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Swiss alps climbing questions

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Swiss alps climbing questions

Postby kheegster » Fri Aug 06, 2010 6:32 am

I'm headed out to Switzerland next month for 10 days or so to do some alpinism, and I have a few questions:

1. What's the Swiss equivalent to the OHM in Chamonix?

2. I'm hoping to do my first Grade IV route that might require a bivy. Any suggestions for routes at the AD/D- level?

3. Is AAC's Global Rescue thing the best insurance option for a US-based climber, or does the Swiss taxpayer foot the rescue bill :P ?

4. Any suggestions for a good introductory AD+/D- north face route?
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Re: Swiss alps climbing questions

Postby Moni » Fri Aug 06, 2010 7:14 am

kheegster wrote:I'm headed out to Switzerland next month for 10 days or so to do some alpinism, and I have a few questions:

1. What's the Swiss equivalent to the OHM in Chamonix?

2. I'm hoping to do my first Grade IV route that might require a bivy. Any suggestions for routes at the AD/D- level?

3. Is AAC's Global Rescue thing the best insurance option for a US-based climber, or does the Swiss taxpayer foot the rescue bill :P ?

4. Any suggestions for a good introductory AD+/D- north face route?


1) Nothing that specific, but the Swiss Alpine Club is the closest thing - each section and hut has its own website.

2/4) You are asking the same question here. This has been a weird summer - as I look out the window at the Wetterhorn (next to the Eiger), I am seeing fresh snow above 2200 meters. Many of the high routes have the past few weeks been out of condition because of consistently bad weather that has included snow. We basically have had to stick to lower climbs because of conditions. The Alps are big - something it is hard to convey to Americans. I wouldn't going for something with a bivouac right off the bat. Some of the tours I list below are 12 to 20 hour days. Not uncommon for there to be 3000 - 5000 feet of relief just from the hut - the hut approach can add another 2000 - 3500 vertical.

A selection out of my Berner Oberland guidebook - check the various Summitpost pages for details and for other ideas.

Monch Nollen (D) This one is short - a good introduction. How hard it is depends on the condition of the bulge (Nollen).

Eiger Mittelegi (only if conditions are good) Airy, scary, classic.

Bluemlisalphorn N-face. I have done the traverse from Wyssi Frau and over the NW ridge, which is AD. The North face is D.

I haven't done these, but you may want to consider:
Bietschhorn N-Ridge
Schreckhorn SW ridge

The list is endless.

3) If you buy REGA (they have a website) you will be rescued by them within Switzerland. Cost is 30 CHF per year - damned reasonable. However, if hurt badly enough, you still have to get home. We also carry Medjet for that contingency. They will get you from whatever hospital back to your home hospital. Cost is about 120$, I think.
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Postby mvs » Fri Aug 06, 2010 7:29 am

Hi Moni glad to see you guys are on the continent! Seems to me the northern alps have been in poor condition. Over in Munich we had a sunny weekend, but a trip to the Stubai revealed fresh snow above 3000 meters. I'm sure there is more now after 5 days of rain in town.

However the Dolomites seem to have been having a great season. I had a good week there in mid-July, and am thinking of heading down for a day trip tomorrow thanks to consistently sunnier forecasts than up north. But it should be better here too, modulo some snow/wet in places you might want to climb.

Berg heil!
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Postby Moni » Fri Aug 06, 2010 9:31 am

Headed home now. Weather has been crappy (as said) so we stuck to little stuff, mostly scrambles plus 2 technical (4c and 4a). As baggage is so limited, we sort of limited ourselves with respect to equip and climbs we could do. However, we had a fine time and are content. Glad the Dolomites are treating you well - saw on Facebook some of your climbs - NICE!

Cheers,
Moni
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Postby mvs » Fri Aug 06, 2010 11:43 am

Thanks Moni! You and Fred have a good trip back to the Polouse!
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Postby kheegster » Fri Aug 06, 2010 1:25 pm

Thanks Moni. Can you some suggest some good lower-altitude routes to think about in case of bad conditions?

The REGA+MedJet thing seems comparable to Global Rescue ($160/2 weeks) for the short time I'll be there, so I think that's what I'll get.
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Postby climbxclimb » Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:02 pm

For what concerns Global Rescue, check the discussion we had a few days ago, where also Steve House told us about his experience with it.
FYI: If you call SAR in Switzerland you will be billed 2800 Francs, over $3000.

http://www.summitpost.org/phpBB2/viewto ... 08e888cc58

Be careful about were you go this year, for two reasons:

First as others said it has been a strange year weather-wise.

