Freeriding The Arlberg, Again! Körbersee, 3-2019

The Arlberg Mountain is beckoning us again for a spring skiing extravaganza, tons of snow and perfect weather virtually guarantee another fantastic trip to the Körbersee at the north-western edged of this wonderful place, voted best ski resort in the world recently. And freeriding it was, exclusively!

Another day, another adventure. Day two of our Arlberg Freeriding trip. Around the Karhorn from Warth to Lech, then down the “Klemm” from the Zuger Hochlicht to Schröcken, a new and amazing experience for both of us. Freshly thawed corn snow in the first run, powder and steep bowls in the second. https://www.warth-schroecken.at/…/der-beste-freeride-run-am…

Our Arlberg Freeride adventure ended with yet another epic day. We followed the trail of a priest who was the very first person to ski from Warth to Lech in 1894 after he read about skis in the newspaper and ordered a pair in Scandinavia.
pfarrer-mueller-freeride
The snow was perfectly softened to a carpet by the early sun as we glided down to Lech. A beer in the Balmalp later we decided to take another run down to Schröcken, finding some other powder bowls in the process. Three perfect spring skiing days like never before!

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Heli-Skiing Adventure in the Yukon and Alaska, Canada & USA, 4-2017


The cry of an unfamiliar bird awoke me. Looking out of the motor home I realized that we were not in Austria anymore. My son Stefan and I had flown half way across the world to the remote territory in the Northwest of Canada in the wilds of the Yukon. The view outside was stunning as we had parked at the edge of a seemingly endless frozen body of water called Lake Atlin with snowy mountains on the horizon as far as the eye could see. The bird turned out to be a large bald eagle with its recognizable dark brown body and a white head and it was majestic. We were lucky to catch some spectacular footage up close of this formidable bird of prey at the beginning of our third movie of our Canadian sojourn.

My son Stefan and I had decided to take a special adventure trip together to celebrate my 60th and his 25th birthday organised by Furtenbach Adventures. Our original destination was heli-skiing in Japan but it was canceled unexpectledly and instead we chose the other side of the planet. The itinerary was a very different type of trip, rather than hotels we travelled in large motor homes with two people per vehicle with the advantage being that we had the option to go where the weather and the snow were most optimal.

We flew into Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon and began our journey there. Our small caravan consisted of three motor homes with five participants and our Austrian guide Harald. After our group stocked up with supplies we drove south on the scenic Alaskan Highway into British Columbia. We had changed from our original destination, the Haines Pass and were lucky that the weather was much better in Atlin, and that the local Atlin Heli Sports was able to accommodate us. After arriving Harry gave us a thorough avalanche preparation course including how to trigger the reusable airbags. The charismatic owner André Gutenberg and his lovely wife and daughters as well as his team took great care of us. The following day we cooked out and spent the night on the lakeshore. As my son was taking photos around 11:30 pm he noticed a green sliver on the displayed picture on the camera. We hadn’t detected it with our eyes yet but it was the beginning of the Aurora Borealis and we watched the sky turn into a green spectacle for 20 minutes. It was quite a sight to see.

We awoke with anticipation to our first day of helicopter skiing and all kinds of activity at the “ranch.” André informed us that he had obtained the rights to a mountain area that had not been skied for many years and that he was going to check it out with some other guides. We were to follow behind. Of course we were really excited about that, especially that he would consider our skiing skills good enough to follow his team. Our group consisted of three others from Germany including Jo from Swabia, and Tobi and Michael from Bavaria. They were all great guys and we became good friends. The mountains were a good distance away and our guides flew with the helicopter while we were transported to the mountains with an old de Havilland Beaver. The sturdy plane was 62 years old but flew like a youngster, piloted by the always happy Chris.

Our trusty transport landed on the lake near two big oil barrels that contained gasoline for the helicopter. A few minutes later the heli arrived and took us to our first landing site near the top of a mountain. We had received strict loading entry and exit procedures that required us to huddle with one knee near the aircraft on the ground so to avoid any possible contact with the overhead blade. First the skis and airbags were loaded into a side metal box of the heli followed by our group with four in the back, the lightest in the middle, and the guide on the left side. Due to Stefan being so light were we able to fit 7 people into this helicopter. The entire landing process took less than a minute before the pilot lifted off again. Unfortunately for us on the first day the weather and visibility was not all that great. The remote location was incredible but the snow conditions were challenging, nevertheless we were elated. Our group followed the tracks of the guide group, sometimes veering off a bit to get fresh powder. Whenever we got to the bottom of a run the heli was there in no time, and we flew off to begin anew. The weather improved as we also descended further into the valley and below the tree line. Meal time proved challenging as well. Lunch was served next to the heli at the bottom of the run but getting there we had to master the increasingly difficult terrain ending in complete slush. I had borrowed a pair of skis and they were not as wide as what the others had and I definitely paid the price for it that day. After a wonderful lunch of hearty soup and sandwiches we had a few more higher runs then headed on home. We were surprised by a wonderful steak dinner that Mira, André’s wife, cooked for us.

