Splitboarding with Jeremy and the Jonescrew on the Dachstein loop. A long relaxed hike gave us plenty of time for interesting conversations, so we talked about high-altitude splitboarding, climate change and trends in the splitboard industry sector.
A variety of Jones partners, dealers, riders and ambassadors from all over Europe were part of the gang, all of them excellent snowboarders and only at the first kickturns one can spot the few splitboard newbies. Our base, the Krippenstein-Lodge, is situated high above the Dachsteinplateau and is known as the Freeride Hotspot in Upper Austria's Salzkammergut.
Between the hustle and bustle of the outdoor trade fairs, the relaxed atmosphere was a perfect ambience for talking about snow- and splitboarding, sharing experiences, making new friends and reviving old ones. Basically it was about being together on the mountain and experiencing a fantastic time.
An oddish one-of-a-kind Splitboard tour: The Rumpler lap or Gjadstein loop
The scenery of the Dachstein Massif is unique. On the north side, some of the largest caves in Europe (up to 67 km long) lie hidden deep beneath the white glaciers. The south side impresses with almost 1000 meters of vertical rock faces. And in between, a slightly inclined, undulating karst plateau stretches over more than 75km², the Dachstein plateau. From Krippenstein (2108m) you can enjoy this magnificent panorama in its entire width. Gjadstein mountain (2794m), which can be circumnavigated on a "Rumplerrunde" called ski tour, is in the center of the image, behind on the right is High (2995m) and Lower Dachstein (2934m) above the Hallstatt-Glacier.
Thanks to our mountain guide, we are start out for the Rumpler Lap, still without recognizing the ambiguousness of the name "rumple(r)". But first we learn about the dangers lurking in limestone karst mountains during winter. The numerous karst holes and dolines are covered by snow and you can easily drop into a deep hole. In bad weather the orientation in the uniformly hilly terrain is very difficult and the going is tough and force-consuming. A small chapel at the Krippenstein summint reminds of a group of 13 pupils who lost orientation on the plataeu in the 1950s and then helplessly froze to dead.
We start with a descent towards Gjadalm in bright sunshine and with mild temperatures. Keyword descent! If you are looking for a great downhill run, the Rumplerrunde might not be the best choice, but to enjoy an unforgettable day on the mountains this tour is quite suitable.
Near the old barracks we are already in hiking mode and start our varied, never really exhausting up and down ascent to the Schladminger Glacier. There we use the lifts of the small ski resort, just to leave it sooner, but not without a look down the massive southern rock walls at the cable car top station. We continue on to Hallstätter Glacier until we reach the foot of Hoher Dachstein summit. Here the descent down the gentle glacier starts and much too soon we reach a significant pit with a fist counterincrease. Actually from now on it is to consider changing to hike or skimode, because the following up and down through untouched nature can be a bit painful if you need to walk and step in and out your bindings countless times. We pass Simony hut and go on to Gjaidalm and from there up again to the Krippensteinlodge. On the final leg some of us even enjoyed a rapid skido ride back up the hill.
With a splitboard or snoeshoes the walking distances should not be underestimated and with poor visibility the orientation can become very difficult! Riding fun is kind of limited on this variant of the route, nonetheless the mood of the group was excellent and also everybody's physical fitness was highly remarkable. Eight hours constantly on the move is not half bad and everybody came home with a smile on the face.
Back to the ambiguity "Rumpler lap", Rumpler is the name of a mountain near Gjadstein and the German word "rumpeln" means rumbling, like moving up and down through a rumpled! landscape.
With a lot of relaxed hiking there was plenty of time for chatting, of course also with the both Splitboard professionals Jeremy Jones and Mitch Tölderer.
Higher - Splitboarding at high altitudes
Higher, the third part of the Jones Trilogy Deeper - Further - Higher, fascinates not only because of the incredible lines in the Himalayas, but also through the unvarnished portrayal of the efforts, fears and joys of such an extreme adventure. Our today's tour couldn't be more of a contrast, gently ascending we'll reach a maximum of 2700m and while gaining in height we come across this topic.
Particularly interesting is the fact that the ascent at high altitudes is quite feasible according to Jeremy, even if it is slow and of course very tiring. But training is not really possible. Sure you should have a solid fitness, but it can happen that a "super" athlete is weaker at high altitudes than an average sportsman, the daily constitution is crucial. The really great effort then waits at the descent, so Jeremy. In the ascent you can choose your pace freely, but at the descent this is not possible while riding and then the bloodstream comes massively into play and the altitude becomes extremely noticeable. Jeremy told us of a descent at Denali where he needed almost 45 minutes for 200 vertical meters. The line was very demanding he said, but he would not have expected this physical effort of the run. Mitch added that the oxygen level at high altitudes is also strongly influenced by the weather. The higher the air pressure, the more oxygen is in the air. Sounds logical, is logical. Air is uniformly composed at all altitudes (78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% other), but the air pressure decreases as the altitude increases and thus the proportionate oxygen pressure, which presses the vital gas into the lung, decreases. Therefore high-pressure weather has a positive physical effect on the body, too.
Warmer - Snowboarding in times of climate change
Today, in the beginning of February it's warm like in spring and there is still little snow at Dachstein region, too. We have to take care of the skins several times in the ascent and the descent possibilities are not like the terrain would allow with higher snow. For us, no question, climate change is in progress. The snowpack decreased the last years and beeing backcountry snowboarders and alpinists, we see and experience the effects up close and have to deal with the changed circumstances. Snow depth surveying data have been around for about 100 years and in relation to this period many places in Austria can even boast positive trends with regard to the average maximum snowfall. Even the days with snow cover seem constant on average.
So everything in order? Not at all!
The latest winter report issued by the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, dedicates a special chapter to an additional marker while benchmarking winters, the beginning and end of the longest steady snow cover.
"Figure 81 shows an analysis for 45 stations with long-term measurements between 1955 and 2014 (60 years). Stations with statistically significant trends all show a trend to become free of snow aerlier. The vast majority of stations also show a later arriving steady snow cover - but the trend is less strong." In short, the further a red dot is to the upper left, the more pronounced is the trend to a later winter beginning and an earlier end at this station. The opposing trends in the measurements can be explained to some extent very clearly by changes in the respective local measuring environment. Marty C. (2016): Sneaks and Ausapern. In: SLF (Hg.): Snow and avalanches in the Swiss Alps 2015/16. P.74f.
In 2007, Jeremy Jones founded Protect our Winters, a climate advocacy group for the winter sports community, as he noted the increasing winters with lack of snow and the impacts on snowboarding possibilities. In the US, the past few winters were partly catastrophically dry, but this year "La Niña" brought incredibly large amounts of snow to the west of the USA, allowing our American friends many sprays, faceshots and fat runs. Of course, they were trained in patience and perseverance, as it is well known that large quantities of snow also entail great dangers and inconveniences. As far as climate change is concerned, we agreed that the snow amount does not necessarily have to decrease, but the winters are becoming more and more unpredictable and the weather conditions become more extreme.
We all observed late and hesitant arriving winters during the last years, but at the same time we have also discovered that with a splitboard the winter can bring still some nice days until May and June.
Global Lokal - The Backcountry Industry
Since Jeremy Jones founded his own snowboarding company in 2009 and encouraging the splitboard industry, there was a lot of life and movement in the snowboarding sector. In 1977, Jake Burton presented a snowboard for the first time at the SIA. Ever since, the market has been growing steadily and literally exploding since the late 1990s, which inevitably led to a saturation in 2011 and dramatically slumped the numbers. At the same time, the topic of splitboarding was rapidly gaining momentum. More and more snowboarders have come to an age where they have more fun to explore the untouched nature far away from the hustle and bustle of ski tourism and to enjoy unforgettable days with friends in the unspoilt white. It was and is interesting to observe how a company can drive the development of splitboarding with heart and soul and grow innovatively in challenging times, while others just want to cut off a piece of the cake. And there is still some development potential, like the constant improvements show us every new season. Even the ideas and possibilities to move more people into this wonderful and nature respecting sport are diverse and still far from being ripe.
Jones Snowboards is a company with a passion for split- and snowboarding and for all the people who love the mountains. The family, co-workers, partners and ambassadors, they all do their best to give you a fantastic time in the snow and equip you with the best possible products. Since the beginning, Jones has placed great emphasis on environmentally responsible and sustainable action. Not only that the boards are built lightly and at the same time durable, but also for the transport routes, emphasis is placed on low emissions in order to reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible. Whereby we are back on the climate change topic and so the next day we enjoyed our rides in the spraying snow all the more. Finally we carved down to Lake Hallstatt on a long, but necessarily artificially snowed slope.
Joint conclusion, "Every day on the mountain is a good day"!
A big Thank You to Jones Snowboards, Element Sports, Jeremy, Mitch and everybody else who was with us and made these to days an unforgettable experience.
Keep calm and go splitboarding!
Pics by Bernhard Altmanninger and splitboarding.eu