Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Alpine Rock Roadtrip: Furka Pass

When we arrived Friday afternoon at the Furka Pass in Switzerland we decided to pack our bags and approach the Albert Heim-Hütte (2541m) right away. During the approach we still encountered a lot of snow and although it was in the end of June, there were still snow bridges across the river at some points. There was no need for crampons on the approach as the snow was soft. When we arrived at the hut after two hours walking with heavy backpacks, it started to snow. We asked the hut keeper where we could place our tent (as I am still a student and I don’t have piles of money). We found a place right behind the hut and the hut keeper allowed us to eat our freeze-dried meals inside.

The Saturday the weather was cold and nasty. In the morning there fell around ten to fifteen centimeters of fresh snow and the mountains where surrounded by a thick layer of mist. We decided the weather was too bad to go outside, so we ‘ve spend our day in the warmth of the hut, reading every mountain magazine and book we could find. Luckily the forecast for the next three days was warm and sunny. Our initial plan was to climb the ‘Niedermann’ on the Graue Wand (3172m), with 5c+ max an easy route but a well-known classic route in the area, but after the snowfall the route was loaded with fresh snow. We needed a route that would clear quickly of snow and that became ‘Mangolyto’ on the first tower (2870m) of the Winterstock SW-ridge.

The next morning we woke up from our tent with a blue sky and a stunning view on the snowy mountains. We approached a little valley covered in snow. After passing the first rockband of Winterstock, that can be seen from the hut, we traversed to the left onto the steep snow plateau above it. This was quite challenging already with the snow cover. To get up the plateau, we climbed steep grass and later on some steep snow. After arriving at a tower on the ridge, we started climbing. Three well equipped pitches later we arrived on a little summit. Huh? That can’t be the right route?! The third pitch should be a 6a not a 4a! So we checked our topo, but the drawing on the topo said that it’s here above the first rockband! We rapped down and checked the next tower on the ridge, but there were no bolts. Later, on our way back to the hut we learned that the drawing on the topo isn’t right. The route isn’t on the first ridge, but on a ridge further in the valley.

Monday we woke up, really determined to climb the right route this time. We followed the trail we made yesterday and continued up to the second ridge. The going was very tough because we did a lot of trailbreaking in deep, wet snow. When we arrived at the SW-ridge, we quickly found our route. We could do the first two pitches together, because of the amount of snow that covered the first pitch almost entirely. The first pitches where a link-up of slabs and cracks. When we got higher the climbing got easier and a combination of cracks and big holds. Overall very beautiful and well protected climbing. The route must be rappelled. That took us a while, because the first few rappels go through blocky terrain, with high risk to get the ropes stuck. After two times almost getting the rope stuck, we finally got down. We quickly retreated to the hut, because during our rappels we saw a small wet-snow avalanche and some rock fall. We arrived at the hut during dinner time, completely exhausted because of the wading through deep snow.
The weather forecast for Wednesday was bad and as we needed a rest, a shower and a good meal, we went down Tuesday and drove to Chamonix for our next adventure. 


Walking back down

Huge amount of snow!

General info
The Furka pass is about eight hours and 750km driving from Brussels and about three hours from Chamonix. We went directly to the hut, but there are lots of hotels on the road to the pass. The approach to the Albert Heim-Hütte starts at the Tiefenbach Hotel, a few kilometers from the Furka Pass and is 1h 30min in normal conditions. The staff of the hut is very friendly and helpful.

Thanks to our sponsor: Kariboe Leuven

Pictures: Bart Vaganée and Jeroen Van Campenhout

1 comment:

  1. Great job - keep on going - Cheers from Kariboe team