The great slabs of the Alpspitze

Barbara and I had the day off and the weather was great. I recommended we climb the “KG Weg” on the Alpspitze. Rated IV+, I thought that it was a good difficulty for her, especially since the hardest move was on the first pitch, and it should be easier from there. She agreed, with some trepidation!

We drove in two cars since I would continue south to the Dolomites to meet up with Steve and Ever. That was too bad…I hated to leave her to drive home alone! Ach.

We took the lift up, and walked to the start of the climb. I’d been here once before to do the route in 2006 with Daniel. That day, we had snow on the upper route and had to finish in a different way.

Right away we had a little crux situation. Another party of three was there, with two people furiously taking off harnesses and packing up. It seemed that a party had decided not to do the route, and that added to the tension of the three remaining. Perhaps words were exchanged? Anyway, Barbara and I wandered happily up into this “Mischung.” Two young women were starting up, though full of apprehension. The first pitch is the hardest (IV+), and is exposed right off the ledge. I was worried that Barbara would allow the tension and drama to worry her, but she was solid.

Barbara scouts the first pitch

We let them go, waiting a while, then I quickly dispatched the enjoyable pitch. Arriving at the belay, the young ladies were very apprehensive about letting me clip in. “Wait - we are on this anchor!” said one with some fright in her voice. I explained that bolted anchors in the mountains can certainly hold many people, and it’s normal and natural for following parties to clip in as they wait.

Hilariously, that wasn’t really good enough for her! She made to call on a telephone (!) or perhaps yell to the leader of their party above to confirm the veracity of my words which must have seemed insane to her. I can laugh now, but it was one of the strangest belaying situations I’ve ever encountered. Why were these people here? And their leader above saw this conversation of rather tense voices and said nothing. Wha?

If I were him I would have at least said something reassuring like “It’s okay, Marigold, this fellow can safely clip into the anchor without compromising your safety.”

Ach. Well. I waited a long time. Finally, the women were trying to call the man on the telephone again, and I was like, that’s it…Barbara and I are going to sneak by these people any way we can. I belayed Barbara up, and the pitch was no problem for her…there was one good hard move, but she smartly got up.

The other party was shocked and saddened that I took off before they did. I even clipped one of the bolts. Sorry, I’m done caring. I scrambled the pitch, skipping most bolts, and moving quickly. I caught up to the other girl, passed, and found an alternate anchor to belay Barbara up.

Whew, now we could enjoy the climb! I shouldn’t be upset - this is a beginner climb and it’s natural for parties to move slowly. I just disliked all the fear and even anger present in this group. I hope they learned and eventually had a great time.

Above the first difficulties

One of the best pitches…

Barbara and I continued up, encountering some rather difficult slabby moves at one point. She arrived somewhat incensed, her color up. But she is beautiful, so it’s a nice effect!

She got angry at the slabs and was determined to master slab climbing. I felt that she wasn’t looking for the little flat places well enough, which makes it much harder. However, by the end she got a whole lot better. I love the way she tackles problems!

A few more pitches and it was really joyful climbing. Each pitch was a full 50 meters, following slabs, cracks, little “Wasserrillen,” even the occasional lieback crack. Barbara was getting used to the regular sequence and querying me on all aspects of anchor building. She loves to understand.

There is one picture that captures my favorite pitch. Barbara is about to cross a big slab, but looks right at home in this wilderness.

We finished the lower slab, but were determined to keep going…something most parties don’t do. We had to walk about 10 minutes up a scree trail to connect to something called BW3 Adamplatte. I was really pleased with our routefinding. We found the Gedankentafel mentioned in a book, then scrambled about 250 meters up with little to no gear. My single cam came in handy in here. Reconnecting to a bolted line was a real surprise, but we said, okay, let’s go! And I really enjoyed these upper pitches… 7 pitches, all but the last two 50 meters long, grade III slab climbing (about 5.2-5.4). We were in the shade now, and continued for pitch after pitch. I was so proud of Barbara. I love her.

Wonderful slabs

She’s doing her thing

The way the route ended was a little confusing - we were on a ledge 15 meters above the Alpspitz Ferrata. Barbara investigated climbing down, but finally judged it too hard or dangerous. It was a good choice. I lowered her the rest of the way, then abseiled.

Now, we continued on the via ferrata to the summit, not using any via ferrata gear. This was good fun. We sat at this little table on top and posed for pictures.

Cables to the summit

Ladders to the top

A funny table

On the Alpspitze

We started down. I had some advice here and there for Barbara to be able to move faster. She would only implement a suggestion if she would also feel completely secure. I like her mix of ambition and appreciation of the stances and attitudes that provide real security. As she’s felt many times over this summer of learning, she does belong in the mountains…

We passed a few parties on the way down, then at long last we were hiking again. We didn’t have a watch handy, but we had a feeling that we’d better hurry in order to make the last lift.

A long descent

Indeed - we were just in time for the last lift! Whew. I’m glad we didn’t have to descend another 1500 meters or so to the valley floor!

We went for pizza, reminded of our wonderful days in Cortina ending with pizza. Ack, puh! The pizza here is just not as good, but we have to admit it’s hard to beat Cortina so give ‘em a break.

I headed south to meet Steve and Ever in the Dolomites and Barbara made her solitary way north. I wished I was beside her. Soon we’d be together again, though.