About elllocesaqui

Mexican climber exploring the traditional area of Elbsandsteingebirge (Saxony Switzerland)

Knot again!

A few years were not enough for becoming an expert in using knots as climbing protection. Yet I learned a lot by placing my fair share of sandstone-friendly Saxonian protection and watching other much more experienced climbers. This post is NOT a recommendation or an exhaustive guide to climbing with knots, but simply a summary of what I did. If you really want to learn how to use knots as pro the best way is to take a specialized course. That being said, I found the following tips extremely helpful when climbing with knots.

  1. Sort them out. Since you’ll be going up with plenty of rope segments of different lengths and diameters, it’s crucial that you have a good system for organizing your slings without ending up with a messy tangle of knots. The simplest way to do this is to girth-hitch them through the gear loops of your harness. There are two ways to do this:
    1. Knot up. The knot is closest to the harness.
      1. Pro: Easier to retrieve slings.
      2. Con: Bulky gear loops. Limits the number of knots you can comfortably carry.

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    2. Knot down. The knot hangs freely away from the harness.
      1. Pro: Many more slings per gear loop without added bulk near the harness. The reduced bulk will also make climbing narrow chimneys or off-widths more “comfortable” (as if that were possible…).
      2. Con: You have to pull first the free strand of the knot AND later pass the knot through this loop to remove the sling. Obviously, this costs valuable strength when trying to protect a move in an uncomfortable position and can create tangles when carrying many slings of different lengths.

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  2. Organize the long slings. Nothing beats carrying sewn or knotted loops of various lengths for tying horns, blocks and trees or for threading sanduhrs. If you, like me, don’t plan on going spartan on the pro, you’ll probably be carrying several 60, 120 and 180 loops. How do you organize them?
    1. The easiest way is to holster all loops above head and shoulder, folding two or three times the sling depending on the size. However, when carrying around multiple knots and slings of different lengths and sizes, trying to pull one of your long slings will inevitably result in a tangled mess (obviously during the overhanging crux of your endurance on-sight attempt…).

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    2. The “twisted method”. Take a long loop, double it and twist it on itself with your fingers. Bring the ends together and clip into a carabiner. This way you can pack a considerable amount of slings without tangling and occupying relatively a small space in just one carabiner hanging from your harness. Of course, the downside is that you’ll have to unclip the carabiner and remove the sling you need withouth dropping all the others.

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      Without the long slings, you can comfortably keep several short 60 cm loops over the shoulder for fast use.

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  3. Keep them loose! Before starting the climb, loosen up your knots. A loose figure-eight knot has a narrower profile compared to a tightened one and is much easier to place in thin (relative to the sling diameter) cracks.

    Keeping your knots loose is also very important for Kevlar slings, as tight knots reduce the fibers’ life-time.

  4. Keep long ends. Of course, long ends on your knots are essential to prevent he knot from slipping and untying at high loads. Additionally, the long ends will make retrieving knots an easier task for your second, as almost all jammed knots will be easily retrieved by a small tug at the ends. Your followers will be grateful.
  5. Keep the carabiners out of the way. I am betting you also love narrow chimneys and off-widths (really, who doesn’t?). Then, you’ll find that keeping the biners out of the way by clipping them to a loop over your shoulder instead than at the gear-loops will give you more freedom when changing sides or entering chimneys (unless of course you have a thing for parallel cracks, in which case you probably don’t need the biners..).

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  6. Shorten the loop on flaring cracks. Sometimes your only choice will be an asymmetric crack that widens on the outside. In this cases a pulling force directly towards the ground will likely remove the knot. A good preventive measure is to shorten the sling loop closest to the rock. This will result in an asymmetric pull that rotate theknot towards the inside of the crack, probably jamming more tightly.

