We were touring with skiers, three boarders - one on a Voile, one on a Burton and me on approach skis - all had their advantages and disadvantages - we were all wearing hard boots for the climbing / descending work - although we did not use crampons - conditions were very severe as you can read......will have some very good video footage which I'll be working on soon!
The group for the week is complete, and us "Four Brits" have been joined by some Swedes we know from La Grave.
We also have some top Swedish camera man joining us for the week, so be interesting to see how he manages with all his equipment, as
we've now sorted our kit out, trying to make our bags as light as possible, but with shovels, crampons for boots, splt boards / skis, axes, hard/soft shells, thermals etc it all soon adds up!
Highlight of the day was arriving here (near Solden) and Jes discovering that somehoe he had managed to leave his kit bag at the airport, so after a few frantic phone calls, bag was located still in Zurich! Luckily the Swedes driving up from La Grave were able to make a detour via Zurich, and late lasr night Jes was reunited with his bag!
13:30 arrived at the first hut, Langtalereckhutte 2430 mts after a nice slow steady hike up from Obergurgl - weather is fine, some cloud, temperature is minus 15, and with a strong strong wind it's more like minus 25, but you still get a sweat up whilst climbing up!
From the hut, we left some of our kit to make the packs lighter and then skinned up a slope behind the hut. Two of our "team" without their knowledge, had the first stages of frostbite on their cheeks, ear and nose, it was only one of the quick thinking guides who spotted the tell tale white patches of skin where the blood cells were freezing and was able to cover their faces up. This happens when you are hiking in one direction for about two hours in minus 25 and then add the wind chill!
We skinned up, and then took our packs and boards / skis off to hike the ridge to the summit, but the cold beat us back.
The run back down to the hut was spoilt by very bad visibility. But we all had a great meal and quite a few beers. The ensuing nights sleep, with nine men one female in the same room was of course marred by bouts of snoring!
Woke up to see much clearer skies, though still very cold. But then after breakfast clouds came in. The plan was to again leave some kit in the hut as we would be staying there that evening.
We made a 200 mt run down, again in poor visibility unable to make out any definition of terrain to get to a location to commence the climb up.
We started off making our way through a very narrow canyon . The sound of avalanches in our vicinity was really disconcerting. We climbed 200 mts, but our guide was not at all happy with the snow fields that would be above us should we have carried on. So the decision was made to turn back, as it was just too dangerous.
We then took a different route, in clear blue skies, passing a huge avalanche field that was a couple of days old. In these conditions we spread out giving about 30mts between each of us. So if we do get hit, it would only take out one of us, allowing the rest of the group to not only survive but hopefully search for the poor sod who was taken out.
The climb up skinning was quite tiring and technical at times. My short approach skis sinking in the very deep fresh snow. The guys on the split boards were fairing better, though one of the team was finding it quite hard work with the weight of the board in split ski mode, but it is all a compromise with different features of the kit that's being used.
The nice relaxed atmosphere as we were climbing up came to an abrupt halt as there was a sudden noise, like a muffled explosion. Those in the know, knew immediately what it was, I was not too sure, but the look on Per's face said it all.
That noise was in mountain speak a "whumpf" the immediate sound of the start of an avalanche. As someone said later, that is quite often the last sound people hear!
Per, the guide immediately made sure we all remained where we were, as the snow pack had a crack all above us. We then waited as the snow would then refreeze. Three members of the group were ahead of us, two were well clear, but for one he felt the snow he was on sink down.
After that we then made a different route out of there, avoiding the possible unstable snow pack that was surrounding us. Everyone was quite nervous - it also ruled out us descending back down that slope which was the plan.
Fifteen minutes later a couple of us experienced a smaller "whumpf" with the fracture line below us this time.
We then finally had a reasonable run back down, almost retracing our route of yesterday but in much better conditions.
One of the team Brit snowboarders (he who forgets luggage) was having major problems with his board running in the snow, either down to no wax, or remnants of glue from the skins holding the board back. His tactic for getting down was quite simple, straight lining the run, hardly bothering with turns!
We made another run down what we did earlier this morning, in so much better visibility , and as ever, perfect powder.
Well things are getting way better. We left the hut early and descended back down to Obergurgl. We hit the corduroy pistes early before the lifts had opened, so must admit that we all enjoyed that, as we had it all to ourselves.
After we eventually found the car park (amazing these guides can navigate in a whiteout in the mountains, but get them back into civilisation and they go awol).
