First Impression in Kandersteg

By Ramon Marin

It’s proving a slow start with the climbing here at Kandersteg. To start with the conditions are not brilliant, but there’s stuff about to do. When we got here we were feeling a bit battered from competing and partying in Saas Fee. The day we drove to Kandersteg, we drove up Kiental to check out the conditions as we heard there were bad. And indeed a lot of the routes we wanted to do weren’t in condition. You could see they had been fat but had fallen down during the January warm spell when they reached up to 15 degrees celsius. As it was late in the day we decided to do something short and easy, we chose “Vibrator” which is a short section of M6 on to a curtain of ice graded Wi6. I went up first but not feeling the love I came down, same happen to Rob. I suppose partying the night before until the early hours of the morning didn’t help. Next was our fellow World cup competitor Marc Berverly from USA, who dispatched the route with ease despite only having had barely 2 hours sleep. Mind you, he already was warmed up as he had to climb up the outside of the hotel to get to his room. Next go Rob and I sent the route and went home to our newly rented basement apartment in Kandersteg.

The day after we decided to get some mileage on easy ice and went up to “Blue Magic” which a classic 180mts of beautiful Wi5+, but another team was on the route so we decided to go for “Baretritt” which although half the length packs some good Wi5+ climbing and it’s a really nice line. It felt nice to be cruising up ice and enjoyed the easy day very much.

But obviously we can’t help ourselves to be thinking of mixed lines. We don’t feel ready for the bigger routes we were thinking, so we choose some other easy accessible mixed lines. There were a bunch in Oeschinenwald which looked good and they were a convenient 30min walk from our front door. I planned for the 100mts “Maikel held niet van Bloemen” M7+, but somehow ended up in “Rise and Shine” which is also around M7+ but longer, 175mts, as it has an extra pitch at the top. The conditions are very thin so there was no ice to start, so it was fun to start the pitch banging in pitons and some thin moves to gain a line of bolts. Some hard work later I made to the belay and realised thanks to Rob that I was probably in the wrong route, but this looked so good that I didn’t care.

Rob was coming down with a flu so I lead the next pitch as well. It started with a long wide crack which had to be climbed with a combination of jamming your axe deep inside the crack on chockstone and laybacking with your hands, great fun but exhausting. After a roof section I reached to a hanging dagger of ice, to get up the dagger was really hard work as it was proper overhanging and I had not got good feet and I could feel my forearms giving up. Somehow I managed to get up it but by the skin of my teeth and made it to the next belay.

I got there and could see that the next pitch was short but overhanging and a few free-standing pillars and some curtains of ice. After the initial confusion I saw the line, climbing up a pillar bridging against another pillar, reach up and gain an overhanging wide crack. The pillar had a crack at the top, but it was short, about 5mts, so as long as I didn’t put any pro it would be fine. I managed to put a stubby screw on top of the other pillar and then I saw some bolts on the roof which was a great relief, but I was getting insanely pumped by now. Rob suggested I downclimb and have a breather before going for it, so I did that. After recouping, I went up again a lot more decisive, reached for the crack, pulled up with really bad feet, jammed my axe high up in the crack and tried to pull up. Next thing I know I was flying in mid air, thank god for the bolts. My axe also decided to take flight all the way down the 175mts, so that was a goner. I came down again, had a rest and tried again using one of Rob’s Fusions, but by then I was so fucked that I just couldn’t pull up. I bailed. So frustrating, one more move and I could mantel up on frozen grass and it was over, but I had nothing left in the tank. The only way was down.

We abseiled, set up a belay and looked for my lost Nomic, but it was hopeless and I was so hungry, thirsty, weak and basically broken that I decided to bite the bullet and buy a new tool and get the hell out of there. Luckily enough, back at the apartment, the Dutch team for the World cup has been hanging around and Dennis Van Hoek sold me his spare Nomic real cheap so I’m fixed now for more funny adventures. Now is time for a well earned rest day? Maybe not, but we are resting for sure, my body feels broken today.

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