All of these points are very basic and most likely you have experimented with some or all of them. In fact, you might even have more efficient and comfortable methods. Nevertheless, I hope this post gave you ideas to develop a system that works for you. Once again, the best source of information in this style of climbing is always a specialized course with professionals If you want to learn from and climb with one of the legends of Elbsandstein, check out the courses by Bernd Arnold.

Clean(ish) Slate

It is not that I forgot about the blog. In reality, it just stared awkwardly every time I opened my browser as if saying “Why you left me?“. The truth is I was mad at it. Two years ago I embarked on an ambitious project to climb full-time and, at the same time, create a better climbing database for Sächsische Schweiz. Both failed and I needed a lot of time to recover from the blows. I kept climbing, of course, but without the Sächsische spark. Slowly, I stopped regular training, planning, taking pictures and, lastly, writing. In the meantime a lot of changes happened in my life: found a new job, moved to Switzerland, finally learned some mountaineering skills, started sport-climbing (with cheat-stick and pre-clipping included) and (my guiltiest pleasure) took up video gaming.

The calmness of 2014 gave way to redefine plans and ideas. With 2015, training began again and goals started filling the calendar. However, the last piece of the puzzle, the rekindling of the blog, was still missing. To me, the crux was to answer the following: What is the place of a blog with hand-drawn topos and descriptions on a country were there are plenty of high-quality resources for finding and assessing climbing routes? Although I do not know the answer, I have a lot of fun photographing and writing about the routes I climb. That is reason enough to continue with this effort. I’ve decided to focus on area and route descriptions for outsiders like myself, both in Switzerland and abroad. The plan is to slowly start with an overhaul of the blog to include new areas, an improved rating and description system, and a new layout. I hope you continue to read el lloc during this process and, most importantly, find it a useful resource for your climbing.

Let’s get back to it!

Lorenznadel

Area: Affensteine

Routes: 10

Form and shape: ⭐ ⭐    Surroundings: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Although the Lorenznadel is not one of the icons of Affensteine, it is still frequently visited by climbers looking for a peaceful place with short easy-moderate routes. However, its biggest appeal is the narrow elegant needle at the top. Since this cannot be seen from the base of the tower, it is a pleasant surprise to find such a welcoming feature in the middle of all routes. This short needle alone is worth at least one visit.

Althoug the approach is long, it pays off once you find yourself in the middle of a lush, quiet forest. And once you feel the smooth rock, you will be eager to start climbing. Thanks to its excellent, solid quality, you can focus only on finding the next good placement. Probably, your main concern could be quickly running out of routes. Do not worry! You’ll find plenty of excellent opportunities in the nearby Lorenzwand and Lorenzriff.

If you’re on the area for only a short visit, the Lorenznadel should probably not be on your tick-list. However, if you have more time to discover the secrets of Affensteine, this small hidden gem with its moderate routes will not let you down.

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Routes

(click on the links below to go to the available route description and/or pictures)

# Name Grade # Name Grade
1 Alter Weg IV RP VI 7 Talweg VIIc
2 Südkante V 8 Logischer Weg VIIa
3 Südwestseite VI 9 Flachköper VIIIb
4 Direkte Südwestseite VI 10 Kernzone VIIb RP VIIc
5 Südwestwinkel VIIb 11 Vorgipfelreibung VI
6 Westweg V  

Hinterer Gansfels

Area: Rathen

Some peaks fail to make a strong impression. Where was it exactly? Where did the route go? When did I climb it? The Hinterer Gansfels falls in the other end of the spectrum. In fact, it is so memorable that you can often find this peak in postcards and films (including the recent Hansel & Gretel: Witch hunters!). Its whole shape is better appreciated from the Bastei bridge, where you’ll marvel at the size of this magnificent tower. Of course, this makes for long adventurous routes with great exposure.

