We arrived to Kiental after the darkness settled in, because right before we had to do some shopping and drive about 70 kilometers. Warm wind was promising good drying conditions, but the sound of nearby Gries canyon was not so inviting. Roaring of the waterfall nearby was telling us that maybe this canyon needs even lower temperatures and more time with no rain(although it was about 3 weeks since last drops fell upon this region). Casual evening with pasta, gluhwein and early bed time.
The next morning inspection of the canyon was turning us down: so much whitewater is not a good invitation. Main plan(just like the freezing alitude) however was a bit higher-Gamchi: with entry located at cca 2200hm, sometimes 50cm wide and down to 200m deep .
We decided to give it a go. Since our guide literature was intimidating us with short time windows, scales and level of commitment + we had some wild background story(icy glacial access) from Andrej(who visited the same canyon one year before) we left our only female companion back at the Griesalp where the views were awesome and lights were promising…we carefully placed our wet material to dry and the lucky ones stuffed backpack with secondary dry (wet)suits.
Hike up was easy with nice view into the lower part of the canyon restrained by its steep walls. That was not even our goal. After a couple of kilometers a plain opened up, a brand new hut shined in all of its glory and we knew we are almost half way there.
On the top the glacial world uncovered itself in all of its glory: huge saracs, glacial tunnels and plains of rubble, first exposed to sunlight couple thousand years ago, felt a bit uncomforting. When we got into the canyon entry it felt even less inviting: just a hundred meters from where we entered the canyon(and the water levels were acceptable) it started pouring in from all sides. It’s very hard to imagine yourself in a tight abyss with a chance of dihidrogen monoxide quantities multiplying, so before we reached our first abseil we said goodbye to 2/5 of our team: exiting the comfort zone is OK, but when instinct and guts tells you to quit(and you still can)….you better listen.
First couple hundred tight meters were short but quite easy. Afterwards the creek is about 30m wide and strategically placed anchor points offer an easy descent. Beyond that it gets technical and very dark.
The deepest abseil starts with a 10m redirected side climb.We decided to make another anchor point there, since re-hanging and abseiling from a single one felt a bit too sketchy. From there you plummet into the dark, for about 25m and another 30m vertical you get some proper wash down in the waterfall. Into the dark. The field of vision narrows down to 30cm, staying up right is a good idea, keeping ropes straight(big chance of them getting tangled due to waterfall winds/powers) essential. At the bottom it’s like during a massive hurricane-at night: water and wind from the waterfall hitting from most directions…windchill factor increases exponentially. Taking photos is not possible, because its too dark and flash only illuminates a curtain drops around us.
After just couple of meters, we got used to the dark, but still treating tight places with caution. Interestingly: absolutely no need for it…even the wildest wild water pools/turns turned out harmless, since they were just knee-deep. Some tricky gap-transitions to other anchor points and in about 2 hours of complete darkness we got to the pre-last anchor point.
Andrejs advice reduced into two words: “keep right”.
It was intense. Minor stupidity made my experience much worse tho; I’ve sat down onto a stone sattle right before hanging in and noticed I was sitting on my pirahna(abseil device). Looking down and trying to solve the problem without falling over my helm hit the wall and….I was blackened. It just took me couple of seconds and a lot of anxiety to realize I just need to turn my switch ON again.The rest of it was even worse than entry: direct abseil into a strong water stream in complete darkness…the only indicator of direction were the blinding drops. Aftrer the 35m abseil we quickly went for the refuge just behind the corner. Last abseil was right in front of us and finally there was light.
The view after the last abseil was simply spectacular. We have found ourselves in the middle of a great dome, about 50m in diameter, vertical walls surrounding us shooting up about 150m. Right from the side on the top there was a strong,concentrated stream of water which fell apart into tiny droplets due long fall and wind trough the canyon. We were quite speechless and also relived: the cold was biting us to the bone and we were very happy because there was just a 10 minute walk in a creek bed before we got onto open and much warmer plain again. “Gamchi, the amazing f**ker. This is why we do this.” Sandi concluded.
We have met with the rest of the team at the exit and walked the path back down to the parking lot. The stuff we have left outside was dry, so next morning will be nicer. We packed everything together and left for Kander tal, south of Fisistok. This will be our first south facing canyon on this trip.