The next morning the process was repeated but his time Stefan flew with the guides. This day I borrowed some really fat Kästle skis that were perfect for the terrain and was then able to thoroughly enjoy the entire day. We flew to two distinctly different areas and had a blast with the snow quality improving due to the lower temperatures. On the third day in Atlin we went snowmobiling with our guide who lead us to the Hinterland and prepared a wonderful barbecue with delicious Moose burgers. The only casualty that day was Stefan’s drone which he had the bad luck of flying it into a tree as he was filming. Fortunately two sets of rotors fixed the little critter that provided us with so much amazing footage.

The following day it was time to say good bye and head back north, then southwest to Carcross – originally called Caribou Crossing – from there over the White and Chilkoot Pass across the Canada – US border to Skagway. Our route was an amazingly beautiful drive that followed the famed Klondike Trail that so many hopeful prospectors traveled in the last years of the 19th century to pan for gold. The town of Skagway still pays tribute to that time and in the summer visitors can take the Yukon Route Railway up to the White Pass.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klondike_Gold_Rush

We made camp at a quiet park near the Skagway town hall and had a nice dinner in town with lots of locally brewed beer. The following day we took a one hour ferry boat to Haines across the sound. It was a beautiful sunny day and we saw the destination of our next ski adventure beckoning us from the distance. In Haines we checked in with SEABA, our next heli company that had a sprawling lodge on a hill overlooking the ocean that was not far from downtown. In the lodge we met a rowdy group of bartenders from Lake Tahoe, California who were spending ten days in Haines. Stefan immediately connected with these guys since he had grown up in Southern California.

We had to wait two more days before the weather was acceptable for flying, so we explored the town and its surroundings and ventured out to the Chilkoot State Park. The next day we drove up the Haines Pass, where another heli outfit was located. This had orginally been the place where we had planned to ski first but decided against and it turned out to be a good choice we had made. A Red Bull film crew and a professional snowboarder had been holed up there for a week due to bad weather. Despite the weather we drove further on and took a 2 hour ski tour in heavy winds and fog, at least we got to use our muscles a bit.

Friday came around and there was an excitement in the air at the lodge. The guides met at 7 am and the cook had prepared us a fantastic breakfast. We prepared and loaded up our skis, airbags into the shuttle vans and took off promptly at 8:30 to the close by airport. Each one of us was given a climbing harness and a radio, and we were weighed with and without all of our gear. We were assigned a cheerful guide named Austin and took off into the clear skies with breathtaking scenery below us. It was the most unbelievable day. The mountains were much steeper than Atlin, in fact Haines is a place were many professional extreme skiers come to film incredible descents.

Our fifth run was called the Pineapple Express and was named after a weather phenomenon. Just looking down the steep 50 degree descent sent shivers down my spine. Our guide took out his climbing rope and secured a second guide so he could test the stability of the snow. All checked out so the first group skied down one by one. Then it was our turn. Stefan dropped in and lay down fast powder lines. Two thirds down the slope there was a snow hill sticking out, which he attempted to use for a jump. Unfortunately it was an icy mound, he landed badly and ended up somersaulting several times without his bindings opening up. Both of his legs were severely shaken around in his boots, that gave him a contusion in both calves. He ended up doing one more run but then had to quit because of severe pain. Even though he was able to walk just fine when out of his ski boots unfortunately he could not ski again. We did 8 flights and runs that day and it was definitely the most epic ski day of my life. To top off the day despite Stefan’s injury we did enjoy a fine seafood feast of Alaskan king crab.
Saturday brought some great weather to begin with but we had to stop after four runs because of clouds moving in. The following day Jo and Michael attempted to go out but ended up with only two runs and a lot of waiting at the airport. To our surprise the company then gave us a gift of another four runs the following morning. Our guide was on a snowboard and we finished skiing with some wonderful powder. Our last evening our group came together for our farewell barbeque on the beach and we made a strong fire and grilled some awesome ribeye steaks with baked potatoes professionally prepared courtesy of Harry. The setting sun bid farewell to this incredible scenery with its glaciers down to the ocean and steep mountains reaching to the skies.

