Slowly I walk towards the dark hole that gapes in the ground in front of me. And then suddenly, very slowly, my body begins to tilt…. And that’s how it’s supposed to be, because I’m secured to a rope and the “path” leads down there. But now I see for the first time how deep – and vertical – the abyss really is. I still hope that my friends, who have never abseiled before, will also safely reach the bottom – after that the most adventurous part will be over. Or so I thought. What I didn’t know was that this was only the foretaste – and that an even bigger surprise was awaiting us…
The "desk" at the summit cross
Our high altitude tour starts in the sunshine in the Engelberg region, the clock shows 10 in the morning. After a steep ascent through a couloir and more snowfields, we reach the summit cross after 4.5 hours. A short entry in the summit book, a snack, on we go. In between, I pull out my camera again and again, because today I’m working in “time exchange” mode – I take photos for our mountain guide Denys from Bergprojekt for his homepage and have offered social media consulting, and in return I get a high alpine tour and more training. I couldn’t imagine a better place to work – a desk at the summit cross, so to speak… But now it’s time to get back down from the mountain. No problem, all we have to do is find the abseil point and walk to the hut – or so we think. But when we arrive at the cave in the ground, everything looks different.
Which way is down again, please?
The descent is still covered by snow cornices and a lot of old snow, so Denys and Tobi, our two guides, have to improvise. Rahel and Noemi, whom I spontaneously asked for the tour, are also with us today – and they have never been on a high-altitude tour before. And they are also new to abseiling. So we look at the steep abyss – now we have to go through it and down. I go first, and while my body, roped up, tips over the edge and the true height of the cave opens up, I just think silently – I hope this goes well for them! But both of them master this first hurdle brilliantly and after 50 metres of abseiling they land safely on the ground next to me on the old snow. We continue to the other side, out of the cave – almost done, we think, we have mastered the most exciting part – the hut is calling! Isn’t it?
After the surprise is before the surprise
But then Denys and Tobi quickly realise that the topo info they had of the area is not quite as accurate as they thought. And we can’t “walk out”, but are standing on a high rocky ledge – above a steep wall of approx. 200 metres. And we have to somehow get down. Again they start looking for abseil point number 2 – but it’s only when I’m roped up and walking over the edge of the ledge that I realise HOW deep this time the ground below us is and how steep the rock face. After the first pitch I reach Tobi, who is standing on a ledge in the vertical wall, about five centimetres wide and one metre long. The two of us have enough room on it – but where are the other three people supposed to go? Tobi’s answer: it’s getting cosy!
And so soon we are all squeezing next to each other on the narrow ledge while our heels dangle in the air. A truly steep start for Noemi and Rahel, but neither of them loses their sense of humour and so, after another three pitches, we finally disengage from the wall at 8pm in the evening and make our way to the hut. Even the sleet shower could no longer disturb us, only thirst accompanied my steps constantly for the last hour – apple spritzer, apple spritzer it echoes in my head with every step.
An educative ending
At the hut, I was finally able to get the long desired apple spritzer with shining eyes – a full 1.5-litre bottle of it! A fine dinner was served on top, despite our delayed arrival. And chocolate pudding for dessert! The next day we took it easier – training (for Rahel and Noemi) and repetition (for me) were on the agenda, and of course taking more pictures. From knots to glacier rescue and abseiling, this day also flew by in bright sunshine and in front of the huge panorama of the Titlis region. At the train station in Engelberg, an ice cream crowned the weekend – a sweet farewell to an adrenaline-filled weekend!
Disclaimer: This tour was part of a time exchange project (photography & consulting by me vs. guided tour by Denys). However, the blog article was written out of private motivation and was not part of the deal.
Info about Bergprojekt
Denys (left) and Tobias (right) will form the Bergprojekt team together from 2022.
Denys Thommen is the owner of Bergprojekt. By the end of the year Tobias Martin will join him as a second mountain guide (aspirant). For Denys the mountain experience is very important, so he offers a wide range of programmes from skiing and splitboard tours to climbing, ice and mixed climbing to alpine tours and north faces. The range of mountain sports disciplines he offers is as varied as the mountain world itself. In addition, he teaches knowledge of orientation, safety management, meteorology, etc. If you are interested in a tour, education, personal coaching or training, please contact him via email or check out his website.
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