The route grades are well spread: from easy scrambles in chimneys to impressive overhanging arêtes. However, unless you feel at ease with your chosen grade, I would not recommend it for first leads. One (of the many) highlights of the Hinterer Gansfels is the classic Arymmundweg, perhaps the best VIIa in the area. One can hardly believe it was climbed in 1908! For an “alpine” feeling, it is better to start the routes directly from the path at the bottom. The nearly 80 m of chimneys, traverses and overhangs will test the versatility of your climbing skills. On the contrary, if you want to log plenty of harder face-climbs, better hike up the steep path towards high plateau at the SW corner. This spot is also a good place for letting children play in the soft sand.

As is the standard for Rathen, the rock is sandy and, in some sections, extremely brittle. So always be careful when pulling on those seemingly solid black plaques! At the top you can make a pause for inspecting the southern faces of the Grosser Gans and its huge collection of great routes. Or why not take some time to map the difficult test-pieces of the northern faces at the Wehltürme or the Mönch? Either way, the broad and comfortable summit plateau is excellent for enjoying the views in Rathen.

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Routes

(click on the links below to go to the available route description and/or pictures)

#

Name

Grade

#

Name

Grade

1

Alter Weg II

26

Knecht 2 / IXb RP IXc

2

Emporweg VIIb

27

Stiefel 2 / VIIIa

3

Nordostkamin II

28

Arymundweg VIIa

4

Cancan VIIIa

29

Westkante VIIIb

5

Rumba VIIIc RP IXa

30

Luftiger Ausstieg VIIIb

6

Nordostwand V

31

Direkte Westkante VIIIb

7

Abendvorstellung VIIb RP VIIc

32

Reissigweg VIIb

8

Nordostweg VI

33

Grosses Einmaleins VIIIa

9

Kluftweg IV

34

Zwischenenergebnis VIIc

10

Meurerweg I

35

Blockkamin I

11

Schusterkamin I

36

Südwestriss V

12

Frühlingserwachen VIIa

37

Pfeilervariante V

13

Räkelvariante VIIa

38

Neue Südwestwand VIIIa

14

Neuer Südweg VIIa

39

Südwestwand VIIc (VIIIa)

15

Fragliche Rippe VIIa

40

EV zur Südwestwand VIIIa

16

Fit for fun VIIIb RP VIIIc

41

Henningweg VIIa (VIIb)

17

Trainingskante VIIIb RP VIIIc

42

Frühlingsvariante VIIa (VIIb)

18

Karlsbader Weg VIIIb

43

Sommervariante VIIb

19

Südweg IV

44

Variante zum Henningweg VIIb

20

Positiv VIIIa RP VIIIb

45

Nordweg IV

21

Gänsetod durch Birkenkraut VIIIb

46

Variante zum Nordweg VIIa

22

Schrottsammlung VIIc RP VIIIa

47

Nordostvariante zum Nordweg (not shown) V

23

Nur für Dich 2 / VIIIa

48

Nordpfeiler VI

24

Durchschlupf III

49

Selbstbherrschung (not shown) IXc

25

Südpfeiler VIIIa

50

So ein Theater (not shown) VIIIc

Sandlochwächter

Area: Affensteine

Hidden by deep valleys and chasms, the Sandlochwächter waits expectantly for the patient climber. The long approach gives enough time to choose from a myriad of excellent climbs. That is, if you do not get distracted by the fantastic sight of the Dom spires while crossing the narrow rock bridge toward the Sandloch group.

Unlike the majority of Affensteine peaks, the Sandlochwächter is an oasis of moderate (VII) climbs on excellent rock. Remarkably, most of them are friction climbs. Thus, it is an ideal place to gain mileage on the famous Sächsische Reibung. Protection is adequate to excellent. However, a few routes have large runouts with dangerous ground-fall potential.

The south face, with its clear view to the forest and long direct lines, is by far the most visited sector. Thanks to the long approach you will hardly find crowds here, but it is possible to see queues on the most popular routes. This face is not a good spot during the summer, when the high temperatures will greatly reduce friction at the rock. In such cases, the north face offers shade and cool temperatures. Although the north routes are not as spectacular, they are still fun and (mostly) well protected. Additionally, the belaying area is a comfortable sandy plateau ideal for families with children.