Our drive back into Canada via the Haines Pass to Haines Junction and then onto Whitehorse was uneventful and we returned our RVs. The next morning we left for Vancouver while the others headed back to Europe. We spent a nice evening in one of Canada’s finest cities and flew back home the following day. It was an adventure of a lifetime.

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Freeriding The Arlberg, Körbersee, Austria, 3-2017

The blue snow glowed under the full moon as the dark slopes loomed silently against the skyline. At its towering feet the Körbersee Lake lay covered in its winter mantle and the March night was magical high in the Austrian alps. Franz, myself, and our son had come for some days of spring skiing to meet up with a lively group of friends we try to meet every year somewhere in Europe. And this year the snow gods smiled upon our lucky crew and bestowed some fresh powder and sun drenched days. To make things even better the primo weather made for some incredible photographic opportunities that our group indulged in.

The Körbersee Hotel is a small oasis in the Warth/Schröcken ski resort with access to Lech am Arlberg only a few hills away with the speedy Auenfeldjet gondola. What makes the lodgings unique is that access to the hotel is either by foot via a hiking trail from Schröcken or Warth or one can ski in, cross country or downhill. This small gem lies in a small valley with an unsurpassed view and an easy cross country trail around the lake with even more advanced trails into the mountains. We will be back next year for sure!

What makes this film especially unique it is our first time to use a drone for spectacular aerial views of these magnificent mountains, especially the Juppenspitze and the Mohnenfluh.

http://www.koerbersee.at

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Slumming the Swiss Alps, Medelser Hut, Graubünden, Switzerland, 4-2016

As a fitting end to our ski season my friends and I from Vienna, Bregenz, and Zurich headed to the Canton of Graubünden (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graubünden) in Switzerland, where the local language spoken is Romansh. Near Disentis we began our three hour trek to the top of a ridge where the Medelser Hut sits prominently lording over the surrounding valleys (www.medelserhuette.ch). The weather was partially sunny and we all hoped for some bright days of sunshine. On the Saturday of our arrival there were several other parties who had spent one night and the following morning climbed to a nearby peak then headed on home. We planned on staying until Wednesday and from Sunday and we were the only guests. The couple that ran the hut named Petra and Thomas were from Southern Germany and they had just taken over the hut management six weeks earlier. This was a new experience for them to run a place where supplies and waste could only be transported by helicopter in the winter. Petra was a fantastic cook who also baked fresh bread and cakes, we were unexpectedly spoiled rotten.

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We also learned from them how difficult it is to manage a hut like this. In the winter there is no running water, every drop of drinking water was from melted snow. It is one thing to read this on a website, yet another when one uses the washrooms and no faucet works. The toilets didn’t use water either, instead they had a three stage filtering system for the waste. In the mornings and the evenings two water bottles were placed at the sinks, so that the guests could brush their teeth. Any further hygiene was done outside. We take water for granted, especially in central Europe where we have non-chlorinated drinking water even in our toilets, some people view this as an amazing waste of our planet’s most valuable resource. The text below translates to: The snow of today is your tea of tomorrow.

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The day after our arrival the weather had turned bad. Fog appeared and the sun was gone. In spite of the conditions, all the parties from the hut ate a 6 o’clock breakfast and headed out for the Piz Medel. Fortunately it had been clear during the night and the snow was very hard. We skied down a few hundred feet then put on our skins and began trekking up to the glacier and beyond. Due to the snow being frozen we used a tool that can best be described as a ski crampon. It provided us with a serrated knife like blade on each side of the binding that cuts into the ice to prevent sideways sliding. One of our teammates decided to take his off, and paid for it with an almost immediate fall and a face forward slide of 120 feet on a surface that resembled rough sand paper. Unfortunately his face showed the consequences for many days. Once we reached the glacier the fog enveloped us completely and threatened us to turn around due to lack of orientation. But we were lucky and the fog lifted, allowing us to see our destination despite the wind that was blowing stronger by the minute. To reach the cross on the peak it was necessary to navigate a precarious narrow ridge, with crampons providing additional grip. The face of the mountain had some beautiful packed powder in store for us. Unfortunately further down the expected “firn” – the top inch of frozen snow melted in our much anticipated descent – never came because of the cold temperature. But we had completed our first peak and happily trekked back up to the hut for an afternoon snack and a wonderful dinner.

