Sat 1st September 2007
At 7.30 I said good bye to Christiane as Sepp and Roman picked me up. We drove over to Christina´s, our fourth member, and set off south towards Munich. The drive into Switzerland went well, no jams, no problems. And at 14.30 we´d parked the car by the station in Morteratsch. Shouldered our packs and headed off towards the Boval hut. Ths area of Switzerland, The Engadine is really quite superb and the home of the fourth Swiss language – Rätoromanische. Switzerland is split into Kantons and Graubunden has Rätoromanische as it´s language. Sounds a little like Italian with a central European flavour – very attractive.
Sun 2nd September
Our mountain today was the Piz Morteratsch, 3751 meters. We wanted to do the east-west traverse. So we plodded up to the start of the climbing below the Fourcla Boval. From here up to the col and the glacier we had really pleasant easy grade 1 climbing. Then it was on with the crampons and rope, over the glacier and up the slopes of Piz Morteratsch. The weather was perfect and the snow still good and hard. We summited not without a certain amount of panting took the usual photos of the Biancograt and headed back down to the Fourcla where, instead of heading off down to the Boval hut, we turned down into the Tschierva Glacier and the Tschierva hut. The hut has been expanded since I was last there, it now has a modern annexe built on to it. I find it good, but it´s a matter of taste really.
On the summit of Piz Morteratsch
The view from the Techierva Glacier. The route up the lower part of Morteratsch is clearly visible
Mon 3rd September
From the Tschierva hut we had Piz Bernina, Piz Scerscen and Piz Roseg on the menu. The hut guardian told us that the rock climbing below the ice nose Scerscen NE ridge was now very much more difficult – so we binned that idea. But the Piz Roseg north ridge was still ok so we opted for that. We set out early on Monday morning by the light of our head torches. The way over to Piz Roseg is somewhat complicated, a short glacier stretch and then over to Piz Umur which one should partly use then leave and pass over to the start of the Donkey Ridge as the N ridge is called. It was still dark as we tried to make our way on Piz Umur, somehow we got off route and found ourselves in a steep area of boulders and junk bordered on our lefts by steep rock walls and on our right by ice walls. The place was pretty unstable! From somewhere above astone whistled down and hit Christina on her right ring finger. By the light of out head torches we could see that it was serious – a deep blood wound and her finger tip was miss-placed. There was only one thing to do – down into the valley. We bailed oout of the area, headed over to the hut, picked up the rest of our gear and headed off down into the valley. The walk out is long and Christina was a stoic in deed!
We got back to the car and drove her to the next hospital. The finger was x-rayed and found to be broken, that meant an overnight stay for her in hospital whilst they patched her up.
We picked up a bred and breakfast and waited for the news. At this time the weather broke and it began to snow, and snow quite heavily. There then followed two days in the valley of bad weather. On Wednesday Christina, with a long face, got the train home and we went up to the Diavolezza hut with the plan of doing the Piz Palü traverse from east to west.
Sepp and Roman showing solidarity with Christina
Thursday 6th September – First bite
We´d scouted out the route to the glacier the day before, it was time well spent because the route was full of fresh snow and therefore not easy to find. We left the hut in good time and made our way over to the glacier which took us about an hour. The Persch glacier is quite flat for a good way but then it steepens up and passes through a quite amazing ice fall. Due to the new snow he route finding was quite complicated, and we were the first over so we had no tracks to follow. The weather was overcast and windy, it didn´t look good at all. Above the ice fall the wind picked up, I hoped to be on the lee side when we crossed the bergschrund and climbed onto to the east ridge proper at 3726m. – I was wrong, I realised this as I was blown off my feet and over the col onto the ridge! There then followed half an hour of, what I can only describe as an assault by the wind, we climbed somewhat higher up the ridge, but it was nearly impossible to see, hear or move with any safety – we bailed out back to the hut. When back in the warmth of the hut I noticed that my right cheek was frozen and turning dark brown.. looked pretty unsavoury indeed.
