Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chamonix, Zermatt, and Grindelwald

Greetings from Grindelwald! I'm firing this post out from the Mountain Hostel in Grindelwald, Suisse. In a few minutes I'll jump on the train to Zurich and be headed back to the States. My future daughter has been waiting patiently for me to return, so I better get to it! Despite some rough weather and difficult conditions the last couple weeks, Dr. Forg and I managed to have a great 12 day trip in three of the main alpine centers in Europe.

We started off in Chamonix to 2 solid days of driving rain that left Mont Blanc covered in loads of fresh snow. With an avalanche catching parties the day before and more rain coming we opted to bail to Zermatt early. One more rainy day spent in the Gorner Gorge, and day 4 dawned clear. We did a couple routes on the Riffelhorn. The photo above is of the doc on the summit.
We then climbed Pollux the next day in fine weather. After that came the ultra-classic Half-Traverse of the Breithorn. Photo 2 shows Pat hydrating before heading to the third summit of the traverse. We went up to the Matterhorn the next day for some recon, and soon found too much fresh snow still covering most of the route.
So instead, the next day we bussed over to the Saas Valley and climbed the beautiful 15 pitch Panorama Route (5b or 5.8) on the SE face of the Jagihorn. Excellent climbing and a beautiful day. As we waited at the bus stop, I got a call informing me that the Mittellegi Hut on the Eiger would not be opening for our reservation to climb on the 22nd.

We still went to Grindelwald, and instead went to the Monch Hut and climbed the pleasant SE Ridge to the summit. A hearty lunch, and we were ready to try the Jungfrau the next day. But once again the mountains had different ideas. We awoke to a stiff wind, biting snow, and bad visibility. Above you can see the weather still enveloping the Eiger in the afternoon. We went back doen the Jungfraubahn to Grindelwald and enjoyed a nice hike below the Schwarzhorn instead. This beautiful landscape is just below the towering North Face of Wetterhorn and inhabitated by many lazy and friendly alpine cows.More to come from Colorado! Cheers, Clint

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rainbows of color in the alpine basins!!!

Greetings All!

Today Kurt and I climbed Sneffels via the SW Ridge and descended the Lavender Col Route. It was an amazing morning to be out in the San Juans. The couloir leading to the SW ridge still holds a ton of snow, a really nice variation to gain the ridge. We elected to make the trip to Blue Lakes pass and take in the view. Very little snow on the trail getting up to the pass, just a bit on top that can be skirted on rocks to the west. Please be carefull if you choose to travel off trail and off the snow. The flora up high is springing to life right now and is quite fragile. Please consider staying on the trails and snow.

Speaking of flowers!!! I was blown away by the color to be seen high in the alpine basins. It seems like we are just rolling into what could be one of the best wildflower seasons of recent years. Please consider booking a photo hike early, as space will certainly be in high demand.
Happy Trails,

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I had a great week in Zermatt with Paul from New York. We started with a shake-down day on the Riffelhorn just to see where he was at. I hadn't climbed with Paul before, and was pleasantly surprised with both his skill level and good humor. We took a quick run up the Skyline route and down the normal route to practice some short-roping techniques and he did very well. The photo below is on our first summit of the day, very picturesque with the main event in the background.After the Skyline, we headed around to the South Face and climbed the nine (short) pitches of the Thermoteregg Couloir Route (French 4c). It was a beautiful day and the climbing was super-fun. Paul cruised all the pitches in approach shoes, and we had the popular climbing area all to ourselves. You can see him below climbing the classic dihedral first done in the 1940's!
Day's 2 and 3 were some fine rain in the valley, with high winds up high. After waiting, unsuccessfully, for the Kleine Matterhorn tram to open for an attempt on Pollux we opted to take in the Gorner Gorge Adventure instead. The next day the lift was open, but the weather was only good enough for tea in the buffet at 3800 meters with the rest of the local guides. Day 4 dawned clear, and we went up to climb the classic Half-Traverse of the Breithorn. We tagged along behind local guide Sam Anthamatten, who was kind enough to chop beautiful steps up the hard snow approach. Paul loved the climb, and he was looking in fine shape to give the Matterhorn a go. The photo below is leading up the top of the third rock step.
On July 9th we went up to the Hornlihutte, scoped the first hour of the route, and had a delicious pork chop and mashed potato dinner. The local guides were not yet guiding the route due to the recent snows covering much of the route. This definitely ramps up the difficulty of climbing the Matterhorn, and there were a number of recreational parties still trickling in at 1am as we slumbered in our bunks!

We awoke at 3:30am to still skies and warm temperatures. After a couple cups of coffee we were first out the door, followed closely by a couple friendly brits we had shared the dinner table with the night before. Conditions made it a little slower than usual, but we made it to the top in good form, the first team for the day. The first photo shows me leading up the Lower Moseley Slab with the Solvay hut at the top.
This photo is from the summit of the Matterhorn, where Paul proudly displays his local gym's t-shirt. It was absolutely perfect on top!
We made good time back down through softening snow, and had 5 minutes to spare on the last lift back to Zermatt!
Cheers! Clint

Monday, July 7, 2008

fun in the summer snow

I was in Yankee Boy for a day of snow school with David today. Condidtions are still great for spring alpine snow and mixed climbing in the San Juan's. The SW ridge of Sneffel's has great snow leading to the ridge. The north facing routes on Gilpin still look to be amazing. Teakettle is hanging in there as well. This is certainly proving to be a most amazing spring alpine season.

Visited the Black Canyon on Sat. Part of our group climbed Maiden Voyage & the other part did Leisure Climb. What a spectacular place to climb!

Other outings this past week included a trip up the Light Line just south of Ouray. This 1200 foot alpine rock route provides such an impressive view of the valley from Ironton all the way to Ouray.

Happy Trails,

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Zermatt Climbing

I just wrapped up a fun 4 days with Mark from McCook, Nebraska. He's got one of those great attitudes that just makes it fun to be with. Even if things don't go quite as planned! After missing his first flight to Geneva, Mark made it to Switzerland, but his bags didn't. After collecting them and making his way to Zermatt we took in the unique Gorner Gorge Adventure. This is a super fun course of ladders, zip-lines, and tarzan swings through the scenic Gorner river gorge. It would be perfect for the Ouray Ice Park in summer. OCRA are you listening!
The next day we took the trams up to Kleine Matterhorn, traversed the Breithorn Plateau and climbed the classic Southwest Ridge of Pollux. This is a great mixed ridge route and excellent training for the Matterhorn. As you crest the main rock difficulties you are greeted by one of the many Madonnas guarding over the Alps.The next day was our scheduled day to head to the Hornlihutte in prep for the Matterhorn. The forecast wasn't stellar, but we kept our fingers crossed and hoped it wouldn't be too bad. Unfortunately it was. Just as we stepped in the hut, the skies opened and dumped a few inches of hail and snow on the Matterhorn. Knowing that the next day's conditions would not be too good for attempting the 'horn we opted to cut our losses and head back to Zermatt.

On our last day we climbed the Breithorn, and got some good photos for Mark's local newspaper travel section.
Before heading back down the trams to Zermatt, we stepped into the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, where a frozen Buddha statue greeted us!

With a bit of daylight left we decided to have one more adventure on the Klettersteig Schweifine above Zermatt. This is a true via ferratta course with plenty of exposure and lots of fun!Berg Heil! CC