Made it into the alps last weekend for a multi-pitch climb! On a ridge above Chiemsee we, had a great day in the alpine, learned a new climbing technique from friends, and continued to hone our skills.
Blessed with good weather, we drove down from Munich to the Seilbahn parking linked above. It opens at nine and by then we were filling our packs with climbing hardware and ropes.
Finding the start was tricky. After talking the Seilbahn up we could see a group of climbers roping up at the base of the wall; but how to reach them?
We tried approaching from above and below before settling for right up the middle. Bushwhacking with wet sneakers we eventually made it to the wall. At least the climbing shoes were dry!
To my surprise the climbers at base were repeating a route next to the start leaving us a window to begin the traverse. On a popular route such as Kampenwand any chance to avoid traffic is appreciated. Off we went.
Four plus UIAA is this threshold for me where real climbing starts. Easier than that and I don’t pay as much attention to foot placements or holds as everything is a jug. Protection on this first pitch was pretty sparse I roped anything I could see: shrub, horn, bolder, alike.
Not finding the first anchor I made a natural anchor around a big boulder and brought Masha up. The 7mm x 7m cordeltte comes in handy again!
Eventually we found bolted anchors on the route. Unfortunately they were of the single bomber bolt verity. Instead of two bolts and a chain like normal there is a single concrete reenforced rappel ring to build an anchor off.
I find these impractical:
Assessing danger is a core element of alpine climbing. At 2-4+ UIAA grade this climb highlights the security vs speed dilemma. On the easy long sections doing the full lead belay routine soaks up a lot of time. At the same time there is lot of exposure. Slipping off the ridge is not an acceptable outcome, what to do?
Our friends forming the second rope team demonstrated an approach to this problem and Masha and myself another.
We tried simul-climbing, described well in this article, both of us climbing at the same time with two to three pieces of protection between us. I found downsides:
That said, there is one big upside, once you get moving it’s fast. The only thing that stops the party is when the leader runs out of gear. If we go further with this technique I’d like to practice transitions on the ground and try and eliminate the downsides.
The other pair, both German and recently out of a German climbing alpine course, had a much different approach. They climbed with two 60m twin ropes, clipping both ropes though each piece of protection. They didn’t use ATC belay device, instead opting for huge HMS carabiners and using a dual Munter hitch attached to the anchor to belay. This technique builds on concepts I’m familiar with like the Munter hitch but has a special rope communication element.
The leader can climb beyond ear shot, build an anchor then feed back up one of the ropes. Seeing one of the ropes slack like this the belayer knows that the leader is off belay. He then takes disassembles the Munter and prepares to climb, while he does this the leader will pull the rest of the rope up. When there is a few meters left to pull up the second grabs the rope and holds tight. From the leaders perspective he is done pulling rope and puts those lines on belay. After a while the second releases the last few meters and the leader slowly takes them in bit by bit demonstrating the belay is on without ever verbal communicating.
This rope communication is cool and I hope to integrate something similar into our climbing repertoire. We’ll need twin ropes and these big HMS carabiners to do the full technique but, the second holding the last few meters as a test to see if they are on belay we can start.
This brings up the viability of belaying directly off the anchor. Is its a good idea?
When you are on the wall you never know what gear might slip out of someone’s hands. A lot of the climbing is knowing how to do the necessary actions, belay, rappel or, build anchor, with the equipment at hand. Which might be not much.
I knew this climb would involve rappels thus two ATCs went into my backpack. Problem being when we reached the first rappel I could not find one of them. The other team had left us the 60m twin ropes to slide down which was nice; looking down the cliff not sure our 30m of rappelling rope would have reached. Since we had our rope out I elected to lower Masha which gets around the 30m rappelling limit of our rope since the rope isn’t doubled over. Then I rappelled down the twin ropes.
Upon reaching a similar situation later in the climb, this time a shorter rappel and us in front, went a different technique, simul-rappel. I was attached to one side of the rope with a Grigri and Masha to the other with the ATC and a line between us. Then we slid down the rope together. It worked best when one of us was under the other a bit.
It was a great climb I would put into my top five. After a short snack at the top we headed down. Into a decent I would defiantly not put in my favourite decents.
There was an unprotected down climbing section that was scary. With so many people going down this way why not bolt a rappel ring right about it? Never the less we made it down.
Every climb this year feels like an alignment of the stars. Wet weather, busy schedules, and injuries have made it hard. I’m so thankful we got out on the wall this day.