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The following day things turned even worse. We were situated on the continental “wind” divide, where the strong southern winds, sometimes coming from as far away as the Sahara, bring precipitation to the southern side, and the northern fronts bring rain and snow to the northern side of the Alps. As we looked down to either side of our eagle’s nest we could see the valley where we had come from had sunshine while we were skiing into the foggy abyss on the other side and into a snow storm. The snow had turned very soft, which made for a unique carving experience, more like surfing than skiing. At the bottom of the steep decline we headed towards the next peak but were forced to turn around after thirty minutes due to the lack of visibility and the increasing winds that blew fresh snow directly into our faces. We headed back up the steep ravine for more R&R and card playing at the hut. The last day was a carbon copy of the previous one. On Wednesday we said good bye to our gracious hosts and headed down into the valley. The wind was still blowing strong, only this time it was at our backs and we were headed down to the sunshine. It was amazing how much snow the wind had melted during the previous five days. We had to take off our skis many times and crossed  a river just to make it back to our cars. Another year, another ski tour!

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Solitude on the Hoher Freschen, Vorarlberg, Austria, 3-2016

The recent snowstorms prepared a winter wonderland for a pristine ski tour. My friend Kurt and I fetched our skis and skinned it up to the top of the Hoher Freschen, a picturesque mountain high above the Rhine Valley. Our route began at the bottom of the Laterns ski area and  we trekked up 2000 vertical feet to the Nobspitze just above the top of the highest ski lift.

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From the peak in the far distance we could see our destination. After removing our skins we skied down to a lower plateau where our final ascent began. The valley was completely silent and we were the only skiers on the entire mountain and I cherished the solitude of the amazing surroundings. Climbing for two more hours we finally reached the top and it felt like we were much closer to a higher power perched at the edge of the snowy cliffs. Taking in the view and a snack we bundled up and headed back down to the bustle of the ski area. On my way back home these peaceful images were still embedded in my mind.

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http://www.laterns.net/web_w/index.html

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Skiing The Top Of The Alps, Courmayeur, Italy, 2-2016

The light spot at the end of the tunnel grew larger as we completed the last 7 Miles from France into Italy. The Mont Blanc tunnel from Chamonix to Courmayeur saved us from a long drive around the highest mountains of the Alps. The sunset view over the Aosta valley was breathtaking, but we had only deep powder in mind. My son Stefan joined me to ski some of the most scenic areas in Europe, including France’s largest glacier, the Mer de Glace, the sea of ice.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mer_de_Glace

Courmayeur is a quaint town at the end of the Aosta valley, a family oriented ski resort. But it is also a magnet for free riders from around the world. We were not disappointed! More than two feet of powder had just fallen the night before we got there and all we had to do was follow the guys with the long fat skis and avalanche packs to the top of the ski area, where two tiny metal gondolas brought you up to the edge of the sky, like sardines packed for their final delivery.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courmayeur

Huge bowls on either side beckoned with steep descents, we chose left at first, then right on our second trip to the top. Well equipped with our own avalanche gear, transceiver, shovel, probe and airbag we dove into the deep powder and the ravines, Stefan always charging ahead. At the end of the day two tired but happy snow warriors ended up at the restaurant where we came out of the forest, only to find a suckling pig roasting on an open fire. A couple of beers and some pork made us the happiest people alive!

_DSC7088On the second day we continued our quest to find unchartered territory. It had gotten warmer and we had to work harder. A long descent at the boundary of the resort with the snow getting stickier by the minute at the bottom was our last hurrah for the day.

Courmayeur Punta HelbronnerThe grand finale on day three was the guided tour through the Vallée Blanche from the Punta Helbronner down to Chamonix, on the Mer de Glace. Two cable cars with revolving cabins take you up to a spectacular 11,358 ft, with views across the glacier to the Aiguille du Midi, a sharp needle close to the highest mountain of the Alps, the Mont Blanc, or Monte Bianco, its peak shared by France and Italy. The “White Mountain” stands 1272 ft taller than Mount Whitney, the highest mountain of the continental USA, at 15,777 ft.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pointe_Helbronner
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Blanc

_DSC7106 _DSC7126Our charming and seasoned mountain guide Mario Ogliengo provided our small international group with transceivers and climbing harnesses. These are especially important, because they provide the means for rescuers to pull you out of a crevasse if necessary. Crevasses are an ever present danger on glaciers, one can never be too careful.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvjUUgJgxJ4

The 20 km (13 mi) long tour provided us with amazing scenery, a bit of powder, and a day of feeling transported to another world. Dive with us into the abyss of rock and ice.

