Fürenwand Klettersteig: Big Wall Big Fun

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Author:  Pete
Location:  Fürenwand Klettersteig, Switzerland

Sunday afternoon in the mountains!  Drove an hour south to Engelberg where we usually ski in the winter.  The encompassing valley is rife with steep walls and just south of town is an area called Fürenalp, which has a tremendous klettersteig.  The day started with a little bit of cloud cover, giving a moody atmosphere.  Miranda and Leonie hiked the approach to the base of the climb and then took a grandparent-approved cable car to the top for their own hike.

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Klettersteigs, also called via ferratas, are protected climbing routes found throughout the Alps.  Climbers ascend a cliff face through odd mix of aggressive hiking, usually scrambling on all fours, easy-grade rock climbing, and precarious navigation of hammered in re-rod holds for hands and feet.  You’re always clipped into a large gauge cable bolted along side the route with two specialized carabiners.  A fall might leave you a little scraped up but the burly cables will keep your tuckus on the mountainside at least.

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It had rained the night before so the rock was wet, making the 2,500 foot climb feel even more spirited.  Our friend Jen knows the route well and introduced me to the climb.  There’s some incredibly wide open space up there; you’re a thousand feet above the valley floor on sheer rock that would be really difficult to climb.  That’s what makes the klettersteigs so neat.  It allows easy access parts of a big wall that would take a good deal of time, equipment, and logistics to climb.  Klettersteigs do away with all that fuss prohibitive for a Sunday afternoon hike and dump you right into the good stuff.  Exposure!

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It wasn’t just us yahoos up there; locals young and old were out climbing too.  I was glad.  As things got progressively wetter up the crag I started to feel like we might have underestimated the conditions.  The hammered-in holds and smearing foot placements became slick.  None of the locals seemed to mind the literal waterfalls through which we followed the route.  On some sections of rock without features to cling there are U-shaped holds to stand on and grab like a ladder.  Other sections have only straight bar out of the slick rock which makes me queazy.  The long lost simian in me kicked into gear and I overgripped until my hands hurt.

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Just before the top of the climb a suspended ladder arches past some overhung terrain.  You can see it at the top of the photo.  The ladder swayed in the breeze; the bars still slick with precipitation and hand sweat.  I kept reaching for my chalk bag where I store my confidence when I’m rock climbing.  Should have brought that thing even just as an emotional crutch.

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At the top of the climb, once off of the God awful ladder, we unclipped and walked a short way up to the cute Swiss chalet that adorns all Alpine hiking peaks.  Miranda made it back from her hike and we had lunch and cider with an incredible view of the glaciated mountains.  Leonie was all smiles on the way down in the cable car and made quick friends out of our fellow passengers.  Mountains, friends, and fun!  A great Sunday!

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Ende des Sommers in der Schweiz

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Author:  Pete
Location:  Zug, Switzerland

Just because we’re back in Europe doesn’t mean summer is over!  We’re treating this as an Altwiebersommer, which I think translates to and Indian Summer in so many conglomerated words.  Switzerland can get a little gray in the winter, so the Swiss has honed the art of enjoying summer.  There’s a festival within walking distance every weekend throughout the summer.  Zug is all bedecked for Swiss National Day and the Zug Festival.  We generally amble through and get a wurst and a beer, and to listen to some music.  There’s often silly things going on like the bike-log ride (which I didn’t partake in) and the blob (which I did).

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The badis, which are beaches or baths, are bustling with people meeting to cool off during the hot days.  The Zugersee is inviting and most afternoons we walk down to our closest strandbad.  We’ve been dipping Leonie in the lake regularly; she doesn’t seem to protest.  I think we’ve got ourselves a water baby.

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The last Friday of summer we floated the Reuss river with a bunch of friends.  You can take a train to Gisikon Root, walk down the steps and jump into the river with noodles, tubes, and coolers of beer, and float to the next town, Sins, which is six miles away.  The float is a summer favorite with stunning scenery; the river is swift and clear, six feet deep with smooth pebble bottom.  At the pullout there’s an great Zollhaus pub and you can take the train back, dripping wet if you need.  It’s an ideal way to freeze out the heat of the day.  It also makes a great ending to summer!

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First Father’s Day Expedition

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Author: Pete
Location: Mount Pilatus, Switzerland

For my first Father’s Day, Miranda surprised me with a day in the mountains.  We set out to hike Mount Pilatus, one of the prominent peaks that routinely beckons from across the lake. It’s the dusky shape on the right; Medieval legend has it that a dragon lives in the caves above the tree line.  We set out to see if it was true.  Leonie is old enough for dragon slaying, right?

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Our first experiment with babies and public transport went just fine.  Leonora did fine on the “Worlds Steepest Cog-Train” with it’s 48% grade and ear-popping pressure changes.  Not a problem, just don’t lean too far over the side.  There must have been ten different languages being spoken on by the other hikers on the train, but everyone said the same thing when confronted by sweeping scenery or adorable baby. “Oh!

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From the end of the cog train we hiked a path that hugged the side of the mountain, well maintained in true Swiss fashion.  Leonie slept like a champ in the front carrier, despite some jostling along the trail.  We swapped between carrying baby and backpack to keep the muscle groups and sweat stains balanced.

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We did find some caves and sent Leonie in first to check for dragons.  With no luck we set our sights on one of the three peaks.  We were fortunate to have gorgeous weather and calm winds and our summit was enjoyably attainable.  Although there were a few other hikers at the top, we were the only ones with a baby.  While we’re not sure what that says about our parenting, it was refreshing to be out in the mountains after a few months’ hiatus.

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