It's not so much on the map for sport climbing. You've likely heard of Ticino and you've heard of Magicwood. Maybe you've heard of the Ratikon. You've definitely heard of the Matterhorn and the Eiger. But have you heard of Gimmelwald? or Voralp? or Basler Jura? Probably not. The sport climbing here is good. Actually it's really good.
Little crags spread across the country. A country that you can literally cross in 4 hours. I've been wanting to give myself a good chunk of time to experience these little gem zones since I first tasted the scene here. And now after a whirlwind week landing in the Alps I've settled into my new home in Interlaken - actually a sleepy neighboring town called Bönigen - I can sit down and share a little.
MelloBlocco. I have always heard about this event. I'd heard it was massive and the parties were great and Italians are crazy. All are true. The largest climbing event in the US is likely the Red Rock Rendezvous in Las Vegas, which I did just 6 weeks ago. Mello is easily two times as big. People and cars and crash pads are everywhere. It's an infectious energy. It's fun to be around. The parties and the social aspect of the event are cleary as important as the climbing. Many people take the climbing and competition seriously 97% are there to enjoy the mountains and share some delicious Italian wine with friends. Italians are great. Energetic, warm, spontaneous.... it's a great vibe. Thank you MelloBlocco! I really hope to return.
Afterwards I drove directly to Voralp with an annoying mix of hangover and jet lag. There I met a buddy Logan and we took every advantage of the rare dry and sunny weather. It was perfect. Crashing on my good friend Toby's couch, we spent the days exploring a mythical route from Beat Kammerlander called 'Missing Link'. I fell so much in love with the climbing style at Voralp on my last visit that despite finishing off the main cliff I was hungry to check out this 'other' route. Beat did the route in 1997, giving it the grade of 11 - at the time this was on a short list of routes graded this way. 'Action Direct' and 'Hubble' on that list. Since then it had remained mostly obscure and unrepeated. This alluring history only fueled my desire to check it out.
As you could imagine I found the route filthy... (only after some terrifying 5th class grass and loose rock traversing). I blew through an entire brush slowly making my way up the route, unlocking some sequences, chalking holds and brushing dirt and worms (yes actual worms) out of the pockets. The crux was clearly a very thin section at 3/4 height. A difficult should move to a tiny right hand edge, followed by a tenuous move to a sloping left hand pocket. From here you grab an imaginary right hand crimp / dimple / pinch thing and then rocket up to a series of poor crimps before a long rock-over / lock off to a side pull. There are hard moves before and after this crux but this is what I'm guessing was the 'missing link' section of the route. Thankfully although the handholds barely exist I did find many foot options. The following day I returned and continued cleaning and even had a nice try falling up just below the crux.
Perhaps it was the impeding storm, or the looming threat that this route was in fact off limits (?), or maybe it was that my training had worked and this route fit my style and stoke perfectly but on the next day I climbed it. With every move I surprised myself again and again. Ending at the anchor in disbelief.
A few things about this route... It might be off limits. I was unable to get a clear answer on this. I was never convinced enough to stop trying, in-fact most climbers told me to not worry at all. In the end it seems it was fine, but if you plan to check it out be VERY careful on the approach. There are some fixed lines to help your journey but the ground is steep and loose and the consequence is huge (death) if you take the slide. During a rain the top of the route will likely be wet and furthermore the approach will be downright impossible / suicide. The crag is beautiful and the route is phenomenal. It's around 35 meters long and aside from the first couple bolts it is hard the whole way. Slightly overhanging but very different rock than the other Voralp routes. As for the nebulous 11 grade... It's a technical, vertical masterpiece. A route that suits my style perfectly. I'm not convinced that this route could be 9a but perhaps 8c+ is better? Or maybe I got very lucky and things clicked for me faster than predicted? I doubt the route is as hard as Hubble or Action Direct however, despite the fact I've never tried those classics. Who knows? Maybe it suits this obscure beauty to remain ungraded anyways...
Okay... more projects await. Now I just need the rain to stop... cheers everyone!