Thursday, February 28, 2013

kandersteg 2013

alex on the exposed third pitch of "büch dich"

kandersteg dairy: february 2013

day 1 - 6.5-7 hours of driving through snow in germany and switzerland brought us to kandersteg at 14:30. when the other two arrive, we will be four guys splitting a nice apartment run by an older british women and american man. cruised through the village for an hour to get my bearings but because of the steady snow didn’t see any ice. tomorrow’s plan is to do the one hour approach up to the staubbach area and climb “rübezahl”, wi6 215m, with the alternative being “blue magic” wi5+ 165m - maybe we’ll do both?

day 2 - we did both, “blue magic” as a warm up and then “rübezahl”. 380 meters of wi 5+ & 6. alex led the crux third pitch on “blue magic”. When i followed, i got to the belay with an extreme case of the ‘screaming barfies’. very, very painful. fuck, fuck, fuck. i thought i was going to puke. alex had taken a long time on an endurance pitch and i didn’t climb smart as a second to ensure that the blood kept flowing to my fingers as i seconded the line. my gloves may also be too tight and overly padded, which doesn’t help things.

standing before “rübezahl” was impressive. the climb is very steep with icicles, cauliflower ice, chicken heads, small roofs, etc. it is intimidating. alex led the first two 35 meter pitches. the second may have been the crux, fantastic climbing! i led the third pitch which was also steep and quite long at around 55 meters. alex thought the pitch was wi5 or so, it is 90 degrees in the guide book and rated at wi 6. we’ll call it wi5+ (alex is developing the snobby tendency to down grade everything he climbs as he gets better;-).) we swapped leads until the end and rapped off in clouds and light snow. we were back at the car at 17:40. it’s nice to climb with someone who doesn’t want to stop for dinner.

after making linguine with bolognese sauce (a late dinner) at the bachelor pad, the plan for tomorrow is “reise ins reich der eiszwerge”, m6+, wi5, 175m in the oeschinenwald.

day 3 - we did “reise in der reich der eiszwerge” and added “arbonium” wi5-, 180m with “white magic on the rock” wi6-, 110m. 465 meters of ice and mixed climbing. at the end of the day i was worn out and didn’t really care too much about the climbing. two days in a row of leaving the apartment at 7 am and getting back in at 6 in the evening. it’s hard keeping up with a young whipper-snapper, but the alternative is slow petrification of acting your age and being way too cautious.

alex’s lead on the second pitch of “eiszwerge” was extremely bold. he clipped the piton in the open book and continued on until he was well over the pin in which a fall would have been a grounder. suddenly a m7+ becomes an “m-who-knows-what”, x. he was very focused and determined and had just a fine coating of verglassed ice to delicately move across. at one point i couldn’t watch any longer.

day 4 - woke up to snow and clouds in the morning. we decide to wait a bit to see how the weather would develop - the forecast is for snow all day & we decided to take a rest day as the next few days are forecasted to be much better with more and more sun. however it will be the weekend, so we may have to deal with extra climbers on the routes.

we’ve done over 845 meters in ice and mixed climbing in the past two days and a rest day is welcome.

the plan for tomorrow is to go up to the staubbach sector and climb the route “bück dich”, m7+, wi 5-6(+)??? 165m and then add some of the other lines such as the “lochroute” wi5, and/or “sepsis” m6- wi5-6 (or more)??? we plan on climbing until we are completely fertig. we’ll then take a good rest day on sunday to prepare for our main objective, “crack baby” on monday.

day 5 - used our approach skis this time to get back to the ice and mixed lines in the staubbach sector. we climbed “bück dich” doing the more difficult mixed variations. the route was every bit of m7+ with a the second mixed traverse in bad condition ( almost no ice, certainly harder than m7+) and was most likely much more difficult. alex led the mixed pitches and could on-sight all of them. (the young swiss guys that were following us on the climb commented that the climbing was much harder than m-grades in a dry-tooling klettergarten and that alex was climbing very strongly.) i followed the first mixed pitch and had to rest to clip the rope out of the quick draws. i could cleanly second the other two mixed pitches with a foot slip, one arm hang / save on the mixed traverse. the last rope length was just fun to climb: overhanging, good hooks and a great transition out between two hanging ice daggers. shit, i should have led the thing.

there was some intrege on the descent. in the course of the second long rappel,  alex broke one of his ice clippers on his harness, losing a tool and two short ice screws. i climbed the 60 meters up to the last rappel anchor looking for his nomic and the two screws. i couldn’t find them. the two young swiss guys rappelled after us and one of them found a screw. a bit later, we found alex’s missing nomic in the deep snow at the base.

to add more to the story, i seem to have aggravated a shoulder injury in my left shoulder. i noticed it as i was climbing up to search for the ice tool and missing screws. i could barely lift the rope up to clip. i have a dull, overall pain in my shoulder and bicep and can’t put my shirt on normally or lift my arm out to the side or up with a bent elbow, etc. it is a bit worrying.

