Rigidalstock’s two superb via ferratas

It’s Saturday afternoon. The mist is swirling around us. Clearing occasionally to provide a tantalizing glimpse of Rigidalstock above. We’re here to climb Rigidalstock’s two superb via ferratas: Rigidalstockwand (K4) and Rigidalstockgrat (K3). We hope that the weather lady was right and tomorrow is going to be a brilliant day.

To keep ourselves busy for the afternoon, we decide to amuse ourselves on the short but testing Zittergrat via ferrata on the Brunnistöckli. Barbara somewhat reluctantly at first; not having done a via ferrata for a few weeks. And progressing straight to a K4 had her worried. But not for long. Described as “Schwieriger Klettersteig über Engelberg” (Engelberg’s difficult via ferrata), it is definitely not for the inexperienced. Why the name has ‘grat’ (ridge) in it, I still don’t know. The Zitter part I do understand! I reckon more than one climber will experience a few ‘Zitter-ing’ (quivering) legs on this steep little ferrata. We’re on our own. Contrast to the last time we were here and the easier via ferrata looked like it had a row of climbing ants on it…

The first part is steep and vertical, followed by a superb traverse under a roof. Then it eases off a little, and a bit further on to an easy section where you can catch your breath. But not for long before you have to tackle the next two hard and vertical sections. It eases slightly on the next three sections. The last of the three with an airy step over a huge gap. One further steep and hard section follows and then you’re on the final bit to the summit cross of Brunnistöckli.

On the other side is a long suspension bridge which looks more like a flexible horizontal ladder than a bridge. On the last bit we have to climb a vertical ladder. And then we arrive at the ridge. Done! We meet Sandro and Julia, who are sitting at the start of the ridge enjoying the views. They look like they’re eager to try the bridge-crossing… We lend them our kit, and they take a short trip across the bridge (just for fun). Later Sandro would treat us a to a tasty Appenzeller schnapps.

During dinner, we mention our intention of going up the Rigidalstockwand Klettersteig (via ferrata). Katrin, our host for the evening, mentions that SAC members are coming up the next morning to ‘close’ the ferrata. (SAC members take down the cables during the winter to stop people from attempting the via ferrata in dangerous conditions.) She offers to phone them the next morning for us. We decide that if we are not going to be able to do it, then we’ll find an alternative…

Approximate route of Rigidalstock's two via ferratas
Approximate route of Rigidalstock’s two via ferratas

The next morning as we arrive for breakfast, Irene, the hut guardian, is back. She reassures us that she will be phoning soon. We take our time and enjoy our breakfast. Irene confirms that the SAC members will take the cables down. But the two guys who are coming up to perform this task reckon we’ll be able to stay ahead of them, as they were only just on their way up. When we start off, they’re at the hut having coffee.

As we make our way up towards the ridge that connects with the Rigidalstock, we can see them not too far behind us. We find our way across a snow-covered area onto the first part of the ferrata. Behind us the two are putting up ‘Closed’ signs and starting to dismantle the cables. As we progress upwards, we can see them working behind us. Barbara and I are the last two people doing this ferrata this year!

We’re making good speed up this classic via ferrata! Technically, it is a lot easier than the Zittergrat we did yesterday afternoon, but it is 500 metres longer. When we get to the Adleraugenloch (Eagle Eye) we stop for a drink and share an energy bar. Then we continue through the eye (a hole through which you climb upwards to emerge on top of the rock), and then upwards on a steep vertical section.

We miss the start of the cable on the final section leading to the top (thanks to the approach to the cable being covered under snow). Meaning we have to scramble to the summit on not too difficult terrain. We take a few pictures, then start making our way down. Our descent is via the ‘Rigidalstockgrat’ – the second via ferrata on this peak. The Rigidalstockgrat (K3) is technically slightly easier than the Rigidalstockwand route (K4) we ascended. But, we’re descending and down-climbing is always more difficult than climbing up. We’re well ahead of the two chaps dismantling the via ferrata, who are still on their way up as we start our descent. We see them where they’re busy on the ascent route, and exchange a few words across the distance, then we continue our descent.

On one of the steep sections we encounter a party of about 5 people. We can stand safely on a shelf and let them through. Another party who hadn’t yet started this steep section wait for us to clear the final part of this section. They had wanted to do the ‘Wand‘ route, but had found the ‘Closed’ sign and the cable dismantled, and so decided to do the ‘Grat‘ route up and down. We meet a few more parties who are on their way up. They’re disappointed that they weren’t able to get a last via ferrata in before the cables are dismantled. We understand their disappointment. We also understand that the team dismantling had to do it today, as the weather forecast for the next week is dismal, and removing the cables would not have been possible later in the week.

At Brunnihütte we stop for a drink and to pick up the gear we left behind, then set off downhill to Ristis from where we take the cable car back to Engelberg and the train station…

Rigidalstock’s two superb via ferratas and Brunnistöckli’s Zittergrat

More information for the via ferratas can be obtained at the Engelberg tourism website – the images below are to be found on the Engelberg tourism website and are linked to their original locations.



One Comment on “Rigidalstock’s two superb via ferratas”

  1. Those look like two very special routes. Love the idea of via ferratas and klettersteigs. They must enable amateurs and oldies to get to places they wouldn’t otherwise? Would the Mt aux Sources chain ladder be called a via ferrata?

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