Ice climbing at Engstligenalp- third time is the charm!

This trip has been planned since at the beginning of January we over heard a guide saying “yea, there’s ice up there”, but unfortunately this plan ran into some hitches. The first hitch: we slept through two alarm clocks and woke up around 9. With three hours of travel each way, this was a less than ideal starting time. We re-planned, including inviting more people, and then, I got wickedly sick. Apparently the flu is going around Zurich. The other people went, I ate a lot of soup, and was grumpy. We agreed to go sometime during the week to avoid finding the ice full of courses, and had a wonderful weather window open up on Thursday. It’s not been the best winter for winter sports in Switzerland, no polar vortex over here, which isn’t the end of the world, who really needs -50, but its been a bummer.


Anyway, we pack up, head to bed with three alarm clocks, and get ready to spend 7 hours round trip traveling. Personally, in the future I hope to make trips for two days where the travel time is twice as long as the sport time, but sometimes, what can you do. We shared the last bus with about 30 knee high ski enthusiasts, one of whom had serious second thoughts about abandoning her mouth so selfishly for her ski ambitions, all of whom were quite adorable with skis only slightly longer than the bindings. We hopped off the gondola, walked the whole 10-15 meters required, and were at the top of the ice climbing section. They were artificial, built over top of rock cliffs, but were in pretty reasonable shape considering the rest of the country, and had really, really convinient anchors at the top. We didn’t even need ice Imagescrews. It was neat. Anyway, we got our gear sorter, I got over my typical pre adventure second guessing, and we rapelled down to the bottom of the climbs. The first one had an extensive snow approach, started off really easy but steepened as you got towards the top. I

climbed it first to warm up my toes, and then belayed German Boy up who also had no problems. Then he built a belay at the top, tossed down his ice axes, and belayed me up as I climbed it again. Some of that may sound entertaining/wrong, here was our problem: oh its top roping, you don’t need to rent a pair for yourself only one of us climbs at a time”. But we forgot the whole rapell down thing, so we ended up doing this twice. With a ton of slack in the rope and me standing way way out of the way it worked perfectly fine, it was actually a bit anti-climactic because they really just got stuck in the snow. I would say it was WI II.

After a short windy break for tea we moved over to another route, and headed down. It was a little less ideal, because the better anchor

would have required me to belay German Boy across a steep loose snow section to unbury the cables, we just decided to use the accessible one which put us on a harder section of ice, which actually turned out to be just fine anyway. We each only climbed this one once, but we had a nice more sheltered belay spot off to the side. It was a much more interesting pitch, with some protruding rock, and much more structure to the ice, not simply ploughing your way straight up, and I really enjoyed it. ImageGerman Boy was quite impressed with how well I moved up it and almost had problems keeping up with the belay :-), and on an WI III no less. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures, but you’ll have to take my word for it! A long wait for a nice soup, and it was time for the 3+ hour return journey home after an extremely successful day. I had less issues with getting pumped, but, in honestly the routes weren’t very long, definitely under 15 m, and not particularly challenging but really fun. 

No knots mistied, no gear dropped, no near misses, no bruises or cuts from ice, for a first time ice cimbing guide-less, even top roping, I think it was an excellent success! If only the routes closer to Zurich were in, and if only the gear I should really probably purchase wasn’t so expensive, it would be a total victory! Ice climbing win!Image


About adventuresunplugged

The world is a really cool place. I moved to Zurich almost three years ago to start my PhD, and have really enjoyed the different opportunites living close to the Swiss alps offered. This blog is about some of my adventures, climbing, mountaineering, rock climbing, traveling... life in general! Wow, haven't updated this bad boy in some time! While the above is still true I have gone on to finish the PhD, so that is Dr Unplugged to you. I also have landed a job in Switzerland and will be shortly moving to Geneva. Clearly I have some adventures ahead left to explore with you guys along for company!
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