Category Archives: Alpine Climbing

Grindelwald Days- Eiger Monch Engelhorner

Vadim was back again to climb in these Alps and we decided to base ourselves in Grindelwald. What an exceptional valley for climbers! From the magically silent cliffs of Hintisberg and the Engelhorner, to the ice palace at the Jungfraujoch, and the wild jaunt ascending to the Mittellegi Hut, this valley has everything for the ambitious mountaineer (and hill walker and tourist!). We were hoping to climb the Schreckhorn, Monch, and Eiger, but of course the weather determined our program.

We started with a few climbs in the surrounding valleys, then worked our way up to the heights. Cow bells echoing off the high walls surrounding Hintisberg sounded the way towards the Eiger. The changeable weather then chased us to the Mediterranean Sea and a couple more limestone cliffs.

Have a look at the photos and let me know when you are coming! Autumn air is creeping into the weather, and it looks like climbing possibilities shall be with us for a good number of weeks still.

Climbing the Matterhorn via the Lion’s Ridge

Fiona and I climbed the Matterhorn this early October, just hours before the first winter storm moved in. All lifts in Cervinia were closed, which meant an 1’800 meter climb, just to the Carrel Hut! It was the next day that had me thinking: 8 hours round trip to the summit from the hut, then 1’800 meters back to the car. Ouch!

We left the hut at a leisurely 7:30AM, just as the sun was rising. We immediately reached the first fixed ropes, The Awakening Ropes. I was fully awake after getting over the final vertical section. (Hmmm, not quite like the Hornli ridge…) Though it was quite cold, the weather was perfect as we climbed. The winds from the west were picking up as the impending storm approached. The route stays on the south face, clear of the ridge for the first few hundred meters, which meant we were out of the wind, but once up on the ridge I was happy to have my down jacket on under my gore-tex shell.

We then progressed across the south face, zigzagging towards, then away from the ridge, never too far from it. A metal cable appeared, which added security as we continued right and up on the south face. After some guess work, we reached the Tyndall rope that takes you to the ridge at approximately 4070m. We then climbed on the windy ridge to the top of  Tyndall peak (4241m). The climbing was easy and fun, but challenging with the wind. Though there was ice in places, the whole route was doable without crampons or ice axes. From Tyndall peak,  the hike is horizontal going NE, then some down climbing and the not to be missed, “enjambée”. The guide book says to step across or jump. Reading that, I’d gotten quite psyched to jump it, until I had a look at it. Forget that! Stepping across worked quite well thank you…

Once across the Col Félicité, the climbing is straight forward until the steep Jordan Ladder. Climbing this wooden rope ladder was a lot easier than it looked from below. After the Piravano fixed ropes, we were quickly on the Italian summit. And from there, a short down climb then up to the one meter higher Swiss summit.

Equipment: There’s lots of fixed pro, so bring 3-6 quickdraws and a few large locking carabiners. I used a 37 meter single rope. Crampons and axe may be necessary, plus all the other obvious mountain gear and clothing. The hut is unguarded, so bring food. There are a couple of good gas stoves and (dirty) pots and pans and dishes, but no water. We filled up with water at 3300 meters, below the small glacier, west of the path to the hut. One can find snow to melt near the hut, but may be difficult to mine (ice).

Piz Badile North Face Cassin Route

The weather has been fabulous! It has been hot, hot, hot. With a week free to go climbing with my friend and fellow guide Mike Powers, we chose the Cassin route on the Piz Badile. Temperatures in the valley were 30+ degrees, so this looked to be a perfect window to climb a north face. The route was beautiful! Though the hut seemed ridiculously expensive compared with camping in the Val de Mello on the other side, we enjoyed our afternoon on the terrace of the Sasc Furä, gazing at the north face and surfing the internet!!! There looked to be around 5 other groups heading up, plus a few others bivying above the hut. Most groups would be climbing the North Ridge.

We left the hut at 4:15 and arrived at the foot of the face at 6AM. I had a few good topos of the climb. Marcel Dettling had given me a pdf of a drawing he made. It proved to be quite accurate. Though we were quite surprised at the scramble up to the ridge. This would have slowed me down had I been roped up with a client. After down climbing, rappelling, then traversing to the base of the route, the first pitch started with good climbing right away. We opted for the Rebuffat Dihedral. A bit of layback on small foot holds got us to 2 pitches of cruisey climbing. Then some delicate climbing below Cassin’s first bivy got us off route. Some nice person had fixed a rope to get climbers back on route. I can’t imagine this will remain in place much longer though. It was looking a bit frayed. So stay left like the topo says. Duh!

Climbing to the “Noon Ledge” was again quite easy. But here starts some steep climbing with the hardest moves at 6a. The rock is marvelous and varied. It makes for sundry climbing , always asking for different movements and preparation. There were many opportunities to place friends and rocks.

A 70 meter pitch got us to 2 pitches of chimneys, the first of which I found super awkward!!! Lucky Mike got this lead. 🙂 We hit the ridge after a couple of fine pitches. 12:00 high noon. Then we moved together to reach the summit. 5 hours later found us back at our tent in the Val di Mello enjoying cold beer and pizza!