Ascent of Grauspitz on 1993-08-11

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Wednesday, August 11, 1993
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:8527 ft / 2599 m

Ascent Trip Report

The day before my climb, and after looking at my topographic maps, I had decided that the best way of approaching the remote Grauspitze was to ride this gondola to the top and then climb the peak from the Swiss side--it lies on the Switzerland-Liechtenstein border. I found the gondola, used not for skiing in winter but for tourists in summer and for military training maneuvers, and I made a reservation for tomorrow morning's 8 AM ride.

The next day I climbed the highest peak in tiny Liechtenstein, the Grauspitze. It is a relatively undistinguished low alpine peak, rising to only 2599 meters (8527 feet), but it was still a very interesting hike. It was nowhere near as crowded as the other climbs I did in the Alps, since no one cared about it, there was no trail, and no consensus as to the best route. It was really just a random summit that, by virtue of the boundaries of Liechtenstein, came out highest in the county's 61 square miles. There was no snow or ice at all on it or its slopes.

From Chur I drove north to Malans, Switzerland and rode the Alpibahn gondola to its 5909-foot top, saving me 4000 vertical feet of uphill that would have precluded any kind of dayhike to the Grauspitze. I talked to an older Swiss couple in my gondola car, surprised at how well my German worked--I was able to communicate where I was from, what peak I was going for, and even why--I explained my hobby of climbing the "hauptberg" (highest point) in each country. I saw this couple all day long--we kept passing each other.

From the top of the Alpibahn I hiked along dirt roads through grassy fields full of cows, uphill to the high Kamm pass, and then down a semi-paved road that wound around a lot through more pastures and forests. It was cloudy and foggy at first, but definitely clearing as the morning wore on. I don't think anyone lived in this high country of alps, but it was well served by a network of roads in various states of repair--none I wanted to take my car on--and there were a bunch of barns and stables for the cows grazing all over. The mountains all rose as rocky pyramids from the fields.

After taking my road through a dark tunnel through a ridge, I finally came down to Ijes Alp at 10 AM, where I thought I'd strike off cross-country towards the Grauspitze. There was a farmhand hosing down the stables at this 6200-foot high meadow, and I asked him in bad German if it was OK to walk up through the fields towards the Grauspitze, and he said fine. So I struck off up the valley above the stables, heading towards a headwall, with the upper reaches obscured by clouds.

After some steep, sweaty uphill over grass and then rocks, I reached the crest of the southeast ridge of the Schwarzhorn. Below me was the little hanging valley called the Schafalpi, with cliffs guarding its southern access. From where I was I could either drop down into this valley, cross it over to the Schwarzhorn-Grauspitze col, and then go up the Grauspitze, or else stay on the ridge all the way, traversing the Schwarzhorn. I decided on the second course, since I always prefer ridges and climbing extra summits.

The ridge northwest to the Schwarzhorn was pretty easy--when it got too jagged dropping off to the northeast always provided easier terrain. I saw a guy on the Shwarzhorn-Grauspitze ridge, and thought I'd meet him on the summit, but he must have traversed below it, because once I was atop the Schwarzhorn he had disappeared. I took a nice rest on the Schwarzhorn--the clouds were pretty much gone by now, and it was turning into a really nice day.

The ridge from the Schwarzhorn down to the Schwarzhorn-Grauspitze col was bad news, though. It was very, very steep and jagged, and the rock was very rotten and crumbly--this was perhaps the most difficult solo rock-climbing I had ever done in my life up to this point, and I was a bit scared. At the col things improved greatly, and the ridgeline up to the summit of the Grauspitze offered better rock and far fewer problems. I arrived at the highest point in Liechtenstein (8527 feet) at noon, truly thrilled with the success of my lonely adventure--without a trail or guidebook, I had reconnoitered and executed a difficult ascent.

After taking lots of pictures of myself (to prove I had been here), eating lunch, and a half-hour rest, I descended back to the Schwarzhorn-Grauspitze col, then returned back to the southeast ridge of the Schwarzhorn via the Schafalpi hanging valley, a much easier way than my earlier hairy ridge traverse. The rest of my descent was uneventful--it turned into a very hot, sunny day, I didn't go quite as low on my long, high traverse back to the Kamm col by taking a faint path that slabbed higher, and I even ran up the low grassy peak of the Kamm ridge (6965 feet) at 3:30 PM because I had plenty of time before the last Alpibahn gondola down. I saw several other hikers in this country, including the Swiss couple from this morning, but, except for the one guy I never met, no one above Ijes Alp.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:325 ft / 99 m
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:325 ft / 99 m
    Start Trailhead:8202 ft / 2499 m
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: 1993 - Grauspitze

Complete Trip Sequence:
2Schwarzhorn1993-08-11 b2605 ft / 794 m
3Grauspitz1993-08-11 c325 ft / 99 m
4Kamm1993-08-11 d764 ft / 233 m
Total Trip Gain: 3694 ft / 1126 m    Total Trip Loss: 1056 ft / 322 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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