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Tschirpen (via ferrata) + Hörnli (former via ferrata)

Published by Stijn , 25 October 2017, 22h46.

Region: World » Switzerland » Grisons » Schanfigg
Date of the hike:21 October 2017
Hiking grading: T6 - Difficult High-level Alpine hike
Climbing grading: III (UIAA Grading System)
Via ferrata grading: AD-
Geo-Tags: CH-GR 
Time: 7:00
Height gain: 1150 m 3772 ft.
Height loss: 1150 m 3772 ft.

The Arosa ski area might not seem like the most attractive setting for a hike. Still, as long as you don't walk through the middle of all of the infrastructure, there is some great scenery and plenty of opportunity for exploration. We made a loop (or rather: a near-perfect square) around the southern half of the ski area, visiting three very different summits: Tschirpen, Hörnli and Plattenhorn.

Tschirpen (T4, K3)
The free local bus takes us from Arosa station to the Hörnli cable car station. However, instead of taking the gondola up, we follow the hiking path to the Älplisee. Here, we join the east-southeast ridge of the Tschirpen. We climb a moderately steep grass slope (between ca. 2300m and 2450m), after which the ridge narrows and offers some attractive easy scrambling (T4, I). All too soon, the terrain becomes easier and less exiting again, though the ridge stays scenic all the way to the summit.

The Tschirpen north ridge contains a fairly unknown via ferrata, which has not been described on Hikr yet. From the summit, we descend carefully over some brittle rocks to the yellow-red waymark where the via ferrata cables start. The route (difficulty K3) is very short, only descending 50m, ending/starting at a distinctive needle at ca. 2670m. The rock is pretty bad. Try as we might, we can't avoid sending some loose stones flying down. Why someone thought this would be a good ridge for a via ferrata is beyond me. It doesn't get much better below the via ferrata: the unstable scree is not very pleasant, especially in descent (T4-). There's an official blue sign for the "Tschirpen Klettersteig" at the Hörnligrat/Urdenbahn cable car station, but otherwise the via ferrata is very inconspicuous. To be honest, I can't really recommend it either. The east-southeast ridge is certainly a much more attractive route onto the Tschirpen.

Hörnli (T6, III)
Hörnligrat and Hörnlihütte take their name from the Hörnli, the pinnacle that is located ca. 600m north of the hut. There used to be a via ferrata across Plattenhorn and Hörnli, but it was deconstructed in 2011. Why is not completely clear. There was a fatal accident, but it seems like this happened while the via ferrata was already being dismantled. It's unfortunate that the Hörnli via ferrata does not exist any more, because it would have been a much more attractive route than the current Tschirpen via ferrata.

Details about how to now climb the Hörnli are hard to find. On Hikr, there's only D!nu, who wrote (rather vaguely) in 2014: "Am Hörnli sind noch diverse Klettersteigbügel montiert, das Stahlseil fehlt jedoch durchgängig. Wer das Hörnli erklettert sollte genügend Erfahrung im Klettern mitbringen, auch wenn es nicht viele Höhenmeter sind."

I am tempted enough to try an ascent. Coming from the Hörnlihütte, the south-southwestern foot of the Hörnli is reached along a grassy ridge. The remnants of the former via ferrata are easily found. The cable has been removed, but the anchors and some iron rungs are still there (and in good condition). The iron rungs are helpful where they exist, but other parts of the route need to be climbed free. Where it matters, the rock quality is pretty good, but the climbing is continuously exposed and mostly UIAA grade II, in one place (between the coloured plates, below the three rungs) I'd even give it a grade III. As such, an unroped ascent is only for confident T6 experts. Using a rope is a good plan anyway: thanks to the via ferrata anchors, you can secure the route very well without needing any gear placements.

The summit book contains plenty of entries from the days of the via ferrata (2004-2011), but very few entries since (a grand total of three ascents in 2017, including mine).

Climbing down along the same route is even trickier and feels longer than the ascent.

Plattenhorn (T4-)
We have one more summit to bag: the Plattenhorn. We rejoin the ridge directly north of the Hörnli, where we encounter a bit of easy scrambling (T4-). Afterwards, an easy grass ridge leads to the Plattenhorn south summit (P. 2521) and further to the main summit (P. 2554). We omit the northeast summit (P. 2528), instead we descend through the grassy channel directly east of the main summit (T3). From here, we hike through the ski area, down to the bus stop at Innerarosa.

Hike partners: Stijn

Click to draw, click on the last point to end drawing


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