Yannick Glatthard climbs 5 Grimsel classic rope solo

The Swiss professional climber Yannick Glatthard manages to line up five classics in the Grimsel area in 16 hours in rope solo style. In the following personal report and in the video, Glatthard presents his project.

A report by Yannick Glatthard

Best of Grimsel is a project I started in spring 2020 while dreaming about Yosemite and the great long routes there. I thought how cool it would be to climb a route of similar length close to home - only there isn't one!

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Video: Yannick Glatthard climbs the Grimsel classic Rope Solo

Then I came up with the idea of ​​combining the five most beautiful and iconic lines on the Grimsel in one day. This would make a route length like in Yosemite Valley possible. We arrived at the Eldorado on Wednesday afternoon. It was a beautiful autumn day.

I climbed the first three pitches, rehearsing the moves I would be making in the dark the next morning, and leaving a rope in place to ensure a quick start. I would start the day at an impossible time, so I went to bed at 19:00 p.m. 

"The morning hour catches the worm" was the motto of the project. Image: Diego Schläppi
"The morning hour catches the worm" was the motto of the project. Image: Diego Schläppi

The first route of the day at the mighty granite dome called Eldorado was "Motörhead". This route was established by the Remy brothers in 1981. Originally the route was equipped with a total of 12 fixed hooks. It is now well secured with bolts, which is why it has become a classic.

“Originally, the Motörhead route was equipped with a total of 12 fixed hooks. It is now well secured with bolts, which is why it has become a classic.”

Yannick Glatthard

The climbing is outstanding, but for me it's the view of Lake Grimsel that gives the route a special ambience. At night, however, there was no view - I could only see the few feet of rock illuminated by my headlamp. Relaxed and in my own little world, I climbed the wall. 

Once at the summit, I only paused to stuff some en route snacks in my bag before jogging back to the trailhead. At the dam I took my bike out of its hiding place and cycled down to Chöenzentennlen. When I got there I was pretty cold. I prepared the gear for the next route and ate some more. Then I climbed up to the start of Sagittarius. 

Glatthard climbs in the beam of his headlamp. Image: Diego Schläppi
Glatthard climbs in the beam of his headlamp. Image: Diego Schläppi

I was amazed at how fast you can get up there. My goal was to reach the summit of Sagittarius by sunrise. But when I got there, it was still pitch black. I had to control my excitement and slow down to concentrate on the rappel. There are many small sheds for the rope to snag on. I didn't want to risk anything. Luckily I got down safely. Soon I was back on my bike and racing down to Handegg.

“It got really cold there when a biting wind blew into the valley at dawn.”

It got really cold there when a biting wind blew into the valley at dawn. I was happy that I could put on two warm jackets by the car in Handegg and took a longer break. I had breakfast and waited for daylight to climb the Fair Hands Line route without a headlamp. The rising sun bathed the mountains in deep red light. It was breathtaking. With renewed energy and the knowledge that there was still a full day left for the second half of the project, I felt very good. 

The "Fair Hands Line" is located next to the Gelmerbahn and is by far my favorite route on the Grimsel. The Fair Hands Line route was well known to me, and to speed things up I was able to free solo certain passages. However, I climbed with rope for most of the project because it wasn't worth the risk to me. In addition, I was unfamiliar with many climbing passages. 

Yannick Glatthard in a sea of ​​granite. Image: Diego Schläppi
Yannick Glatthard in a sea of ​​granite. Image: Diego Schläppi

This is my tactic for belayed solo climbing with a rope: You attach the rope at the start, belay yourself while climbing, attach the rope to the next belay, abseil and take all the slings with you. Then you untie the rope at the lower end and climb back up to the next belay. This way you have to climb twice and rappel once for each pitch. A lot of work.

In 1978 the idea of ​​climbing for pleasure was born here. She was made by Jürg v. Känel launched. It's just a gift to be allowed to climb up here. I wanted to climb the Best of Grimsel Project in under 24 hours. Originally I had counted on 20 hours. When I descended from the Fair Hands Line and saw that the cable car attendant had only just opened the Gelmerbahn for the day, I was again pleasantly surprised. I was toying with the idea of ​​being able to do it in just 14 hours. Then I drove from the Gelmerbahn to the power plant center, where I repacked my rucksack and climbed up in the direction of "Sieben Dormouse". 

There are two wavy structures at the entrance to the "Siebenleeper". On my last visit up here I could not climb this passage. This time I had planned to climb the first wave and then jump over to the second wave. A so-called "run and jump". 

"The fact that this sequence of movements worked in this style in this project was certainly the biggest technical climbing highlight."

I have great respect that Hans Howald climbed this route for the first time in the 70s. I assume he did it without that "run and jump" technique back then. So I had also managed "Siebenschlafer", but there was still one route ahead of me - the Abadia on the Mittagsfluh, which I had never climbed.

Yannick Glatthard prepares to start the next route. Image: Diego Schläppi
Yannick Glatthard prepares to start the next route. Image: Diego Schläppi

After a good lunch in Tschingelmad I came to the Mittagsfluh in an unforgettably beautiful autumn mood. The colors and light were so amazing and energized me (but that could have been lunch). As a climber, when you look up this wall, you feel a certain amount of awe because it is very imposing.

"As a climber, when you look up this wall, you feel a certain amount of awe because it's very impressive."

And the striking edge of the "Abadia" caused a certain tension. But I was incredibly motivated to give it my all and finish the project. For Abadia I again had a 50 m rope with me, some Camalots and several quickdraws. I hoped I had chosen the right equipment. I had also put on bigger climbing shoes because after 40 pitches my feet were already a bit swollen. 

As I climbed the last three pitches of this project on the Mittagsfluh, the day was slowly coming to an end and the daylight was changing from a shade of gold to tangerine. The hills were bathed in shades of bronze, violet, and deep green. This majestic display of colors gave me the opportunity to rethink the project and look back on an incredible day of climbing. I ended up reaching the top of the last route 16 hours after starting this trip. But time had ceased to exist. In that moment I found my happiness. 

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Credits: picture Diego Schlappi, text material zVg

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