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Photo by arch. M. Sanguineti

Photo by arch. M. Sanguineti

Photo by arch. M. Sanguineti
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Kandersteg ice festival, incredible ice climbing and competitions


The 8th Kandersteg Ice Climbing Festival (Bernese Alps, Switzerland) as seen by Marcello Sanguineti.

From 04 to 06 January 2008 Switzerland's Kandersteg hosted the VIII edition of the traditional Ice Climbing Festival. Over 500 ice climbers from Europe, USA, Canada and Australia gathered at this important meeting.

As usual the Festival offered not only the chance to climb splendid icefalls, but also to meet famous mountaineers (both Marko Prezelj from Slovenia and Robert Steiner from Germany held evening slideshows) and to improve techniques in workshops with the likes of the Anthamatten brothers, Markus Bendler, Albert Leichtfried, Ines Papert, Dale Remsberg, Rich Marshall, Petra and Jack Müller.

One of the focal points of the event was the dry tooling competition, set by Thomas Steinbrugger and Kurt Astner. 85 athletes competed in the event, won by Markus Bendler from Austria and Petra Müller from Switzerland, ahead of the Austrians Patrik Aufdenblatten and Albert Leichtfried and Ines Papert from Germany and Felicitas Feller from Switzerland.

The following report is how our Italian "ice correspondent" Marcello Sanguinati experienced Kandersteg and the Swiss festival.

Kandersteg ice, spoilt for choice
by Marcello Sanguineti
Warm southerly winds forecast for the start of January convinced me to leave the Vallese region where I had spent the last days of December in search of better ice in the much colder Kandersteg. Together with Battista, Maurizio and Luca I bundled into the car and set off deep into the heart of Switzerland, to the Bernese Alps.

We reached Kandersteg just before 11 o'clock in the evening, which meant all we could do was imagine the monster ice formations which surrounded this stupendous mountain village. Unlike what happens in most "trendy" tourist destinations in Italy, Kandersteg offers excellent value-for-money accommodation for ice climbers, with facilities which are comfortable and extremely organised (meals, internet, washing rooms, gear rooms etc...)

We opened our eyes on 3 January and simply couldn't believe it: immense walls and icefalls right overhead. We gazed directly at Oeschiwald, the classic sector above Kandersteg and were immediately spoilt for choice! We started on Arborium, a perfect 5- warm-up, then climbed Pingu, an athletic 5+ on weathered rock.

More than satisfied with this first day we spent the rest of the evening dreaming about the other sectors: Breitwandflue, Mitholz, Oeschinensee, Staubbach, Almenalpfälle, Stock, Ueshinen, Gasterntal... a true ice orgy for the upcoming days.

Unfortunately though the temperatures rose considerably the next morning as a warm wind had reached Kandersteg. We abandoned our project of climbing an aesthetic and fragile water ice 6 which had caught our eyes the day before.

Markus Zurbrügg, the soul of the "Alpine Center", was a mine of information and truly deserved the bottle of Italian wine we left at his doorstep. He suggested the Blausee sector which tends to be colder than the rest. A few hours later we were climbing a beautiful 5+ icefall, a daring slender line which surprisingly has no name. Or rather, it is called "Namenlos", unnamed. While we climb we manage to catch a glimpse of the long icefalls on the Breitwandflue and, in particular the incredible Crack Baby.

Warm temperatures during the next couple of days force us to abandon other fascinating lines in the Staubbach sector, but nevertheless we managed to get to grips with other icefalls at Oeschiwald which is colder and safe from falling ice (in particular from the daring Rattenpissoir/Groll).

We spent the evenings at the 8th edition of the Kandersteg Ice Climbing Festival www.ready2climb.com watching the slideshows by Marko Prezelj e Robert Steiner. the festival united circa 500 ice climbers from Europe, USA, Canada and Australia, and 85 athletes took part in the dry tooling competition. Workshops were organised with the likes of Simon and Samuel Anthamatten, Markus Bendler, Albert Leichtfried, Petra and Jack Müller, Ines Papert, Dale Remsberg and Rich Marshall.

The dry tooling competition was set by Thomas Steinbrugger from Austria and Kurt Astner from Italy, and culminated in the Final on Saturday evening. This was won by Markus Bendler from Austria and Petra Müller from Switzerland, ahead of the Austrians Patrik Aufdenblatten and Albert Leichtfried and Ines Papert from Germany and Felicitas Feller from Switzerland.

Marcello Sanguineti





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