Friday, August 31, 2012

Alpine Classics

Charles Sherwood and I headed over to Andermatt and the Salbit Hut with some ambitious plans. Like a lot of mountaineering plans it was thwarted by the weather at about 5.30am the next morning. So it was back to the Hut to sit out the rain. In the afternoon it did stop raining enough to try and get out for a couple of pitches on the crag behind the hut.
The route we chose was greasy and I slipped on a thin lay back and fell off badly grazing my shin. I Hobbled back to the hut and patched my leg up.
The next morning was perfect and we headed off for a second attempt on the south ridge of the Salbitschijien. [Possibly the best route of its grade in the alps.] Word has certainly got out in the UK climbing press because all the teams on the route were exclusively British.
It was then down the valley in search of a doctor to patch up my leg. The weather forecast was in the long term poor but the next two days were okay. We therefore decided to go straight up to the Gleckstein Hut for an attempt on the Wetterhorn.
The Wetterhorn is famous because it marks the start of the Golden age of Mountaineering when Sir Alfred Wills climbed it in 1854 and ended in 1865 when Whymper climbed the Matterhorn.Wills was the High Court Judge - hence the 'Sir' - who presided over the trial of Oscar Wilde for "gross indecency". Became third President of the AC in 1863-5. When he climbed the Wetterhorn in 1854, he was actually on his honeymoon. Must have been seriously popular with his wife!
Another of the party was the local guide, Christian Almer. He climbed the peak a last time aged 70 on his golden wedding anniversary. But he did at least have the decency to take his wife with him.
We left the hut at 4.30 am in the pitch dark and alone. We headed up the path to the foot of the glacier where it was still dark and it wasn't easy to know where to go next. We eventually figured out the route across the glacier and towards the Wills Ridge[Named after Alf] The Willsgrat is more matterhorn like then the Matterhorn and the whole ascent is much longer and tougher. It took us nine hours up and down the route and we were shattered when we eventually got back to the car at 6.00pm. Then the heavens opened and it has not stopped raining and snowing since.

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