Thursday, 12 February 2015

Ice climbing in Valais, Cogne and Kandersteg

With the winter finally taking the hold, there is plenty of ice all over the place to practice the swings. So a couple of last weekends I tried to hang on some frozen drips.

On Ruebezahl in Kandersteg.

These two idiots with ice axes and ice screws dangling around come up and ask: 
-where is the sledge route?

Yes, that was us. A couple of weeks ago we went to Valais with Stephan (He has a great gallery, check it out here) and while many of the lines we set our eyes on weren't formed, we still had a nice day on Simplon pass climbing a route called Tormenta. The next day we were checking out many cool looking features in the valley on the way to Zermatt, but after approaching one of them we decided that it was too sunny and a bit too risky. A couple more coffees later we were leisurely climbing easy ice next to Furi. In addition to being a great host for the weekend, Stephan turned out to be a rather impressive sledge driver. Two of us with bags and spiky things going down on a single sledge was probably the scariest moment this winter so far.

Simplon. (C) Stephan

Approach.  (C) Stephan
Stephan climbing on Tormenta.
Climbing in Furi. (C) Stephan.  
The real deal.
As I was on my train back from Visp, a bunch of our friends from Zurich were driving south to Italy to check out the Cogne valleys famous for their easy-access icefalls. Even though I was busy during the week, Saule and I decided to join them for a long weekend. Joris had arranged a great accommodation deal and gathered a cool group of people so we were feasting on Pizzas and having fun banter. There was even a sauna and a hot-tub in our house!

During the next few days we climbed a couple of nice lines, including Tuborg and Tutto Relativo. Unfortunately, we had to bail from the super-classic of the area - Repentance super. The ice was well formed and climbing was very pleasant, but we made the mistake on climbing it on a sunny Saturday. With a party already ahead of us we still started climbing on a variation on the side. But then four more parties were starting right behind us, with one dude bashing his axes a few cm next to Saule's crampons. While a scarred face if Saule slipped would have been his loss, I still felt rather unhappy in the middle of this crowd so we bailed. After going down, we still had time to climb something and we decided to go up another classic - Patry. Since it was already afternoon and there is a walkoff from the top, we had the ice to ourselves which provided a very pleasant end of the day.

Before going back home, we visited Julius and his gang, who were getting excited about all the falls in the valley. Having two weeks there, I hope they decided to take restdays during the weekends.

The first time I've seen anything like this. No wonder it's crowded.
Tuborg P1
Saule on the last pitch of Tuborg

Tutto Relativo

RepSup does look pretty cool
I'm getting upset.
Let's come back next time.
The race.
Saule starting on Patry.

Last pitch of Patry.

Having learned our lesson, we spent the following Saturday eating fondue in Thalwil, since even SRF meteo recommended everyone to go play outside on Saturday. Not really minding the incoming clouds on Sunday, we took a relaxed start and only got to the base of the Ruebezahl icefall around 11 am. Our plan must have worked since we were standing alone at the foot of one of the most famous falls in Kandersteg! The climbing was pretty spectacular - first pitch had ice of funky pine-cone variety, with some of the flakes even serving as handholds, second pitch was steep and delicate with the third pitch providing some legit ice-bouldering with a few overhanging blocks. The last two pitches, though less steep, had sustained and brittle ice which kept us at work till the top. Definitely one of the best routes around.

Anyway, perhaps its time to get some skiing in. 

Ruebezahl, first three pitches visible.

Kandersteg delivers.

Second pitch.

Higher up.

Saule taking over the leads.

It got pretty chilly as the clouds rolled in in the afternoon. Topping out in the belay jacket.

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