After our first climb of the season a few weeks ago at Frauenwasserl, last weekend we made it into the mountains above Oberammergau for an easy multi-pitch. With a mix of 2, 3+, and 4- UIAA terrain the route was good practice in different protection strategies.
route: https://www.bergsteigen.com/touren/klettern/linke-achsel-kofelturm-kofel/ , “linke-achsel” translates in English to left armpit 😃🇩🇪
If you’ve been to Oberammergau you’ve seen Kofel. It stands directly south of the town, visible from the street below. The peak looks iconic despite not being that high.
The earlier the start the better most days in the alps, this time we to up at 6:00h and were at the trail head by 7:00h. All to avoid afternoon rain. Breathing the mountain air is a great way to wake up.
On the hike we passed through a loose rock field. Danger These can be more sketchy than the actual climbing. On a popular trail like this every 15min a shower of apple sized stones comes tumbling down. 😞. I’ll take a steep wall and a rope any day.
Getting to the start of the climb involves turning right off the main trail when it bends to the left. This spot is easy to find in theory but as we know from a pervious day in the area it is not always.
Once at the base we geared up and began our first multi-pitch of the season. It had a few lessons for us.
We started in our normal full lead climbing mode, Masha belaying with the Beal Birdie and me on lead. Then once up a ways I created an anchor off a tree with a sling. Lesson 1: don’t touch the tree directly, sap + hand + rope = bad time. Then I belayed Masha up with a ATC in guide mode. I could barely keep pace with her in this easy terrain. Lesson 2: in grade UIAA 2/-3 terrain utilise different alpine protection methods. What we should have done is both taken third of the 60m rope in our packs and clove-hitched into the rope. Then hand coiling the remaining 15/20m meters of rope move through the terrain as a pair. Protecting the exposed bits by standing across from a tree for example and providing a quick belay via a munter-hitch. With this method there is no anchor needed and in most parts no belay, allowing us to move much faster.
Once we made it to the first bolted anchor, normal lead climbing made sense. Route makers have a funny was of making easy terrain more difficult by spacing out the bolts, as was the case here. The pitches were long and the rock mixed with dirt/grass patches. Between the bolts I roped natural anchors such as tree stumps or horns, a true alpine style of climbing.
Half way up the second pitch I lost the route. Not knowing which way I went straight up a reasonable looking rock feature. After 15m it became clear there was no bolts this way. Now I was stuck with the decision to down climb not clipped to anything and out of ear shot of Masha or anchor there. “Natural anchor skills don’t fail me now!”. Using a hex on one side and a slinged tree on the other bringing them together a simple anchor and belayed Masha up behind me. When she reached the part when I left the route we were able to communicate again and hatched a plan to get us back on course. She found the bolts and secured herself, I down sized my anchor to some cordelette and a steel ring, she lowered me down to the route, and we left the anchor behind. Lesson 3: print off the topo and put it in your pocket.
The remainder of the climb went smoothly. Rounding the ridge to the summit we were met by curious onlookers. Joining them in enjoying the views we had a quick snack then started the hike down.
Was great to climb so close to Oberammergau and I would recommend the route to anyone looking for a relaxing day in the mountains. More mulit-pitch stories to come this summer.