When you have had enough Reibung, you can always have a short hike towards the Insel or Sandlochturm for cracks and dihedrals. And, if one day is not enough, why not plan an overnight stay at the outstanding Sandlochboofe? If you want to start exploring Affensteine’s secrets, the Sandlochwächter is a good bet.

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Routes

(click on the links below to go to the available route description and/or pictures)

#

Name

Grade

#

Name

Grade

1

Alter Weg

III

15

Westwand

VIIc

2

Plattige Wand

VI

16

Lange Variante

VIIc

3

Ordinate

VIIa

17

Kurze Variante

VIIc

4

Saugarme

VIIIb

18

Hohe Liebe

VIIb

5

Südwand

VI

19

Nordpfeiler

VIIIa

6

Verbindungsvariante

IV

20

Variante

VIIc RP VIIIa

7

Hoffnungsschimmer

VIIc

21

Nordwestkante

V

8

Direkte Südwand

VIIa

22

Schallpatten

V

9

Glücksklee

VIIIa

23

Ü-Ei

VI

10

Kleeblatt

VIIc

24

Mittagssonne

VIIa

11

Zentraler Überhang

VIIb

25

Direkte Mittagssonne

VIIa

12

Verlorene Liebe

VIIc RP VIIIa

26

Nordostweg

III

13

Brathähnchen

VIIIa

27

Bergrutsch

V

14

Später Versuch

VIIc RP VIIIa

Eastern promises part 5

4: Satisfaction

I didn’t say goodbye. Maybe I was too tired or maybe I just didn’t feel like doing it. With rain falling hard (again) and the river rapidly growing I just packed everything as fast as I could. I did not look back, the Teufelsturm would have to wait.

A Dresden-Düsseldorf train ride gives you a lot of time for reviewing memories. With the lull of the tracks I tried to recount all the May experiences:

  • 13 climbing days in 4 weeks
  • 25 new routes
  • Plenty of failed attempts
  • 8 different areas (Affenstein, Schmilka, Grosser Zschand, Wildenstein, Kleiner Zschand, Rathen, Gebiet der Steine, Bielatal)
  • 8 partners
  • 5 – 10 mm of rain on average every day
  • 40 kg of gear
  • 6 showers
  • 500 mg of vitamin C daily
  • Countless protein and energy bars, pasta, fuet, salami and gummy bears
  • 4 books (Various Pets Alive and Dead, 1989: The Year that Changed the World, A Life Without Limits, The Prague Cemetery)

It turned out to be a difficult train ride. I wanted to stay longer and climb more, but at the same time discouragement and exhaustion made me happy to be on the way home. (In hindsight, heading back was the best decision. A few days later the floods hit hard on the Elbe area). Once there, I spent the next weeks recovering and adjusting to household life.  My body was so tired that I had plenty of gum injuries every other day and my nails stopped growing regularly. My most challenging activity was to wash the dishes. It was time to let the past month settle down.

I gambled a lot on a single month. As the high of the adventure receded, I felt that I had not won. I spent day after day in a dark mood and regretting the failures, the missing partners and the lack of rocks in the West. However, when I started climbing again the failures became opportunities, the missing partners were a chance to improve my bouldering, and missing rocks were the excuse for new trips. The machinery was ticking again, and I started searching once more for that elusive climbing high. Maybe it was not so much about satisfying a whim, crossing out tick-lists, or sending projects. It started feeling more as gathering fuel for the things to come.

I did not say goodbye to Elbsandstein. It slapped me on the face, taught me how to climb and, when I thought I understood a bit, slapped me again. It was great while it lasted, but it has been a hard break-off. Now I’m off to see new places. I hope I return one day to fulfill all those promises. I hope we can still be friends.

