It starts above Jenins in Switzerland, from the top of a small cable car station, the Alpibahn, at 1801m. The only problem was that it has a very small capacity, and it was only by chance that we learned the day before that a booking is necessary, and the earliest we could get on was 09:45, not exactly an 'Alpine start'. We were still confident we could get back for the last car down, especially given the good forecast, and set off in high spirits.
The map to the route is called 'Heidiland', I kid you not, and it really is through idyllic picture postcard alpine terrain, with bell-clanging cows and many small farms on the way. We were a little dismayed to lose so much height between alps, but it was on an excellent track, so we were ahead of time. At one point we could see up to the cirque where our summit was, and it was frustrating to have to skirt so far away from it before commencing the ascent. There is a more technical direct ascent, but it went up to Vdiff, and with the looseness of the limestone, we opted for a safer if longer approach.
At one point you go through a 250m tunnel hewn in the mountainside, and emerge at Ijes farm, before turning West up steep grassy terrain to gain the S ridge of the Schroarzhorn, which we wouldn't be doing due it being 'ludicrously exposed, loose and steep'. What we did have to do was drop into the cirque before picking our way up horrible boulders and scree to gain the surprisingly loose and narrow summit ridge. Imagine a very loose steeper version of the Tarmachan ridge, only three times the height and the times the drops.
Finally we were on the summit, at 2599m, with wonderful views all round. I can kind of understand why when I was in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, a couple of years ago, no-one could point out the Grauspitz from there, as it is only really climbable from the Swiss side, and with so many mountains, no-one seems to bother with it. Ahhh! After some pics with the only other guys we saw on the mountain, we turned about quickly for the knee-jarring descent in order to get our lift down. Unfortunately I had left my poles at the ridge low point, and had to skirt back around for them on horrible loose ground, whilst Paul took Route One straight down.
The heat of the afternoon really took its toll on the descent, which also included a considerable amount of re-ascent, and it would be fair to say Paul didn't find it easy going. We had already drunk 2ltr en route, and filled up and drank another 1.5ltr, and we were still desiccated by the time we got to the Alpibahn station for a wonderful and very welcome shandy. It's so hard to eat and drink properly when you are pushing it against the clock in such heat, and we were relieved to make the cable car and refuel!
A challenging start to our trip, but a really enjoyable one. One peak in the bag, and not one many folks have climbed, so extra special. Here's to Germany next, and the Zugspitze