Best of Grimsel is a project I came up with in Spring 2020 whilst dreaming about Yosemite and the excellent, long routes there.
I thought it would be cool to climb a route of similar length nearer to home—only there aren’t any!
Then I thought, what if I combined the five most beautiful and iconic lines on Grimsel granite in a day? That would provide a route in length similar to those in the Valley.
We arrived at Eldorado on Wednesday afternoon. It was a beautiful autumn day. I climbed to the top of pitch 3 before rappelling, rehearsing the moves I would do in the dark the following morning and leaving a rope in place to protect a fast start.
I would be starting the day at god-awful o’clock, and so I hit the hay at 19:00.
The first route of the day, on the glorious rock of Eldorado was Motörhead.
This route was established in 1981 by the Remy brothers. Originally, the route had a total of 12 fixed pitons. Today it is well equipped and has bolted belays, which is why it’s become such a classic.
The climbing is superb, but for me the view over the Grimselsee is what gives the route a real ambience.
There was no view this night: all I could see was the few meters of rock lit up in the orb of my headlamp. Relaxed and in my own little bubble, I moved up the wall.
When I reached the top, I paused only to stuff a few snacks in my pocket before jogging back down to the trail head, eating on the go.
By the dam, I picked up my stashed bike and rode down to Chöenzentennlen.
Arriving there, I was a bit cold. I prepared gear for the next route and ate a bit more. Then I scrambled up to the start of Sagittarius.
I was amazed at how fast you can get up there. The goal was to reach the top of the Sagittarius by sunrise. But when I got there it was still pitch dark.
Containing my excitement, I had to slow things down and concentrate on abseiling. There are many small flakes where the rope can get caught. I didn't want to risk anything. Thankfully the ropes pulled cleanly every time. Soon I was back at the bike and speeding down towards Handegg.
There it got really cold as the twilight pushed a biting wind down the valley. I was glad to put on two warm jackets at the car at Handegg and took a good break.
I had breakfast and waited for daylight, so that I could climb the route Fair Hands Line without a headlamp.
The rising sun turned the mountains red. It was stunning. Taking energy from this, and knowing I still had the whole day to complete the second half of the project I had a very good feeling.
I knew the route Fair Hands Line well; to speed things up I could climb certain passages free solo. I climbed the majority of the project in a rope-solo style because the risk was not worth it for me. And I wasn't that familiar with much of the climbing.
My rope soloing tactic is: You fix the rope at the bottom—belay yourself on the climb—fix the rope at the next belay station—abseil, taking out the gear—release the rope at the bottom and climb back up to the next belay station. So, each pitch is covered 3 times. It’s a lot of work.
Fair Hands Line is by far my favorite route at Grimsel, next to the Gelmerbahn.
This was also the idea and birth of Plaisir climbing in 1978. It was set up by Jürg v. Känel. It is simply a gift to be able to climb up there.
I wanted to climb the Best of Grimsel project in under 24 hours. Originally, I estimated 20 hours.
When I descended from Fair Hands Line and saw the cable car attendant only just opening the Gelmerbahn for the day, I was again pleasantly surprised. Then I played with the thought that it might be possible in as little as 14 hours.
Afterwards I rode from the Gelmerbahn to the power station headquarters, where I repacked my rucksack and climbed up towards Siebenschläfer.
At the start of Siebenschläfer there are two wave-shaped structures. The last time I was there, I couldn't free climb this passage.
This time I thought I would run up the first wave and jump into the second wave. A so-called run and jump.
The fact that this sequence of movements worked in this style on this project was certainly the biggest highlight in terms of climbing technique.
I have a lot of respect for the fact that Hans Howald first climbed this route in the 70s. I assume that he didn't do things like run and jump back then!
I’d completed Siebenschläfer, but I still had one route left to do: Abadia on the Mittagsfluh was still ahead of me and I'd never climbed it before.
After a good lunch in Tschingelmad, I approached the Mittagsfluh in an unbelievably beautiful autumn atmosphere. The colors and the light were so fantastic and gave me renewed energy (or that could have been the lunch).
When you look up at this wall as a climber, there is a certain amount of awe as it is very imposing. And the striking edge of Abadia caused some anticipation. But I was enormously motivated to give it my all and finish the project.
For Abadia I had a 50m rope with me again, some Camalots and several quickdraws. I also didn’t know the route very well. In addition, I had changed into larger climbing shoes because my feet had already done 40 pitches and were slightly swollen.
As I climbed the last three pitches of this project on the Mittagsfluh, the day turned towards evening and the light changed from bright, to gold to tangerine. The hillsides where bronze, purple and deep green. This majesty of color allowed me a moment to reflect on the project again, and to look back on an incredible day of climbing.
In the end I topped out this last route 16 hours after starting my journey. But right then, time didn’t exist. In that moment, I found my bliss.