I CAN’T GET NO… BUT I TRY, AND I TRY, AND I TRY…

Next?

Thank you, readers

There are two things I find terribly frustrating: losing one sock and not finding a ring in a topo. For the latter, after hours of drawing and image processing (and plenty of silent swearing) I sometimes manage to get a decent topo. Three years after I started with the blog, the rings are still hard to find. Luckily, there is a great reward: your visits. I always get a surge of adrenalin and joy when I see the growth of daily stats. Even the darkest, rainiest day is special when I see a new Flattr, like or follow.

Thank you for taking the time to read and support the blog!

Your support is the perfect fuel for striving to make more topos with better quality.

Finally, there’s the ring! I’d better start looking for that sock…

Bussardwand

Area: Schmilkaer Gebiet

Among the plenty south faces in Schmilka, I am sure the Bussardwand has a special place. This tall, vertical face stands out with its incredible structures, smooth, solid rock and whimsical colors. As if this were not enough, the vast forest of the Heringsgrund serves as the background for unforgettable ascents.

The meat of this tower is at the south face. The game starts at VIIc (with one VIIb which is not as popular due to an endless wide crack) and is mostly about face climbing. The moves themselves are not hard, but the routes are continuous with short overhanging sections. Most likely the crux will be your endurance. To spice things up, rings are far apart and are sometimes the only available protection.

The style of the Bussardwand attracts the the more sport-climbing-oriented visitors of Sächsische Schweiz: endurance routes with clean (but long) falls and ALMOST no cracks or chimneys. This “almost” is critical, as all of the southern routes exit via an exposed traverse within an horizontal chimney. However, if this is not your cup of tea you can still rappel down from a huge ring below the characteristic roof. By the way, this same roof will protect routes during light rain, making this a top choice for those grey, uncertain days.

The fun does not end with the south face, though. At the top there is a small tower with a couple of short routes with entertaining chimneys and impressive views. Though the grades are considerably lower (II-VI) in this upper sector, the exposure is worth a visit.

Summing it up, the Bussardwand is an incredible wall perfect to break into the VIIc grade and offers great challenges for those in the VIII range. The approach walk is (as usual) uphill but comfortable and straightforward. If you are still undecided about visiting it, think it through while sleeping in the incredible bivouac sites next to the wall.

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Routes

(click on the links below to go to the available route description and/or pictures)

