Monday, April 13, 2015

Hatschi Bratschi Luftballon goes free!

Hatschi Bratschi Luftballon (8- A0) is one of the steepest and hardest long routes at Hohe Wand. The route is pretty sustained at UIAA 7, 8-, A0, 7+, 8-, 7+, 4 but the crux pitch (A0) is obviously harder free climbing than the rest of the route.

Andreas told me that the aid pitch is a steep hand crack, and if I am good with cracks I might be able to do it. The crux pitch has been tried to be freed for a while, and the latest info I found was that “redpointing is close, free climbing grade would be 9+ (7c+) ”. 

 Me on the route for the first time

 The second pitch is super steep and juggy 6c+. We decided to go light and fast. No backpacks and with only one 40-meters rope, which makes rappelling the route pretty much impossible.

Andreas on the second pitch

 Working the crux pitch. It’s hard, but very doable.

However, the biggest problem wasn’t climbing, but belaying. It doesn’t get much more uncomfortable than this. 

 Andreas working the crux. We both did all the moves, and thought it would be a bit easier than the proposed 7c+. However, I don’t think these suggestions matter until it’s done.

After the crux the climbing gets more vertical. 

Andreas on the fourth pitch, still pretty exposed climbing

Andreas starts his block 

Superb climbing on a pocketed wall, almost like in Verdon

 Higher up on the wall, one more pitch to go.

 The route tops out in the center of the Skywalk

 Next time at Hohe Wand, now with Anu. 

 Good friction day?

 The weather got finally better

 Starting the second pitch

 Advanced top roping skills

 This time we decided to haul the gear

 And use a belay seat

 Can you spot me in the photo?

It was still too cold so we decided to rappel down

 Third time on the route

 Lowering down back to the anchor is a bit trickier than usual

The beginning of the crux pitch is also a bit tricky

Andreas in the hand jam section

 Double score! 

 Time to move on

I don’t usually use rope organizers, but they are great if you are hauling

The top part was as good as ever. 

It was a long day, but we climbed everything free, and we both redpointed the crux pitch. Our grade suggestion for the crux pitch is UIAA 9- (or 7b+). This was one of the days to remember. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

R.I.P. Samuli Mansikka

I’m not sure when I met Samuli for the first time, but I remember wondering about his light aiders. This was about eight years ago. At the time I was always aid climbing with four aiders and couldn’t understand why anyone would like to suffer with skinny alpine aiders.

A lot has happened after this, Samuli became the president of Finnish Alpine Club (2007-2014) and this is how I got to know him better, starting on the board at the same time. He also became one of the best mountain climbers in Finland. He climbed Cho Oyu (8201 meters), Lhotse (8516 meters), Mt. Everest (8848 meters), Manaslu (8156 meters), Gasherbrum 2 (8035 meters), Dhaulagiri (8167 meters), Makalu (8463 meters), Kangchenjunga (8586 meters), K2 (8611 meters). Most of the ascents were solo and without bottled oxygen.

24.3.2015 Samuli climbed Annapurna (8091 meters), but never came back.

(c) Samuli Mansikka's Facebook account

We talked about doing bigwalls together, but we never did. His passion was always on the bigger mountains. Samuli was truly living his dream and he was an inspiration for many. Here are a few writings about Samuli’s death that are well worth reading (in Finnish):

Friday, March 20, 2015


Altenberg an der Rax is about 100 km from Mödling and one of the closest ice climbing areas to us. Ice falls are at an altitude of 1200-1300 meters and facing west, so there is a good chance that there is some ice even when winter feels like a summer in Mödling.

Altenberg area consists of five or six icefalls, but the steep amphitheater with three icefalls is the one which is worth even a longer drive. Andreas had a mixed project in the area and he didn't have to ask me twice to come along.

 Icefalls are visible already from the parking lot. 

 The approach is about 40 minutes uphill.

The plan was to make a new route between the icefalls, and connect to the icefall A-vitamin on the right side somewhere after the overhanging part. 

 Me on the first easy pitch.

Andreas on the virgin ground

 Tagline is pretty handy for pulling up heavy gear

 Andreas hanging on a shitty hook while drilling

 Last meters before easier ground

Me following the pitch

It was much steeper, harder and looser than I expected. I couldn't do it free, not even on top rope.

Then it was my turn on the sharp end. The third pitch started as an easy ramp, but then it got tricky. There were basically two options, to traverse right to the ice and continue "A-vitamin" to the top, or climb straight up to the top of a block through a crack filled with loose stone, which was way harder than it looked from below. 

Another problem was that the gear was pretty bad, at least for me who is used to granite, and without a bolt I wasn't going to climb any further. On the other hand, adding a bolt right next to gear, and pretty close to the ice felt also like a bad idea. Maybe next year there will be more ice? Or a climber with bigger balls? 

So I climbed down and let Andreas figure it out. He climbed to my high point, tried to find a good solution, but after a while he decided to climb back down as well. 

 Back at the anchor. For me the most logical way to connect to A-vitamin would be from here. Andreas didn't mind, there was still time to rappel down and redpoint the new pitch below.

Andreas sending the pitch. Vitamin-B M6+ WI3 (not Rjukan grades)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Austrian winter

Our first winter in Austria is slowly turning into spring. Even Laxenburg's ice cream shop just opened its doors again. I'm not sure if this winter has been an exception, but it's been quite warm. On the other hand, you can still find a real winter on the mountains.

We have been free climbing throughout the winter, and it's not as badass as it may sound. When the sun is shining, it's like Finnish summer (without the rain).

 Draschgrat (5+, 200m), a very nice arete at Hohe Wand

 The first pillar on Draschgrat

 Simulclimbing on De wüde Posteline 6+, 240 m

 We climbed the whole route as one long pitch. This is the last overhanging section. I run out of draws but I was lucky enough to have some trad gear with me.

 A raven enjoying the view

The mandatory sunset photo

A rainy day at Hohe Wand equals powder day at Stuhleck

 Stuhleck after the rain

 Kneedeep, helt okej

 Snowy forest

Snowy barns 

Winter & summer in the same photo