Three days at the Gruebenhütte
📅 January 24, 2021•
⏱️ 7 min read
Bad weather had prevented us from heading for the Alps a few days earlier. On the bright side, this allowed us to witness the re-opening of the climbing gyms after the COVID-19 lockdown. Sitting at home for four months hadn’t positively influenced my climbing level. Climbing felt uneasy, a feeling I expected to remain on real rock. We adjusted our plans accordingly and left the harder rock routes to next year. The Grubenhütte was our choice to kick-off the climbing trip due to its relatively low altitude and abundance of mid-grade routes. We planned to climb the Chlyne Diamantstock (2839m) Nordgrat and the Hiendertelltihorn (3179m) Ostgrat.
Best bivouac in the Alps
It was raining when Peter and I set off from the parking lot in Handegg on the 3rd of July. With heavy packs carrying three days of food, we sped up the many hairpin turns. Haste was required, as the weather would deteriorate throughout the approach. In three hours, we would arrive at the, from what I heard, best bivouac in the Alps. This prospect distracted me positively from the rain and pack cutting into my shoulders.
Luckily, the predicted thunderstorm didn’t come. A fire was already burning when we arrived at the bivouac. It exceeded my expectations with a separate sleeping and living room, a well-equipped kitchen, and a beautiful remote location.
A perfect warm-up
On our first morning in the mountains, we were immediately treated to an amazing sunrise. A low-hanging deck of clouds blocked all but the summits around us. It increased the feeling of remoteness I already felt the day before.
Favorable snow conditions allowed us to approach the ridge by crossing the remains of the Gruebengletscher. Its quick retreat complicates access to the routes in the basin. Some only remain accessible due to the great effort of the hut-warden.
Luckily we brought our crampons as we had to traverse a steep icy slope to reach the climb. It starts at a notch in the ridge, where we first enjoyed the view and the warm morning sun before roping up. The weather had completely turned around compared to yesterday, for which we were very grateful.
We climbed some easy terrain on running belay before reaching a small tower. Here we had to abseil from a ‘true alpine anchor’ to get back on the north ridge. This anchor can also be described as a bunch of slings and cords in varying states of decay wrapped around a piece of rock. You encounter these a lot when alpine climbing. It’s always a good idea to bring some spare cord to reinforce them.
I couldn’t help but look at the Hiendertelltihorn on which we had great views during the climb. It looked more steep and imposing than our current objective. After around three hours from the start, we reached the summit. It was a perfect warm-up route, not too difficult or long.
From the summit, we first had to scramble down the west ridge and afterward descend the north flank. The rock quality deteriorated the closer we became to the glacier. Recently, the hut warden has installed two abseil anchors at the bottom of the north flank. We happily used these to avoid all the loose rock.
Chlyne Diamantstock: Nordgrat
- Climbing date: 4th of July 2020
- Climbing partners: Peter
- Route difficulty: 4c, 200m, AD+
Lost on the east ridge
As effortlessly as the previous day went, the Hiendertelltihorn proved to be a different story. That we faced some difficulties can also be seen by the complete lack of photos. This time we chose to approach by traversing under the Golegghorn instead of by the glacier.
The climbing starts at a distinctive area of white rock, which has to be exited by a nice mantle move. This pitch featured some ‘bouldery’ style of climbing, which I very much enjoyed. Next is an easy traverse pitch and two more difficult lengths of climbing in the fourth grade. Easier terrain leads to a small tower at which the route splits off towards the start of the ‘Sudwandrippe’. Which is a more direct and harder route to the summit.
I think the problems started at this point. The guide book described the next section as ‘Gehgelände’, which we interpreted as ‘climbable without a rope’. So, we put the rope away and continued in the direction of least resistance. I think we deviated from the route by not staying close enough to the ridge line.
When I had to switch to climbing boots mid-pitch, while we expected easy scrambling, I already expected we ventured off-route. This feeling was confirmed when we had to make an additional abseil that wasn’t described in the guidebook. This abseil brought us on the north ridge of the Hiendertelltihorn. We quickly ascended this to the summit while the clouds encroached on us.
We descended by the south ridge to reach a snow gully. Here we made two abseils to avoid the dry upper part. With burning calves, we downclimbed the snow gully towards the glacier.
It was already well past 18:00 and we’d long run out of water. We were happy to fill our bottles at a glacier stream. After a long slog, we finally arrived at the car when the sun had already set.
- Climbing date: 5th of July 2020
- Climbing partners: Peter
- Route difficulty: 4c, 300m, D