An adventure with much better than expected weather, in Central Switzerland. Clariden, a classic in summer or winter teased us with intermitten white outs, and that knee deep snow ultimately kept us from the summit, but not having an awesome time and snagging some awesome shots.
If you read my last post, (sorry for the delay!) then you knew we had some plans to go check out a cool mountain in Glarus, central Switzerland despite not having a very spectacular forecast. It was floating somewhere between “meh” and “that’s just balls” but we lucked out quite a bit and didn’t get any precipitation! We got up early, having decided to drive out, and left the house by close to 4:30am. We took some unintentional detours around in the city, which was extremely frustrating, but finally managed to get on the right autobahn in the right direction and were off.
We pulled up to Klausenpass Hohe and were treated to stunning views through the Klausenpass with sun just breaking through the clouds. There was a man from the kanton checking out the facilities, I would describe him as a ranger if nothing else, but he shared the news that there was extremely deep snow quite low down. We smiled and thanked him, and he grinned at our determination, but we were ready to give it a go and see how our day went.
It started lovely and easy, T3 easy trails up to 2,350. We took a small break, pleased with our rate for the first hour, and could see the snow was not much further ahead so we figured we would take a breath now. Heading off again the clouds started rolling in, the snow started piling up, and our route finding became an adventure. An easy trail is an easy trail, but if its covered in knee deep snow it looks awfully different. And when the clouds blow in and you see two feet in front of you, well, that makes it a bit harder too. We had intermitten whiteouts, with increasing periods of stable clear skies above. We made good progress, good way, but we made one wrong turn and pulled some slightly tricky snowy scrambling off up the side of a ridge. Looking across we saw some tracks and what looked like a way up. We had a steep snowfield to traverse and it went smoothly enough, we got to the way up and discovered it had avalanched recently. Maybe a few days ago. We took a couple looks, and decided it would be okay to head up it, but fully geared up and not planning on taking our time.
So off I went up my first couloir, German Boy managed it standing upright using his axe as a cane, but I managed going up on my hands and feet, using my axe as if climbing and stabbing my other hand in. It was tough to stay on my front points, I am not going to lie! Also, my calves have some serious work ahead of them before ice climbing season. I was breathing pretty hard too, all this cardio works well in the city, but over 2,000m I still struggle. We ended up on top, and found some stone men, YAY, and were back on trail. Onwards and upwards through more and more snow, but at least on trail and with reasonably stable visibility. The clearing held, and we ascended through a window up, and up and up to the glacier.
All we could see were clouds around us, all shades from white to black. Rocks standing out stark against the snow. We roped up and headed up the Iswaendli. Steep is an understatement. It was tough, we were over 1,000hm into a day which had been filled with snow, cloud, whiteouts and startlingly blue skies. Onwards, upwards. Clouds rolled back in.
Even with a clear path in front of me, when the clouds rolled over I struggled with the zero visibility. I got dizzy, my head spun, I saw dots. It was tiring. Breaking trail up a super steep snow wall, knee deep snow that sometimes let you feel the slip of ice under it all. We made it to the top of the wall, but I was fading fast. Pounding headache, short breath, balance questionable. I was disappointed with my fitness level, but we made some more progress with German Boy breaking trail, but eventually we realized that given the time, there was not much point continuing.
We sat down in the snow for a break. All around us towering black clouds, our ridge alone in a sea of calm. The wind dropped, it was total, utter, silence. No life to be seen, only stark black rocks, shade of grey in the clouds, blindingly pure snow. Silence.
Even with no summit, the trip would have been worth it for this moment.
Our descent was uneventful. Sliding through the snow it went much more rapidly than the ascent. We stayed on the right route, though likely walking along the sides of walls protecting the trails, as we hoped and skipped over the snow when we could. I felt better and better as we went. I may need to figure out if it was a sunshine, lack of solid food breaks, or simple altitude which caused the failture on Clariden, 3,100m was our high point, which is not so high altitude. We were back at the car by four, had a celebratory drink for a good day, and settled in for the long drive back to Zurich, happy in at least the fact that we hadn’t wasted another weekend in the city.