Ascent of Piz Languard on 2014-07-24

Climber: Steven Thompson

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Thursday, July 24, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Ski Lift
Peak:Piz Languard
    Elevation:10702 ft / 3261 m

Ascent Trip Report

My final day.  I can't believe how fast this week has gone, and I also can't believe it has taken me this long to get to the Swiss Alps!  What a place this is.  To be fair I'm not really that much into mountaineering.  For me a solid 1500' - 3000' foot summit is more than enough.  If I can't get to the top and back down again in the same day.  I'm good.  I just can't get used to the idea of climbing multiple days with a large pack on my back.  Maybe that will change, but I doubt it.

Piz Languard seemed to fit the bill for what I wanted to hike to finish my first trip in the Alps.  A solid summit, a good hike.  It wasn't until later that I would find out from that Piz Languard is ranked #44 for Prominence on the Top 50 Switzerland Alps.  Go me.

We had put in a couple long days of hiking and climbing and Linda wanted to track down some clocks for her friend in Las Vegas.  I would be making the hike alone.  The day turned out to be drizzling with low cloud cover.  It has been this way all week, and according to most of the people we talked to, it has been this way all summer.  Usually St. Moritz is known for hundreds of sunny days per year, this year was the exception.

My trek started off on a bad note, I had to figure out the best way to get to Pontresina.  Train would be the fastest, but would leave me a long way from the chair lift.  Bus could deliver me closer, but I have had a hard time reading their bus schedule.  I ended up on the wrong bus.  When I realized I was on the wrong bus, I got off and discovered I had to walk to a station which had the correct connection.  Then I ended up having to wait some time for it's arrival. 

Pontresina is a fun little sprawling village, and I could see the lift making it's way up the hill side.  Trying to figure out a way through the small village to the lift was  not as easy as it appeared.  Finally I arrived and rode the open two seat chair lift to the high meadow of Val Languard.  By the time I reached the top, I was way behind schedule.  Checking the time for the chair lift, I discovered the final chair lift would descend at 5:00 pm.  If I couldn't get back to the chair in time it would be a long hike off the mountain. In the rain.  In the dark.

I headed off into the fog. Piz Languard is a 3,000 foot ascent from the top of the chair lift to the summit.  I wasn't mentally prepared for the hike, so for the first couple hours of hiking, it was long, steep and dreary.  I questioned the time, I questioned the wisdom. But I kept going.  Several people passed me, who took trail splits along the way. I kept plugging ahead.  

I had made up my mind that my turn around time could be no later that 1:30 pm.  If I hadn't reached the summit by then, I would have to give serious thought to if I continued.  By the time I reached the final marker where the trail turned directly up hill and disappeared into the fog and crag. I checked my watch.  What happened?  I was now ahead of schedule.  Somewhere along the way, the hike turned into joy as I soaked in the Alps, the view and the rain.  The clouds moved in and out, surrounding different peaks, but clearing long enough to see some amazing sights.  The trail marker said Georgy Hutte 30 minutes. I was stoked.

The trail becomes a series of switch backs as it makes it's way up the rocky hillside. Still class one, it is stunning in its rugged beauty.  The cloud cover stuck to the hillside, and visibility dropped to 50 feet. I had only seen a few people that day.  No one ahead of me that I could tell, but two hikers were behind me as I continued to catch glimpses of them rounding the trail markers.

Looming through the cloud bank I see the wood deck of Georgy's hut.  Beautiful.  The trail has become a series of steps along boulders, and several stunning tall cairns mark the entry to the hutte.  A Swiss flag blows gently in the breeze.  I make my way to the door, and enter the wrong compartment.  The caretaker directs me to the kitchen area, and greets me and the other small group who arrive about the same time.  It is a father and son.  We sit at different booths and I order a coke and nut cake.

The Swiss hut system is wonderful, and I marvel at having this spacious hut near the summit.  I don't know how much further I have to go to reach Piz Languard, but I know I had made good time, and should be able to reach the summit before I need to head back.  A book on mountain's sits on the counter while I wait for my cake and coke.  I flip it open and two very familiar peaks are staring back at me from off the page.  I would recognize The Watchman of Zion National Park, and Turtlehead Peak of Red Rock Canyon anywhere, but it seemed strange that a book in the Alps would feature two such desert peaks.

I nibble on my cake and drink my coke.  I ask the caretaker if he is cooking food.  Saying that it had been really slow today for guests, he had nothing prepared, but could if I wanted something on the return trip.  I told him I would love a bowl of spaghetti but I wasn't sure how long it would take me to reach the summit and back.  I was shocked when he said 15 minutes to the summit.  I let him know a bowl of pasta would be great.  

We walked out together, and I asked if the trail was this way (through the deck) and he said no.  Turning me around, he pointed to a small rise behind the hut, and said that is the summit of Piz Languard.  Wow, I was close.  He informed me that he would keep an eye on me and when I started down the mountain he would start the spaghetti.

The father and son followed me up to the peak, where we arrived in the estimated time of 15 minutes.  A few rocks are stacked on top of a larger rock beside the summit marker. A large metal triangle thing exists at the top, but I couldn't figure out what it is, perhaps just decoration.  Pictures were taken.  Clouds offered beaks to stunning views. The father and son high five'd their summit ascent. And I felt that overwhelming wave of awe as I looked out from the summit of a mountain peak.

True to his word, the caretaker placed a large steaming bowl of spaghetti and meat sauce in front of me within minutes of sitting back down in the hut. Another coke to wash it down as the swirl of steam engulfed me in the best tasting pasta I had eaten in a long time. Looking out the window, at 10,000+ feet, I wasn't surprised as the drizzle of rain turned into snow. What an amazing day.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3003 ft / 915 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3003 ft / 915 m
    Start Trailhead:7699 ft / 2346 m
Descent Statistics
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Steven Thompson
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