Adventures must be done!

A little stroll before breakfast (25th May 2008)

Marcel had come up with an idea for some Sunday outdoor trip, mainly as an alternative to a planned canyoning or rock climbing trip, both being postponed due to a) team members bailing out due to sickness and b) unsure wx conditions.
Plan was to hike up Pilatus (2119m asl) and get some breakfast in the hotel that sits on top.

We were on the trail by 0715, speeding uphill at a pretty good pace, although my head was swimming, reckon that anti hay fever pill I'd been swallowing the very morning had some adverse effects ....

Soon, we were rewarded with a good view over the Vierwaldstaetter Lake that is nested between hills and mountains marking the start of the main alps.

Having started in Alpnachstad (450 m asl), we covered a good 1600 metres of ascent in 2h 20'.
That's close to 700m/h vertical speed. Not bad for the start of the season ...

By the time we reached the summit, clouds had already moved in, obscuring the view and prompting us to visit the restaurant soon after taking the above shot.
Still, we had another photo opportunity we could not resist:

Yeah, that beast's supposed to be a dragon ...

SOLA 2008 Relay Race (17th May 2008)

The SOLA is a yearly relay race that is organised by the Academic Sports Club Zurich (ASVZ).
The total length of the trail is 116.74 km and the team consists of 14 runners.
The number of participating teams was a total of about 730, thus around 10,000 persons were taking part!
We had organised a team from the institute of geography, mainly consisting of GIS and GIVA people, thus the name 'GIRunners'.
I had selected the longest of the legs, leading from Felsenegg to Buchlern over a total of 14.27 km with 330 metres ascent and a considerable amount of downhill.

Leg number 5.

Profile of leg 5.

I had quite a good run, feeling very pleased with the time it took me, still, those hill sections were killing me, reckon I'll do some more hill training for the SOLA 2009!

Just a hundred metres to go!

Here some statistics:

Time: 1:12:16
min/km: 5:03
Rank: 473
Median: 1:09:33 (median value of all 730 participants of this leg)

Right, looking forward to next year's SOLA, my new goal is to beat the median!

Snowy adventures in Austria (10.-12. 05. 2008)

Team: Andy, Katja, Christiane

Katja had raised the idea to do a tramp in the alps over a longer weekend. This prompted me to come up with a plan and, honestly, I was planning it very, very conservatively. Or so I thought.
First day would be around 3 hrs ascent to a hut, second day about 4 hrs to the next hut, last day a mere 2h 45 out to civilisation again. I also announced this plan to the team, apologetically stating that ' ... might throw in a peak if we got too much time ...'.
Also planned some alternative routes, just in case conditions were not good enough to use the high level routes (high level in green):

Due to the amount of snow still lying at altitudes > 1600 m asl, we had also brought along snow shoes. A correct decision as it turned out.
We met in Bludenz on Sat morning, drove on to Dalaas, parked the car and started a sweaty uphill slog towards our first hut. We met some first patches of snow around lunch time. These soon became more numerous, developing into a full snow cover.

Snow conditions were pretty slush and even wearing snow shoes was not preventing us from sinking in a few centimetres with every step. In this tiresome way, we continued ever up.

The team at the end of the first day's trail. The cliff at the top left is the "Rote Wand" (Red Wall)

We had already know that the hut was not open apart from the 'winter room', usually an annex to the main hut. Still, we were somewhat surprised to find that the winter room was a little hut with the entrance blocked by 1.5 metres of snow!

Let me in!!!!!

There was a lesson to be learned from this: Always carry a shovel!
In case you don't have one: snowshoes do a pretty good job as shovels as well ...

Keep on diggin' .....

At last, access to the hut is gained!

Tea time in front of the winter room (main hut in the background) with some ominous clouds appearing in the West.

The team with its new member: a weirdo mountain troll ...

Firewood turned out to be very scarce, thus heating the hut to some really agreeable temperature was not an option. Thus, after dinner we retired to our sleeping bags with the intention of getting up at 5am next morning and try to do the high route.
The alarm went off after a good 8 hrs of sleep and I got up, fired up the stove, put the kettle on and went for a look around outside. Uhhh, raining?!?!?!?! Indeed so, sky was all overcast with light rain. Bugger. Back to the sleeping bag for another nap.
Departure was further delayed by a pancake breakfast, fine eating, but time consuming. In any case, we hit the route around 9am and intended to take the lower route. This intention lasted till we got into a steepish slope, around 40 degrees of angle, I reckon. I didn't really like this, as the snow was slush already. I tentatively made one step into the slope and, even wearing snow shoes, sank in up to my knee! A further inspection revealed that there was a harder layer beneath. Avalanche risk galore!
This was a no go. We changed to route uphill and kept to gently inclined terrain. Still, views were splendid.

