I have wrote this post about a million times for some reason hating all of them. Anyway. Sorry if it sucks, the photos are fun :-).
We had been planning this trip for a few weeks, but had been stymied by the weather. Spring came tantalizingly early, but then sucked. German boy had done this route before, and knew it was a good one to cut my teeth on, Alpine, mutli pitch, but manageable in a day, and one he had experience with. We finally got a good enough window, packed our bags, and were all set to go.
I was anxious.
Anxious and a half. Like too anxious to speak, which, if you know me, is a hilariously uncommon situation. I have had this happen before, namely on our first ice climbing trip sans guide, and it was almost paralyzing, until we actually got to climbing, then it melted away. So, I was telling myself, this is just a pre-day jitters, tomorrow, it will be worth it. I get it when I am not sure if I am going to be able to handle something, if it will be more than I can chew, if I will be the one holding everyone back, or I will make a mistake and cause an epic adventure. When I don’t know what to picture, its even worse, because I have no frame of reference to estimate the likelihood of anything going wrong. I was anxious, and did not sleep well, at all. I almost felt numb the whole trip there, not scared, not worried, more or less just numb.
My philosophy was ‘You may love it, you won’t know until you try it, and it certainly can’t be worse than feeling like this’.
We had some low clouds which stuck around a lot of the day which was probably for the best, otherwise I think we would have roasted like little weird human insects on the sidewalk, so we got some funny tan lines but didn’t bake. The first hour of the hike was very chill, strolling through some woods with drifting trails of grey, we got to the ‘bag drop spot’ and took my gear out and left my small daypack.
German Boy the knight in shining armor took it all. Either he uses his excursions with me as his sole form of training for boys days, or he secretly hates how slow i am even more than he hates 20 kg backpacks, OR, he is super awesome and wanted me to have fun. In all honesty it was probably a mix of all three.We headed out up some steep steep grass and then across a shifty loose rockfall pile which was never ending, an alpine approach to an alpine day, and once we finally got to the base of the climb we discovered; SNOW, yay right?
So we geared up. Laughed some more at the snow, German Boy laughed at how often I pee, because men apparently have internal bladders and no other organs hogging space, and he headed up the first pitch. It was a bit awkward to traverse above the snow across to the actual start, and I may have just walked across it on belay. My initial perception of things I would do in rock climbing shoes was altered a lot that day. The rock was really odd. Its basically just vertical ridges left over from water running down the face, and exceptionally pointy because it is limestone.
Sometimes you were smearing and sometimes you could wedge your feet into the ridges, sometimes they then got stuck, but somehow it went. It was a lot different than anything I had ever done, and I am glad the first pitch was the easiest of the three or I may have bailed.
We did the first switch over. I wasn’t scared. It was odd rock, but the more moves I made the better I felt. I knew how the set up was established, the anchors and the knots and the belay, I had no fear from the heights. It was going well. The second pitch was harder, I had a slip and it scared me, but I kept going, maybe almost but not quite at my limit. It was technically rated harder too. The next pitch followed, three rope lengths up now, the small people following below us giving some evidence of the height we had traveled, the summit not appearing to shrink despite our evidence progress. My legs were shaking now, my calves cramped and tight. I tried to think of relaxing my heels down, and breathing deep, and it helped, somewhat, but the reality was this was tough and tiring. We got to the top of the first section and had a nice sit down break.
A small grass section to traverse, with mud tossed in for fun of course, yet another unexpected adventure in rock shoes, and we would be at the base of the second oddly rated pitch. The summit appeared somewhat closer now, but still seemed to have a fair amount of effort left to achieve. The traverse was rather entertaining. We had been climbing on these sharp rocks all day, and my hands like rather like what happens when you sit and lean back on pavement. Small little round dots of red, except, it was really my whole hands, and instead of indents, they were almost tiny little puncture wounds. By the time we were halfway into the traverse I couldn’t put any weight on them at all without yelping, and my toes were hurting even more. I have had some issues with the sides of the toenails cutting into my toes, and right now my climbing shoes felt like mini torture devices. I was loathe to stub them, and extremely hesitant as a result. I think German Boy was a bit curious and amused why I would fly up the pitches, but refuse to slide backwards down half a meter. We got to the second half and decided basically just to go for it.
It was a relatively easy 100-120m but the climb varied from well, walking, to short vertical sections which I would definitely not have had the balls to lead. There were also no really official anchors built in, but it turns out there were some places with old loops and slings where the rope tended to be close to ending and it was nice. By now I was pretty pooped, my legs were tired, my feet were sore. My hands amazingly stopped hurting about 10m in, but I guess adrenaline had something to do with that. We climbed through some bushes to get to the top and took a fairly reasonable break taking up the rope and switching shoes. I have never been happier to put hiking boots on in my life, little amazing toe tanks… my feet appreciated the protection. It would turn out that the toenails on both first toes on both feet cut in to the point of bleeding. Sexy eh?
According to German Boy the rest was ‘walking’ so naturally I had some qualms, of course it was actually pretty technical scrambling with of course a few hundred meter drop on the other side. We made it fine, and the last 10 meters were steep enough for hands, so it was pretty entertained to scramble up to the summit, startling the older couple who of course had come up the hiking trail on the other side. With no water left we checked the time and realized we had an hour to descend 500m while detouring to the side, collecting the bag, and making it back to the gondola, not much time for a break anyway! Off we went, moving rapidly on the tight switchbacks through avalanche fences and into the forest for our detour. We were blessed with a clear sky when i grabbed the bag, and was lucky enough to snap some shots of the route which had been cloud covered.
We now had 20 minutes to recover the ground which took us almost an hour to walk up. So, 8 hours into our trip, travel excluded, we got the joy of running down the trail for 20 minutes, hiking boots and backpacks, to catch the last gondola. To say it was not pleasant would be an understatement, but, I did not faint, or throw up, and we caught it, so lets just call this a win. After a well earned supper and a few apple ciders, we wandered off to catch the bus back down to the train station. I thoughtfully offered to carry the full bag this last stretch, as if he would have let me carry it earlier pfft, and was fairly impressed. I couldn’t pick it up easily, and yet, when on, I could actually jog with it too more easily than I expected. For about ten feet. Let’s just say that the robot German Boy nickname isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. A long, happy, successful day. First alpine multi-pitch? Check!