Adventures must be done!

Allmenalp Via Ferrata, Fründenhütte and Hohtürli (25.-26. August 2007)

Team: Andy, Marcel, Isabelle


We took the train to Kandersteg, walked to the start of the via ferrata and started the 350 metres of ascent. It was my second time on this route and I never got any kind of anxiousness or whatever due to the height. It was however a very warm day and I for my part was sweating like a pig!

Climbing aided by iron bars

Marcel (it was his first via ferrata) and Isabelle were both pleased about the route. From the end of the climb a path led up to the top station of the cablecar where we had a well deserved late lunch. We then took the cable car down to save some time and started our ascent towards the Fründen hut. The sun was beating down as we followed a path through scattered coniferous trees and shrubs. I suddenly caught a movement near the edge of the gravel trail and then we all saw a European adder (Vipera berus) slithering away. The reptile was beautifully patterned, just way too fast for a picture! Sorry guys!
We were sweating profusely and felt thoroughly cooked when we got to the Oeschinensee. I was amazed to see such a number of rowing boats on the lake and heaps of day tourists hanging around the shore. The lake was set in a magnificent scenery indeed. The far side consisted of a sheer cliff, the remainder was surrounded by rocky beaches and stands of coniferous trees. We had a short break, took off our boots and stood into the cold water of the lake. We then continued uphill.

Isabelle tramping on the way to the Fründen hut with the Oeschinensee in the background.

Some flags on the top of a knob high above indicated the position of the hut.
We ran out of water about 3/4 up and felt pretty exhausted when we finally arrived a the hut. No wonder as our total ascent was around 1800m under very hot conditions.
Maggie came out to greet us, however, she had not much time and soon shot off to the kitchen again. Then it was already time for dinner, delcious and plentiful as usual in such huts. Having eaten so much I was in need of a stroll to help digestion. Thus Isabelle and I went after that geocache that is hidden in a cairn about 180 metres from the hut.
Shortly afterwards Marcel and I decided to have a sun-downer (coffee with schnapps and whipped cream). It was a calm evening and we just sat there enjoying the scenery and marvelling about past tramps and those yet to come.


Marcel stayed at the hut to hang out with Maggie. Isabelle and I planned to go over the Hohtürli Pass into the Kiental. There was a trail crossing along a grassy, narrow and exposed ledge to the other side of the valley high above the lake. We had read the route description the day before: it was rated T5 (most extreme of the hiking trail rating) but the exposed sections were said to be fitted with steel cables. We decided to give it a shot and descended around 400 metres to where the route took off. We put on the via ferrata gear and headed off. When we got onto that grassy, steep strip I was feeling somewhat uneasy. It is one thing to climb using a rope or doing a via ferrata where you clip into the cable. It's a totally different thing to walk on a path as wide as a foots length on a slope with a drop of a few hundred metres below. We then came upon a recent slip, maybe 15m wide where all the grass was gone, and so was the 'trail'. A few slanting foot prints indicated where some other people had crossed and just a few centimetres further down the was no dirt left but only a smooth rock for a few metres downhill, then followed some rubble and then the cliff! This was dodgy as. To cross here you'd have to be either extremely brave or extremely stupid. I felt like neither and we decided to abandon this plan. Especially because we had not knowledge about the rest of the route, maybe the worst was yet to come? We had to retrace our steps and then descend all the way to the lake, then start the ascent on the other side again.

The Oeschinen lake in the morning.

It was a very hot day again and we sweated a lot as we made our way towards the pass. I gave a shot at quick ascending and managed to do an average of 14m per minutes according to my GPS (that's 840 m/h). On the way we lifted another geocache and came to the top (Hohtürli) after a relentless track up some steep scree slope. Another 60m climb brought us to the Bluemlisalp hut where we had some lunch. The total ascent was now 1200 metres.
We then started another downhill part. The first section was pretty steep and we fell into a smooth jog that had us cover 800 metres downhill in 30 minutes.

Cairn on the way to the Griesalp.

By the time we got to the Griesalp, we had accumulated a daily total of 2600 metres downhill!
From here we took one of the two little buses that left for Reichenbach, both crammed to the limit! I had always been under the impression that one needed to travel to e.g. India to see such scenes, but I have been mistaken! It was impossible to fall anywhere, there was simply no room for that, which was good as was well cause this route is the steepest bus route in the whole of Europe! Well worth every cent of it!!!

Grosser Aletschgletscher - Glacier Trekking (17.-18. August 2007)

For years I'd had the desire to explore the longest glacier of the European Alps: the 'Grosser Aletschgletscher' (length: 22km). Now the time had come to tackle this pending adventure.
We took the cogwheel railway to the 'Top of Europe' (see also, the station is at 3454 metres asl, enjoyed the view from the platform of the Sphinx and then got onto the snow and roped up for glacier travel. Here I had a chat with Jutta and we found to our amazement that we both had studied at Massey University down in Palmy and been member of the Massey Uni Alpine Club!

Roped up.

At first the weather was perfect but soon we found ourselves tramping in the middle of a cloud that had drifted up from the lower altitudes.
There were some minor crevasses to be jumped over but apart from the slush snow travel was smooth. Around 11ish am we had a short break.

Break on the glacier in the middle of a cloud.

Marco announced that we were only one kilometre from the hut, that was what his GPS said. For me it was the first time since ages that I had not a map with me and also possessed no idea how long the distance to the hut would be. I eagerly had a look at the printout of a topo map that Jutta handed over. The cloud lifted a bit and I caught a glimpse of some rock face next to us. Judging by the 1 km to the hut information I figured out where we were. It was decided to press on and have lunch at the hut. Off we went and gradually the mist became more transparent and we got some better views. I found it odd that there should be a hut within 1 km. The scenery just didn't match the map. The only thing that got clear was that it was way more than 1 km!

View towards the Dreieckhorn / Aletschhorn with rocks of one of the moraines in the foreground.

We then had to negotiate some rough terrain of loose rubble covering the ice and some holes filled with glacial water. It required quite a detour and during a short stop to to take off the crampons we got a clear view of the outcrop hosting the hut. Strangely enough Marco insisted that it was again only one kilometre but I now had gotten my bearings again and claimed that I would take a swim in one of those tarns if that was only 1 kilometre. Instead of taking a dip I had again a closer look at the map and found that there were no coordinates, only grid lines. That was pretty useless if one wanted to get the coords to plug into the GPS. But now I knew where I was, well, roughly enough to define what kilometer square I was in. It was then easy to add the coordinates to the map. I then took my ruler to get the exact position of the hut, but, hey, the map was printed at some random scale: 1.5 cm to the kilometre!!! Arrrhg, but 1.5 is not such a bad factor, easy enough calculate the real distances. Right, 2.66km to the hut. To this day it remains a mystery what that other GPS was pointing at or where Marco got the coordinates from because no one in the group had a real topomap and our printout was a 1:50'000 map. Generally, a 1:25'000 map should be carried along on mountaineering trips.

Here's some wisdom for all of you guys: never trust anyone, always think for yourself and do proper route planning!

In more adverse conditions we would have been in trouble but as things were we continued our journey towards the hut. The most exiting moment was the crossing of a stream running along on the glacier! Here we had to take quite a jump to the other side, exciting stuff!
The final leg of the day was ascending the stairs up to the hut. They got to add more stairs now and then due to the retreat of the glacier! On the way up they even got signs indicating the ice level in a certain year.

Stairs up to the hut. Bugger global warming!

Up at the hut we had a beer and then got maps from the hut warden and started planning the next day.

Topomaps showing the trail planning of day 2. (Remember that you can click on the pics to get full screen views)

Planning table for day 2.

We decided to form two groups next day as that should speed up the travelling speed.

Moonrise over the Lötschenlücke.

Day 2 started with a descent to the glacier where we roped up again. Soon afterwards the two groups went separate ways. Our team followed the pre-planned route while the other seemed to have some other plans. After negotiating a heavily crevassed area we got onto easy terrain. The ice had a general striping in flowing direction with waves perpendicular to it, thus looking like a choppy sea frozen instantly.

