When my son Levi told me this summer he would like to go on his first multi-pitch route, I was all in. Instantly I started planning the trip and figuring out how this all would work out best with a 10 year old companion. We asked his friend Dimitri and his father Andreas, both climbing enthusiasts, and soon we were ready to go. The mountain of our choice was the Brüggler in the canton of Glarus.
As I was packing the night before I started to feel a bit queasy. Was it too much for my son? Did I think of everything? What about sudden changes in the weather? Now I not only had the responsibility for my own decisions but for the safety of my son as well. We would be in this wall for hours – with only a rope between us.
We had a gigantic bowl of spaghetti for dinner and another one (though cold) the next morning, at 5 o’clock. The weather looked good, we were feeling great and a quick drive and a short hike later we were standing in front of the wall we planned to conquer. Smooth, a little tilted with some groovings in the rock . Like a giant piece of parmesan.
Short consultation with the other team: we decided to take the “Grüner Plattenweg”: 6 pitches, 5a, 200 m, with the option to rappell at every belay spot .
We had enough water and food for a whole army in our backpacks, plus hiking shoes and clothes for every occasion. Never before have I climbed a wall loaded with so much stuff.
Usually my estimate is 30 minutes per rope length, now I calculated an hour. I looked like a Christmas tree with about 18 quickdraws, runners and friends when I started my climb with the other father belaying me. 3c, this was supposed to be a piece of cake. The first bolt seemed to be quite high for a “well bolted” route, but oh well, on I went. I stood there looking for the second bolt for quite some time until I realized that the shiny thingy in like five meters distance had to be it for real. Poor kids, I thought, especially Dimitri, who would have to lead the whole wall because he couldn’t belay his father. Then I reached the first belay spot and Levi started climbing, three meters behind him Dimitri – both did extremely well. When they arrived at the spot I belayed Andreas, who was with us in no time. Short break, we were all thirsty, if we went on drinking like this we would be out of water in no time.
The second pitch went smoothly, perfect wall, perfect holds, though a few more bolts wouldn’t have hurt. I was thinking of the movie about the “Silbergeier” and how Cedric Lachat was waxing about the long runouts and hoped the kids stayed as focused as they were.
The 4c of the third pitch was the first real challenge for the boys – when they took off their helmets on the first break I noticed how sweaty they already were. We had them drink a lot, it was hot in the wall.
The bundles of ropes looked quite messy – also the one I brought for Levi, the thickest and therefore “safest”, was definitely too thick for my safety device. Belaying was a drag.
The next pitch was short but beautiful with a perfect channel in the rock. The right climbing technique was a real challenge for the kids – the stress of heat plus physical and mental strain was taking its toll. Cliffbar, apple, some nuts, untangling the ropes and on we went. With the overhanging rock looming above me, this was the first moment I had to tell the boys to be quiet because I needed to concentrate.
There was a funny corner in the route now with a blank plate before me. No way this is a 4c, I thought, but the plate was nicely bolted, so in there I went. It definitely felt like a 6a, the rope drag was hard because of the overhang and the corners, I was improvising, pulling in two meters of rope and advancing two meters just hoping that the kids would make it.
I fixed runners at every quickdraw for them to be able to pull themselves up on them. Still carrying what felt like the equipment for two weeks I was beat when I reached the belay spot.
It was only later that I found out I had taken a detour over the neighboring route – hence the corner and the plate being way over the kids’ level.
Levi came second actively using the runners I fixed. He reached me soaked with sweat and sat down in a cooler spot to wait for the others.
From there we started securing with the clove hitch – like this, everyone could sit where he wanted and we had less of a mess with the ropes. We had enough of a chaos with all the carabiners, runners and security devices at the belay spots.
Dimitri in the lead was in distress, the runners were too wide apart, he couldn’t go back nor forth. Because of the overhang I couldn’t communicate with his father – a tricky situation. We lowered the middle part of our rope (luckily the rope I brought was not only my thickest but also my longest one), and explained to him how to do a figure of eight knot in the middle of the rope („but how am I supposed to do it with no end?“) and belayed him from above. It worked.
The last two pitches were easy. With our water bottles almost empty we were only drinking milliliters but enjoying the last moves.
After 6.5 hours we reached the summit.We stood there, ate our homemade granola and sandwiches and drank the last drops of water. The view was overwhelming, a fresh breeze stirred the heat the mountain was radiating. Way below us there was the freeway we always take for our trips to the mountains – and never again will we pass this spot without looking up to the summit of the Brüggler, reminiscing our great adventure.
– single rope, better too long than too short
– enough water in drinking pouches! We did have 8 liters and used every bit of it
– enough snacks, small portions, stuff which is easy to eat at belay spots (sandwiches, dried fruit, apples, nuts and some energy bars to keep the motivation high)
– rain protection
– sun cream
– enough quickdraws and runners, we had 18 quickdraws and 6 runners. Runners are perfect to make difficult spots easier
– “comfortable” climbing shoes
– comfortable harness
– light shoes with good grip
– blister pads and medipack