OverviewWithout a doubt, the Niedermann-Anderrüthi is one of the most beautiful routes in central Switzerland's Furka-pass area. Nine pitches on excellent granite offer superb climbing of homogeneous difficulty and lead to the summit of the Gross Bielenhorn. This classic route, established by Max Niedermann and Frans Anderrüthi in 1956, follows a series of corners, cracks and chimneys and is a true joy to climb. In recent years the belays have been rebolted, and several bolts have also been added to each pitch. Nevertheless, to adequately protect the route a good selection of cams is still required, but this only adds to the challenge and attraction of the climb. With the exception of several small run-outs, good placements are not hard to come by.
Finally, no introduction is complete without mentioning the stunning second pitch; a completely vertical, 45 meter long corner. Laybacking up this pitch is akin to climbing a book opened 90 degrees! Truly spectacular, if also rather strenuous.
Getting ThereFrom the Furka Pass: Follow the path towards the Sidelen hut. After you cross the stream (bridge), the path becomes markedly steeper. Once you have surmounted the second rise, look for faint tracks branching off from the path and heading towards the Sidelen glacier. Make your way over snowfields, moraines and glacier towards the west face of the Gross Bielenhorn and the start of the climbing (ca. 1.5 hours).
From the Sidelen hut: Follow faint tracks and stonemen in a north / north-westerly direction and make your way to the start of the climbing. This route also takes you across the Sidelen glacier (ca. 20 minutes).
Route DescriptionDepending on snow conditions, there may be a very short pitch of moderate climbing to reach the true start of the route from the glacier. When we climbed it in July 2010, it was only 5 meters or so and we did not need to rope up. After leaving the glacier you come to a small plateau with a bulls-head painted on the rock (the symbol of the province). This makes for a great spot to rope up and make a depot. The first pitch goes right and upwards, towards the unmistakable open-book second pitch.
Pitch 1 (15m/5b+): This short pitch has you climbing a corner and then going rightwards towards a very comfortable belay-ledge. Two bolts.
Pitch 2 (45m/6a): Unforgettable climbing. Start by making your way up and leftwards to get well and truly into the corner. Now go straight up until you reach a small ledge. From here the route leaves the corner and makes for the belay in slightly easier face-climbing. There are some bolts, several old pitons, plenty of opportunities to place cams and even an old woodblock for pro on this pitch.
Pitch 3 (40m/6a): Another wonderful pitch. The crux is right above the belay and consists of several moves on slab, protected by a piton. After these first few meters, the route goes slightly leftwards before angling back to the right and rejoining the corner. Continue upwards in fine climbing, ultimately moving right to reach another comfortable belay.
Pitch 4 (40m/5c+): This pitch angles rightwards and offers slightly easier climbing, with the difficulties largely being confined to a short tricky section. Another comfortable spot to belay from awaits the lead climber.
Pitch 5 (30m/5c+): A very fine pitch which offers some great moves and interesting face-climbing. The route can be somewhat hard to find in the first 10 meters, and one must take care not to be misled by bolts belonging to the "Nolens Volens", which crosses the Niedermann-Anderrüthi at the end of the pitch. From the belay, angle slightly leftwards, clipping several old pegs. From these pegs, go straight upwards towards a short section of face-climbing that will lead you underneath the start of an obvious chimney.
Pitch 6 (30m/6a): Go straight upwards into the chimney/crack. Some awkward moves halfway lead to a hard section near the chimney/crack's top which can be tackled by going slightly rightwards. Climb onto a well-defined ledge and traverse it to reach the next belay.
Pitch 7 (40m/6a+): The 'finger-crack' awaits. The crux comes straight after leaving the belay. The finger-crack is short but strenuous, although it is not hard to protect. Above this nice bit of climbing the pitch gets slightly easier (5c+).
Pitch 8 (30m/5b): This pitch is a long leftwards sloping climb on slightly easier terrain.
Pitch 9 (25m/5c): The final pitch starts with a short traverse leftwards from the belay and then goes straight up to the summit-ridge. Finding the correct way upwards can be a bit hard as there are no bolts or other in-situ gear to show the way. Once you've reached the ridge, look for the abseil station on good bolts and do not be misled by peg-belays belonging to other routes which finish nearby.
Descent: Abseil down over the "Nolens Volens" until you can continue abseiling downwards over the Niedermann-Anderrüthi. Please take care at the first abseil station so that the knot in your rope does not get stuck in the crack just below the bolts! It may be a good idea to arrange the rope so that the knot is below the crack before you start abseiling.
Essential Gear* 50m double ropes.
* 10 - 12 quickdraws.
* A good selection of cams (ie: 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1 and 2).
* Nuts optional.
* Ice axe for approach over glacier.
* Crampons may be required later in the season (check with the hut).
Guidebooks and mapsWe used the Topoguide and found it to be excellent:
Nicole Luzar and Volker Roth, Topoguide: Kletterführer Alpen Band I: V bis VIII.
The route is also listed in the Swiss Alpine Club guidebook, but the description is incredibly brief and the topo drawing is just plain incorrect. I would not recommend relying on it as your only guidebook for this route, or any of the other routes on the face.
Toni Fullin and Andi Banholzer, Clubführer Urner Alpen 2: Göscheneralp - Furka - Grimsel (SAC Verlag: 2003).
Please note: in 2010 the SAC put out a new guidebook for central Switzerland that may be a real improvement on the one mentioned above. Unfortunately, I have not been able to have a look at it yet.
Bruno Müller, Zentralschweizer Alpen: Ausgewählte Touren zwischen Dammastock und Tödi (SAC Verlag: 2010).
Map: Swisstopo 1:25000 # 1232 'Urseren'.