at the beginning of the last pitch
because of the low temperatures the ice was still very brittle
Together with Hanno I’m driving through the wild Avers Valley in Switzerland. Seeing the steep gorges and the partly iced-over Avers River we get the impression that we can grasp the cold. Our focus is the „Brueckenkerze“ icefall, which is located right next to the road outside the small town of Juf.
I have some unfinished business with this line. A few years ago I wanted to climb the fall, after I heard that it looks good. However, when we drove around the corner early in the morning and saw the icefall we realised that the entire last pitch was missing. The upper part of the Brueckenkerze must have broken off a few days prior. Not unusual for such a line, that is exposed to the sun pre-noon. “Shoot, we’re too late,” was my first thought. On the same day we climbed another fall to left of the “Kerze”. On our way home I said to myself “that was just in time and not too late at all!”
Timing – that is what I’ve learned over the past years climbing icefalls – decides about what is climbable and what not. Temperature profiles, danger of avalanches, and ice quality are factors I take into account when I consider an ice climb. Ice structures like the Brueckenkerze are only climbable for a few days and not every season. At noontime the water flow increases, ice jutties and icicles put on a lot of weight. The surface turns into some kind of mush and it doesn’t make sense to start a climb.
Two days later I’m back in the area and I’m curious how the fall looks like. As approach it by car I can see that one pillar in the lower section broke off. “Timing”, I say to myself. “I was at the right place at the right time.”