The most important things to keep in mind when exploring new areas with the splitboard, including material checklist and video.
It was time again. The rumors lured us into the vicinity of the Austrian border. Here should be an area with many splitboard touring possibilities, which we wanted to discover.
It is not the first time that we do this, but we would like to record the most important things to consider when exploring new terrain. As always safety first.
This took place in the run-up to our little splitboarding session:
- Area-Check on the map - we found out that the terrain is well laid out and offers a variety of possibilities.
- Arrival and ascent - How to get to the starting point, how long and challenging is the ascent? Are there any dangers (avalanches, warming up during the day, key points in the ascent, ice, crevasses)? What happens if you have to turn back? How long does the ascent take? What happens if you fall into darkness? How frequented is the location and the hut? What to do when the hut is full? What to do if there is no wood and therefore no water?
- Guide and literature - This time we didn't have a look because we wanted to see everything on-site.
- Equipment of the hut - 12 sleeping places in the winter room, towards end of season often the wood is depleted, we could find out. Key is in a box next to the door.
- Group size and level - 3-5 people, level mixed, from very good and fit to average. This is not a problem in that area, as there are routes for every level.
- Project (Mission) - Discover the area with the option of extremely steep descents under changing conditions.
- Material - Splitboard setup (everything assembled and nothing damaged - screws tightened?), skins, crampons, boots, sticks, ice axe, crampons, climbing harness, rope, biners, slings, ice screw, headlamp, first layer, second layer, third layer, bivibag, sleeping bag, compass, helmet, sunglasses, mobile phone, map, lighter, camera, GoPro, GPS, 45L backpack, sun cream, cap, bandana, gloves, power bank, 2 pairs of socks, multitool, plate, cutlery, thermos flask, drinking bottle, multitool, small spare parts kit for bindings, tape, cable ties, shovel, probe, beacon, extra jacket (for example down to pull under)
- Food for 3 days - 3 times breakfast, 3 times dinner, power bar, Xenofit drink powder, tea, coffee, milk powder, olives, sausage, cheese, whiskey, chocolate, sandwich, honey, wine
- Backup - a splitboarding buddy wanted to come later and bring missing material (wood, cookers, pots, etc.) if needed
- Weather forecast - Saturday and Sunday best weather, Monday fog and snowfall
- Avalanche bulletin - Good and safe conditions are imminent. Danger level 1 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon due to warming during the day.
Okay, all done and off we go. Leo (a splitboarder from California) and I met at 9:00 am at the starting point, Danny wanted to follow, 3 more had canceled meanwhile. So Leo and I checked the material, changed a splitboard from goofy to regular and off we went. First we go a few hundred meters with lift support, because we had lots of luggage with us and I hate to climb up in the ski area. A few minutes later we stroll comfortably out of the ski area on the snow-covered forest road.
After good 2 1/2 hours and a long traverse, which might have been critical at a later time, we reach the hut, at the same time with 3 more mountaineers from my former home town Innsbruck. OK, there is no wood. Perhaps somewhere a wood storage - near the hut which is managed in the summer? No! After a while we found some logs to save our first evening. To be on the safe side we told Danny to bring a stove or wood. Luckily there was reception. We hadn't expected that, but we were happy about it. Since there is only little wood, we melt on the first day snow on the solar panels of the hut and fill it into our pots and bottles. It is a little further to a frozen lake, that would have been the other option.
We lie in the sun and enjoy the beautiful mountain world. Now comes the next group of mountaineers, this one from beautiful Bavaria. And there come even more, at least two. Thus we occupy already our sleeping places, so that it does not come later to fights for the beds. We almost feel like on the beach, where you put down your towels (that's the German-Way) ;-).
Enjoying the wonderful afternoon we look at everything and find the routes and the optimal snow conditions for the next day.
At about 5 pm the sun goes down and in a jiff it gets cold. We go into the hut and start chatting and playing cards. At about 7 pm we heat up the oven to prepare our well-deserved dinner. Some have ready-made food with them, others cheese fondue and again other noodles. Everything tastes delicious after a long day of touring. Also beer cans were brought along and of course taken home again.
After a cheerful evening we went to bed early and the next morning everyone got up at 9:00 am. The weather is nice but not too warm. The groups say goodbye to each other and off we go. Meanwhile Danny had written us that he was unable to come due to some illness. We whish him to get well soon and we stand there without cooker. Again we searched around in the hut and found some burner paste. Brilliant, at least we have something to make a hot drink and the rest of the wood should be enough for a warm dinner.
Tomorrow the weather will be really bad and considering the supply situation we take all our gear on tour, because it would be nice for us to rappel down into a nice chute, ride it in fine conditions and then take the bus back to the starting point. Well packed, we start splitting away comfortably. Half way we see a splitboard track. We call a friend, who already knows the area. "Hey Max, right or left saddle?" "Right saddle and then you'll find the abseil", his answer." We see you, I'm just with Ikka on the other side of the valley, hahaha." The guys had only one day and went to "Neue Welt", one of the ski-alpinistic all-time classics from the Zugspitzmassif. Now we meet Franz, who may have wanted to visit us with his girlfriend. Great, almost the whole Arlberg crew in a different constellation. After a short chat he rides on with his girlfriend and a third person. Leo and I continue our way towards the saddle and look forward to the rappel. After inspecting the belay and the conditions we are surprised that Franz said: "Conditions looking great,...". Well, maybe he had his eyes on other beauties :-), because our eyes only see a completely tracked-out chute with hard snow. Hmm, stupid now our plan didn't work out and we carried all the stuff along. After a short time we decide - another day on the mountain, even in bad weather is better than not beeing in the mountains. So we look at another option for the bad weather day and return to the hut after a very good round.
Here we hang out a bit, fetch water from the lake and decide to go again, because the days are longer than a month ago. "Yes it should be good over there, let's go there". Said and done! Our evening tour ends relatively steep with kickturns at approx. 43°. Should we bootpack or should we be fine with that? Lets stay relaxed and changeover! So we switch back to ride mode and shred finest snow (for the season and the incredibly good weather) back to the hut.
Tonight there are only two of us, because we hardly know each other we chat and tell stories to get to know each other better.
The next morning we sleep until late. Maybe there will be a weather window at 11 am, according to the forecast. Yes there is - everything white outside, I almost feel dizzy because you don't know where up and down, right and left is. We were aware of that and glad that we already inspected the departure yesterday. After a "blind flight", some navigation by feeling, compass and GPS, the fog clears and we get closer to our destination. A brisk wind blows at the saddle. We hide from the forces of nature, check the way down again, just to be safe that there are no cliffs and go to the entrance of the channel. After a departure with changing conditions and also a great fun section, we arrive at the bus stop at about 2 o'clock, where the bus brings us back to the starting point. Enjoyment has also become an important part of our tours, so we go to the next hut, treat ourselves to a hearty lunch before we return to the smelly city at 5 pm. I always notice this when I have been in the mountains for a few days.
I am already looking forward to the next session. There is more to come this season, because there is a lot of snow - cheers!