Genau 694,24m erhebt sich der Botrange, der höchste Berg Belgiens, über dem Meeresspiegel. Eher ein Hügel also, der belgische Großglockner und eventuell Grund dafür, warum es die Belgier*innen sehnsüchtig in die hohen Berge und Wände dieser Welt zieht.

Damit besonders die „jungen Wilden“ und motivierten Nachwuchs-Alpinist*innen von Morgen bestens ausgebildet ihren alpinen Träumen und Zielen nachjagen können, gibt es in Belgien seit 2005 das MOUNT COACH ACADEMY Projekt, das ein Angebot der ÖAV-Auslandssektion Flandern ist. Das Ausbildungsprogramm ist dem Junge Alpinisten Projekt der Alpenvereinsjugend ähnlich und gibt sechs Teilnehmer*innen drei Jahre lang die Möglichkeit, Erfahrungen in allen alpinen Disziplinen zu sammeln.

Annelore Orije und Miel Cox sind aktuell Teilnehmer*innen des „Mount Coach 9“, dem neunten Durchgang der Ausbildung und  haben uns mehr über das Projekt erzählt.

Mount Coach Academy – Alpine climbing project for Belgian youngsters

Who are we?

Much like ‘Junge Alpinisten’, Mount Coach Academy is an intensive course for young enthusiastic climbers with a burning passion for the mountains. Based in Belgium, every two years a team of six youngsters is selected through a series of strenuous tests. In the beginning of 2021, six newcomers were introduced to the public as the 9th Mount Coach team. The upcoming two to three years this team will learn what they need to know to become experienced alpinists.

This requires a fair amount of commitment and persistence of the team members. Most of their upcoming holidays are being planned in as courses and trainings, leading to busy schedules but also great learning possibilities.

At the end of the two to three year academy, the whole team will go on a big expedition which they have to arrange and accomplish on their own.

Normally the academy starts off with a ski touring course in the Alps, which has all the ingredients to make a great teambuilding. But like many plans in the beginning of 2021, this adventure couldn’t take place, due to that pandemic you heard about. Fortunately, the team had better luck with the other courses on the schedule like multipitching in Presles and alpinism at the Bernina Range.

First course

In Presles, Vercors the team had their first course to practice and improve their multipitch techniques. The efficiency and speed of the handiwork needed some extra training. To make sure everyone masters this craft, each team member had to fully lead one multipitch route under the all-seeing eye of the coaches.

Although the weather wasn’t on their side, the brand new team couldn’t be bothered by that. Even more, these ‘wet’ conditions seemed to help with their teambuilding. All eager to learn and enthusiastic to be abroad again, the team couldn’t be stopped with a little drop here and there. The climbs in Presles proved to be very beautiful, yet challenging and rewarding at the same time. Worth a recommendation.

Alpine summer adventures

For the summer, the team headed off the Ortler Range in Italy for their first collective training in alpinism. Some of the team are well experienced in this terrain, but that’s not the case for everyone.  Stoked and in good spirits, the six of them jump in a van to drive off to the beloved Alps, leaving the flat Belgian landside behind them. Before arriving in Italy, they make a stop in Graubünden, Switzerland to climb Piz Radönt. The climb turns out to be the perfect starter for the course. On their descent they stumble on an icy lake which they decide to take a refreshing dive in. Then they take off to Italy again, where the real deal is waiting for them.

The first day they head to the Casati hut for the passage to Monte Cevedale that is planned in the upcoming day. On their way up, the members test their orientation skills and learn the basics in ice-climbing and Abalakov-anchor building. Important skills to master for the upcoming climbs. Monte Cevedale not included. Waking up the next day, the weather completely turned for the worse. Climbing to Monte Cevedale wasn’t an option anymore. No days are being wasted though, so instead they head out, looking for a crevasse to practice “Spaltenbergung”.

Spaltenbergung, Mannschaftszug und Seilrolle?

A whole new German vocabulary opened up for the team. Words like ‘Mannschaftszug’, ‘Seilrolle’, ‘Gardaklemme’ and ‘Münchhausen’ required for some extra concentration of the attentive listener. Despite the language-barrier, all exercises went smoothly. Something that can’t be said about the weather that day though. The forecast didn’t predict a change for the better any time soon, so the team decided to leave Italy again.

Back to Switzerland, this time to the Bernina Range. The team ascends the next day to the Bovalhütte, ready to attack Piz Morteratsch the next day early in the morning. They find their way to the top trough Crasta de la Spraunza, a long versatile route in every way. In the sky there’s sun, fog and some drizzle. Below their feet are rocks, snow, ice and a couple of pitches to vanquish. A successful day!

Next day MC 9 heads to the Diavolleza hut to approach Piz Palü the next day. The team plans to climbing the traverse ending in the valley of Morteratsch. The traverse takes you over three summits, with first a nice steep ascent to Piz Palü Ostpfeiler. From there on there’s an easy access to Piz Palü. To reach Piz Spinaz, a rather rocky part had to be passed, which turned out to be a real crampon agility parkour. From Piz Spinas it was straight down to the valley.

Once arrived in the valley, it was time for the team to turn back home, satisfied with all the new knowledge and already thinking about the next trip. In October Mount Coach 9 goes to Valle dell’ Orco in Italy for multipitching on granite in a more traditional way. Just like that the team always has a next course to look forward to. Just like the other upcoming courses such as ski touring, ice climbing, alpine climbing and many more.

Follow the adventures of Mount Coach on Instagram: @Mountcoach or read all about it on their blog

Text written by Annelore Orije and Miel Cox, both members of the MC9-team.

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