That evening we debated what to do on Friday – it was still very windy so Palü looked problematic. Then we spoke to a German mountain guide who said he was going up to the Marco e Rosa hut via the Fortezza ridge - the Marco e Rosa was the hut we intended to use after the Palü traverse – so we decided to give it a go too.
Fresh snow on the approach to the Pers glacier
Returning through the ice fall
Friday 7th September
We left the hut good and early and dropped down from it to the Pers Glacier. We crossed quickly over to the Isla Persa and went up to the east side of the ridge. We easily climbed broken ground to the ridge itself. There then followed a section of snow which led up to the rock climbing. The rock was still pretty snowed up so the sections of II and II were even more interesting. The ridge is really good fun! We arrived a few hours later below Bellavista. It started to get windy again so we quickly climbed the first peak of the Bellavista (3693m) and dropped back down to the broad glacier which carries the appropriate name of Bellavista Terrace. This high level strect of glacier is quite superb giving great views of Piz Bernina, Piz Morteratsch and Piz Palü – hence it´s name! A couple of hours later we reached the Marco e Rosa hut in Italy. As we arrived the wind increased to a good gale again. The hut is at over 3500 meters and is one of the highest in the Alps. It´s situation is really remarkable but somewhat vunerable to the weather. That evening over a meal we debated what we´d do on our last day – Forzza again back to the Diavolezza hut and down to the car – Piz Palü traverse back to the Diavolezza – or bail out the long way round to the valley. We decided on the traverse.
The Bellavista Terrace
On the Bellavista summit
Saturday 8th September – Second bite
I lay awake most of the night listening to the wind howling outside the hut and worrying. It transpired that Sepp and Roman had done the same. We got up relatively early – because we were already up high we didn´t need a head torch start – breakfasted talked about the wind and if it would be ok, got our stuff together, put our crampons on and roped up in the tack room of the hut and headed out into the wind. My fist impression was a positive one – it was windy, yes, but it was warmer. We retraced our steps of the previous afternoon along the Bellavista terrace towards Fourcla Bellavista the col between Bellavista and Piz Palü. The snow squeaked under our crampons a sign that it was at least minus 8 Centigrade. We reached the col in quick time and headed up the rocky west ridge towards the west peak, Piz Spinas 3823m, of Palü. The climbing was all that one could hope for, mixed rock and snow, the crampons biting into the snow or balancing with the front points on the holds. We moved together the whole ridge, although the climbing was about grade II the increasing exposure made for focussed movement. From Spinas the ridge drops slightly then broadens out and climbs the slopes of the main peak, 3901m. The weather wes perfect, the wind had dropped a lot and just buffeted us occasionally. With a fantastic view we reached the main summit. Stood around for a while taking photos and congratulating ourselves. Until now we´d had the mountain virtually to ourselves only meeting one rope who´d come over from the Diavolezza on Spinas. We saw a number of people below the main ridge before the east summit. The ridge narrows down after the main summit to aliteral knife edge, I had enough room for one foot in front of the other as we dropped down towards the east summit. The idea of traversing here in the wind of two days earlier was somewhat scary. It would have meant dropping down quite a way to get out of it and a noticeable increase in time. Without further incident we crossed the east summit and hit the col, the scene of our windy repulse of a few days ago. It couldn´t have been more different, sunshine, warm little wind in fact perfect.
There then followed the way through the ice fall, the traverse over the Pers Glacier back to the point where we could take off rope and crampons. We somehow seemed to get infected with a need to hurry, we rushed along the path towards the hut even running the last 15 minutes.
The it was just a case of getting the cable car back to the valley – we decided to be loady devils and not walk down- it was then that we noticed that our clothing and ourselves were maybe not that fresh – we got a big corner of the cable car all to ourselves, eveidently we smelt somewhat strong for the tourist noses in the car. SO that was it, we reached the car, drove down into Pontressina and picked Christina´s rucksack up from a restaurant whose owner had kindly looked after it for us and drove home.
A great event full week, we´d got in a number of wonderful mountains one of which, Piz Palü, was a both a nightmare and a real dream!
On the west ridge
On the traverse
The ridge was certainly thin and exposed enough. I was thankfull that the wind had dropped.