was also cold, even more so on the summit where the wind picked up. Of course my phone died so i couldn’t take as many pictures as i’d like but it’s not like you can truly capture those moments, giving high fives, smiling and just taking in the views.
We didn’t stick around too long anyway since the sun was strong and we wanted to avoid too much slush lower down. Turns out our timing was perfect. 2000 verticals of great skiing in mid May all the way to the road. It got us so pumped we were already discussing the next tours over a beer :)
If last weekend we were able to enjoy a proper winter fairytale, this weekend was a true spring touring bonanza. In fact the whole week has seen temperatures rise to their 20s and of course that had a lot of impact on the snow cover. Time to start going higher however all the passes are still closed so day tours require more planning.
After some inside advice from our resident mountain guide we left early for Bannalp. Another great remote plateau reachable by a small automated gondola. We didn’t have to wait in line as there were hardly any people around and we started marching just as the sun creeped over the ridge surrounding the plateau. And what huge walls of rock surround it, just amazing. There is still enough snow even though the southern slopes are full of wet avalanches. Indeed we heard plenty of those tumble down as the temps started going up.
Our goal was Ruchstock (2814 m) but with a twist. We decided to do a round tour instead of just going up and down. We knew that because it would take us longer we are ultimately sacrificing prime skiing conditions but instead we got to experience some more mountaineering aspects of the tour. So we headed towards Schonneg (2250m) and crossed the ridge down towards Schöntal where we started climbing again towards the little glacier of Schlittchuechen. This is where the route gets steeper and you actually need to climb a part of it with your skis on the back and piolet in hand. After some more exposed kick turns above the cliffs you reach the southern ridge and follow it to the summit. Then the fun starts. In order to be able to get down to skiable terrain you need to down climb some 100m of steep and exposed ridge. It would probably be easier to ski it but there were way to many rocks. This time we had to use the crampons as well as the consequences were just to great. Once on the saddle below we were finally able to put our skis on and enjoy the great face all the way down to the restaurant back at Bannalp. As expected the snow was already quite heavy but that just made the beer taste better :)
With April came fresh snow. Lots of it. Again accompanied by stormy winds though so it was transported all over and for the last few days the avalanche danger was bumped up to 4. For today we had a nice forecast, snow had a day to settle and most people crowded south of the Alps for the higher temperatures. We still needed to find a more defensive tour and finally Rossstock (2461m) in the Glarus Alps came on the menu. Been meaning to do this one a couple of times now but kind of never did.
So, off we were and after some logistical difficulties finally arrived to the remote little valley Riemenstaldner above the east shore of Lake Lucerne or Vierwaldstättersee as the Swiss call it. Just before you reach the end of the valley there is a small little tiny transport cable car at Chäppeliberg (1184m) used to service the Lidernenhütte above (1727m). We were actually the last people that got their tickets and mine was number 35. Not very crowded but we still had to wait for almost an hour since the lift is so slow and only carries 4 people at the time. No worries since they had a nice 2 year old dog that was happy to play with us and even the proverbial up-tight Swiss were happy to converse. Maybe it was the sun or it’s just a bunch of bull since in my 2 years here i never really experienced that up-tightness. You get what you give.
But i digress. Once on top there is a wide plateau of choices but considering the avy conditions most people opted for the Rossstock tour which follows a wide, easy face all the way to the top. Great views all around and about 50cm of fresh snow. Winter fairytale. The last 100 verticals is steeper (40-45) but was very affected by wind so there were rocks sticking out everywhere and we left our gear at the little ski depot and summited on foot.
Then back down and thanks to the cold temperatures (it was just under 0C) the snow stayed relatively light all the way to the tree line. We ended up taking a wrong turn in the woods and had to skin back another 300 verticals but were rewarded with another great run among the trees with plenty of pillows and screams. Ski back to the car and home. One of the nicest tours for sure.