Sunday, 8 August 2010

Fusssteinkante, 9th July 2010

Mario belaying me on the Fußstein Nordkante

The Fussstein Nordkante (north ridge) is a 14 pitch granit climb up a 3380m high mountain with a glacier approach. This makes it something unusual for Austria, since most of the rock climbs there are on lower limestone mountains, and the higher glaciated mountains popular for their classic alpine routes do not mostly offer good rock climbs. It is a super route on mostly excellent rock that would probably be very popular with British climbers climbing VS.

Getting to the hut

Felix Luetkenherm, Mario Senke and I approached from the Geraer Hut up the true right bank of the glacier, i.e. its eastern edge. Apparently the approach can become tricky later in the season, but we did not have to cross any open crevasses, and there was no bergschrund either.

On the glacier

The first pitch

The first pitch starts straight away up solid rough granit. The climbing is reminiscent of routes at Bosigran such as Little Brown Jug (VS 5a) or Variety Show (HVS 5a), but less steep and so correspondingly easier. We had the topo from, which probably has more right than it has wrong, but I still found myself searching for the belay at the top of this pitch, which turned out to be a bit higher than it appeared on the topo. Further up we climbed entire pitches not marked on the topo, and totally ignored a puzzling traverse through an overhang that seemed to exist on the topo but not in reality. Some of the belays have been reequipped with bolts, but a lot haven't, and we ended up building a lot of our own, which was in fact never a problem due to the numerous cracks.

Mario in the middle of the route

After the first pitch and a half the quality of the rock went down a bit and the climbing turned from easy VS fun on solid rock to VDiff and Severe meandering for a few pitches. A traverse right took us into a gully, the walls of which we then climbed for three or four pitches to a loose ledge. From here the route goes up a series of cracks just to the right of the ridge crest, offering four or five pitches in a row of wonderful hard Severe or easy VS standard climbing on rough solid rock before the angle eases and some easy ground leads to the top.

Mario with some belay ingredients

The mountain itself has a really nice summit. We admired the view briefly, but we had spent such a lot of time on route finding and climbing the wrong way only to downclimb again and try somewhere else that we wanted to get on with the descent. We abseiled to get to a ledge which leads to a col on the ridge connecting the Fussstein to the Schramacher, from where a big scramble, marked with blue and red paint, leads perhaps 700 vertical meters down the walls above the corrie on the west side of the mountain. By the time we got back to the hut it was dark and we had missed supper, so were very grateful when the warden's wife cooked us up some soup.
On the wonderful slabs of the upper pitches

In summary I would say that this is probably the best route of this grade which I have done in Austria. I would guess that it matches the taste of a great many British climbers, offering the sort of rough, solid and easily protectable rock they know from home, but in a high mountain environment on a route 450m long.

On the descent from the Fußstein

Post Script: The Nordkante is by far the most well known route on the Fussstein, but it is not the only route here. Further to the left is the slightly harder Direct North Face or Aschenbrenner/Mariner, while to the right the Fluch/Brankowski is longer but apparently a
little easier. The north face of the Sagwandspitze overlooks the hut directly and offers a small number of longer and more serious routes, including three from the prolific Mathias Rebitsch.