We left Obergurgul, with me in the back of a car uploading via pda, the news stories to the web, not that easy using a stylus and pda screen on bumpy mountain roads.
We arrived at Vent, a beautiful Tyrolean village with a couple of lifts, a perfect location for a family holiday. The village was so "original", with wooden toboggans outside the shops, not a plastic bucket in sight!
We managed to negotiate a free lift up a T-Bar which saved us about 25 mins. We then commenced the long hike to the Martin Busch hut at 2.501mts from Vent (1.900mts).
The climb was a long 7km traverse across many avalanche slides, so we remained well spaced out.
We have all joined the "I hate aeroplanes" club, as the approaching jets ar very high altitude resemble the "whompf" sound, and puts you in panic mode. Mind you, it was so hot that we were in tshirts and so spaced out along the valley, if anyone had been hit, they would not get out!
So we all survived and made it to the hut, which we then discovered , as it as built in 1938 was originally called the Herman Goring hut!
So weather looks good for us, and the surrounding mountains are and faces offer so many options. This hut would be so good as a base.
Well today was / is the reason we do this. We left the hut at 08:00 and climbed up the valley at a gentle gradient. Weather was superb, as we then climbed up a steeper face.
We arrived at a ridge (3.400 mts), in around 3.5 hours, deposited the kit and made a final roped up hike to the summit, fantastic !
After the summit, we then had a run down the glacier we had just climbed, but not all the way! Perfect powder, fantastic freeride lines totally contradicting the "neat" little tracks made by an earlier (German ?) group, which were almost mathematically calculated with Ayrean efficiency.
It was then a 25 min up to a small col to enable us to enter the next valley. A small ridge, was the start of the next "mini" adventure as the drop down was very steep. The first of our group roped up and climbed down through "sugar" snow which was unstable. They made it down, then it was our turn, and Per determined that slide slipping and traversing out was the better option, though our sphincter muscles were working overtime!
We then had a superb descent down over the glacier, totally untracked, though not after we had finished!
We continued down getting in some 950mts of perfect powder, and with our trusty camera man, catching it all on film, when he's not wiping out whilst skiing down filming.
Credit must be given to Jes, who thought "turns" were "lame" and straight lined it, through was more to do with the wax on his board sticking.
The final climb to our hut for the nut was not without incident, as Jonathan set of a small slide, but all was ok.
The final 200mts climb up to the hut (Hochjoch Hospis) was over some pretty unstable snow, so were well spaced out - and we managed about 1.200mts of climbing, over 8.5 hrs - and no stops for lunch!
The Final Day
Again in beautiful weather, we left the Bella Vista hut at 08:45, all feeling a little shabby after a most excellent evening. This is a very "social" tour, where we meet many people of differing nationalities and we "Brits" along with the "Swedes" do our best to enjoy and make the most of the hospitality that the "huts" offer, and along the way we make new friends, though sometimes our antics might seem confusing to others!
The late start to the day however was not because of the previous nights "partying", though it was welcome. Our objective was to make our way down to chair lift that did not open till 09:15.
Whilst touring being on the piste is the one time it's possible for the guide to loose a client, as has happened before, taking a wrong turning at an intersection. And the challenge for us on boards is to keep up with the skiers who tend to hurtle down the empty pistes, reminiscent of their ski training / racing days. So we're literally on the "edge".
The chair lift was a welcome change saving us about a 350mt climb, which bearing in mind how some of us felt was the right move!
We then skinned up 250mts to a ridge, where the entry into the next valley was quite technical as we climbed down to a point where we could put our skis / boards on safely before slide slipping down a bit further to then be greeted by the sight of massive powder field leading down to the glacier we had climbed up the previous day taking us back into Austria.
This was snowboard heaven, and as the "guests" we took first tracks, but it was also for Andre, our resident professional camera man to hopefully get some good footage, and I don't think we disappointed him.
The run down was so long that some were having to stop to take a break to get their breath back, again nothing to do with the night before!
Once on the glacier, we then climbed steadily and then with mounting trepidation as we approached the col at 3,400mts. Once there the views down were so spectacular, truly, yet another special moment.
Once at the top, it was time to get into downhill mode, with nerves and adrenalin kicking in, for we were to be the first to go down to the valley below this season.
The glacier was so vast it meant that navigation was critical. At all times we had to follow inside the turns of Per's tracks because of the danger of crevasses, however the snow was very good.
Again due to the immense size of the glacier at times it was quite difficult to assess the gradient below, Ã¢â‚¬Å“was it to flat for a snowboard to run out or not?Ã¢â‚¬Â