Saturday, 24 July 2010

Zwoelferkopf, 4th July 2010

The Waxenstein (l.) and Zwölferkopf (r.) seen from Hammersbach

The Zwölferkopf and the Waxenstein are two of the most prominent mountains above Garmisch. When sitting in a cafe in the town centre or going for a stroll over the meadow it is these two mountains which dominate the view more than any other, despite the higher Alpspitze and Zugspitze slightly further back.

Letterbox on a tree in the middle of the forest on the walk in

I had heard tales of loose rock on the Zwölferkopf, but wanted at least to have sat on its summit once. Michael Stanton and I had planned a trip to the Wilder Kaiser for this weekend, but a bad weather forecast for there together with a slightly better one for Garmisch led to a quick decision to climb the north ridge or Zwölferkante.

Michael crossing the small snow field before the start

The original start, by the red sling marked in the guidebook, turned out to be as loose as its reputation. However, after two pitches we found the first of the newer bolt belays and with them also solider rock. The middle pitches turned out to be as good as can be hoped for on a grade IV route in the northern limestone alps. The pitch lengths between the new bolt belays appeared at times to be longer than marked in the topo, or we might simply have missed some. We had 50m ropes, but if doing this route again I would take 60m ropes.

One of the new bolt belays

The weather forecast we had chosen to believe turned out to be a little optimistic in its prognostications over the arrival time of the thunder storms. Whereas these had been advertised for the evening, it was about two when we heard the first peals of thunder. From this point our interest in taking photographs of the climbing waned and we concentrated on getting to the top. Somewhere around pitch 11 we lost the route, and at exactly this point the cloud came down, the thunder claps became more frequent, and the storm broke loose. Michael made a heroic lead of three pitches of anonymous terrain in pouring rain and hail to get us to the summit.

Michael on one of the upper pitches

It turned out that our difficulties were not yet over. At first we descended easily over solid scrambly terrain in the direction of the Höllental. Very quickly, however, the descent led leftwards and then out over steep grass slopes in the direction of the Mittag Scharte, the saddle between the Zwölferkopf and the Waxenstein. Beneath us the slope steepened and dropped out of sight into the Mittag Schlucht hundreds of meters beneath us. From the saddle we then traversed southwestwards at the same height as far as the Riffelkar, and found our way down in more or less continuous rain to a very welcome plate of Kaiserschmarrn in the Höllentalangerhütte. Finally at nine o'clock we got down to the valley again.

In summary, a nice climb and a full mountain day out, but a descent not for beginners or for those of a nervous disposition.

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