WildSnow Returns to Europe


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 27, 2008      

Rather than a big ol’ blog post today, I just wanted to let all you blogsters know that the three of us in the WildSnow Dawson family are headed over to Europe again this winter. We’ll be leaving middle of March for a three week trip. Austria, Germany and Switzerland are the destinations. Our plan is to start with a few days touring in the Kitzbuhel region to get our legs under us, then we’ll head over to Switzerland and the Bernese Oberland for some high Alps action, weather permitting.

Along with all that, we’ll be doing a cultural tour in Baveria, where my wife has roots (some current, some just one generation back). That’ll make for some fun and interesting blogging from a slightly different perspective.

I figured posting this now would be a good idea, because I’m looking for info about what it’s like to self-guide up in the Jungfrau & Eiger area. If any of you readers have been able to go over there and pull that off, I’d love to hear from you. I’m specifically wondering about high altitude ski tours with a bit of mellow glacier travel. We’d like to do at least one classic and famous tour with perhaps two nights in huts, but we’re also looking for day tours we can get to out of the village of Frutigen. If anyone lives in that area and would like to show us around, we’d consider that as well. (Perhaps a guide that wants PR on WildSnow.com?) Another thing I was thinking of tackling was a climb of the Eiger by the “easy” route. So if anyone has done that I’d love to hear from you.

This is less of an “industry” trip than my last, but we’ll still be blogging the whole thing and doing some gear tie-ins such as visiting the Fritschi binding facility, visiting Dynafit in Munich, and of course hanging out with our Dynafit friends near Kitzbuhel. That way I can spy on Dynafit and hopefully sneak some info about new products they’re developing.

It’s quite a reach for us to haul the whole clan over there, especially with the exchange rates. But we’ve got a budget travel plan figured out — and like Warren says, if we don’t do it this year, we’ll be one year older when we do.



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Comments

14 Responses to “WildSnow Returns to Europe”

  1. Ian Spare February 27th, 2008 11:56 am

    I live not far from Frutigen sometimes, mostly I “winter” in Zinal in the Valais though, you should come here 🙂 There’s some interesting routes around that area, I can suggest some if you drop me a line. Do you have the Swiss Alpine Club guidebooks yet?

  2. Mr. Harald February 27th, 2008 12:02 pm

    Lou – A few years back I spent a winter ski bumming in Chamonix and La Grave. Not the Jung Frau and Eiger area exactly, but from what I hear quite similar in terms of terrain and numbers of people ski touring.

    I toured quite a bit (including the Haute Route) and did it all unguided. If you are looking to do classic and famous tours unguided I think you should be okay. Their are plenty of guidebooks to give you an idea on where to go, the swiss maps are far superior to USGS topos, and most importantly the classic routes are well traveled. I think your 30+ years of high end climbing, ski touring, and general mountain travel experience is more then sufficient to get you safely through such a well traveled area.

  3. carl February 27th, 2008 2:55 pm

    If you haven’t yet, pick up the Swiss Ski Touring topo maps for the regions you are interested in. 264s covers the Jungfrau. the S indicates the ski touring version. They have numerous popular touring routes marked on the map and on the reverse approximate time and difficulty for each of the numbered routes. In the US you can order them from Omnimap, in Switzerland you can pick them up at ski shops/bookstores/etc. The bookshop in the Zurich main train station carries all of them.

  4. Lenka K. February 27th, 2008 4:29 pm

    Hi Lou,

    with Frutigen you’ve picked a good spot for some beautiful and, if desired, serious skiing, just off the top of my head I can think of four or five really nice tours. None of them start directly in Frutigen though, you always have to drive a bit (10-15miles), but even if you’re not renting a car, getting to the starting point from Frutigen should be no problem with the excellent Swiss public transport system.

    Kandersteg (S of Frutigen) is the starting point for three amazing ski-summits (in ascending order of difficulty): Balmhorn (3698m, short section @ 40 deg.), Rinderhorn (3448m, max. 35 deg., somewhat exposed) and Altels (3630m; 2700ft @ 35 deg. followed by 600ft @ 42 deg.). About 5k vertical ft., grandiose views of the Jungfrau region to the south and great skiing to boot. All three of these can be done as day trips from Kandersteg (you take the cable-car to about 1900m), but it’s much nicer to stay in the historic hotel Schwarenbach (www.schwarenbach.ch), just as A.C. Doyle did :), especially during the week (the hotel can get crowded on week-ends).

