27 Jan 2013

Geierfall (WI4-5)

It’s been a rough winter. I had a cold at least 4 times since October, but finally seem to have worked through it. My new job is keeping me really busy too, but happily I was able to get out for a quick ice trip with Christian. Georg had been in the Ammergau “Eis Box” the weekend before, giving us a tip that the climbing was good. So we made the short (45 minute?) approach and ended up below the Geierfall.

It was only when I came back home that I figured out that for the whole day I’d confused Geierfall with it’s neighbor climb on the left, the “Eis Box.” I thought the Eis Box was the name for the whole cirq, with several climbs. So this colored my impressions of everything. For example, the Geierfall has a short entry pitch which is often walked around. Normally you won’t catch me walking around perfectly good pitches! But the Eis Box topo seemed to “match” this section, and it described the first pitch as WI5, with a WI3 variant on the left. We certainly didn’t want to climb WI5! So we walked around…but the pitch really didn’t look that hard…maybe WI4-, and that for only 5 meters max?

We got the ropes out and I started up. Christian hadn’t been on ice in two years, and it’d been 11 months for me. Such is life! I climbed easily up and then it got pretty steep. I protected fairly often, and really enjoyed the climbing. I snaked up and left, then back right on a mix of steep curtains and cauliflowered lower angle steps. Finally, I traversed up and left to a good belay spot among cauliflowers, placing three good screws for the anchor. I felt quite confident and excited about the climbing.

Christian came up, getting a good reminder of why ice climbing is so engaging. He was worried about his rusty skills for the climb, but knowing that he could rest anytime he needed allowed him to work on and learn the pitch. Still, he had a great expression on his face every time he had a chance to get a rest for feet or hands with a strategically placed foot ledge or something like that! Good fun…

I thought the second pitch would be a fair bit easier, and it was at first, but then it hit 90 degrees in a section of delicate chandeliers, often overhanging. I started to get pumped, and surprised myself by managing to place a screw in the middle of the hard stuff. I climbed a little higher, then back down to the screw to rest a couple minutes. Basically I got nervous about how long the vertical section would continue and couldn’t recover from the pump. I’d forgotten a maxim of steep ice: as you pull on the upper tool, push down and in on the lower tool. After a rest, I fired through the vertical moves and was soon rewarded with lower angle terrain. Traversing a bit left led to an excellent belay location with bolts, protected by an overhang.

If I had more quickdraws I could have finished the climb, but we were a bit short. Christian came up, having a heck of a time on the 90 degree part, but he was an excellent trooper. We weren’t sure if we were at the end of the real climbing at this belay, or what lay above a short steep section, so I decided to go up, and I’d climb down if there were just uninteresting snow slops above the 5 meter ice step.

I traversed right, then hurriedly put in a screw under a showerbath from an overhang of dripping water. I kept thinking “fancy a little wetwork, FREITAG?” from the Eiger Sanction. Above the steep step, things did angle off dramatically, and for the first time there was fun good ol’ WI3 ice. I ran it out up to the anchor at the top of the falls. Christian came up and we rigged for rappel as another party arrived. However we didn’t know if our ropes reached the ground (we really had no idea how long the route was…we only knew we’d done 2.5 pitches). So we sadly pulled the ropes back up and decamped for a slightly higher anchor that connected to the rock anchor at the end of our second pitch. In the end, we could reach the ground even from that high anchor, so let it be known: the Geierfall can be descended with a full 60 meter rappel.

The Geierfall is the central flow of ice.

A couple of guys practically soloed the route and then went away in the time it took us to put our gear away…which was humbling! But we had a lot of fun. We walked away and made plans to climb more Ammergau ice. Thanks Christian!

Update: I found these great pictures from Georg’s 2010 trip, they show the steepness of the route: