Grismel, Switzerland – Exploring the classics, Motörhead and Fair Hands Line.
Love at first sight or just plain lust? I’m not sure yet. But who gives a crap? With a clear weather report for the weekend, we pulled the trigger and packed the car for another weekend in Grimsel (read about our love at first sight here). For day one, we set our lustful eyes on the Eldorado Dome, a 450m (~1500′) granite playground overlooking a glacier running into the Grimselsea. A beautiful two hour hike drops you at the base of the dome where you immediately realize the potential for an awesome, albeit committing, day on the rocks – cracks and slabs galore, with routes starting at the 6a (5.10b) pay grade.
For our devirginizing with Eldorado Dome, we picked an uber classic, Motörhead (6a+, 5.10b, 14 pitches). The climb can pretty much be summed up as the longest left facing corner of your life. While there are bolts on the climb, you absolutely need a rack to adequately protect each pitch and I recommend you be solid at the grade to keep you from pissing your pants. The glacier polished granite and low angle corners makes for some very strenuous laybacking. Thank me later for the foresight, but make sure you are nice to your climbing partner because your back will be cramping and boy are you going to be begging for a massage after this gem. The walk off was straightforward and well marked – if you’re ankle deep in mud and staring at a cairn, you’re heading the right way.
Motörhead (6a+, 5.10b, 14 pitches)
Approach: Park at Grimsel Hospiz and follow trail crossing dam and through tunnel. Hike an additional hour or so along a relatively flat trail to the base of Eldorado Dome. Motörhead is painted at the base.
- P1 (4, 5.easy) – climb up the cracks leading to the right side of the obvious roof under the right side of which is the first belay
- P2 (5c, 5.10a) – short left facing corner (LFC)
- P3 (6a, 5.10b) – another short pitch of tricky smearing heading first right then left
- P4 (4b, 5.6) – a beautiful right facing corner at hands
- P5 (5a, 5.8) – another right facing corner with a small finger crack fading in and out in the back, at its end transfer left to another crack then up and one more crack transfer to the belay
- P6 (5c, 5.10a) – up and gain the left facing corner which will commence the tenuous linebacking
- P7 (6a, 5.10b) – more of the corner
- P8 (6a+, 5.10c) – pull out of the corner and face climb up
- P9 (4b, 5.6) – run up over easy terrain following the cracks and the path of least resistance
- P10 (5c, 5.10a) – more easy terrain to a nice ledge heading towards the obvious arching, you guessed it, left facing corner
- P11 (5c, 5.10a) – off the ledge traverse on some quartz before gaining a flake leading you to a smeary traverse and the belay beneath the hard arching left facing corner.
- P12 (6a, 5.10b) – LFC, after pulling out of the roof at its top follow the bowl left until you reach a crack allowing you to pull up the wall and gain a crack leading you up to a belay. This pitch is guaranteed to make you smile with some of the coolest climbing and positioning you could ever dream of.
- P13 (5c, 5.10a) – smear up the face and some seams
- P14 (4a, 5.5) – easy slab to the top!
For day two we opted for the route that we got weathered out of climbing last weekend, Fair Hands Line (6a, 5.10a/b, 10 pitches). This line is THE CLASSIC route up the buttress to the right of the Handegg Slabs. The weather fully participated and our lower backs enjoyed a break from getting down and dirty with the lower angle left facing corners of yesterday. Fair Hands Line has a fun variety of pitches mixing it up with slabs and cracks. The first crux pitch, P2, was well protected and absolutely gorgeous and the second crux pitch, P9, was slabby though not sustained. Like with Motörhead, a rack is mandatory. In addition to a dozen extendable draws, I was very happy with singles of Aliens (blue-grey), C4s (0.5-3), and nuts (medium to large). The descent was the most unique descent of my life – a 600m staircase alongside the world’s steepest funicular, the Gelmerbahn. I would re climb this again just to see the look on my climbing partner’s face when he hops out of the forest to see this staircase down the mountain. Any takers?
Fair Hands Line (6a, 5.10a/b, 10 pitches)
Approach: straightforward – park in the lot behind the Handeck Hotel, follow the trail, cross the crazy bridge and continue on a climbers trail up and left to the base of your climb. Fair Hands Line is directly to the left of Mummery, painted on base.
- P1 (5b, 5.9) – follow cracks just right of the buttress working up and left to gain the buttress face and the belay, short pitch
- P2 (6a-, 5.10a/b) – face climbing up the buttress on elegant rock in great position
- P3 (5c+, 5.10a) – trend left, climb up the right facing corner, pass left beneath a roof and up a crack to a belay
- P4 (5b, 5.9) – head up a streaked face with cracks
- P5 (5a+, 5.8) – trend left on really cool streaked rock heading towards a small roof
- P6 (5a+, 5.8) – traverse right from the roof and then head up the featured face
- P7 (4b, 5.6) – easy slab climbing turning a small overlap and heading towards another roof
- P8 (5a+, 5.8) – head right from under the roof up a beautiful hand crack and then some easy face climbing to a nice belay
- P9 (6a, 5.10b) – traverse right and layback the flake before the slabby crux, seams bring you back left to another nice ledge
- P10 (5a, 5.8) – beautiful seams up the steeper slab before it rounds off leaving you on top with a smile
Quick Reference Guide
Location: Grimsel Valley, Switzerland
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.
- Rock Climbing Europe, by Stewart M. Green – covers the favorites of this area.
- Schweiz Plaisir West, by Andreas Mürner
- The Grand Teton via the Full Exum Ridge
- North Face Infatuation
- Matterhorn in Queue
- Klettern im Ettringer Lay
- Run for the Desert