    If you’ve done Altels and still don’t have enough, than there’s a way of moving up one notch: Doldenhorn (3638m, max. 45 deg., most of the 5k ft. vertical more or less exposed). This is truly a “big-mountain” peak, with seracs, couloirs and a ferrata to access the hut you start from, but it’s quite unlikely to be in good conditions so early in the year — unless of course the weather stays as warm as it has been for the past week (50-60 F).

    A more mellow trip is on the other hand Wildstrubel (3243m) from Adelboden. A cable-car will again bring you up to about 1900m and then you tour over mostly low-angled terrain (except for a short glacier bump @ 32 deg. close to the summit) to another panoramic summit.

    Maps: Swisstopo 263 S “Wildstrubel” for the Schwarenbach trilogy & Wildstrubel, 264 S “Jungfrau” for Doldenhorn. You can get the maps in Munich in “GeoBuch” bookshop, your Dynafit people surely know where that is.

    As far as the Jungfrau/Aletsch region goes, I think it’s a bit overrated. Sure, the landscape is stunning, but it’s quite overcrowded (the 150-200 bed-huts are completely full during the touring season in March-May), very expensive (the cog-railway to Jungfraujoch costs 96 CHF/PP ONE WAY or 158 return, that’s about 100/150 USD) and REALLY flat, I mean, it’s both about the up AND down, isn’t it?

    In any case have fun,

    Lenka K.

  5. Lou February 27th, 2008 5:46 pm

    Well! Lenka, thanks!

    That cost for the cog-rail definitly cuts it out of the plan as we’ve got three of us that would need to ride it! Great tip, saved us from having to re-plan that part of the trip.

    Kandersteg sounds great!

    Thanks for the tips.

  6. Lou February 27th, 2008 6:00 pm

    Carl, I’ll pick up some maps in Europe once we’re there, or perhaps order a few.

    All, we got an essential item today. Underwear. Exofficio emailed me the other day and said they wanted to send some to WildSnow. I said “sure, we’ll try anything.” Little did I know it was their special travel undies with the motto: 17 countries. 6 weeks. And one pair of underwear.

    Extreme!

  7. David George February 27th, 2008 8:15 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Great trip for the family. I’ll send you some guide books and maps that may be useful. Be sure to check out the Cosley & Houston web site for lots of good beta on touring. They are really nice people and great guides. They took me on the Haute Route a few years ago, a wonderful trip. http://www.cosleyhouston.com/

    I assume you know about rescue insurance. Perhaps others can chime in with current thinking but I buy through the French Alpine Club.

    Do you want to borrow a GSM phone?

    Cheers,

    DG …the old one not the ‘other’ David George

  8. Owen February 27th, 2008 9:51 pm

    Hi Lou,

    the wife and I are actually headed to Grindelwald/Jungfrau region in a few weeks. We are not planning on much high altituide touring but will certainly get out on the skis or maybe some lightweight touring gear. I am not too keen on lugging lots of gear with me on the trains!
    Jungfrau train IS on the schedule since I hear it is amazing scenery.

  9. Njord February 28th, 2008 3:39 am

    Lou,

    Should you find yourself around Munich when a massive dump occurs, head down to “Der Laber” in the town of Oberammergau. Not exactly a ski resort. It has about 2000 vert, one lift that is composed of 4 gondala cars (which are not detachable and stop every quarter revolution on the cable), and no cut trails or groomed anything. The whole thing is for a restaurant at the top, but is some of the most bad-assed tree and gully skiing anywhere.

    Also, there is some less-than-famous touring/ski mountaineering in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen (sister city of Aspen) that get’s overlooked just like Aspen does because of “glam” name. Actually some real cutting edge stuff that most people “ignore”… which is really too bad!

    Njord

  10. Njord February 28th, 2008 3:43 am

    also forgot… Damkar in Werdenfels (also in Bavaria), Alpspitze, and the backside of the Zugspitze (which is all about 45 mins south of Bavaria) have some great climbing/skiing stuff that for some reason are constantly overlooked. (I think more Americans have skiied those spots than Germans as Austrians would never lower themselves to the point of having to go north into Germany for good skiing/climbing).

