I've never spent a single Christmas in the UK, it's always a good chance to either get some winter sun in Spain or some early ice or skiing in the Alps. This time, following the mission to get as fit as possible for my trip to Canada in 3 weeks, we chose Kandersteg. I knew conditions were bad, but I hoped to get some real mixed climbing to keep me motivated. Too much drytooling can make you loose the perspective of what the whole point is, getting up big winter rigs. I've been doing a whole lot of drytooling to get fit, and it's a lot of fun, but nothing replaces the real thing. I was a bit gutted that the conditions weren't there for us, but switched the attention to doing as many dry routes I could get up to.
Putting the new Alpkit Filoment to the test. At its price point, the best light down jacket in the market, hands down. (Ed.We'd hate to disagree Ramon!)
We started with Ueschenen, which with a clear road we could take our Freelander all the way to the crag, saving us the usual 2-hour slog, a real kill-joy. We commuted every day up that road putting the chains on the very last bit of deep snow. Also the mild temps were a real bonus, so standing around wasn't the battle that it normally is up in that fridge. I managed Tooltime M10+ fairly quickly and then did Matador M11 in 3 attempts, both really good routes despite being mostly dry. I did some other quality M9 and M8 lines. Viki battled with the cold hands and cold feet, but managed to do Kassa M8 and worked a few M9's and had few goes at Tooltime as well.
We had the company of none other than Ueli Steck. We had a good time watching the Swiss machine crush...
From our base in Frutigen, we could access a whole lot of crags with tooling routes. Crans Montana, Eptingen, Grindelwald... but we choose for Eptingen as it sounded like a nicer spot. By the time we started going there we'd been going at it for a week with no rest days for we started to feel a bit broken. We used the rest day to try an fit some winter tyres to the Landy as it started to snow loads more often. Eptingen is a good crag, with some real cool mixed lines when the ice is formed. Batman M12 must be one of the only routes at that grade that is a true mixed line. Unfortunately the ice wasn't there for me to try it. And anyways, considering how tired I was feeling, something easier would have to suffice. I did a couple of pretty tasty M10's called Joker and Gotham City, and did a soft M11 link up called Two Face. Viki did Robin M8, which is the first pitch to Batman and to Gotham City. On our last day she tried Gotham City and got really close. But in the fading light and fading forearms, she had to walk home empty handed.
The "rag-doll" look (as Will Mayo calls it) of the DTS Style (sans-yaniro) pioneered by the L'Usine crew.
Now I'm in Spain for a few days visiting family and watching everyone on Facebook filling their boots with real winter climbing. It's strange looking at pictures of ice whilst typing this sunbathing with my top off at my folks garden. But I'm hoping there conditions come back in the UK and manage to get out in the hills. Otherwise I'll keep training for the Helmcken Falls, which is not far to go now.
Happy climbing and happy new year folks!
The quest ended by having a nice spot of lunch in the refugio by the Oeschinensee lake with views to NIN (the drip of ice through the wall at the end of the lake). NIN (Nine Inch Nails) is one of my dream routes that keeps me motivated to carry on drytooling for when the chance to get on it comes.