The Yosemite Valley with its routes at the nose is probably the most famous clean climbing area in the world. But even in Switzerland there are numerous areas with perfect rock and dreamy trad routes. Silvan Schüpbach (climbing instructor) and Tim Marklowski (Mountain Wilderness Switzerland) present three Swiss areas for beginners as well as experienced clean climbers. 

A guest contribution by Silvan Schüpbach and Tim Marklowski - With the support of Wild Country Switzerland

Clean climbing - also known as “trad climbing” - is a special climbing experience. The intensive examination of the rock is in the foreground, the experience counts and degrees of difficulty are rather secondary. In Switzerland, areas in which you can secure yourself are becoming increasingly rare, especially if the approach is not endless and the rock shouldn't be brittle. All too often nowadays bolts can be found next to perfect cracks, which could be secured with a wonderful mobile device. What is often accepted without comment in Switzerland would be a no-go for climbing ethics elsewhere and highly frowned upon. So does the Swiss trad climber only have to flee to Indian Creek or the Yosemite Valley? And anyway, where do you start clean climbing if you don't want to jump into the deep end.

Almost all routes can be secured here - Bonnes Fontaines, Jura (picture Michael Kropac).
Here you can secure almost all routes yourself - Bonnes Fontaines, Jura (picture Michael Kropac).

1. Bonnes Fontaines (Jura) - lay yourself for beginners

More drilling hooks than in the cracked exercise plate in the climbing garden Bonnes Fontaines im Jura You can not actually sit down. Too bad, because surprisingly, almost all routes can be well secured. So beginners are in exactly the right place: All 50 cm can be placed a little bit and every inch the friends or wedges can also be backed up with a drill hook. The hedging is limited only by the space on the material loops (or the budget in the mountain sports shop).

If you want to secure a multi-pitch tour in Kalk yourself for the first time, you should try the “Arête Ouest” (4b). Experienced clean climbers can try their hand at the “La Nostaligique” route. Both routes are set up, but cleanly feasible. Quasi trad with a net and a double bottom.

Guide literature: Jura keepwild! climbs, Mountain Wilderness Switzerland, topo.verlag

2. Zerfreilahorn - serious fun!

The Matterhorn of Graubünden is an absolute trad climbing Mecca. It really doesn't get much better! The routes are mostly clean with drilled stands. Bolts are stuck where mobile protection is not possible. For fit and experienced climbers, it can be said to be one of the best Swiss trad areas. The rough and firm gneiss and the phenomenal appearance of the Zervreilahorn leave nothing to be desired. While the north-east ridge (5b) is a moderate tour, the routes in the SE wall challenge the entire climber. Purely from the climbing difficulties, “Nanouk” (7a +) remains the hammer tour on the Horu, while “Con Todo Guerrero” (6c) should be the testpiece in terms of self-protection. Further south on the wall, more moderate tours such as “Atacama”, “Océano Naranjo” or “Cleopatra” are waiting to be secured and - above all - enjoyed in large parts. At the foot of the Horn there is a climbing garden, some of whose routes also allow "mobile pro".

Guide literature: Guidebook Grisons, Thomas Wälti, SAC


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3. Altmann (Alpstein)

The old man in the Alpstein was not twice the venue of the Keepwild Climbing Days. There is something for everyone here, from the daring type to the connoisseur. Some of the routes are completely set up, but some are almost clean (including parking spaces). The pleasure tours include the east and west ridge, although mobile help is also allowed here. The south wall routes are diverse: while the “old south wall” (5c +), for example, has been gently renovated, the left “south wall” remains wild as ever. The route “Allegro ma non troppo” (6c +) is a highly technical slicer where you can build the stands yourself. You can do almost everything yourself, for example on the new tour "Bayerischer Sandmann" (6a +, E4-5), which offers athletic moves in the best of lime and allows an alpine adventure within half a day.

Guide literature: Climbing guide Alpstein, Werner Küng, SAC; Topo new tours (2016) on request: [email protected]

An imposing piece of rock - The Altmann in the Alpstein Mountains (picture Tim Marklowski).
An impressive piece of rock - The Altmann in the Alpstein Mountains (picture Tim Marklowski).

A climbing guide for clean climbing will be available next summer

In June 2019 a guide will come into the shops who will present climbing gardens and multi-pitch routes that are suitable for securing with wedges and friends. The joy of clean climbing is multi-layered: the focus is on the rock, reading and anticipating routes are more important than with pure sport climbing. A distinction is made between exercise and application routes: Exercise routes have been set up in whole or in part, placing the mobile belay devices can be practiced stress-free. Application routes require wedges and friends. The area selection ranges from the long-established climbing garden to forgotten and "renatured" routes to freshly cleaned new creations.

The selection guide C (H) lean is a cooperation between Mountain Wilderness Switzerland and the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC).

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