M12 Mixed climbing

By Rob Gibson>

Virtually no low level snow has made a couple of trips up to the Breitwangflu easier than normal partly because no skis are needed and partly because it is possible to drive up some of the forest track. Of course there are the obligatory little driving moments such as sliding backwards then sideways down a hairpin bend, always good to get the heart started at 6 am on a dark morning - at least the corner was one of the few that wasn’t edged with a precipice. Compared to the approach the climbing has been fairly non-eventful which is good and bad, good as we have avoided any epics and bad as the top of the Breitwangflu has remained elusive. One trip up there to attempt one of the best lines I have ever seen (Flying Circus) left me relieved that I wouldn’t have to try and Jumar any ice pierced horizontalness. A couple of days later we tried Alpha Saule, a route that is shown as an ice line in the guide, however we had seen that the crux pillar was missing and an alternative mixed line looked possible. With virtually no information about the route, apart from advice from a friend to take pegs and encouragement from another to do the line completely clean, we started climbing. After we had slowly, too slowly, finished three deceptively long approach pitches of smooth brittle ice Ramon set about the crux mixed pitch steadily hooking and crimping his was on to an ice rib. Seconding this superb little pitch of good rock holds, interesting moves, heavily featured ice (with stiff elbows) was fun for me, it would have been better to lead of course but not that day. As it turns out this obvious line has seen a bit of traffic and remained largely free of fixed gear, one old bolt on the belay ledge and some good wires relatively close to the ground protect the start of the pitch, more good wires and one conveniently placed peg entice a leader on to the ice. Then? sprint up the steep ice rib to a ledge or hang around and place a [probably] ok screw, the choice is yours. After this? the second half of the route remains - three pitches of ice, I had looked at the vertical ice festooned with brackets and chandeliers, running with water and unhappily given up. Ramon gamely took a look round the corner and cleverly decided on the less featured ice of an alternative line. After the snow had been falling for a while I started to loose my unconcerned attitude to driving back down the forest track in the dark, after the freezing water had run down to Ramon’s armpits his resolve wavered. At this point on the route, with the technical crux finished (by Ramon), team motivation slipped out of reach. Not something that would have happened previously.

Making an escape from the snow

The real action has been going off at Uschinen over the last few days – Ramon did Pink Panther. Kristoffer Szilas has been working his way through the routes on the Pink Panther roof all around the grade of M10+-#! (check his Blog for details - link on left). Kris has been putting in the hours training with Malcolm Kent at Malc’s wall in Cobenhavn, lucky for them to have such a good facility to train at and credit to Malc for building it. Alex Buisse has been recording events and I even got some shots I like when M12 was ticked by a British climber for the first time in years.

Kris and Jim

I first met Tom and his dad Jim at Kiental where their van immediately caught my attention for several reasons: 1, it was British (unique at Kiental I think) and 2, it looked like they were camping in it, and Kiental gets very cold at night! So as it turns out they are camping in the alps for the winter while Tom pulls the place down. Later while walking up to Uschinen I saw a tent (also unique for me) and guess who was camping there? After a couple of weeks Tom has now climbed most of the routes at Uschinen and added a couple of new lines and link-ups.

Tom ticking Vertical Limit

more pics from Rob’s Blog

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