Vater & Tochter am Einstieg | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen

26 Jun. 2017 · Summer Activities | Family
Elmar Müller

On the ropes

 Tomorrow we can do the Kanzelwand climbing route!”

“Dad, look at the Ifen - tomorrow’s going to be the perfect day!” I’m sitting with my daughter, having dinner. I turn to face the window. “See? Red sky at night!” “Yes, and...?” - “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight! Tomorrow we can do the Kanzelwand climbing route!”

Ah of course. I know this old farmers’ saying. The red sunset really is gorgeous. Tomorrow should be a wonderful day. Just to be sure, I check my smart phone too, and it agrees: Kleinwalsertal, sunny, 26 degrees. “Are you really sure you want to climb it?” “Yes, of course I am, on my climbing taster course the mountain guide said that you can do the family climbing route from the age of eight, and I’m 8 years, 2 months and 6 days old!” Well, there’s no arguing with that logic. 

Detail Karabiner  | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen

After dinner we head down to the basement to get our equipment ready. A special children’s harness, gloves, helmet, climbing set. I put a few carabiners and a 10 metre rope in my rucksack - well, you never know. Tonight there’s no argument when I announce bedtime at half past eight. And when we get up the next day, our daughter is still unrecognisable – she hurries into the bathroom, washes and appears not ten minutes later at the breakfast table - in full gear, including harness! “I don’t think we need to rope up for breakfast, but if you feel safer, go ahead.” “Ha ha, I need to check if my harness sits right.”

An hour or so later, we are heading up the mountain in the Kanzelwandbahn lift. It’s a beautiful summer’s day and at 9:30 already very warm. We arrive at the mountain station and head off towards the Kanzelwand summit with our rucksacks. Around 20 minutes later, we are at the start of the family climbing route, where we stop to put on our equipment. I check the harness is sitting correctly, double-check the fasteners are all properly closed - next, the climbing set. After her taster course (run every week by Bergschule Kleinwalsertal), Emma knows exactly how everything fits together, and makes sure that I do everything exactly the way Samuel the mountain guide showed her a few days ago. I get lucky, and get it all right! I’m still about to get an introduction to securing the rope, though. “Dad, you have two carabiners on your set – you have to hang them facing different ways on your rope and it’s really important that only one is unhooked
and the other one is securing you. Never unhook them both! That can be fatal!” 

Emma am klettern | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen

I’m really surprised at how Emma has noticed everything and at the same time amazed at how seriously she is taking it at the age of 8 years, 2 months and 7 days. Respect! I briefly explain to her the route through the west wall of the Kanzelwand. I reckon we’ll be on the ropes for about an hour. The climb is recommended for ages 8 and up, but I know that
some parts of it are tricky and the footholds are better suited to adults. I let Emma go before me on the rope. The first few metres are steep, but she does really well, and concentrates. I’m really proud of her. After a few minutes we come to a spot where she has a bit of a problem due to her height. But as I’m climbing behind her, I can give her good support and she soon masters it. Emma clips herself to each carabiner in textbook fashion. Always one carabiner on the rope the other is unhooked. She continues up towards the summit at an unexpected rate of knots. 

But I know there is a crossing coming up that might challenge us. I say nothing, however, and Emma also manages this tricky spot with flying colours, and just a few metres further on we come to the highlight of the climb - the big rope bridge! Three wires are stretched about 20 metres above a small ravine. One for the feet, two a little higher up to hold onto. I notice that Emma is finding the task quite challenging, and even for me it’s not that easy to keep my balance on the rope But Emma manages in masterful style, even asking half-way across the bridge if we can stop to take a selfie. “No, Emma, I’m not going to take a photo, I’m quite happy to have both hands on the rope.” After the bridge you can take a short breather before it gets a little steeper for the last few metres towards the summit and the end of the climbing route. When we make it to the small plateau at the summit, Emma is grinning like a Cheshire cat - “Dad, that was amazing! Did you pack any
food?” Yes of course I packed some snacks! And we inhale them right next to the summit cross. 

Kleine Pause auf dem Gipfel | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen

It has been a wonderful father-daughter experience, and I am really proud of my 8 year, 2 month and 7 day old daughter. I would say to anyone reading, however, it really is a challenging route for children, and they need to be of a certain age and height before they attempt it. Climbing “solo” would only be advisable with good climbing knowledge and personal experience of rock walls. The safest option is a tour with a mountain guide from the Bergschule - they also provide all the necessary equipment for children and adults. 

 Winter hiking sledding | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Frank Drechsel

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