Gondo, Switzerland – February 2012

Gondoschlucht is a small ice climbing site on the Swiss/Italian border near Milan. The base is at 1100 meters of altitude and most of the ice falls are in the 150-300 meters range with difficulties of WI3 and upwards.

It had been very warm this winter but three days before our departure from Helsinki the Siberian cold set into central Europe. Thanks to the cold we had some nice -10C temperatures for ice climbing. The ice conditions were thin because of the spring temperatures before but fat enough to have some fun. During this trip we had also loads of problems with flight changes but that’s another story. We missed our connecting flights twice…

The first day we were supposed to have a full day but thanks to the flight inconveniences we arrived as late as 1 PM. With the dark setting in at 6 PM we had some time left but not much. We drove through the canyon twice and spotted a nice looking gully across the river. Few days after climbing it we found out the gully was called Scott Gally (WI3+, 100m).

The second day was our first full day and we wanted to go big. After the breakfast we spent a couple of hours driving here and there looking at the conditions. Since we both are big fans of natural features and the conditions were slim we opted for something called Caramberos (WI5, 250m).

Although I think ice climbing is often boring this was nothing such. The route was very versatile and situated in magnificent surroundings. There were vertical steps, some scrambling and some overhanging bulges with cauliflower formations. There was also one shower pitch so the route had everything ice climbing can offer in a compact six pitch package. The guide book said it to be “a magnificent journey into this canyon’s icy world” and that it sure was. The walls of the canyon were almost 100 meters of vertical rock on both sides.

We started the climbing later than we should have and it took longer than we thought so ended up abseiling in the dark. There was a full moon showing us the way but nevertheless the free hanging abseils spiced up our adventure. Trying to find a bush or a root to abseil off in the dark is always a good adventure without a head lamp.

Since we’re old and out of shape we woke up fairly knackered the next day. We discussed the options very briefly and and decided on a scenic driving day on the Swiss countryside. We wanted to have a look at the Matterhorn and decided on visiting Kandersteg, too. Both of which are within a two to three hour driving distance from Gondo.

The last day our plane was supposed to leave Milan at 6 PM and we calculated we should start driving at about 2 PM not to miss it. Although the conditions were not bad everything looked thin and pretty demanding. What should have been killer WI4 ice falls had free standing pillars which hardly touched the ground. From the road one of those pillars looked fat enough to take short screws. Since the fast and light principle is very deep in my bones (Teppo calls it fast and miserable) we left the rock gear in the car. I really don’t know if it makes any sense but I reasoned one should hold on to one’s principles even if the approach is less than 15 minutes.

After climbing three pitches of what I believe is called Couloir Ad Ipsilon (WI3, 180m) we ran back to the car and speeded towards the airport. Everything went well until our plane arrived more than half an hour late to the gate. Knowing we had a one hour transfer in Frankfurt we knew it was going to be tight. In Frankfurt the connecting flight was gone. Not something you want to hear if you should be working the next day. It was time to write some SMS to the boss and the wife.

Leave a Reply