Hokkaido – Japan

A three week long journey from 20.1. to 10.2.2018 with three good friends in a motorhome. We went mostly touring with lots of snow and enjoyed the Japanese culture. We visited the most known and better accessible areas like Niseko and Furano and climbed up some amazing volcanos like Shiribetsu, Yotei-zan and Asahi-dake. To finish our trip, we visited Sapporo and its famous snow festival. Take a look and if you have the possibility, go there once, its definitely worth it. Pictures by Daniel and myself.

Niseko area:

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Yōtei-zan:

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Furano:

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Asahi-dake:

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Kiroro:

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Sapporo snow festival:

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Rockywand season / Kochel

Beside the few days in the alpine this summer, I started to be really motivated for sport climbing again. My local crag is located in Kochel, about one hour south of Munich, mostly known for lots of hard climbing routes. Ideal to have a challenging project there: you can test our your limits while you can access it fast and quite easily.

These were some of many reasons for me to check out Wo die wilden Kerle wohnen (Where the wild things live) back in 2012. Toni Lamprecht, one of (or better the) most active climber and developer in Kochel, made the first ascent of this route at the Rockywand in 1991. In the past 20 years, this climb became a real classic and one of the most famous routes of its grade in Kochel. From the first time checking out the moves I was in love with the line. Of course, the start of the route became quite polished in the last years, but the climbing is simply f=%!?$$!ng good.

By then, I was far from being aware of the challenge this route would become for me. Beside the fact I had to be well trained to climb the lower part to the rest below the crux (something about 8a) basically unpumped, it became a massive mental challenge. If you expect to fall at a certain move, you will fall there. The mental game affects maybe 30 – 40% of the strength to climb hard, at least for me… But I had a lot of good friends climbing at the Rockywand with me the past years which helped me to build up my …, yeah…, well, basically my specific self-confidence.

In June, Michael, Fabian and me started the Rockywand season this year. This proofed to be an efficient way to get strong again after months of snowboarding. Only hard climbing makes you stronger!

Everyone of us found a good project: Michi tried Youngblood, a really good, long and crimpy climb and Fabi climbed Wo die wildesten Kerle wohnen (Where the wildest things live), the harder version of my project with a pumpy finish after the resting position. We had real fun trying hard and being outside in nature.

Janna, Fabi’s dog, joined us quite often, waiting for us at the base and being super happy for everyone returning to the ground 😉

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Wo die wilden Kerle wohnen has an quite iconic boulder at the start with some far moves on quite good holds. This really wakes you up before each try.

I started to make some good links again, but my mind was not ready for climbing this route… I still struggled with a hard move in the lower section which was quite hard for me. But in the end I found a solution which worked very well for me.

In the meanwhile, Fabian crushed his project Wo die wildesten Kerle wohnen. The lower part looked sooo easy every time he climbed it… You are a strong dude!

By the end of September, temperatures were dropping and conditions became a lot better. Nevertheless, the ascent itself was a bit unexpected: I warmed up a bit too hard  and started the try with a slight pump in my forearms. My idea was to have a second warm up in the project and brush the holds, as the air was quite humid and I felt a bit tired. After the boulder at the start, I changed minds, just said “I’ll give it a try” and cruised through the lower 8a part. A slight breeze came up and my friends started cheering. At the rest below the crux, I had the confidence to be able to climb the lower part solid again and just wanted to give it a proper try. I crimped the crux holds with all my power and hit the pocket. OK, the upper part is quite easy and I had to fight like hell (again, it is all in the mind!), but I did not mess it up and screamed of joy when I clipped the chains. The victory whipper was far… but safe!

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In the end I am grateful for the time and the joy I had tying this route and hanging out there with my buddies. It was a long journey, five years, surely about a hundred tries and lots of emotions. I learned a lot from it about myself and my approach towards hard projects. It is interesting how climbing grades blur if you try a route for such a long time…  but it felt like my hardest route yet. 8b or 10 is just another step in the abstract grading system. I am proud to have climbed my first 8b, but I am happy this was Wo die wilden Kerle wohnen as I appreciate the name of the route, the line, the journey into my mind and the emotions trying it way more than any strange number.

Special thanks to Fabian, Michael, Sina and Marco for the photos.

The season is still on, and I am happy for every day outside at the crag. See you there!

Fleischbank SE face (Wiessner-Rossi)

Three weeks ago, I finally started my alpine climbing season after a few months of sport climbing. Till and me wanted to climb a classical alpine route, easy enough to enjoy it all the way up without the chance to get scared by hard climbing or bad protection. And Till had never been up the Fleischbank, a mountain in the Wilder Kaiser mountain range, mostly famous for its impressive southeast and eastface. Climbing in this wall is like living alpine history, and I have so many more routes to climb here!

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Christaturm and Fleischbank SE and east face (from left to right)

After racking up and climbing to the real beginning of the route (100m, II-III, no need for belay), we let two really friendly guys go first, both of them have climbed this routes several times before. This way, there was no need for us to hurry 😉 Climbing itself was really enjoyable: classical stuff like slabs and cracks, 6th grade UIAA maximum, short pitches, no choss (but the crux parts are very polished…).

After some pitches, we reached a big and comfortable ledge. Time to take a break and enjoy the magnificent landscape and the exposure!

