Plange Multipitch with Sebastian.

In preparation for our upcoming J+S Climbing Leader course, Sebastian and I decided to do another “practice” multipitch route. I was hoping we might be able to find something dry and snow-free in the Berner Oberland, but with recent snows we opted for the Bieler Jura. I’ve got a love/hate relationship with the Jura. It’s close to home, it’s often dry when the mountains are wet, it’s not too high, there is a huge selection of interesting routes, and sometimes the rock is even good. The downside: the routes are short (never more than 100m), the rock is often truly awful and truly awfully polished, and most of the sectors are not conveniently located with respect to public transportation.

Our destination was the “Face de Plagne”, an impressive limestone wall with routes of 4 to 5 short pitches. It’s home to some older routes that are bolted with cemented-in U-rings, and some newer routes with modern bolts. Our bus options were early or late, and I opted for late (arriving after 11!), which was a mistake in hindsight. After a nice short hike from the village of Plagne, we climbed down some ladders and chains to the foot of the wall and warmed up on the first pitch of “Face de Plagne Direct”, a 5b+ whose first 4 meters were super polished. We practiced simul-rappelling and then got set up for the main attraction, “The Wall” 6b, 6a+, 6b+,6b. The climbing was engaging right from the start, and there were sections where the rock was really nice. We spent a lot of time discussing rope-management, belay station set up, and general tricks and tips for efficiency on multi-pitch routes. As a result, we were definitely not efficient! After 3 pitches it was 4pm and we decided to descend. I was hoping for a stuck rope or something, so that we could practice some “problem solving on rappel”, and I wasn’t disappointed! I left a locking biner at a belay station and then forgot to unknot a rope before pulling it down. Solution: use the other rope to re-lead the pitch, fetch the carabiner and the knotted rope, and rapp back down. It was good practice, but cost time.

Back at the base of the wall, we went through the whole process one more time, and then practiced escaping the belay. Before I knew it, it was 7pm and we still hadn’t packed up yet. We had missed the bus from Plagne, but there was a chance that at a full run we might catch the train in Frinvillier. At a full run we mad a fully wrong turn and that was that - the train was no longer an option. Luckily, we were able to hitch-hike with a local back down into Biel and I was home by 9pm. Next week: the exam! Wish Sebastian and I luck!