Engelberger Rotstock and Wissigstock


Published by Stijn , 21 October 2014, 19h42.

Region: World » Switzerland » Obwalden
Date of the hike:18 October 2014
Hiking grading: T5 - Challenging High-level Alpine hike
Climbing grading: I (UIAA Grading System)
Waypoints:
Geo-Tags: CH-OW   CH-UR   Ruch- und Walenstockgruppe   Chaiserstuelgruppe   CH-NW 
Height gain: 1350 m 4428 ft.
Height loss: 1450 m 4756 ft.

With a fabulous weather forecast and not really feeling like doing another solo hike, an event on the meetup.com group "Zürich Hike & Outdoor" headed for the Engelberger Rotstock came at the perfect time. I signed up for the opportunity to meet some new hikers and do a route that was on my wish list anyway. In a group of five, we took a overcrowded bus to Oberrickenbach and had to queue for a while for the Bannalp/Chrüzhütte cable car, before being able to get started properly.
 
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We start hiking towards the Bannalper Schonegg on an easy path. The narrow tower of the Bietstöck, a secondary summit to the Chaiserstuel, is an immediate eye-catcher. The Bietstöck ridge look pretty good; it's gone straight onto my list of routes for next summer. Behind, the Walenstöcke look pretty impressive in the morning sunlight as well.
 
After the Bannalper Schonegg, the path become a little rougher, going across typical limestone terrain (T3). A few of the limestone plates could potentially be quite treacherous in wet conditions, especially on descent. On the final ascent to the Rot Grätli, route finding is a little tricky, so keep your eyes wide open for painted markings. The colour is white-red-white pained over old white-blue-white markings: quite surprising, because usually it's the other way around. Maybe it has to do with climate warning and glacial retreat, which has pretty much annihilated the Schöntalerfirn?
 
The saddle at Rot Grätli provides some stunning views of the pointy peaks of Hasenstock and Ruchstock. From the saddle, the main path goes south-west in the direction of the Rugghubelhütte. Those headed for the Engelberger Lücke should not choose this path, as it looses too much altitude, but instead ascend east onto the ridge following white-blue-white markings. This path soon descends again onto the southern side of the ridge, later joining the main path from the Rugghubelhütte. I decide to try out a more direct route (map), which keeps to the ridge, which is promptly interrupted by a notch (already clearly visible from below when coming from Bannalp). The ascent onto the other side of the notch is the crux, involving some exposed grade I scrambling (T5; fixed rope; would be more scary in descent). Afterwards, an obvious path traverses across a ledge, going slightly uphill until it ends up just above the Engelberger Lücke.
 
The final ascent onto the Engelberger Rotstock involves zigzagging over a steep slope with annoying amounts of scree (T4). In spite of some white-blue-white markings, it's not always obvious what is the best route. I'm on the summit together with Matthias who had organized the hike; the other three had already given up either at Rot Grätli or at the Engelberger Lücke.
 
While I'm up here, I can't resist bagging the Wissigstock as well, on the other side of the Engelberger Lücke. True to their names, while the pyramid of the Engelberger Rotstock is covered by reddish scree, the Wissigstock is surrounded by snow fields and small glaciers. The path, however, is almost entirely free from snow. While the Wissigstock is the higher summit at 2887m, the path is actually considerably easier (T3) than the ascent of the Rotstock. There are also a lot more people on the summit. While we had the Rotstock to ourselves, there are about ten other people enjoying the sun on the Wissigstock. T-shirt weather at 2800+ metres in the second half of October, what a treat!
 
The descent to the Rugghubelhütte is relatively straightforward, though it's easy to stray below the main path in the Rot Grätli / Höchen Griessbänder area without realizing. The hut is already busy, and there are still many people (mostly families with children) hiking up to spend the night there. After a long descent, my hike is over at the Ristis cable car station. I come across my four fellow hikers again, with whom I started the day. It's nice how, though we all had very different aspirations and levels of fitness, we managed, thanks to a little flexibility, to all have a great and fulfilling hike.
 
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Now, comparing my photo with Bergamotte's, which one would you say has been taken in August and which one in October? It summarises the weather of this summer and autumn pretty well. Delightful to have such great conditions for alpine hiking as late as the second half of October.

Hike partners: Stijn


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