Head in Gear

By Ramon Marin

It feels that finally I’ve got my head in gear to do stuff, despite not at the level I expected due to many factors. Still, I’m having loads of fun despite the hard work and feeling exhausted most of the time. It’s fair to say that I’m not a natural for early starts and long walk-ins, but there’s no getting away from it if you want to do certain routes. In the last few days things have picked up and I’m happy with the pitches we are leading, even though some of the routes I thought we could do have proven too hard for me. It’s never a bad thing finding your limit, if you don’t fail it means you are not trying hard enough. And certainly that’s how I felt when I was teetering my way across on a free-hanging icicles facing badly protected M9 moves on-sight on “The Flying Circus”. I promised myself we ought to check it out, despite not being able to on-sight bolted M9+‘s from the ground, maybe being “trad” it’s a bit easier. But I just thought it was too scary and a bit dangerous, or maybe lack of commitment, but I didn’t feel like risking a fall. The way “Flying Circus” goes is basically making your way across a massive roof via linking icicles and the rock in between. The protection is a mix of rusty pegs, some that and whatever you found for your own pro. I was on the second icicle from the back of the cave hanging from the roof, and I was faced with a wild move where I had to lay back from my placement on top of the icicle and reach back on to a small but positive steinpull, twist around and launch for the roof hoping there was some bomber placements. Next bit of pro was some tat past the roof, meaning if I didn’t stick the moves I was going to swing right into the bottom of the icicles and they normally tend to snap when hit sideways. So I chickened out and backed off. It now sounds like a long winded excuse to myself, which probably is (haha), but that was how I felt.

The Flying Circus. These are the icicles you have to link to get to the hanging curtain, via two pitches, M9 and M10

With a bit of a bruised ego, we tried to save the day by getting up to Ueschenen where our Danish/French friends where working the way around the crag. Really psyched to get some “Grrrrr Factor” going, I jumped on Pink Panther, a M9+/10- masterpiece which I tried once before on the first day of the trip. I decided I was gonna give my everything, “a muerte”, because otherwise it would just be pathetic and at least I wanted to feel I was trying my best. It all started smoothly but soon my arms ran-out of juice and the battle began. I made my way to the last bolt before the ice and seriously pumped the embarrassing power-screaming started. I placed my tools in a crack higher up than I need it to swing into the ice, but my tools ripped and I was flying. Rude swearing followed, but I was pleased with myself, I went for it and did was I set up to do. I knew I was going to send it next time, and that’s what happen the next day. Went up to the crag, but geared up and jumped on the route, and some fighting later I was at the chains. Now I could just relax and take some pictures of the other chaps climbing.

Kris Szilas on his successful redpoint of Powerbat M9+/10-

There was a good ambience in the crag, Rob trying a testpiece called “Tooltime” M10+, Kristoffer Szilas trying his “Powerbat” M9+/10 and the youth Tom Balland working the hardest route in the crag “Vertical Limit” M12. I basically spend the rest of the day taking pictures of everyone, and the best was witnessing Tom’s send of Vertical Limit from an advantage point, problem was I wanted to watch, not take pictures. Tom and his dad, Jim Ballard, are the real deal, they are travelling around the alps just doing hard mixed. They live in a Transporter and don’t seem to be faced by the freezing cold temperatures. Now they were camping up in Ueschenen, a steep 2-hour walk, with everything, camping gear, climbing gear, food, drill, bolts…. They have all my respect for sure! A very special story, inspiring! The kid is sending everything, bolting a bunch of routes in every crag, and I didn’t even hear his name back in the UK, definitely a rising star.

Tom fighting his way to success on Vertical Limit M12…

Now was time to take the recent success and take it to the a big route. It’s hard to find what route to do. Last time we where up in Breitwangflue we spotted a mixed connection to the Wi6+ “Alpha Saule”. It seem to good and obvious to be omitted in the new guidebook, but obviously, around here sometime there’ gems of new routes right in your face for the picking, so we thought worth going up and have a go. With a light-ish trad rack packed, we set the alarms for 5am. A bit of 4x4 tricky driving and painful walking in the dark after, we were there at the bottom of the route. It looked good! It’s an awesome wall, as good as anything I’ve seem, wild ice and steep rock. In tree long pitches (60mts each) we got to the bottom of the crux pitch, a crack that leads to some funky ice, then an unprotectable free-standing pillar to reach the back of the main curtain. It went at M5/M6 on good trad gear onto Wi6 ice, and it was great fun to lead, happy days!

Rob on Breitwangflue wall, mixed terrain at its best!

After getting behing the curtain we still had to climb the last hard pitch which is getting on the Wi6 curtain to get to easier ground, but by then the weather closed in and started snowing. Since we had partially driven the Landy up the sketchy logging trail, we worried that the snow would make it hard to the car back down. After having a chat, I carried on and lead the ice and when I got to the easy ramp, I turned around and it was a total white-out and snowing heavily. Obviously we wanted to do the 3 or so more pitches of ice to get to the top, but there was no option really if we wanted to get out. So after some rather unpleasant abseils we got to the bottom, happy for the good climbing and slightly disappointed for not topping out, but hey, whatever, there’s always reasons for being unhappy. I chose to be happy this time!

Topo to our high point. We climbed about 4 and half pitches, leaving about 3 and half pitches left to do. You can say it was easy ground above, but when you are tired and it’s dark, even Wi3 can take it out of you.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published