Where water rushes in summer, climbing walls form in winter for adventurers. Ice climbers ascend frozen waterfalls – an increasingly popular tour for winter sports enthusiasts.
It’s always an amazing sight. The winter sun’s rays caress the deeply frozen ice, illuminating the gigantic climbing wall at the Pontresina gorge in ever new colors. Right where the ice seems slickest is where ice climbers make their way. At these spots, the waterfall is frozen piece by piece and contains little air. This is important for a climb as ice screws, ice axes and crampons have a better hold.
Anne-Pierre Ackermann, host at the Romantik Hotel in Samedan, has been partnering with the mountain climbing school in neighboring Pontresina for years. Climbing fans are welcomed there by mountain guide Marcel Schenk. Participants don’t need prior ice-climbing experience for this slippery adventure. Marcel Schenk and his team are always there to ensure the safety of the ice climbers. “Naturally, it’s an advantage to be in basic good shape and to not be afraid of heights. But even more experienced ice climbers will have sore muscles the next day,” says Marcel Schenk.
In a three-hour trial course, participants can venture to climb the wall of ice. Equipment is provided and consists of a helmet, ice axes, crampons, ice screws and a climbing harness. “Standard winter clothing is sufficient at the wall. We recommend bringing two pairs of gloves – a thin pair for climbing and a thicker pair for when standing at the base of the icefall,” the mountain guide explains. “What’s fascinating about ice climbing is that it’s always different. The icefall is never the same; the climbing experience changes every day.”
Icefalls up to 40 meters high await climbers at the Pontresina gorge; in the Engadin, there are ascents up to 300 meters high. In the evening, the icefalls at the Pontresina gorge are beautifully lit up. A magical, fascinating atmosphere that makes one look forward to the next cool climbing tour.
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