Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Fair Hands Line (6a), Handegg - The most plaisir out of all plaisirs

Story. Jarek and me had “Fair hands line” on our ‘to-do-together’ list for a while and eventually we decided we’d do it some time in fall: the wall is not very high and dries quickly, so should be climbable also late in the season. But a few days ago the weather gods kept sending us very controversial promises about the high places, so we ended up in Meiringen area. Every trip report says ‘Fair Hands Line’ is a pleasant mellow climb: great rock, just slightly underprotected, short approach, no rappels and beautiful views. What else one might wish for an easy and fun day out? And happy to say: it definitely met our expectations. 

Approach. Easy-peasy 15 minutes (I feel like it’s rarely the case in Switzerland, haha). We drove to the Handeck Hotel and parked at the bottom, than walked to the station of Gelmerbahn. At the station we got stopped by a very Swiss (damn polite and devoted to her job) Train Service Lady, who was eager to explain to us the detailed instructions for the descent (spoiler). We arrived at the base at about 9:30 am and there was just one single party on the Fair Hands Line, up the first pitch. The guidebooks and other trip reports warned, that the line is super popular and gets crowded on a good day. The day was perfect and we were only the second team in the line. After about an hour we saw another team at the bottom racking up and two more teams approaching. So as anywhere on classic easy lines in Switzerland: the earlier you start the better.
Our friends, Joce and Will, who tagged along, did a neighbouring climb, Mummery (6c), also a classic from the Remy brothers. Even though their line is literally just next to the Fair Hands Line, they climbed in comfortable solitude for the whole day.

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To make the climb truly plaisir, take a rack, nuts and cams #0.5-#1, and a few long slings for the anchors and protection around occasional spires and trees. Some reports say one doesn’t need cams and big nuts there, but no: if you wanna feel super comfy - take them: there are cracks to fit. And while you don’t really need any of them desperately (we climbed without them), you’ll be faster and won’t need to fiddle with gear in some places, where throwing a cam could be a five second job. Some anchors on this climb had only one big ring and either nothing else (so I ended up using a nearby tree as a backup) or a bolt quite faraway - so slings will be handy for the anchors.

P1, 5b - Jarek’s lead. Nice and mellow warm up, only one slabby awkward move. The rest is a ladder :)
P2, 6a - My lead. It gets slabbier and more interesting, but bolts are there. The crux is a balancy traverse. An okay pitch.
P3, 6a - Jarek’s lead, a very cool pitch. Good holds, but very exposed and one needs to fit a bit of pro to feel comfortable jugging up. Enjoyed a lot cheering Jarek and than following him.

Once you get to the two bolts anchor at the top, continue a few meters up to a ring and belay from there: we got confused and Jarek stopped at the bolts, we switched, I started my lead and stopped after 10m at the ring, brought him up and continued to the next anchor.

P4, 5c+ - My pitch. Nothing memorable apart from that anchor mess up.
P5, 5b - Jarek’s lead aaaand...I don’t remember anything about it, must have been just a ‘meh’.
P6, 5b - Mixed feelings about this one. Not very enjoyable: a bit sandy, no bolts, but no obvious cracks either. So that weird hesitation for an inexperienced climber like me: i’m not gonna fall, so shall i waste time and try to fit some pro, or shall i just climb up?..
P7, 4c - Jarek’s lead, one-move-boulder start and than a cruiser.
P8, 5b - A really pleasant pitch: super easy moves along slabs and cracks. One feels like dancing up the wall. Needs pro, good to have some medium pieces.
P9, 6a(+) - The coolest pitch of the climb. Slabs with delicate feet and hand holds. At one point you go up a single crack, both feet and hands in. At another point you use one crack for hands and another one for feet and it’s tricky. Joyful. Bolts are a bit too far apart, but nothing criminal and there’s no way to fit any gear in, so… just enjoy the ride! I led it clean and was very pleased. A lot of fun. In some guidebooks (like Dreams of Switzerland) this pitch is upgraded to 6a+, most guidebooks and topos refer to it as a 6a.
P10, 5a - I liked it a lot, Jarek didn’t. But he led it. Basically a clean slab. No bolts, no holds. Jokes: a few bolts (two?) and a few holds. But the degree is comfortable enough to enjoy some friction crawling.
And just like that it’s suddenly over.

Descend.
Jeeeeeeeeez it was the weirdest descent ever. So there’s this famous steep train/lift on the side of the mountain, Gelmerbahn, which goes up and down every ~15 minutes. And there are stairs right by its side. You get to the stairs and you gallop down them for about 20 minutes, anxiously anticipating the train (you can’t see it from everywhere and there’s not enough space for the train and you to pass each other). Jarek’s fancy smartass watch told later it was about 130 floors down. And yeah, my quads told me later they didn’t particularly enjoy it. They were actually almost definitely hating it. 

On the way home Jarek took us to Lungern lake for a quick dip. That was a cherry on top of a great day. 

Good line, made for a fantastic day out. And you know, mostly I enjoy some suffering while climbing, a little bit here and there: difficult moves or pump or getting stressed and scared or run-outs or hard gear placement… or even altogether for a proper full on. But sometimes it’s cool to have a mellow day with zero of that: good rock, solid gear, excellent company and pleasant climbing.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting story about the descent. I have had that train passing me a few times :-), including conductor smiling and waving at us having no problems at all. Good story. Glad you liked it. PS. You need a star rating as well.

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