The keschnadel seen from the glacier.
The Keschnadel ridge is a very interesting route on the Piz Kesch. It is primarily a rock climb. Normally you will only find snow or ice on the approach or on the descend.
The Kesch-Nadel (-Needle, -Aiguille) itself is actually a steep foresummit of the mountain at 3386m. The main technical difficulties are all on the nadel. However, after you reach the summit you have to follow the main ridge of the mountain over the middle summit to the main summit at 3418m to get to the (normal) descend route. While there is not a lot of technical climbing here, the rock is of lesser quality and orientation is harder. Do not underestimate this part of the route, it takes 1,5-2 hours from the needle to the main summit, especially if you do not know the way.
The main charm of the route is the perfect gneiss (a type of rock related to granite, very solid and a lot of friction) on the way to the needle and the fact that the climbing is very varied. You will find friction climbing, cracked slabs and chimneys on the route.
Approaching the porta d'Es-cha from the south. Left is the Keschnadel.
See the main page. The routes start at the Porta d'Es-cha, a small pass to the side of the mountain. If you are coming from the Kesch hut (north) you don't go up the pass itself but take the glacier directly to the beginning of the ridge.
From the Es-cha hut (south) you can also go to the ridge directly without using the glacier. This route is more direct, but I believe less comfortable.
Looking back at the main ridge after our climb.
For a complete description see Griffin page 343-4 (more information on the main page).
From the porta d'Es-cha cross the upper part of the Porchabella glacier to the start of the ridge. From here follow the first relatively easy part of the ridge to a flat part.
Here the real climbing begins. The route follows a complex series slabs, terraces and chimneys. While the climbing is varied orientation is surprisingly easy. On the route you will find two pitches of IV and also two pitches of III+. The total number of pitches is 7 or 8 and the technical climbing will take about two hours. After that you are on the small summit of the nadel.
According to Griffin you can get to the main ridge by a small scree couloir. We did not find an easy way down there so we rappelled down about 10 meter to get to the ridge. From here you can follow the exposed but not too difficult ridge to the central summit at 3405m.
From here you can follow the ridge or the E-flank to the lowest point (some steps grade II). The following gendarme can be climbed and rappelled down according to Griffin. I believe we passed this gendarme on the left (W) side by a couple of couloirs. This was not very difficult, but the rock was (dangerously) crumbly here. After this the way to the main summit is loose, but easy.
From the summit make a turn to the right to descend the normal route (be careful not to descent the NW ridge instead).
For the route:
Helmet, Rope, Harness, Rappel and Belay-gear, Quickdraws. For protection some Nuts and/or Friends are a good idea (there are a few pitons). Slings/Runners are also useful.
The ridge from the needle to the summit can be done on a short rope.
The technical part of route can be climbed with rock shoes, but we did it with mountaineering boots without real problems.
For the approach and descend:
Basic glacier gear including Ice axe and Crampons.
Some pictures can be found on: