The line of Jubilaeumsweg 2000

Georg and I had a rather disappointing time in the Western Alps, making due with an attempt on La Meije, and then scrounging around near Ailefroide trying to climb some rock before persistent rain drove us back home in disgust.

We spent Wednesday driving and making sardonic comments about the weather gods. I dropped Georg off at his place, went home and slept. Strangely, Georg managed to find a weather window: the next day, exactly at the Wilder Kaiser, it wouldn’t be raining. So we had to mount back up and drive over there.

Under blue skies we hiked to the Gruttenhütte. We had two ropes, quickdraws and some cams, nuts and slings. The route itself was whimsically set up on 9/19/1999, and is one of the longest routes in this area of the Kaiser. The authors, two Haselsberger brothers and a friend H. Pirkner are famous for the group of climbs on the other side of the peak like “Via Romantica” and “Blue Moon.” We were interested to see what they did in a “foreign” valley :).

A cloud engulfed us in the great scree basin below the route and never left. Alas, we wouldn’t see the sun or more than 50 meters in front of us for many hours. This terrible August weather had found us even here. But at least it remained dry so we continued doggedly. I got irritated with crossing the scree basin at low height, so I dropped back down to the trail and listened to Georgs progress to determine where to turn back up. I found it so tiring, and was disgusted with the cloud. In truth, the main reason I wanted to climb this route, which I know is not known for it’s incredible climbing, was to experience the big-wall ambience in kind of unknown area. The thick cloud meant that wouldn’t be possible and as I took two steps up, one step back in the enormous scree field I cursed inwardly. Georg waited patiently above, his traversing plan having worked much better.

Michael on pitch 10

Georg finishing pitch 11

Georg on pitch 12

Finally I arrived and sent Georg off to lead the first pitch. We combined the first three pitches in a long simul-climb to grade IV. Normally this would have felt easy and routine with bolt protection, but wow…this was an exceptionally loose mountain! I think the German word “splittrig” describes this situation pretty well. On the south side of the Wilder Kaiser, many rocks have cracks throughout, and when you have to treat them as solid blocks a feeling of insecurity results. Multiply this over entire pitches and the route gets an air of seriousness…despite the bolts!

Georg had gone up and right on easier ground. I took the next block, turning left around a corner and straight up again for two grade III pitches to a long section of walking on grassy ledges. We came together for a moment, then I led two more pitches of III and II to reach a gray wall, impressive after the long trip through scruffy ground to get here. Georg led a very nice grade IV pitch up the wall to a vertical section. I headed up, enjoying the grade V terrain very much. But at one point I couldn’t see the next bolt and wondered which way to go. Finally I saw it, quite camoflagued! This was an excellent pitch though. Georg took the V+ pitch that went up an overhanging corner. We felt a few raindrops and he sped up so as to make it over the crux before solid rain! But luckily the precip stopped. As I followed a foothold broke while I cleaned some gear. I think I managed to hold on without stressing the belay but maybe not. The crack at the overhang was seeping water. This wasn’t a really easy pitch!

I led pitches 13 and 14 as a simul-climb again, confusing Georg by stopping at the belay for pitch 15. In fact I’d had a pretty strange move here, carefully crabbing around a rotten tower that partially collapsed under my weight. Ugh. I have to say, I’ve been on plenty of loose terrain, but this upper route really takes the cake. There are so many rocks that crumble or break into shards if you use them meaningfully. You have to distribute your weight carefully. With the blowing clouds in our crumbling spires I have to admit the climb had atmosphere though!

Georg led 15, 16 and 17 as a simul-climb. Though rated II and III, this would be mentally taxing to solo not only for the extremely loose rock but also routefinding uncertainty. On the last pitch, a 10 meter section of vertical rock stretched the definition of grade III, but at least it was very solid.

Georg on toothy terrain with the Ostgipfel behind

Michael finishes the zwei Zacken

Yay, made it!

Looking down the ridge

Michael circumvents the overhanging tower

Drinking water

We get below the clouds

Georg’s panorama of Kopfkraxen routes

Now as far as we knew, we were on the Ostgipfel (East Summit). In the cloud, we didn’t really know what to do, only that abseils along the ridge were in our future. We climbed uncertainly down in a diagonal direction to a little abcess among rotten teeth. I set off, traversing the teeth and sometimes slinging the sharp summits. I reached a tower I did not want to have to downclimb. Occasionally the cloud would lift a bit and we’d see what an airy place we were in. Georg arrived at my summit and noticed the rappel anchors. Yay! We were still on route. It was a good thing we had plenty of nuts and cams.

We had a single 50 meter rope (yeah, I know :)), and now had to make two 25-meter rappels into the gray murk. Gulp. Happily, this worked perfectly. Actually we made 3 rappels, and employed some extra caution in face of the uncertainty: the first person was lowered and the second rappeled once the way was scouted. This was helpful on the first rappel because I ended up passing the station and had to climb back up to it on non-trivial terrain. It was great to have a top rope.

Now we traversed pretty easily across nonetheless dangerous terrain. Georg led this half-walk half-climb to a belay point at a notch in front of an overhanging tower. Then I led 3 grade II and III pitches as a long simul-climb to the summit, first traversing under the overhanging tower, then regaining the ridge crest. Hilariously, I came upon a single bolt here, long after I’d given up looking for such strange things! At that moment the clouds opened up for about 15 seconds, giving a panoramic view of huge air, towers and Georg 30 meters below crabbing up to the crest. Before I could get my camera it was gone, and it was just me again in the mist. The sound of breathing, the clicking of gear and careful steps on collapsing ledges. Soon I was at the summit cross, taking a half turn around it to belay Georg up.

Well. It was interesting!

Georg is actually jogging here

From the parking lot

As we hiked down, we dropped below the cloud, getting enjoyable views of the Kopfkraxen and other Western Kaiser stuff. Georg pointed out an easy slab climb on the lower wall. Then I laughed when he said: “I just saw a goat walk across the crux of this climb.”

Now we had a long hike around the south side of Tuxeck until we could follow a route down to the car at the Wochenbrunner Alm. And thus ends the story of how we drove for two days looking for something to climb and finally got something in our own backyard. :).