Frozen 'waves'

Progress was swift and on our way we came along many great holes in the glacier where I burned to rappel into to see what was at the bottom. However we had no time today and the holes might be immense: the glacier's got a depth of 900m under the Konkordiaplatz!!!
After a few kilometres we had to head for the side of the glacier and came upon the biggest crevasses yet! Finding a path through this maze was an interesting challenge that we solved without any backtracking.

Negotiating heaved and crevassed terrain.

Once we had reached solid rock again we enjoy lunch and then tramped on to the top of the Eggishorn. Quite an ascent but well worth the view from the top!

View over the 'Grosser Aletschgletscher' from the Eggishorn (2926m). The strange 'middle moraines' are clearly seen. They form out of the lateral moraines where two glaciers flow into each other.

Our team on the top of the Eggishorn: Andy and Jutta (the ex-MUAC members), Bettina and Reto.

While we enjoyed the view from the top we finally found the solution to the riddle why so many people had been tramping towards the glacier: there was a Greenpeace action going on and those guys were stripping off to protest against global warming. The only thing we could see from up there was a strangely brownish coloured spot on the glacier next to some more colourful area that consisted of all the clothing they are deposited!

Greenpeace protest against global warming on the Aletschglacier as seen from the Eggishorn. You need good eyesight for that one ...

A zoom showing the nudies and their gear.

Rosenlauischlucht & Engelhörner Day Tramp (12th August 2007)

Team: Andy, Thomas, Anna, Marcel & Magdalena

On Sunday, 12th of August we set out to explore the Rosenlauischlucht and the area below the Engelhörner. The Rosenlauischlucht is a narrow canyon with a trail running along the sides, sometimes even leading through tunnels. It is certainly worth the little entrance fee as the rock faces are just beautifully carved out by the water. Also the area above the gorge is stunning with a glacier retreating and leaving smoothly polished rock behind. The track brought us up to the Engelhorn hut where we had a snack. After some descent we stopped in a clearing, lit a fire and started to grill some snags. This was a novelty for Anna and Thomas who both had never grilled on a camp fire!
We then descended further and discovered heaps of wild raspberries (Yum!). In order to keeps things interesting a bit of off trail travel was added, including some bushbashing.
This was a very worthwhile little outing and we can thoroughly recommend it.

GPS trail mapped onto a Google Earth 3D view.

Long exposure shot in the Rosenlauischlucht.

View on the way to the Engelhorn hut.

AIC Weekend (4-5th August 2007)

As a preparation for the upcoming glacier travel on the 'Grosser Aletschgletscher' some mates of Reto had organised an Alpine Instruction Course. When I heard about it I reckoned it would be a good chance to get up to date again and thus I tailed along.
We drove over to Austria on Friday afternoon and hiked up to the Wiesbadener mountain hut (2443m) where we would be based for the weekend.

Day 1 involved getting to know the gear, putting on crampons, roping up, followed by some hiking on the glacier to get used to glacier travel. "Hey, your rope's too slack!"
This short excursion brought us up to the Vermuntpass (2797m) where we got onto Swiss territory again, if only for a short scroggin break just a few metres across the border!

Hiking back to the hut after an afternoon on the Vermunt Glacier (see background).

The team:

Birte, Reto, Bettina, Steffen, Andy (Yeah, that's me!), Christoph, Marco and Guido.

Day 2 started a wee bit earlier, not an alpine start though, however, we had an agreeable ascent in the still cool air and then started to rope up for a bit of glacier travel up to the Obere Ochsenscharte (2977m). It was here that Marco, the leader of this weekend, discovered to his dismay that he had somehow forgotten or lost is crampons! He tramped back to the hut to look for them and I used the time to play around with my new ice screws and to show the others how to set up anchors and backing them up.

Two other parties making their way towards the Obere Ochsenscharte.

We then proceeded to the pass as planned and had a lunch including a good view over the crevasses on the other side. Then back to the hut for some second lunch/dessert followed by a hike out. Tons of people on the trail today!
Everyone was happy with the training weekend and is looking forward to the real glacier trekking coming up soon!