Alpine mountaineering is a fringe benefit of science conferences

June, 2016. Click an image to see it in fullscreen mode.

This was my shoe lineup for a science conference in Spain. The mountain shoes in the middle were my conference shoes. One of the greatest features of a science career is getting your flights funded for conference trips and ducking off for some fun on the side, wherever you are! I had two friends in Switzerland, so I set up a side trip, and my girlfriend stopped by to join us on her way to England.
Introducing the Marmots! Marielle defies time zones (she seemed to have no problems climbing mountains after 30 some hours of travel from Tucson to Neuchatel and about 3 hrs sleep).
Martine grins and spikes snow from dolomite to limestones.
Martin whip cracks early starts with laughing wit sparks.
Tyeen reduces peaks to rubble piles with that Tenzing Norgay style! (Check out those kick ass old school mountaineering glasses Martine loaned me!)
We started our hike to the hills from this nice little mountain village.
I don’t usually get photos of myself on group trips, so I had to include this nice one Marielle took of me :).
In Switzerland, what they call “huts”, I call “chateauxs”!
“It’s about beer time!” Martin says. Me: “What!? They serve beer???” There’s beer, running water, they cook you dinner, and breakfast at absurd-o-clock for alpine starts. Super impressed.
It wasn’t so bad getting up at 3:30 am when everybody else in the place was getting up that early too. I was amazed at how quickly these people vanished from the dining hall in the morning to get up the mountains. I was still, of course, drinking coffee after the place emptied out.
The eager marmots meandering in the gloom toward the high places.
I’ve never been in rugged terrain with so many people before. The Swiss really like being in mountains.
Me in my new crampons, feeling the joy of the mountains
The ridge to our first summit, Weissmies, alternated between snow and rock. It was fun practicing the short-rope technique, body belays, and running belays on horns. You can’t tell from this photo, but the drops on either side were pretty dramatic.
This ridge felt like a tightrope, the drops either side where huge. I kept my head down, with Marielle in my peripheral view. If she stumbled and fell to one side, I would have to jump to the other side, letting the rope straddle the ridge to arrest our fall.
Weissmies summit!
Descent, glacier-mode all on one rope blowing in the cold wind.
Seracs! Scary. Martin, prudently, had us all take a little breather and then cruise down and away from these as efficiently as possible. This is why you get up early! When those things melt and fall, they can go a long way.
Chateaux deaux! We traversed over Weissmies from the previous hut to this one. Switzerland’s biggest peak, Dom, frames the scene.
Ibex! These guys hung out around the huts incessantly licking dirt. Guess they were a little salt deprived.
Up early for one more peak, Lagginhorn!
A glacier crossing up to a steep snow and rock ridge. Great practice moving efficiently with crampons on rock and snow.
Summit joy 🙂 The sun sure was welcome after climbing a chilly north face!
Lagginhorn west ridge. It’s kind of terrifying just how sharp the tops of these ridges and peaks are! As you step up onto the summit, you really have to keep those crampons from grabbing a pant leg or anything so you don’t just plunge off the other side!
Lagginhorn is the bigger peak on the right. Our route started in the central glacier at the base, then gained the left ridge to climb snow and rock to the top.
As if the whole Swiss climbing adventure couldn’t get any better, guess how we got back down into town!??! MONSTER TROTTINETTE! We sent our bags down with the cable car and cruised with implacable grins on these oversized scooters down several thousand vertical feet of winding roads with spectacular views.
Ah, Switzerland, I miss you already!
Marielle left to England and I had an extra day to kill still. So Martin called me from work and said “Hey, I could take the day off tomorrow, want to do some multi-pitch?” I said yes, but when I realized Swiss “multi-pitch” means 15 pitches of continuous climbing up a 2000 foot cliff, I felt a little uncertain. But of course we did it.
Most of the climbing was easy, only four hard pitches. It was really cool to be cruising up rock for that long.