The day after climbing Hochferner, there was a change of weather that meant it wouldn’t be good to climb ice faces. So we diverted to rock climbing in the north back near home. Georg found a route called “Iron Mouse” (UIAA VII+), which should provide 8 pitches of fun. That grade is way beyond me as a leader, but I was game to follow anything. Let’s go!

We paid 8 euros to drive the toll road to a high parking lot, then walked for 30 minutes to the base of the routes, below an imposing vertical escarpment. We were in the “Iron Mouse” sector, but weren’t positive as to where the route began. Finally we decided on something and went up. We left a sweater at the base, thinking that it would be a hot day, and we kept one for the belayer.

Pretty soon, Georg was on the lead of the first pitch, shivering hard! The wind was very strong. He had dispatched the first step easily (we thought that was supposed to be VII+, it was more like VI), then took some time making the last move to the anchor. As I came up I understood why. Good climbing led to near the end, then some tough moves left me “stranded” just to the side of the anchor. I tried to move left on small holds, and finally gave up, swinging onto the rope, then climbing more easily the last 2 meters. Very puzzling! That was supposed to be grade VI, but it was at least VII…

With these uncertain thoughts, I surrendered the sweater to Georg who really needed it. Then I climbed up a pocketed face that was really nice. I made kind of a mess of it though, feeling uncertain and intimidated by the overall grade of the climb. As much as possible I rested on the rope, swung here and there, looking around the corner, etc. I do remember one hard move that required some courage on my part, if only because I did it unwillingly! Eventually I exited into a shrub and shared an anchor with a party from Rosenheim.

Georg took us over a little shrubby peak to the base of pitch 3: a corner followed by a great grey slab. His only comment was “…ugh…slabs” which I understood! But he dispatched it really well. The crux seemed to be a spot where you are crouched on one leg, and just have to stand up on it with nothing for hands or the other foot. Shiver!

I combined the next two pitches of grade IV and V terrain. This was fun, confidence-building climbing for me. The cracks on this pitch just invited gear, and I played along. The bolts were oddly placed. In one sense, they weren’t necessary as there was plenty of good natural protection available. And there were only two of them on a 25 meter section of climbing. Why bother, I wondered?

The next pitch was grade VI, but wow, it had some tough moves! The first move was already interesting: lieback a flack with your feet as high as possible. Get into a committing “Frankenstein” position, and if you are the right height, will find a Thank God hold at the very limit of your right arm! That is kind of mean before the first clip! Later, I had to rest at a puzzling lieback move at the end of the difficulties. Sigh!

Continuing an unfortunate theme, I begged off the lead of the VI+ pitch to come. Although the vertical wall was intimidating, I just had to look at my performance and confidence and declare myself wanting. If I couldn’t even follow the grade VI pitch below for 25 meters, how would I lead a VI+ 40 meter pitch at a dead-vertical angle, especially as these routes really seem to need supplemental gear along with their handful of bolts. Disappointing, but eventually success is built on disappointment, so…

Georg headed up. Making the first clip was easy. The second…not too hard. But the third clip was a long ways up and required some hard climbing! Same with the fourth. Whew. Good lead. Above these difficulties the pitch became a real delight, with huge pockets for eager hands and feet. It really was an amazing pitch, I had to agree.

Georg on the amazing hard pitch

Michael following

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I headed up for the last pitch, still feeling indimidated. A strange rightward traverse was puzzling, but easy enough. Higher, it was very interesting climbing up the right edge of a face to avoid an overhang. There were good grips for hands, and slabby feet as I went around the corner in strong wind, eventually finding the anchor.

Done and done! Amazing that the day before we were tip-toeing up a glacier in crampons, and today we were sport climbers. Oddly enough, we were “colder” today than on the glacier!

We started abseiling, first making an impressive vertical 60 meter rappel, then a 50 meter rappel, then a shorter one to reach scrambling terrain at about the level of the base of pitch 3. Georg learned from another climber that we weren’t on Iron Mouse for that spectacularly hard vertical pitch that I didn’t lead. And the bottom two pitches were another climb entirely. Go figure!

So we did pieces of Iron Mouse, but apparently not the best: it seems that Iron Mouse P7 is the real wunder, but our P7 (actually P6 for us, because P4 and 5 were combined) was equally revelatory.

(Later I figured out that we most likely climbed the first two pitches of Wallfahrt (6+ and either 7- or 6- depending on where you found the information), and then the 5th pitch of “Am Ende der Sonne” for the real money pitch, which was appropriately rated 7+. I also learned about a neat combo called “Ironlaus” that strings together easy but fun climbing. Hilariously, it snags the amazing big grips on the second half of P5 “Am Ende der Sonne” then sneaks away again off to the left! Gotta do that combo…

Thanks to Georg for a fun day! Pictures here.

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A view of the northeast side of the Wilder Kaiser