About the possibilities to satisfy your lust for splitboarding in times of snow shortness. Three motivated Splitboarders who have never been touring together.
It is the 12/31/15 and our burning desire to do Splitboarding is unstoppable. We meet in the morning at 7.30 on the Stubai Glacier to do some high alpine Splitboard touring from hut to hut.
The avalanche danger remains low ;-), but the weather forecast with a maximum of 4 hours of sun and a change to fog and snowfall limits our possibilities. Nevertheless, we prepare ourselves, with about 25 kg of luggage each - it is Silvester and we don`t want to be as minimalistic as usual. The goal is exploring new terrain and gain more knowledge about the area at the actual conditions.
We start with the cablecar to reach the Daunjoch, ride down to the classic meeting point for all the Zuckerhuetl tourists, prepare our equipment and start skinning up to the Pfaffensattel. We change our boards to the ride-mode and start snowboarding down the Sulzenau glacier. At these snow conditions it is frightening, but at the same time really beautiful. We take some pictures and enjoy our time on the mountains. At the bottom of the glacier we get our first big reward, an amazing blue ice-cave. Stoked of the mighty scenery we take a few minutes break, before we start skinning again, using the rope in case of unstable snow bridges on the crevasses. We are happy because we reduce our risk and train our mountaineering skills.
The ascent is pleasant and the landscape surprises us with many wonderful insights into the world of the Stubai Glaciers. At the end of the valley we have to overcome a 100 meter, almost vertical rock bold covered with old snow. In our planning we didn`t notice that there had been a big rockslide making the access to the hut almost impossible. The latest DAV map (31/1 Hochstubai) still points out this way. Well, the alternative seems a bit far regarding the weather forecast and the upcoming darkness. Even there, we would have had to overcome two rocky ridges. So we approach the supposed way, discuss the climbing options and quickly agree. "Through this gully he has to come." Hmm, steep, very steep, little snow, how can we do it the safest way? Are we able to climb it before it is getting dark? Will the weather change? What will be the worst case? Lots of questions. So everybody gets prepared, having his own thoughts.
Climbing the Pfaffennieder
"Cool, we can set our mountaineering and rope skills into practice", had been our last common thoughts before we started the climb. Aick makes the beginning, builds us a nice platform and so Danny and I get up safely. Now it is steep, with an almost snow-free, very steep section, pulling the chute upwards. Here I try my luck, overcome the key point, build a safety-spot and bring Danny after. Meanwhile, it has already become dim. Therefore Danny secures Aick and I move on, to at least see the Müllerhut before the night falls in - but I did`t succeed. The only thing I saw was a wind generator, which at least tells us that the hut is close.
After a while, we're all up and make the last meters to the hut. Once there, we realize with horror that there are already 6 pairs of skis standing in front of the hut. Recalculated quickly "6 + 3 = 9" - f…, because this hut is indeed designed for 6 people only. Regardless, it would not have been possible to reach the next hut, so we enter and are not friendly welcomed by the Czech ski mountaineers. No matter we are here, cooking our Kasspatzln and make ourselves as comfortable as possible.
The night is hot, very hot! The thermometer shows 30° Celsius and it feels like a Finnish sauna. Our roommates who took the shortest path to the hut, played cards and got drunk for New Year. Oh great we thought, but really not worth talking about, because we are satisfied with our tour and look forward to the coming year and the next few days.
0:00 clock - Hip Hip Hurray the New Year is here, we take a picture and sleep until the next morning to get most out of the predicted 4 hours weather window. The plan is to get back to the ski resort via the Pfaffengrat because the weather should become worse shortly after midday.
00:00 Uhr at the Müllerhütte
It is the 01/01/2016, we get ready and head up to the Pfaffenridge which should lead us back to the ski resort. After a short time the predicted clouds are coming in but we get closer and closer to the ridge. Now it begins again, where are the signs, is it the correct way, the ridge doesn`t look as in the literature. Hmm, this cannot be the correct way as we have read about, a two hours excellently marked path. Well, it is logical the description is for summer touring and even if there is little snow the marks are invisible. As we come closer we recognize that the Pfaffenridge will be a challenging climb with our heavy backpacks and the boards strapped to it. Also the thought to be up on the ridge with the big „white-out-clowds“ dosn`t make us feel comfortable. So, after 2-3 hours we didn`t find a suitable route, the clowds become more and start touching the summit of the Wilder Pfaff. What to do? One day more at the Müllerhut with the risk to stay there in really bad conditions or abort the mission and take the same way down as we have used to arrive? The way down the gully will be more challenging than the way up but we feel good, so we take out the rope prepare our safety platform and start climbing down, step by step, being happy to practice our climbing skills again. We reach the middle of the chute climbing and than we strap in and ride the last meters of the chute. Good Feeling! OK, let`s go we ride on to the end of the glacier again and from there we wanted to head down to the Sulzenau hut. The way is easy to find, just straight and we will reach the hut. Cool, but be careful there is a phenomenon called group-dynamics. Suddenly one of the crew says: „Look up, there is a path“ The other one answers: „For sure we will be faster on that way“ and the third one mentions: „ OK, lets go there“. So we pack our boards on the backpack again and climb up the way to the „fast-lane“. We feel the extra meters and climbing session and the light is getting lower. When we reach the entry of the „fast-lane“ we all think: „Whoup that does`t look nice, it is full of loose rocks and if we set a bad step the first day of the New Year will be the last day ever“. A short decision making and we go down again to descend beside the frozen river and rocky terrain. For sure we will get into the night but at least we cannot fall down.
Getting ready in the darkness
"OK, cool. Headlamps out and keep going! It's all just straight on and then we will reach the hut at some point. Regarding the darkness and the terrain, straight daesn`t mean straight as you might think. Again and again we take out the map, looking for signs. Getting into hike-mode with our splitboards, fix them again on the backpacks, split again, hike again… . So it is a few hours to go until we finally reach the hut. This time alone with 10 free beds - Strike. Now we relax, cook something and bring our fluid balance back into the swing.
Alarm Clock? No, sleep until we wake up and then comfortably walk down to the next hut.
The next morning, the descent over the Wild Water Way turns out being a further training session to go with crampons. Because almost all the way is covered with ice.
We are very pleased, because we can get used to walk with crampons again, gaining more security for our next missions.
After a few hours we reach the cozy Grawaalm on the edge of the Glacier Road. We take an extensive lunch have a few drinks and grab the bus up to the glacier parking.
That's it, we thank each other for the great experience of our „Happy New Years Recreational Splitboarding Session“.
New partners in crime found together on this trip.
Ein Prosit auf der Grawaalm
Conclusion: 3 days full of unforgettable impressions in the incredible world of the glaciers, combined with aspects of security, group-dynamics and the weather - as important factors for decision making while Splitboarding.
Why do we do things like that? Because we love it!
A thank you goes to the following companies for the support with outstanding equipment: Amplid, Deeluxe, Fitwell, Kohla, Pieps, Plum, Rossignol, Spark R & D, Vaude, Venture and Völkl.
PS. We have a small but nice Splitboard rental at the Freeride Center Stubai.