#

Name

Grade

#

Name

Grade

1

Alter Weg II

14

Sockelwand VIIIc

2

Variante V

15

Direkte Sockelwand VIIIc

3

Sanddüne VIIb

16

Talweg VIIb

4

Schartenweg VIIb

17

Michael Jackson VIIIb

5

Juniorenvariante VIIb

18

Bunte Wand VIIIa RP VIIIb

6

Nordostwand VIIa

19

Lange Variante VIIIb

7

Ostweg III

20

Südwand VIIc

8

Ostkante V

21

Gerade Südwand VIIIa RP VIIIb

9

Westweg VI

22

Direkte Südwand VIIc

10

Schulterschmerzen VIIa

23

Buntmalerei VIIIa RP VIIIb

11

Zittereinlage III/2

24

Linker Flügel VIIc

12

Innere Sicherheit (not shown) III

25

Der Versteckte VIIIb

13

Goldfinger IXc RP Xa

26

Direkter Versteckter VIIIb

Eastern promises part 4

3: Common people

There is something about Sächsische Schweiz that helps me remembering every detail of the routes I have climbed over the past 5 years. However, the truly unforgettable experience was getting to know its people. I was always amazed by the saxon climbers and their worn-out gear and toughened skin. One could always find them in the train forming closed groups around a guidebook, quietly (but mostly heatedly) discussing the climbs for the day. Of course, the real show always began next to the towers. I am not talking about the local strong climbers (which are also plenty), but the “common” people for whom Elbsandsteingebirge has always been a huge backyard and the stage for their athletic endeavours. The father who solos a route to belay his 6-year-old son and later quizzes him about the routes and peaks of the area (“NO, NO, NO! The Reginawand is at Falkenstein and not Falkenturm“). The family (complete with grandparents) who bivouac below the tower and waits for the leaders to scout for hard lines for all to follow. The young daughter who eagerly asks his father if she can lead that VIII when she is older. The 2-year olds scrambling up the easy routes. The  70-year-old who grins at me and very calmly says “it is very cold today, no?” before sprinting to solo a big route. Or the man celebrating his 60th year of climbing who quickly unties from the rope upon reaching “easy” terrain. All of them form a fantastic collage whose image I will take wherever I climb next. partners

I am lucky to have found friends among them. There were plenty who inspired (or tricked?) me into climbing harder (“But why don’t you try the direct version? It doesn’t look more difficult”) and many more who were patient enough with my requests (“So, let’s take the 6:00 AM train, walk the longest approach and then do some off-widths” :)) or suggestions (“Sure, I’m sure you can do it! Just maybe there is an interesting move at the chimney, but it’s OK”). It was great to share the rope with beginners and experienced climbers alike, watching them develop their skills and always learning from their commitment and enthusiasm. That’s why, although I did not reach the goal of climbed routes, the biggest reward in May was climbing with almost all my partners. Today, 600 km away from Dresden, I do not feel sorry for ticking fewer routes, but regret not making more climbing friends. As I struggle to build a new climbing network in a non-climbing city, I long for the “common” Sachsen climbers.

Vull fer las cosas que fa la gent normal…

Bé, veurem què s’hi pot fer.

Next: Part 5 – Satisfaction

Kleiner Wehlturm

Area: Rathen

Since the beginning of the last century, the Kleiner Wehlturm has marvelled many generations of climbers. The fantastic bold routes of 1905-1920 (now counted among the most popular and coveted moderate classics in Elbsandstein) are evidence of the magnetism of this tower. Perhaps this is because the Kleiner Wehlturm has all the ingredients of what people call a “truly Saxonian adventure”: height, exposure, sparse protection, variety of climbing styles, and beautiful scenery.

Despite the great appeal of the climbs, many are put off by the entrance ticket: all routes have at least one chimney section. Afterwards, depending on your choice, this can lead to long off-widths, breath-taking arêtes or intimidating slabs. A well-rounded set of climbing skills will help you enjoy the Kleiner Wehlturm at its fullest. Even if you do not like chimneys, the upper sections are worth the short struggle.

The most popular routes follow smooth rock of excellent quality. However, there are also less frequented routes in the SW face that pass through sandy and/or fragile structures. The long routes (at least 2 pitches) and descent can eat up a lot of time. Therefore, to maximize your climbing, an excellent idea is to link up routes in the neighboring Grosser Wehlturm before returning to the ground. The approach walk through Rathen is short and comfortable. Perhaps the only disadvantage of the tower is the restriction due to the Felsenbuhne: climbing is forbidden 2 hours before and during plays at the open air theatre. This can be a problem during the summer weekends. The best way to avoid is starting early in the morning or (better still) during the theatre off-season.

If you are looking for adventurous routes at a moderate grade, the Kleiner Wehlturm is an excellent destination in Rathen. Rest assured that all itineraries will be a source of unique climbing memories.

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Routes

(click on the links below to go to the available route description and/or pictures)

Number

Route Grade

Number

Route Grade

1

Alter Weg VI

9

Südostwand V

2

Südeinstieg VI

10

Synthese VIIc

3

Nordwand VIIIb

11

Lange Route VIIc

4

Reibungsvariante IXa

12

Südwestwand VI

5

Unbekannte Variante VIIIb

13

Variante VIIb

6

Drudenfuss IXa

14

Westkante VIIc

7

FKV-Kante V

15

Leichter Weg IV

8

Freischützweg VIIb