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Freeriding The Monte Rosa, Italy, 3-2015

Spring was in the air and that means time for some springtime skiing. For this years trip we ventured to a rather unknown ski area, the “freeride paradise” of the Monte Rosa. The Monte Rosa is a huge mountain between Switzerland and Italy with its highest peak, the Dufourspitze, being the second highest peak of the Alps, at 4,634 metres (15,203 ft). The Monterosa ski area covers three valleys with the highest cable car reaching Punta Indren at 3275m. We discovered quickly, that this area is a meeting point for freeriders from around the world. The sparse forest at the bottom and the huge bowls at the top lure daredevils and film teams when the conditions are right. And right they were! After a foggy start we glimpsed a bit of the mountain on our first day, the following day we woke to heavy snowfall and a fresh base of almost two feet of the lightest powder you can imagine. The top of the mountain remained closed for two days while the hoards of freeriders raced through the forest like ghost warriors in the Lord of the Rings.
http://www.monterosa-ski.com/?lang=en
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Rosa

My son Stefan and I rented fat long free ride skis and joined in the chase, and what an experience that was! The forests on the northern side of the Alps are much thicker than in the Monterosa, and they are protected so normally skiing through them is forbidden. In the Monterosa there is plenty of space to make fast turns between the trees one just has to watch out for the numerous buried rocks that love to strip you of your gear and turn you into a gasping snow diver.

Stefan1

The third day found us exploring the Champoluc area with some beautiful deep powder bowls while we all hoped for the sun to come out. The sun came out the following morning and there was a special electricity in town as the sounds of a helicopter and explosions echoed from the top of the mountain. We all waited and hoped for the top of the mountain to open up for we had reserved a local guide in anticipation of a last day of glorious skiing. At promptly 8:45 we met our local guide Jimmy at the bottom of the hill. He was a very charismatic guy, known to almost everybody in town, and we immediately took a liking to him. He proved to be an excellent guide and we followed him without reservations for our first amazing run down the mountain. After our initial warmup we discovered that the top of the mountain had opened up and we headed there to begin a day of indescribable freeriding in the amazing landscape.

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Sheer dark granite faces lined the winding road as our small car climbed the steep incline up the narrow route that led us to our skiing destination in Northwestern Italy in the remote Gressony Valley of Gressoney-Saint-Jean. My husband, our son, and I had made our way from Austria via Switzerland over the San Bernardino Pass and we had made a small detour around the picturesque Lago Maggiore. The lake is known for its beautiful gardens and the camellias had just burst with vibrant shades of pink and spring was definitely in the air. We stopped for lunch in the quaint town of Cannero Riviera that was decorated throughout with yellow and orange ribbons and lemons. The town was beginning a weekend Citrus Fruits Festival to welcome the coming of spring by celebrating the acidic fruits of the region such as lemons, mandarins, oranges, and grapefruit. We enjoyed a special menu for the day with house pasta specialities and topped it off with a delicious lemon tiramisu. http://activitieslakemaggiore.com/whats-up/citrus-fruits-festival-2014/

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As we entered the the Valle di Gressoney-Saint-Jean we were greeted by the characteristic gray stone houses nestled in the valley floor that had been settled by the industrious trading people known as the Walser from nearby Switzerland. The Walser people are of Germanic origin in custom and costume and speak a distinctive “titsch” dialect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walser. Within the valley a mixture of French, German and Italian is spoken called Valdôtain and the signage and food reflects the melding of the three cultures. Gressoney-Saint-Jean is a charming small town nestled along a sparkling river with the snowy high peaks of the Monte Rosa (4634m) referred to as “His Highness” that hold the snowy treasures we had come to experience. The Monterosa ski resort attracts international skiers beckoning them with over 180km of skiable area complete with the highly sought after free ride and glade skiing terrain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aosta_Valley.

A few highlights of the town that I found of interest was the regional fauna museum, the Alpenfaunamuseum Beck-Peccos that displayed an eccentric but interesting collection from the region and an anomalous hunting and horn collection. Another historical tour was of the stately castle that overlooks the valley, the Castel Savoia built by Queen Margherita of Savoy and King Umbetto I of Italy in 1899. The royal couple were avid hunters and nature seekers and made their holidays in the valley and it was to become a fashionable destination for the high society.