On flatish terrain to avoid avalanches.

Katja following our trail towards a lookout point.

Downhill slog.

It took us a good 3 hrs to reach the point where the valley leading to the next branched off. Lunch time. The break was somewhat shortened by the disappearance of the sun and we set off again, slightly shivering. A gentle river was flowing in the valley we now followed upstream.

The amount of avalanche deposits waw amazing. I head seen quite a deal during our last sampling campaign near Davos, Switzerland. Still, crossing these huge flows with lateral snow moraines was impressive.

Katja and I discussing the best route over an avalanche deposit.

Negotiating our way over a lateral moraine.

The amount of creatures we spotted on this second day was also unexpected: fox, marmots, chamoix, snow hare and ... frogs, leaping over snow!!!

One of the frogs on its way towards some open water.

We already felt pretty knackered by the time we got to the dam of the lake near the second hut. There was a track indicated on the topomap, however, we could not find it in the terrain. I climbed around a bit in some steep, rocky terrain, but could find no safe route. We then considered hiking along the edge of the lake. The water level had been dropping throughout the winter and consequently the shore was covered in broken ice floes. This however no real good option upon close inspection as one might break a leg when stumbling into one of the cracks. Taking a even higher route seemed not advisable either. Thus, we finally had to turn to another option: there was a little but stop hut nearby, apparently being served by some bus during summer. Big enough to provide a shelter for the night. Fair enough, as we had brought mattresses as well as sleeping bags. We first of all had a brew and considered our situation. We really started to wonder how we would get out of this the next day. I wanted to gather more information on a possible downclimb on some rock face and thus Katja and myself trudged over the dam and up that slope once more. I then realised that downclimbing would lead us onto the ice floes again. Bummer. Considering a slightly upper route again, we suddenly found a ledge covered in snow offering a possible escape route. I proceeded along it by kicking steps and it all felt good. Confident of having found a way out, we made back to camp and prepared dinner.

The bus shelter with Katja and Christiane being busy with some delicious Asian dish.

The night in the shelter turned out to be quite comfortable after all, not too cold really.

The team in front of the bus shelter on the 3rd day.

While preparing breakfast next day, two touring skiers came towards us along the edge of the lake and we figured out that this route was feasible in the morning when the snow was still hard. Fair enough. We thus didn't bother to use our scouted route of the previous evening but set off over the ice floes. We then even found a place to safely cross the stream feeding the lake.

Crossing the stream on some old bridge which would be well submerged when the lake is filled up.

Having reached the other side of the stream, joyful cries were uttered as we believed that we had gotten out of this situation quite unscathed. Little did we know!
We still had to cross a slope lying in the shade. First we climbed up to some knob with a cross on top. Although the snow was hard, walking uphill with our snowshoes felt safe.

Ascending a steep slope covered with crisp snow.

Freedom was close, if we just could get to the start of the second dam. Still, a couple of hundred metres separated us and the slope angle was ever increasing. I got a queer feeling in my stomach and felt suddenly not very confident about the way my snowshoes were sticking on this ground. There was a line of old footprints across the slope, a few days old and as icy as the rest. Walking along here with snowshoes felt not good at all. To our right and a 50 metres slide over hard snow lay the lake, still covered with ice but with some icy-blue water on top. Slipping was certainly not an option here.
I carefully took of my snowshoes, fastened them to my pack and started kicking steps. Nasty business. Fear started making me even less confident, I might get across here, but would the others? Keep on kicking and take care ....! The snow was very hard and icy and I wondered why I had not packed my ice axe. Bugger this! One should know better by now!!! Every step felt very unsecure and keeping balance was paramount.
Halfway through was a bit of a platform where we could gather again and I unmounted those plates from the end of my poles in order to plunge them in all the way, then tackled the second bit with step kicking. This actually worked much better, somehow the snow was not as hard as on the first bit.

Negotiating the icy slope just before it got really nasty ....

What a relief to reach safe ground!!! By the time I got there I was breathing hard from all the kicking and adrenaline levels were high.
From there onwards, things got easier and we descended without any further major adventures all the way down to a village called Kloesterle.

Christiane and I at the start of another valley leading towards civilisation.

We all felt happy about getting below the snow line and I must admit that I had seen enough snow for that season! Still, I was feeling quite elated at having gotten through all these challenges; the amount of adventures on this trip had beaten my expectations by far!!!

Wednesday evening climb (7th May 2008)

About time to start outdoor climbing again.
Reto and I went again for some climbing near Schwyz at the 'Chaemiloch'.
A good chance to practice some lead climbing and setting of anchors.

View from the climbing area: Snowy alps in the background.

Reto with the Mythen mountain in the background.

Reto and myself at the top of one of the routes.

Reto enjoying the view.

Me during the abseil.