The Black Monk, Switzerland

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Mönchsbüffel it is a rock tooth protruding from the west side of the "Black Monk" peak in Switzerland. The top of this rock formation is located 2080m above the sea level and the vertical wall is 1200m above the Lauterbrunnen Valley deck. The first attempt of this line was made by Bernhard Witz last year, but unfortunately no one on the trip was able to complete the line. That's how Faith Dickey, Jordan Tybon, Kemer Mitch and I were invited to the crew this year.

As always, just before the trip started the things took different turn. Andy Lewis had to fly back to US a bit earlier and Jerry Miszewski couldn't make it because of he had to return to take care of his slackline company, Balance Community. In the beginning we planned to have 5 people in the team which would work together up in the mountains. Because of the deal arranged with the sponsors, Bernhard invited another person to the project, Sebastian Flügge, from the Landcruising team. Landcruising supported the project by the expensive slackline equipment (including super light, strong and … expensive Aeon webbing made from dyneema fibers). In the end we didn't end up using any of the Landcruising gear, which was intended for a 70m long new project. The reasons why we didn't use it is a story for another day). All in all, we would like to say thanks to the all German crew and the effort they put into the project, the gear, and help with organization. Another three people which joined the trip were our friends Grischa Simon. Helmar Fasold, Anatolij Maltsev, they arrived a bit later because of another previous project.

On 31st of July Jordan, Faith and I started our hitch-hiking adventure to Switzerland. Jordan got a ride first with a couple of young people going all the way from Berlin to Switzerland, and Faith and I took several rides, coming through Stuttgart to get to the border. On the way we got the message that our friend Mich was also underway to Switzerland from Munich. Jordan got a hold of Mich and met up with him on the border, and soon after that the met up with us and all three of us were sitting inside Mich's car. I still don't know the explain how all four of us together with our backpacks and the gear fit inside Mich's small Peugot 307, but we managed.

Around 0.00 we arrived in Bern to Bernhard's place, where the spirited discussions didn't stop until the early morning hours; that's what happens when you put a group of fanatic slackliners in one room. We started next day with morning coffee and warm-up highline stretched between Bernhard's balcony on the 5th floor to a tree on the backyard. Because the only car we had was small Peugot owned by Mich, many of us had to go to Stechelberg and hitchhike from there. We were the obvious choice because of our extensive HH experience. The rest of the team shouldhave been there just before us or soon after, in theory, that is. Unfortunately Mich ate some bad spaghetti and was recovering from a bad case of food poisoning. That cause a huge delay as he wanted to rest before the hike, and so instead of hiking afternoon we had to start when it was getting dark and the storm was coming. That's the point when our story can't be described anymore in colorful way … We had to hike in the night duringheavy rain with a lot of thunders and lightning, all carrying 40-45kg packs, for about 7-8 hours; it was a special experience for sure. Because of all these obstacles, only Bernhard and Sebastian reached the bivy that night. Jordan. Mich and Tamara had to sleep in the 2 person tent on a very steep, very slippery grassy hill during the rainy night. Faith and I had more luck and at least we were able to find some flat ground. The next day Bernhard and Sebastianhiked down to help carry gear and show us the way to the bivy. Bernhard described the way to the bivouac, "easy," and we went ahead, but again, this was too optimistic. We ended up walking right past the bivy and waiting for everyone, who weren't coming, to catch up. After several hoursin the rain and cold, the 700 euro video camera, borrowed from Gibbon, decided he was bored and wanted to take a stroll. He should have looked where he was going, because he ended up rolling about 500m down and off a very large cliff. Finally we decided to try and walk back to find the others, sitting reasonably warm and comfortable in the bivy.

I jumped straight to my sleeping bag because I didn't have any dry clothes left. A few hours later the clothes I was wearing were relatively dry, but I just couldn't warm up. The next surprise for me was a tick in my arm with red swelling around it. I didn't know if had vaccination for the diseases carried by ticks. After a short call to my uncle, a doctor, I decided that I would have to hike down the next day to Stechelberg and go to the hospital in Bern. Mich was also feeling quite unpleasant and decided to come down as well, not sure if he was going to feel good enough to return.

On the parking down in the valley we met up with Grischa, Helmar, and Anatolij to share our refreshing stories with them. Faith, Mich and I came back with the car to Bern. My visit to the doctor was quite costly, I payed 90 CHF for the information I had already found on google. We spent the next two days in Bernhard's apartment being bored and trying to decided what project had better chances to be completed. We had two options: repeating the two highlines on the North wall of Eiger or continuing the project on the Mönchsbüffel, but luckily the weather decided for us.For the next week the forecast for Eiger called for snow and even worse conditions than on the Monchsbuffel. It was time to head back up to the mountains … However, hiking back in the good weather was piece of cake comparing to the horror of the last time. In the evening Bernhard got good news on his phone: we suppose to have two days of perfect weather conditions – we were excited!

On Saturday, the 7th of August we were out from our bivy on the way to the highline spot, we wanted to rig this beast. While Faith, Mich and I were stuck in Bern the rest of the team were trying to cross the highline rigged by Sebastian. The rigging was two pieces of White Magic webbing to make the walk relatively easy and nice, yet unluckily, Sebastian earmarked only 1m for the pulleys system. White Magic has about 6% of stretch, so if the highline was 53m long the pulleys system should be at least 3,18m long, and the rigging was just improperly done. The line was taken down and despite our requests to leave the anchors and approach gear, it was all removed as well by Sebastian. So we set out to re-rig the entire project.

After day long rigging, at sunset Mich Kemer got the first ascent of the line (OS & FM). A few others tried that evening but the lighting was already quite bad and it was just too difficult in these conditions. For my birthday gift I got full-man ascent, but at the cost of an extremely uneven, uncomfortable, wet and cold bivy inside the small cave on ridge next to the highline. We didn't want to make the 3 hour approach from the bivy again the next day so we found a small, unlevel cave to sleep in next to the line. I spent a lot of effort to walk this line but finally got into the zone and cruised it across both ways. At the same day Bernhard, Faith, Jordan, Grischa and Helmar got their sends too. On his on-sight attempt Helmar fell about 5 meters before the anchor. At this point, we were totally destroyed from al the effort; the others derigged the line and we hiked down the next morning. Hiking down with heavy packs was an agony but we were keeping in minds that we just sent the most amazing line in our lives. We celebrated the "great success" at Bernhard's place by eating 65 Euro hamburgers and drinking bear and lots of free diet coke. We didn't want to spend 65 Euro for hamburgers, but Switzerland is expensive. We had originally intended to hitchhike back to Berlin, but we got lucky when Mich decided to change his plans a "tiny bit" decided to go with us to visit the cheapest and coolest European capitol.

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text by jan galek, photos by jordan tybon