Castle

The food of Gressoney-Saint-Jean is simply magnificent. We wined and dined ourselves through some of the best restaurants in the town such as The Nordkapp https://it-it.facebook.com/pages/Nordkapp/156303271136763 and My Hostaria https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Hostaria/601500593295445 reveled in the robust bounty of the region. The food combines the Italian, French, and German cuisine into flavorful dishes fit for a king. We enjoyed antipasti appetizers with local salamis of beef and chamois and local cheeses such as Fontina, Toma and Seras complete with rustic beads. A speciality dish is Valpelline which is a type of breaded soup with cabbage and cheese, polenta of all varieties, and tender local beef steaks and beef cheeks.

Stefan eating

One wine we enjoyed with our evening meals was a local Donnas made from the Nebbiolo grape. The highlight of our culinary Aosta adventure was in celebration of my son’s twenty fourth birthday. We booked a table at Punta Jolanda at the top of the mountain and it just happened to coincide with the highly anticipated heavy snowfall. And snow it did. We were met at the base of the mountain in a blizzard of snow with an enormous snowcat that transported us up to the top of the mountain in an unusual mode that was noisy but fun despite the almost white out conditions. The restaurant was a cozy enclave with a commanding view of the valley below that unfortunately we could not see but admired nevertheless. We enjoyed a delicious meal, began with a fruity prosecco and our main course was an enormous 2 kg of florentine beef paired with a lovely rich Piedmont Barolo. We topped our meal off with lovely desserts of fruit, mousse, and crème brûlée. A wonderful meal, in a wonderful place, for a wonderful son. Life does not get better.

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Ski Tour in the Upper Bregenzerwald, Austria, 2-2015

It was a beautiful winter morning when we drove to Schoppernau and started our ski tour to the Toblermann (http://www.tourenspuren.at/toblermann-2010-m/). We put the skins on our touring skis and started the trek up the mountain, total elevation change was 1140m, over 3700 ft. It got warm quickly, which didn’t bode well for powder on the way down. The landscape was gorgeous as we came out of the valley and saw more and more peaks of the surrounding mountains, int the East the mountains of the Arlberg and in the West the Kanisfluh above Mellau. There were quite a few parties sharing our path, after 2 1/2 hours we reached the top and prepared ourselves for the downhill. My son Stefan and his friend Dominik decided to ski down a bowl while a took photos of them from the ridge. They then hiked back up and we had a short lunch before we started to ski down. The snow got heavy quickly, then mushy and really wet. We were glad when we finally reached the valley floor, but all in all it had been a great outdoor event!

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Winter has arrived in Bregenz, Austria, 12-2014

Long faces on December 25th, no white Christmas again! And the weather forecast was cryptic, definitely rain the following day, maybe a little snow, after that it could get warm again. And then to everybody’s surprise it started snowing on the 26th, and it kept on snowing with interruptions until the 29th. Then the heavens really opened their gates: it snowed for two days straight, in total over 1 meter (over 3 feet). I grew up in this town and don’t remember anything like it.

 

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Scaling the Marmolada by Via Ferrata, Italy, 9-2014

Once a year I get together with three of my cousins and a couple of friends and scale a mountain, preferably one with a glacier where we also have to climb a bit. This year’s choice was the Marmolada, the queen of the Dolomiti mountains in Northern Italy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marmolada). We chose the highest of the five summits on the ridge, the Punta Penia. We drove to our starting point near the town of Canazei. The area is called South Tyrol, it was the site of heavy mountain combat in World War I (http://www.worldwar1.com/itafront/marmolada.htm). After hiking for an hour and a half we reached our beautiful hut for the night, the Rifugio Contrin (http://www.rifugiocontrin.it). After a good night’s sleep we started our tour and reached the “Forcella Marmolada” in a couple of hours.

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That was where the real fun began. A “via ferrata” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Via_ferrata) is an “iron path” that leads up the steep rock face. We all brought a via ferrata kit which served to attach the climber to the metal cable. Every few yards one has to disconnect the carabiners one at a time to continue to the next rock joint. This enabled us to scale the steep rock face that would otherwise have been impossible to climb. Below you can see the entire course starting at the bottom right.

Marmolada Westgrat Klettersteig

 

Two hours later we reached the end of the via ferrata and the beginning of the glacier. Here we took out our crampons, attached three people to one climbing rope for protection against falling into a crevasse, and marched to the peak.

Marmolada

We then descended along the glacier, on the diagram above on the bottom left. An antique single person lift then took us to the bottom of the valley. It was a fantastic two day tour!

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