tomorrow is a planned rest day as preparation for “crack baby” on monday. we’ll see.

day 6 - no “crack baby” for me. i told alex in the morning after a late breakfast. my shoulder is injured and i have to take a break from climbing. i think i have a rotator cuff injury from overuse by route setting, and tendon pulls in my bicep from holding some foot slips that i stopped with one hand while doing moves while putting up routes and mixed climbing. everything that i have read on the internet points to this and says to immediately stop climbing, get an mri and ortho examination and find out what’s up before doing any further damage.

alex is disappointed, but says he understands as we have up to two weeks free for ice and mixed climbing and i have to stop after just three climbing days in just under a week. it is shame. I am just angry because setting routes in very steep overhanging walls in the gym is questionable without a static rope and is extremely strenuous and prone to lead to injuries. i have gotten at least three or four small injuries from route setting in the last couple of years. shoulders, elbows, and additionally the skin on your hands becomes raw & cracked (again limiting your personal training) from the ropes and pulling on rough grips with additional weight from holds hanging on the setter’s harness. after you’ve worked out your route according to the instructions and criteria, then comes the changes from the boss because clients or others complain & can’t climb the routes because there has to be something wrong with the route and of course not their perceived climbing (or lack of) ability.

anyways, today was a full rest day. checked out the trailhead for “crack baby” with alex (we almost got stuck in the snow at the parking area until the swiss version of elmer fudd pulled us out with his all-terrain quad!) and went for an hour walk on the paths in the oeschinenwald watching a few ice climbers in “ratten pissor” and “pingau”. walked a bit further and re-lived the lines we climbed in the staubbach sector. very impressive. shit i want to climb more but in my gut i know that that would be a short term reward at the price of a very long term injury.

i am going to do a low-key ski tour tomorrow just to move outdoors in the mountains on a beautiful sunny swiss day.

day 7 - left the apartment a bit past 07:00 with markus for a ski tour in the direction of oeschinensee and then further to a hut. i went up across the lake and started up through the steep tree band and then decided to turn back. the terrain was stupid and the only reason we went there was because markus had seen and followed a skin track put in by a skier the day before. i didn't want to get into a situation were i would jeopardize my shoulder with a fall descending, so i told markus i was turning around. i skinned back across the lake and had cake and coffee at the hotel by the lake and then skied down the piste back to town. it was nice to carve turns down the fresh corduroy. just fun.

i wasn’t active in planning my route and more or less just followed markus. after looking more closely at a topo map, i realized that the route that we took was not smart. there was a much better possibility to skin up past the lake by staying well to the left, circling higher above the lake.

later at the apartment i did some mobility and stretching. my shoulder hurts and is certainly something that has to be taken care of and dealt with on a standard basis if i want to continue to climb rock and ice.

kandersteg (initial) review:
at the end of  week here i have a very sore split lower lip (maybe infected) because of being hit by a thick dinner plate piece of ice from the first day’s climbing. my shoulder was re-injured, and has certainly got my attention. i feel that i have let alex down a bit because of deciding not to climb until i figure things out with my shoulder, and have shortened the trip to a great ice climbing destination that is in very good condition. it makes me wonder if he is going to put up with me anymore, because  i generally get the feeling that he is dissatisfied with me. we’ll talk about it.

the climbing that we did was excellent and harder than anything that i have done in the ice and mixed area to date. i can see, and have been exposed, to my physical and mental/psychological deficiencies and therefore can start addressing them and use the experience as motivation to evolve, train and improve. i wish i was twenty-something all over again. experience is wasted on the youth.

my shoulder injury is a wake up call on a couple of levels: i absolutely need to do supplemental  exercises with movement & mobility on a regular basis to keep fit for what i love to do. i, of course already know this - the key is execution. i need to think about my technique so that i pull properly in overhang routes and that my ice climbing technique is smooth and efficient.

in general i am ready to be absolutely strict, without compromise, to live the way i want to in all situations. i am fed up with trying to please people and trying to be “liked” or be the “good guy”. it does not mater whether it is in social situations, at work, or with climbing partners.

i may not always know what i want, but i certainly know what i don’t want in life through personal experience. acting on this knowledge is what matters. the years are going by in only one direction.
rapping off "büch dich", photo alex gruber


Anonymous said...

grat ice climbing trip with one of the best routes I´ve done so far!!!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Sehr beeindruckend, spannend und (auch fuer eine Gelegenheitssportlerin wie mich) super lehrreich!
Vielen Dank, Astrid P.

Joe Fratianni said...

it was a great climb & overall experience too. thanks for all the public and private comments.

sehr schön von dich zu hören astrid, liebe grüße auch an christian!