Rigidalstock Klettersteig (+ Brunnistöckli and Zittergrat)

Published by Stijn , 22 October 2014, 19h35.

Region: World » Switzerland » Obwalden
Date of the hike:19 October 2014
Via ferrata grading: D
Geo-Tags: Ruch- und Walenstockgruppe   CH-NW   CH-OW 

If you wanted a quiet a quiet hike on Sunday, you might as well have walked up and down Zürich's Bahnhofstrasse. There could not have been many people left in the city, so many went into the mountains to enjoy the weather!
Back in July 2013, the Rigidalstock was my first Swiss via ferrata. It's also the first one that a visit for the second time. That's not because it's the most exciting route, far from. But the Rigidalstock is easily accessible from Zürich and a good place to take beginners at via ferrata, such as my two companions, Beata and Daniel. Moreover, a new variation has been opened this year, which I was keen to try out.
From the Brunnihütte, we first complete the easiest of the two small via ferrata's on the Brunnistöckli. The start is already quite spicy for a K2 graded via ferrata. The second half gets easier with a wire bridge, a ladder bridge, and some vertical ladders.
After the initial via ferrata fun, it's a little tiresome to have to gain 400m in altitude before the Rigidalstock via ferrata starts. Since this year, you have choice of two routes: the old "Rigidalstockgrat", which is still the only descent route, and the new "Rigidalstockwand", which is supposedly a little harder. In fact beginners are advised against doing the new route. I judge my two companions capable enough to go for it anyway. While Daniel copes perfectly without help, there are indeed a few spots where Beata gets close to her limit. The two crux points are a steep rock near the start, where you sort of have to swing yourself up, and a short overhang higher up in the route (both worthy of a K4 grade). The most interesting feature is definitely the Adleraugeloch, a cave with two openings. The via ferrata enters through the lower opening, and exits through the upper opening. Otherwise, the route can't really convince me. A little bit of Schrofen here, a rocky passage there, then again some iron rungs... It doesn't feel like the route has a very consistent character. (Same thing for the Rigidalstockgrat, to be honest.) At least the last 20 metres before joining the other route are really nice, scrambling over a slope completely covered with little irregular limestone 'dunes'. One of the easiest, but also one of the most enjoyable parts of the route. Afterwards it's a short final push to the Rigidalstock summit on a path that both routes have in common. Thanks to a relatively early start, it's not too busy yet on the via ferrata and on the summit. After last year's limited views, the visibility is absolute perfect this time. 
Descent is only allowed over the old Rigidalstockgrat (K3) route. I had hoped that the new variation would solve the 'two way traffic' problem on this route, but that's hardly that case. For many people, the new route is probably a little too difficult, and the majority of people still use the old route to climb up as well. Murphy's Lay strikes, as we encounter large groups exactly where passing it most difficult. Rather annoying.
I still want to check out the Zittergrat as well, the harder of the two short via ferratas on the Brunnistöckli. From the descent path, I traverse directly to the start of the route on a faint trail, just cutting off the top of a scree run. Last year, I thought the route was rather difficult. I'm curious if I still feel like this, with the extra experience and familiarity with the Swiss via ferrata grades that I gained in the meantime. In fact, I still feel that the Zittergrat is rather harder than the K4 grade in the official (and very nice) Engelberg via ferrata brochure. The route is very intensive, and the final overhang is clearly K5 to me, so don't underestimate it! Having said that, the route is certainly good fun. It has an attractive direct line and manages to include a good number of interesting moves in its short length. It's a pity that there's so much iron and that you don't get to use the good rock so much, but I guess the route is already difficult enough as it is.

Below, there are hundreds of people at the Brunnihütte and the ice cream is selling better than during the entire summer. Everybody is enjoying the last summer weather before the imminent "Wintereinbruch". And who can blame them?

Hike partners: Stijn

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