The Salbit West Ridge is one of the great, classic climbing tours in Switzerland. Even today, the 36 pitches and 1000 meters of climbing over the six towers are extremely attractive. But what does it take to really enjoy the grandiose climbing in the best Uri granite? As always with climbing, there are many facets that make up success.
By Marcel Dettling for Bächli Bergsport
As absolutely central and indispensable to prove various things that you can not just pick up in the mountain sports business and where it takes some years of experience, until you have acquired them. The key to a complete and successful ascent lies in a reasonably high groundspeed for climbing in difficulty, as far as 6b over 10-14 hours, especially in less-than-equipped alpine terrain. Yes, this also includes cracks, chimneys and cunning panels, not just pleasant terrain with nice, positive handles.
So it takes a trained eye and the sense for the always logical route course. Interlopers quickly lead to difficult terrain and are usually also time wasters. Since it is only partially possible to count on fixed material, it is also very important to be able to lay mobile fuses quickly and with appropriate extensions in a straight line - not that one brakes out after 30m.
Move efficiently on the rock
Essential is also an efficient handling at the stands. If you waste 36 only five unnecessary minutes when changing, the climbing time lasts three hours longer and the darkness or thunderstorm may be faster than the summit. Complicating the whole thing by the fact that some stands themselves are to be set up with mobile material (there are not Muniringe stuck everywhere), the cams want to be rearranged, and so on.
There are also various abseiling and short sections or transfers, which are best shared and waived a stand backup. An important piece of the puzzle for success is also the choice of a suitable tour day: Stable weather, not too cold at the early morning start, not too hot during the day, not too much competition, which can cause waiting times or even traffic jams.
Choose the Salbithütte as a starting point
As a starting point, the Salbithütte has made much more sense since the construction of the Salbit Bridge than the bivouac box immediately at the entrance. The plus points of the hut are, besides the maintenance and the more comfortable accessibility, above all to be found in the fact that one saves total safe time: The ascent from the Salbithütte to the ridge lasts an hour longer than from the bivouac. Thanks to the well-marked path, it can easily be covered in the dark so that you can still start climbing with the first light of day. And this hour you win on the descent long ago. The return from the summit to the bivouac will require either an 300 elevation gain or the choice of a complicated, rarely-used west descent (including 8x50m abseiling). In addition, the descent from the bivouac is also significantly longer than that of the hut.
Pack the right material
Finally we want to focus on the required equipment. Here, too, you have to prepare carefully, as certain objects are indispensable. On the other hand, should and will not contribute anything for weight reasons on the 1000 climbing meters, which is not needed. How heavy the backpack weighs is in fact a decisive factor in the climbing speed.
- footwear: This must be in backpack with, so it should be as easy as possible. While the approach is unproblematic, the descent always leads over a more or less steep and more or less hard snowfield. Ultra-light mountain boots or sturdy, half-height shoes appear to be the most suitable. In the hut there is precise information about the state of the descent. In unfavorable conditions, a Pimple oder sogar crampon be necessary (which then represents a rather unfavorable time for the celebration of the west ridge).
- Water: No, not only are there no food outlets on the road, but there's no way to refuel water. Sure, very early in the year you might find a snow field here and there on the north side (the Hotel Salbit after tower 4 is the most promising point), but the melting would take too long. So take enough water, depending on your personal needs and daily temperature.
- ropes: The abseil point of the tower 2 measures full 50m, which means that 2x50m ropes are required. If you prefer with half ropes climbs or on Single rope with 50m Rapline is a matter of taste (safety reserves, weight, possibility of Halbseiltechnik, and so on).
- Cams and wedges: If you have enough reserves in the range 6a comes with a set of cams (for example Black Diamond Camalots C4 of sizes 0.3-3, especially recommended in the Ultralight variant) by. Wedges are easy to use but are not required. If in doubt, it is the lighter, more flexible option to take the cam sizes 0.3-0.75 twice.
- quickdraws: Depending on the number of self-made backups you need about 12 Exen. Normal sportsclimberexes are rather less suitable and it is better to perform mostly or exclusively on 60cm extendable Alpine draws With. Also, there is something extra loop material (for example, for Zackenstände) helpful.
- Backstop: In order to gain time, you can climb longer routes together, especially at the 1 tower. At the following towers this is possible only occasionally due to the higher difficulties and the more complicated lines. To make this technique safe, the use of a backstop (eg Ropeman, Tibloc, Microtraxion) mandatory.
- climbing shoes: You spend about 12 hours in the finches, constantly putting on and taking off is a time waster. Comfortable climbing finches are the right choice! However, if you want to free the extremely smooth and difficult plate on the 6 tower (officially 7a, but probably more difficult), it would be a good idea to bring along a second pair of very precise finches.
About Bächli mountain sports
Bächli mountain sports is the leading Swiss specialist shop for climbing, mountaineering, expeditions, hiking, ski touring and snowshoeing. At currently 13 locations in Switzerland, Bächli Bergsport offers its customers expert advice and high-quality service. Published on LACRUX Bächli mountain sports periodically exciting contributions to the topics climbing, bouldering and mountaineering.
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Credits: Pictures Marcel Dettling, Uwelino /CC BY-SA 4.0