Climbing at Brüggler – in perfect Autumn sunshine

Last Sunday was a perfect autumn day. On Monday, it felt like winter! By Saturday the weather conditions had improved a bit, and looked favourable for climbing at Brüggler or Grimsel. Which is it going to be? In the end the weather decided for us. So, Saturday morning in thick mist we set off from Zürich. At Pfäffikon (SZ) we meet up with Bert and continue by car to Brüggler.

As we get closer to the off-ramp that will take us to Brüggler, a bit of blue sky starts to show through. And, by the time we are parking, only a few feathery streaks are left in the sky. They too will disappear as the day progresses… climbing at Brüggler was the right choice!

We sort gear. I take one rope. Bert, the other. Between us we’ve got about 15 quick draws. A few more than we need ‘just-in-case’. I’ve got mine and Barbara’s slings, harnesses, belay plates and karabiners. Then we set off on this cruel and steep little approach path to the foot of the rock-face. Gaining 300+ vertical metres in the process!

At the western end of the rock-face we dump gear that we won’t be needing on the climb. That includes, almost surprisingly given that it is the 31st of October, almost all of our cold-weather gear! Bert and I convince Barbara to use climbing shoes rather than approach shoes on the climb. Barbara’s argument being that she was comfortable on Becco di Mezzodì. The difference however is that Becco di Mezzodì is a grade 3 climb. And, we’re about to embark on a grade 5a climb. It probably doesn’t help that I’m planning on climbing in approach shoes…

We set off towards the area where we are planning on climbing. A small collection of routes with a maximum technical difficulty of grade 4. Climbs that are within Barbara’s current capability. (We’ll have her climbing higher grades later…)

At the base of Sylvester, the climb we did last time we were here (well, actually we started on Sylvester, and finished on Meister Franz) we find that Weihnachtsroute (‘Christmas night’ route) is clear. We rope up, do a ‘buddy-check’ to ensure harnesses are properly attached, and then Bert leads off on the first pitch. When he’s settled on the first belay stance, Barbara sets off. I follow a few metres below. She’s not comfortable with her climbing today. The confidence not what it should be. When we reach the stance, Bert and I swap positions so that I can belay him while he’s leading the next easy pitch.

Just before he sets off Barbara says she’d like to abseil off. She does not feel ready for climbing today. We check the route, and there are two pitches higher that are more difficult. This makes up her mind. I put her on a belay, and lower her down to ground-level. Remembering that I have her walking shoes in my backpack, I dig them out and stick them onto a karabiner to send them down the rope. They get stuck at the edge of the overhang. I get Barbara to move away from the rock by a few metres, and we manage to release them. When she’s safely off the rope, Bert and I turn back to the climb…

Bert leads off. At the top of the pitch, he misses the belay station. Which is not difficult to do, given that the belay station plate is almost the same colour as the rock. He finds a safe spot a little higher, and I follow. At the station I take over the last few bits of gear from him and set off to lead the pitch. A precarious take-off, followed by some pleasant climbing of the vertical crack-system and ending at a very comfortable ledge. Bert follows. He leads the next pitch. An off-width awkward chimney, with a large boulder jutting out at the top.

Bert resorts to a chimneying technique – that’s back against the one rock-wall and feet on the other wall. Moving feet high enough to provide pressure not to drop. Then you move your back up by a few centimetres, followed by feet, and repeat, until you reach the top, or somewhere where you can stand. After the boulder, which turns out less of a challenge than it seemed from the bottom, it becomes easier. I follow.

With a backpack on my back I have to use a straddling technique. That means one foot planted on either wall. Nearly doing the splits, like a gymnast, to get the right amount of counter-pressure. I join him at the belay stance, and we swap leads, with me now setting off to do the final pitch. I’m enjoying the sun and the movement on the rock. Working out the moves as I go along. On the very narrow ridge at the top (less than a metre wide where I was sitting), I find a ‘comfortable’ seat and tie myself into the belay station. When I’m safe, I haul up the spare rope and then belay Bert up to the top.

We’re both impressed by the climbing at Brüggler. Not just for the quality of the rock, but, also for the perfect sunshine onto the south-facing route. The only mistake we make in our day of climbing at Brüggler is when we decide to abseil down, instead of walk off along the ridge… two hours later we land at ground level after about six abseils… Next time we walk…

Climbing at Brüggler – more information

For more information see the Weihnachtsroute description and topo of the route in the Schweiz plaisir OST guidebook.

Weihnachtsroute (reproduced from Schweiz plaisir OST)

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