Four more pitches to go: the route follows a ramp upwards left. With a cruxy sequence in the 8th pitch with a lot of sideholds and a hand crack in the 9th pitch, we surely were not bored 😉

After the last easy pitch we reached the summit. In summary: a rather easy and polished route, but good and varied climbing, no choss and an amazing landscape! On our way down, we had a cold beer and a good soup at the Gaudeamus hut and some time in the sun to review the day. To be repeated!

For more information (german) check out the website of Markus Stadler.

Pointe d’Orny – northeast couloir

After the latest snowfall, we searched for some fresh snow in the Val d’Arpette. For me, it was the first time here, and the mountains are beautiful. Especially the Pointe d’Orny with its northeast facing chutes is stunning! After a quite long approach of about 1000 vertical meters, we reached the bottom of the couloir. Here, our turns were earned honestly 😉

We boot packed up the most left couloir, going straight up from the bottom for 750 meters and steepening up to 45° for the last 150 meters. In the meanwhile, it got a bit cloudy, but we just kept going and enjoyed the atmosphere. From the top, we went over to a small summit on the right, but the clouds prevented our desired view…

We climbed down the upper 15 meters of the couloir before we started skiing. Only Johannes skied this steep part with rocks and icy snow, chapeau! The remaining 730 meters down were really good, with cold powdery snow on a hard surface and a perfect steepness of about 40° – 45°. It even cleared up in between.

After this, we just had to get back to the car 😉 Thanks a lot for this great day, Andi Adrian and Johannes!

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Spencer Couloir

These days, when every proposed snowfall turns out to be solely a bit of dust on the old crust, the search for a new mission was not so easy. Andi and Adrian had the good idea to try the Spencer Couloir at the Aiguille du Blatière. The past week, we had a look at it from distance and were aware of the fact that there is too less snow in the upper part. Rocks and ice were not nearly enough covered with snow to ski the line from the top. But due to this fact, the Spencer saw quite less traffic these days compared to other descents. The lower part looked good, so Colin, Andi, Adrian, Johannes and me took the first bin to the Plan de l’Aiguille and traversed over to the Glacier des Nantillons. We went up a small couloir to the right to evade the seracs and followed the glacier on the right hand side up to the beginning of the Spencer. Thanks again to Colin and Andi for putting the stairway!

I followed Colin and Andi below the barrier made of rock and ice about halfway up the Spencer couloir. The cold wind strengthened and we made a quick transition from crampons to skis and snowboard. Hard snow covered with some cold and compressed powder made our way down well ridable.

The lower part was even better, chalk snow on a flat and hard surface underneath. Finally some powder again!

Snowboarding:

Skiing:

A short bottleneck further down marked the end of the steeper part, leaving us a nice slope to cruise down the moraines (and a tiring traverse back to the midstation). I definitely have to come back and ride this nice line properly: from the very top and in deep powder 😉

Col des Cristaux

After two days easy riding and touring in Chamonix, Adrian and me headed to our first ‘bit bigger mission in the Argentière basin: the Col des Cristaux. Due to some rain down in valley in morning we had a quite late start, but we arrived at the top of Grand Montets right when it cleared up. A few people were in front of us, already climbing when we saw the face from distance. When we were approximately half way up, they were of cause causing some sluff on their way down. Additionally, we were hit by spindrifts every minute… So we called it a day at 4/5 of the face and had a good ride down: deep and cold powder, approx. 45-40°/350m. In summary: a great day outside!

Snowboarding:

Skiing:

Col des Droites

After nearly two weeks of constant bluebird, we opted for a good spring snow mission. A few attempts failed past week, but the upcoming days turned out to be really nice. Johannes joined us in the morning and we took the cable car up to the Midi. A short ride-down and skin-up to the Helbronner allowed us to have lunch with good paninis and excellent cappuccino for a fair cost. I really like Italy! We rode down the Vallée Blanche, which turned into a big mogul slope in the meanwhile, and climbed up to the Refuge du Couvercle.

Here we enjoyed some cold beers on the terrace, with probably one of the best views you can get in these mountains, and had a good dinner afterwards. I like this hut and were happy to return after being there last year for the first time. It’s comfortable and the couple who are running the hut are really friendly and helpful.

After a short night and an early start in first daylight (and still some moonlight!) from the Couvercle hut, we skinned up the Glacier du Talèfre towards our goal for today: the Col des Droites. The south facing, wide snow slope between Les Droites and Les Courtes will hopefully provide us some good spring snow.

After about 800 vertical meters, we switched to crampons and walked up the frozen slope. It took us a bit longer than expected, but we just kept going and reached the Col des Droites (3713 m) without any problems. On the top, we had to wait some time for the snow to soften up, but that did not bother us: we had a stunning view over the Grand Jorasses, the Vallée Blanche and Mont Blanc all over to the Aiguille du Midi.

The ride down was in perfect spring snow conditions at 12h. The guide says “42°/200m & 40°/400m”, I would say “a great ride” 😉 But pictures say more than a thousand words:

Some snowboarding:

And skiing by Adrian and Johannes:

After that, we made our way down to the Montenvers train station by climbing through some loose rocks and skiing over glacial ice and small rivers running down the Mer de Glace… But we were happy with our two days mission and the good snow conditions way further up in the rather quiet Talèfre basin.