Hochwiesler "Via Anita" (V+/A0)
Josef and I were tired of the cold, rainy weather hanging over the northern alps for so many weeks. We had a clearing forecast for Saturday, so we drove out to the Tannheimer Mountains where we hoped for snow-free rock climbing in the sun. Everything "interesting" above 1800 meters or so seemed to be snowcovered, and it was unseasonably cold for September.
We wanted to combine the Schusterführe Route with the upper part of the Südpfeiler. That would be provide 8 pitches, several of which would be pretty hard for us (grade VI+, or about 5.10b YDS). We climbed the first two pitches without trouble, but even as the weak sun was warming us up, clouds came streaming in from the west. Josef tried to puzzle out grade VI traversing moves on the third pitch even as I was shivering at the belay. He gave up, so I went to try, but got stuck at the same place. Now my fingers were frozen and going numb. Curses!
We retreated and got on an easier climb, "Via Anita." Sebastian Hamm and I had climbed the lower half of this route more than a year ago, then accidently got onto another route for the upper part of the face. Just like last time, a very steep bulge couldn't be overcome with free moves, so we pulled on two quickdraws to get by. Above that, the 6th pitch was especially memorable, with grade V moves traversing right on a near-vertical face, then going up to a belay. The sun had come back out and we had some fun again! It's amazing how much being cold hurts your ability...
Gimpel Neue Südostkante (VI, 9 pitches) and Paradies (VI+, 5 pitches)
Josef took the train home from Füssen, and after a good dinner I picked up Uli. He was on the train with many Oktoberfest visitors. He said there was constant singing. Then someone threw up. It just kept getting worse!
The next morning we slept in, then hiked back up to the mountains above Nesselwängle. We decided to climb the Neue Südostkante (New Southeast Edge) on the Gimpel. It has several grade VI pitches in the upper half. After finding harder climbing so difficult the day before, I was a little apprehensive. But sunny weather with low wind made a world of difference!
Straightforward, easy climbing predominates on the first four pitches. But on the fifth pitch, you need to traverse across a bulging wall, then climb back up on small holds. There was a fantastic move stepping around a corner with lots of air under your feet. Uli and I loved this pitch. Then a full 50 meter pitch crossed slabs, then stepped over more bulges to reach a belay. The route comes very close to the "Old South Wall," which was very popular today. I counted at least 10 people queuing along! A really nice VI- pitch led along a narrow ridge, practically sharing the feature with the "Old Southeast Edge" route, marked by pitons just out of reach on the right side. Uli led this pitch in great style. I remember a bold series of moves to climb a slab on the left side of the ridge. On the next pitch a really nice couple of moves surmounted a bulge, then easier ground led to a headwall.
Uli led up the last pitch, which avoided a rotten-looking wall (the old south edge route went boldly up this...I could see it bristling with pitons through loose-looking, but apparently solid bulges). Out of sight, he climbed tricky slabs to a spectacular final move right below the summit.
It was a great climb, with invigorating hard climbing. I realized I wanted to do many more climbs like this. We enjoyed the views for a while. The Zugspitze off to the east was a great snowy bulk already, too early for so much snow if you ask me! But you get what you can.
On the way down we looked for a line called Weihnachtsweg that should be near the descent trail, but we ended up walking past it. But that's okay, because then we found a 4 pitch route on the southeast buttress of the Gimpel (Südostvorbau) called Paradies. It was still warm and sunny. I elected to just wear a t-shirt, which I would regret once the route came into the shade.
But for now I was coping with an amazing first grade VI pitch. It is a real work of art. You have to traverse left onto a vertical slab, then make lieback moves on hidden pockets. Powerful moves back right and up get you to a stance with a fingertip undercling crack. I led the next pitch too, which provided a brief scare when I couldn't find a handhold that I had the power to hold on to in order to make the second clip. It's terrible to fall before the second clip! You'll at least be hanging right next to your belayer. But then I found a hidden pocket and was so relieved. Next, outrageous moves to the right, then up and back left got past a bulge. Exhausted, I climbed easier ground to the belay. These two short pitches packed in an amazing amount of mental and physical stimulation. Uli came up with great power, though he burned through some reserves! He led the V+ 35 meter third pitch which was quite sustained on pocketed slabs. I was getting cold, and by the time I started climbing I was shivering a little. My fingers were cold, and the rock hurt a little bit. Still, it was another amazing pitch. Not so cruxy, but just enjoyably sustained.
Now we had a 5 meter grade VI horizontal traverse across an overhanging wall. Gulp! We thought about rappelling, but with a single 50 meter rope we would probably have to leave some gear. Nah, let's finish it. I shivered my way across the wall, finding a hand jam in a horizontal crack, and pasting feet on the wall. Uli came and belayed me for the last pitch, with a scary-looking upward traverse on a rotten seam. I was reluctant to commit, wondering how much strength I had left. Uli awkwardly worked the hanging belay, at one point looking down to notice my shoes, neatly placed at the base of the wall. It was so steep, that he was looking straight down into the shoes, 85 meters below.
"When I was little I would always go to a swimming pool after school. It was kind of a youth-center. There was a small maintenance building and a fence behind the playground. Behind that, there was a deep forest. I don't know why, but I always knew that turning left into the dark part of the forest, there was a portal to another world."
Uli told me this story on the way home, after the shivering final upward traverse pitch. But I feel like it explains our day better than anything else.