Fantastic impressions, exciting situations, a lot of fun and many vital information. The last weekend was all about our splitboard / freeride glaciar course.
Early in the morning we meet in Tux our mountain guide Peter Bacher from Rock'n Snow. Checking the material he equips us with the necessary glacier stuff and then we are off up to the Hintertux Glacier. At half sunny weather we've already spotted from the valley the mighty foehn rotor rolling over the main ridge. Once we arrived at the top, the foehn storm (~80km/h) received us which will drag the entire course on us.
Quickly we leave the secured resort behind us and prepare for the entry into the icefall. We build a 5-man rope team and then we drive on the rope (splitboards and touring skis together) into the zone of crevasses. The unusual descent in a rope team in packed snow calls for a lot of coordination and teamwork and should have been excercised before it is time to rely on in an emergency.
Arriving at the icefall we secure the splitboards and ski against flying off with an ice screw and a rope. We put on our crampons and arm ourselves with ice axes. Becoming steeper and surreal it goes along deep, dark crevasses directly into the rugged world of ice. The storm drives the snow on the bare ice and within this roar we sometimes have difficulties understanding our guide when he gives us tips for safe and energy-saving crampons walking. Between huge seracs (ice-towers) and over small frozen steps we reach wind sheltered locations from time to time. Here we are teached the basics of ice climbing. We then try climbing an approx. 10 meter-high wall of ice, first with, then without ice axes, the latter with some support by Peter pulling the rope.
Later at the edge of a large crevassse, he demonstrated to us the crevasse rescue techniques, like the constructions of a stand, team pulling or the loose wheel. After six impressive hours in the ice, we go back to our splitboards for another descent roped togeteher. Exhausted as we are now, each one falls once, stopping abruptly the others in front. Downhill fun is different ;-)
Exhausted but happy we fall into our warm beds after a rich dinner to be fit again for the next day.
The wind, besides our mountain guide Peter, a faithful companion of this weekend, blows unabated. At the first section of the glacier cable car we put the skins on our splitboards and ski and make our way up to Frauenwand. We hike uphill comfortably abd discuss the possible hazards during the many breaks. We learn to recognize the signs of blown snow, to read the wind signs and to locate hotspots. With some occasional tips for perfecting the ascent technique we easy reach the windswept summit of this scenic tour. In the lee of a snow cornice we quickly dismount the skins, took some pictures, spotted some possible lines and we're on the run down.
In the afternoon the practical exercise of the crevasse rescue was on our schedule. So back up to the glacier and almost in whiteout through the foehn rotor to the "wind calmer" south side. Each one of the two 2-man rope teams plops down a gentle slope and has to be held by his partner first and then rescued out of the crevasse.
Sooner said than done, it's not that easy...
Ouch, ahh shit, my head is bleeding, the knee hurts so bad, help get me out of here, is what we hear from the victims while the rescuers are busy tugging weight from the one's body to an anchor to then initiate further recovery action.
With all the initial difficulties (practice makes perfect), our mountain guide Peter gives us knowledge and practice to be relaxed and free the partner safe from such a nasty situation.
Drenched and once again exhausted we return to civilization to finish the educational day with bacon and cheese, a piece of cake and Lumumba.
Despite, and partly because of the adverse wind conditions, we had a fantastic weekend in the ice, learned a lot under realistic conditions and now we can go even more safely on tour than before. Now we know what and how to practice wo be well prepared for demanding tours.
Another experience, splitboard and touring ski fit together very well, even at the rope without problems. Skiers act sometimes a little more flexible which evens out elsewhere and so we can confidently say:
Splitboard and backycountry skiing friends share the same spirit, peace between the worlds and have fun in the mountains. And at the glacier a larger rope team is always beneficial.