Groping Reality

Groping Reality

Grimsel Valley, Switzerland – Climbing Siebenschläfer might make Crest Jewel feel like a jug haul.

Climbers around the world flock to the Alps, but most leave Grimsel a well known secret kept by Europeans. After spending a weekend testing out my recovered ankle in Frankenjura, my climbing partner and I decided that all systems were a go to test it out on some multipitch goodies. He recommended Grimsel Valley to me, to which I replied “Sure” and then secretly conducted a thorough internet investigation.

My research complete, I had a slightly better grasp of what I was getting myself into.  Grimsel is synonymous with long granite slab climbing paradise, so we picked an area classic Siebenschläfer  (5.11a, 15 pitches) to get a feel for the rock in the area. I assumed, very wrongly, that this climb would be similar to Crest Jewel in Yosemite, a famous 10 pitch 5.10a slab that Eric and I climbed last summer. Woo wee, now let’s cut to the “very wrongly” – this slab climb makes the micro ledges of Crest Jewel look like a jug haul.

An interesting Wikipedia inspired side note -

Siebenschläfer is a rodent bearing no markings on its face and has footpads that are always damp. The Siebenschläfer has a prolonged hibernation period exceeding 7 months.

Now back to our aptly named climb, most pitches were face climbs void of significant features and there were lots of moist, if not wet, sections that ultimately did not interfere with its climbability. It had poured cats and dogs the night before and the sky bore a looming threat when Eric and I topped out. We snapped a few photos and then rapped the route before hunger turned petty arguments into a full fledged war.

Engelieweg into Siebenschläfer  (5.11a, 15 pitches)
All pitches are securely bolted. Bring two 50m ropes (we brought two 60s) and 12 quickdraws.  P1-P5 may be climbed as a standalone route, Engelieweg. The climb goes a little something like this:

Looking up at Start of Engeliweg into Siebenschläfer - Grimsel, Switzerland

Looking up at Start of Engeliweg into Siebenschläfer

  • P1, P2 (5.8) – easy going slab climbing
  • P3 (5.6) – brief crack then slab
  • P4, P5 (5.8) – fun slab

    Last pitch of Engeliweg into Siebenschläfer - Grimsel, Switzerland

    Last pitch of Engeliweg

  • P6 (5.10d) – Hopefully the first five pitches got you warmed up enough. Up left on delicate and thin slab climbing requiring a great trust of your sticky rubber. I’m pretty sure I chalked my shoes more than my hands!
  • P7 (5.10b) – Keep dancing left to a human sized overlap demanding a mantle for passage.
  • P8 (5.11a) – Are you warmed up yet? Straight up the bizarre crack system on slightly overhanging, thought provoking moves. Far more reminiscent of typical Yosemite then the rest of the climb. Enjoy the handholds while you have them. Awesome pitch!

    Looking up first crux pitch (P8) of Siebenschläfer - Grimsel Valley, Switzerland

    Looking up first crux pitch (P8) of Siebenschläfer

  • P9 (5.10b) – Traverse right to a comfortable stance then make upward movement through 10 feet with one hold on the very defined crux.

    Start of P9 of Siebenschläfer - Grimsel, Switzerland

    Start of P9

  • P10 (5.11a) – Features? What features? Friction your way up and giggle a little as you work through the crux, its an interesting one. Slab dynos?

    Crux Pitch One (P10) of Siebenschläfer - Grimsel, Switzerland

    Crux Pitch Two, P10

  • P11, P12 ( 5.10a) – Work past the calf cramps. Only slab from here on out.

    Pitch 12 of Siebenschläfer - Grimsel, Switzerland

    Pitch 12

  • P13 (5.10d) – Awesome slab climbing following a seam with occasional finger tip sized pods. One of my favorite pitches.
  • P14 (5.10b) – Fun slab.
  • P15 (5.10a) – Smile when you reach the pink dot and stretch out those calves.

    Pitch 15 of Siebenschläfer - Grimsel, Switzerland

    The Home (Slab) Run, P15

    Topped out on Siebenschläfer - Grimsel, Switzerland

    Pink Dot Marks the Top

Approach Information – Access to the approach trail is directly behind and to climber’s left of the power plant (GPS coordinates: 46.616511, 8.30485). The trail is slightly obscured by a lot of construction at the moment. For a detailed photo of the approach trail to the Oelberg Slab, the area where Engeliweg, Siebenschläfer and others are located, click here.

Quick Reference Guide

Location: Grimsel Valley, Switzerland



Today 08/01/2014 08/02/2014 08/03/2014 08/04/2014
It is forcast to be Partly Cloudy at 11:00 PM CEST on July 31, 2014
Partly Cloudy
It is forcast to be Thunderstorm at 11:00 PM CEST on August 01, 2014
It is forcast to be Chance of a Thunderstorm at 11:00 PM CEST on August 02, 2014
Chance of a Thunderstorm
It is forcast to be Chance of a Thunderstorm at 11:00 PM CEST on August 03, 2014
Chance of a Thunderstorm
It is forcast to be Chance of a Thunderstorm at 11:00 PM CEST on August 04, 2014
Chance of a Thunderstorm


Best Time to Climb: The climbing in Grimsel Valley lies at a slightly higher elevation and thus is subject to the extreme weather conditions of the Swiss Alps. Its climbability depends on the snow fall and subsequent snow melt for that given year, so you can expect the climbing season to begin around June and end around October.

Guidebook: Rock Climbing Europe, by Stewart M. Green – covers the favorites of this area.

Article by

Ilana is a native of Southern California. She is an accomplished rock and ice climber and runs Thrillseekers Anonymous. She volunteers as a medical technician (EMT) and works as a climbing guide when she is not out leading her own adventures. She has been featured in various media outlets including the December 2013 issue of ‘Rock and Ice’ magazine, December/January 2013 issue of ‘Gripped Climbing’ magazine, Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons (How To Climb Series) by Dave Black and Pasadena Magazine as well as a Climbing Expert on MTV’s Parental Control (Season 7 – “Heather”).

Ilana has written 79 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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