Hoellentorkopf, North Ridge
I’m trying to finally write up the rest of the climbs that Aidan and I did when he came to visit last month. It’s been a really busy month, what with Kindergarten for the boys and all. Some details may be a little fuzzy.
Aidan and I were feeling battered by the bad weather. On Wednesday we decided I’d “resume” my vacation and take off work to head back to the mountains. There was a semi-promising forecast for the Northern Limestone Alps close to home. Despite trying to get out early and do something bigger, we got a late start and finally settled for a hike and via-ferrata called the Imster Klettersteig. We could take a lift up which shortened the approach hike to about an hour. I remember waiting for the lift to open after it’s lunchtime siesta, and we went to a restaurant and ordered a “fitness salad.” It turned out to be really good! Aidan is really into healthy eating and I’ve gotten to where I feel bad consuming something meaty and greasy when he’s here.
So I was really happy to actually enjoy this salady dish. :-)
the route up and the descent for the Imster Klettersteig.
Aidan taking a nap!
The weather in this area was stellar. Too bad we didn’t sign up for something harder. But it was very difficult to judge. If it was raining the day before, the climb could still be miserably wet. The hike was very pretty, and terminated in a quiet basin below cliffs. The grass, bubbling stream and sheep here were very nice. Aidan said he would stay here and wait for me, news that I was expecting. I felt his deep lack of motivation in every heavy sigh and wincing look! But he picked a great spot to bail out, I was tempted to join him and just take it easy. But alas, the “iron will” that can only come from years of working and doing the dull things of life required to get by wouldn’t let me. I figured I wouldn’t come back here for quite a while so I should go ahead and climb it. “Farewell Aidan!” I called. He was already asleep!
15 minutes of hiking up scree brought me to the base. I put on my climbing harness and helmet and started up. Then I climbed for well over an hour along the ridge, in corners, gullies, chimneys and cracks. The climbing was varied and entertaining, especially because I avoided touching the iron cable as much as possible. The crux was a shaded near-vertical wall, probably 30 meters high. Some ups and downs and I was on the summit.
The “crux” of the Klettersteig
Another view of the crux
What a beautiful view peak this is! The air was washed very clean all around. Brillant green meadows on a mountainside to the north caught my eye. Twisted and folding valleys spiraled out in all directions. Aidan was so tiny sleeping on a rock I couldn’t see him anymore.
Coming down was easy, lots of scree skiing in my now very torn up tennis shoes. Will they last a full year? I picked up Aidan and we had a fun time hiking down the valley to a lower lift station.
Looking back down the ridge
Panorama from the summit
Pretty green valleys…
Here we got pretty excited about taking a little toy car along a track back to the valley. We had to wait in line a long time, but ultimately it was really fun. Basically the car is on rails and you have one lever to do some braking. We zoomed down, taking curves as fast as we dared. I want to bring Kris and the boys for this, they’d love it!
With the great weather in that area, we were feeling optimistic about the next days. In fact, we decided to drive to the Sella Pass in Italy tonight! We had some dinner (where? I forgot) and sped down over the Brenner Pass where drops of rain clouded our excitement a little bit. No matter, it will pass. But an hour or so later we were sitting in the cold rain at the pass, completely crestfallen and seeing no hope for the next day.
In one of my favorite moments of the trip, I played the song “It took the Night to Believe” by Sunn 0))), sitting there in the dark and wind of that alpine pass. This actually frightened us a little bit, especially Aidan! I was very happy. For an alpine rock climber, nothing is more demoralizing than rainy weather with seemingly no escape. We could excite ourselves about something else for a moment and forget our weary pilgrimage for dry rock.
But the damage was done. It was clear that the next day would be soggy, with routes too wet to climb. So we drove north and crashed in a field south of Innsbruck. The weather forecast indicated that, again, the Northern Limestone Alps would be clear with absolutely everything else socked in. In the morning there was only one cloudfree area: to our northwest, back towards the Wetterstein Range. We pointed the car in that direction and took off.
Back in Garmisch, under brilliant sun, we wearily decided we had to climb something. Aidan seemed almost sick with boredom. His mood was catching and soon I was staring vacantly and wondering what the point of it all was too. But the reptillian brain had been well trained in us both, and we mechanically packed our gear for another climb. The Alpspitzbahn lift took us up high, then we spent an hour hiking down then puzzling out how to climb back up to start the climb.
Aidan climbing tiring scree
Michael on the second pitch
The book described following a faint trail directly across cliffs speckled with latschen bushes and scree fields. But we must have passed that. So we had to climb up through steep latschen trees to reach lower angle terrain where a natural line seemed to lead up to the steep rock. Following our noses worked, because we were rewarded by seeing a metal bar with a piece of string on it which marked the start of the climbing. We had passed a “Gedankentafel” along the way for someone who died here in the 1960s.
I lead the first pitch, marked by a tough move to start then easy ground for 30 meters. The second pitch climbed a short 5.7 corner and crack again up to easier terrain.
Aidan led us into this chimney
Nearing the ridge crest
Aidan on the ridge
More pitches followed, never hard, but the rock wasn’t sound enough to make simul-climbing appealing. I remember a massive chockstone in a chimney, and then some steep pitches above that to gain the ridge crest. On the crest we went straight up, and gradually were deflected left to easier terrain. Aidan led a long simul-climbing pitch to finish the route, and soon we were hanging out on top watching the clouds cover the Zugspitz. It was a nice climb, but not enough to lift our spirits too high after the driving defeat the night before, and Aidan’s general lack of motivation. He said he was game to stay out tonight and try heading south again if the weather warranted it. But by now both of us really just wanted to go home. So we did, Aidan did the driving which was a great help.
Yay, on the summit!
Aidan looking mysterious