Hey there, Gentlemen.
As it is the rule of this section, it is time for some good ‘ol adventure ideas. This time, I want to tell you about a perfect combination of factors:
A good friend, a nice ski tour, topped by some vertical ice. Sounds good? Check this out.
A few weeks ago (early November that’ll be) I was quite desperate to get on ice already. I had just gotten new picks for my ice tools and new front points for my crampons (from A.Gent Equipment, of course) and, for the lack of a better term, I was pretty horny about trying them. You know what I mean.
So, I started pushing a buddy of mine for us to find something -whatever- we could climb that would have sort of decent conditions.
This is how we ended up finding Sertig. A small town within the Davos area in Switzerland. It’s quite a drive (about 4,5 hours from Munich) but it is absolutely worth it.
Now, here’s the beauty. The whole approach is quite of a ski tour so, you get the 2 in 1 (but obviously you need to pack for both).
I don’t want to mention too many times that: mountaineering is a lot about hauling weight from one point to the other but, it freaking is. All of these activities are gear intensive when you think of one. Imagine when you combine two. If you’re the kind of gentleman that wants to move light, then skip this adventure.
15 ice screws (from 10 cm to 19 cm)
10 alpine quickdraws
5 rock climbing quickdraws
3 120 cm slings
4 Cams (0.1 to 0.4)
Ice tools with mixed ice picks - If you need great ones, check this company
1 complete set of nuts
Twin ropes (8 mm teflon coated - 50 m)
4 locking carabiners
The alarm went of that saturday at 3:00am and with everything packed from the day before, all I had to do was zip a coffee, wearing my zombie face and wait for my bud to pick me up (yeah, I’m a princess).
At 3:30 the doorbell rang and I grabbed all the ski and climbing gear and shoved it in the car. The excitement -and the responsibility of a good co-pilot- kept me from falling asleep during the long hours (bunch of Red Bull too).
Anyways, we got to the parking lot, unloaded the entire circus and got ready for our mission. We started at 8:00 am and we were looking to tour for about 3 to 4 hours before reaching the base of the climb.
However, on the way there we noticed these insane waterfalls coming down the side of a different section of the mountain and we looked at each other just to say: “
Duuuh! Ski touring that horrible long valley or skitour a steep slope with some serious ice at the end???” Not really a difficult decision.
- Follow the road until it ends up at a gate. From there you will easily spot the waterfalls to your right and also the small creek you have to cross. We didn't notice the bridge next to the road so, you don't have to cross the stream like we did.
We changed course and crossed a small creek to start cruising through some soft nice powder pillows that we were just dreaming to pop on the way down.
It took us about two hours to get up there and, unfortunately, by the time we reached like 70% of the ascent, we had to take off the skis and start bootpacking to the base of the waterfalls, we noticed how the slope we were drooling about skiing down was just crap.
Not enough snow to charge on it, with lot’s of rocks underneath and especially dangerous as wind-blown snow formed the perfect conditions for some serious avalanche terrain. Better not risk it, we said. It was going to be a bootpack descent.
Sad! But better be sure and live to see another powder day.
- Use your shovel to build up a platform at the base of the waterfall to leave your ski gear (or any other gear you don't want to carry up. From this point you can move a few more meters up and start with the climb.
Everyone says adventure begins when something fails. Well I guess it also starts when you know the chances of something not going the way you planned are pretty obvious.
We gazed upon the line we wanted to climb and noticed that while there was quite a bit of ice, it was very thin and you could see the rocks behind it. We decided to give it a try no matter the conditions and I led the first two pitches.
The beginning was more of a weird snow-icy terrain with little protection (not that it was terribly needed) until I reached the first possible belay point.
On the last 10 meters I wanted to place a screw and even using a 10 cm it was almost impossible to get it completely through. It was sketchy but I decided to just keep moving toward a belay point.
In the middle of the section where I was going to build the anchor there was no good ice at all and I had to try 6 or 7 different placements to find a relatively safe configuration.
The worst part is; I was so immersed in finding something among that crappy ice, that I totally overlooked a bolted ring on my left.
In my defense, it was very far to the left and getting there was not really a great option either. My buddy climbed to the belay station and didn’t even notice the damn ring! So, It wasn’t just me.
- The bolted ring is directly to your left on a small portion of overhanging rocks. If you just pay attention to this side you wont miss it. However, the ice was very weak on this section so you might want to consider just progressing until you reach a flat lump where you can comfortably stand.
The second pitch was even worst hahahah! The ice was brittle, thin and there was water running behind, making complete plates to separate very easy from the rest of the mass.
Rarely a place to put any screw and my calves were already feeling miserable from all the time and energy it would take to put half a screw into horrible ice. It was mental! Terence (the buddy) came to the belay station and he was concerned that I was going to take a huge fall.
I was pretty tired so he took the next lead. The ice was looking far better on this next section and we could finally put a proper amount of progress.
We did pitch 3 and 4 pretty fast and, standing atop the 4th one we felt how the wind started picking up and things got cold. We could barely grip on the tools and from there, the ice was getting wetter and weaker.
We had to call it off and decided it was just smarter to go down while it was still easy.
- This sections forms quite a strong column. The left side of it offers good, fat ice and there is an interesting rock side that you can use in case you want to add some mix movements to the pitch.
After a few quick rappels, we got to the base and enjoyed some hot tea (heaven). The route got us pretty destroyed and we still needed to bootpack through soft snow all the way back to the car and then drive another 4.5 hours back to Munich.
But, even with all you just read, it was a freaking awesome day, full of excitement, fear, and laughs.
If that’s not the very definition of a good adventure, then I don’t know what it is. Maybe you can think of Sertig a bit later in the season and you will find perfect conditions. For me, it was perfect anyhow.
I hope this was useful and If you have anything to add, make sure you leave a comment :)