Second, and you will see this by yourself, the Alps may look deceivingly friendly because of their accessibility...but they are a different game from what you climb in US unless you climb in Alaska...

By the way...next month I will be relocated in Torino...give me a shout if you want when you are out there, I may be able to join you for something.


have fun!
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Postby Moni » Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:19 pm

kheegster wrote:Thanks Moni. Can you some suggest some good lower-altitude routes to think about in case of bad conditions?

The REGA+MedJet thing seems comparable to Global Rescue ($160/2 weeks) for the short time I'll be there, so I think that's what I'll get.


The Engelhoerner offer a wide selection of fine rock routes in limestone, although today they are snowy on top. If wet, they aren't that great. The Urneralps, near Furka, Susten and Grimsel passes have some slightly lower elevation rock routes in some of the finest granite you will ever see.

REGA will haul your butt off anywhere in Switzerland. 30 CHF versus over 2800 CHF - a no brainer in my book, plus you support a very good cause, as they do a lot of charity work in third world countries.
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Postby Tom Fralich » Sun Aug 08, 2010 7:09 am

No offense, man, but in all seriousness, you seem to have very unrealistic goals for this trip...something that often leads to disaster. Your experience on alpine routes is limited and Sept is generally not the time to be on moderate north faces in the Alps. I think you should go to Chamonix as you originally planned, since you'll be most likely to find a partner there if you need one. Also, there are a large variety of routes at all difficulties with good accessibility. And there are excellent weather and condition reports available daily at the OHM. I've seen plenty of people who go to Chamonix (and elsewhere in the Alps) hellbent on climbing a specific route or routes and they end up accomplishing very little. The Alps are a place that require patience and flexibility. You're going at the wrong time of year and you don't have the experience to be doing the kind of routes you're talking about. Bivying on a Grade IV route on your first trip to the Alps? C'mon man. Maybe I'm saying it more bluntly than the others, but I have a bad feeling.
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Postby kheegster » Sun Aug 08, 2010 6:49 pm

Thanks for all the replies and concerns.

I'm not going out there hell-bent on any particular route. Me and my partner are making a list of 10+ routes varying in difficulty, altitude and region that we might try depending on conditions, and researching these routes beforehand. It'll be great to bag the Matterhorn or Eiger but I'll go out there with an open mind.

Regarding the difficulty, I've seen several routes in the US like the Upper Exum on the Grand and East Butt on Whitney rated as AD. These routes are within my ability, which is why I'm hoping to push into D- territory if things go well and conditions are good. Granted the mountains in the Alps are bigger than anything in the continental US as a few of you have said, but I thought that the length of a route is included in the French grades and also separately in the commitment rating. Would a Swiss route with a commitment rating of III be considerably longer than the Whitney East Butt (supposedly III AD 5a)? I would assume the major difference is that things would get more serious if the weather goes bad.

I'm usually too much of a coward to get in over my head and I won't start on a climb if conditions and weather aren't optimal. As for me asking about rescue insurance, I'm not planning on getting sick either but I'll be getting travel medical insurance while I'm out there... it's just that way I do things.

p.s. if you guys are worried on the basis of my SP profile, that's a few years out of date...
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Postby Tom Fralich » Sun Aug 08, 2010 11:39 pm

When I think of climbs in Chamonix given an alpine grade of D, I think of routes like Frendo Spur, Kuffner, Mer de Glace Face of the Grepon, etc. In Zermatt, I think of Schaligrat, Zmuttgrat, etc. If you think that routes like Exum, East Butt of Whitney, and Spearhead are even comparable to these, you're dreaming. It's very likely that you're going to arrive there and get on a PD route and realize that it's a different environment. But the nature of the questions you ask (not just in this thread) conveys a certain lack of judgement. Look at the caption on your profile photo:

"Only truly lazy bastards would leave for the summit at 11AM."

How many lightning strikes have occured on the Grand in late afternoon? What made the day that you climbed any different? Lazy isn't the word I would have chosen.
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Postby climbxclimb » Sun Aug 08, 2010 11:56 pm

Ah....the Frendo....no need to get close to it in order to get scared....just look at it from Cham...or weight at night to see the beam of light coming from the SAR helicopter looking for missing climbers....
Tom...by the way...if you come and visit me next spring we could do it together...I will get fit for those 20-30 pitches during this winter...
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