    Njord

  11. George T February 28th, 2008 5:10 am

    Lou:
    For over 20 years the US National Ski Patrol -Europe has based training out of Campground Schutzenbach in Lauterbrunnen and trained on the Winteregg slopes. The campground mini-cabins are relatively inexpensive (sleep 4) just remember to bring 1/2 francs for the showers. The Grutschalp lift takes you up to Winteregg and from there you can tour to the Shilthorn for some James Bond/Wildsnow reenactments or eye up the Eiger. Below the Shilthorn is Rotstockhuette. A few huts and perhaps a route between Shilthorn and Frutigen. Lauterbrunnen is one of the most stunning settings in Europe. George

  12. Florian February 28th, 2008 7:50 am

    Hi Lou,

    The area of the Aletch gletcher and Concordia platteau is beautifull. Also it’s the biggest glacier area in the alps. There’ re lot’s off easy angled routes on 4000m + peaks. Some can be a bit crowded: Finsteraarhorn (spektacular) , Jungfrau, Monch ( this is not a skiroute but an easy climb, allmost directly next to the Monchjochhutte) All are 4000 +. Others are a bit more quiet: Gross Fiescherhorn, Gross Wannenhorn, Gross Grunhorn, Abeni Flue.

    The Aletchhorn looks down on all the peaks like a godfather. To ski up is supposed to be a
    Easiest acces in this area is with the train to the Jungfraujoch. Than you have a choise. You can go to the Monchjochhutte (30 min.), Konkordia hutte (1 h. ), The Hollandia hutte (3-4 h.), or the Finsteraarhorn hutte(3-4 hours).
    Some possebillities:

    D1: Jungfraujoch – Finsteraarhornhutte – D2: Finsteraarhorn (4273 m) (last 200 m. easy rockclimb, grade II/ III from skidepot) – Finsteraarhornhutte- D3: Jungfraujoch
    or
    D1: Jungfraujoch – Monchjochhutte – D2: Gross Fiescherhorn (4048), – Finsteraarhornhutte – D3: Jungfraujoch
    or
    D1: Jungfraujoch – Konkordiahutte – D2: Gross Grunhorn (4043, easy, but with cravasses) – Konkordiahutte – D3: Jungfraujoch
    or
    D1: Jungfraujoch (first train) – Jungfrau (4158 m) (upper part a bit avy-prone, not the easiest mountain in terms of alpine risks) – Hollandiahutte – D2: Abeniflue – Concordiahutte – D3: Jungfraujoch

    Well, got a bit carried away there.. Anyway, there are a lot of easy ski routes to do here. You’re probably aware though , It’s all glacier area. You’ll need some basic glaciergear and technique (rope e.d)
    The trainride through the Eiger nothface to the jungfraujoch is spectacular but expensive. If you feel strong, you can also deside to walk up to the Concordia hut from Fiesch (Bettmeralp, 5-6 h.) Then you enter the area from the Wallis side.
    For most huts you’ll need to reservate at least two weeks in advance. Or you can just call the huts from the jungfraujoch, and make your plans on the last minute. (it works with a small group)
    Good sites to check:
    skitouren.ch
    slf.ch (avalanche danger, weather)
    Best map: Swisstopo skitouring map, 1: 50.000, nr. 265 S: almost enough for most tours
    Good topo-books from Swiss alpine club (Schweizer Alpen-Club, SAC)

    Good luck!!
    Florian

  13. Lenka K. February 28th, 2008 3:11 pm

    OK, a couple more tips closer to home:

    Forget Dammkar, it’s a double-black diamond moguls piste unless you catch the first cable-car after a big dump.

    Alpspitze from Garmisch (about an hour by car or 1 hr 20 mins by train from Munich) is a beautiful peak w/a very nice steep descent (a short couloir @40 deg. in the middle), but I’m not sure the conditions are very good at the moment – too little snow=too many rocks? Ask your Munich Dynagurus … 🙂

    If Alpspitze doesn’t work out and you’d still like to get to know a new range (they’re all very small around here 🙂 ) then the “Grünstein Umfahrung”, in English the “Grünstein round-trip”, is a very worthwhile alternative in Ehrwald (S side of Zugspitze). Just under 3k vertical ft in 3 installments, narrow valleys encased in high limestone faces, nice views of Innsbruck, the Stubai/Ötztal ranges and of course the Zugspitze, nothing terribly steep but skiing still entertaining, plus you get to use the skibus at the end of the trip, as you end up in a different valley! No worries, functions perfectly.

    I’m not sure your favorite Kitzbüheler will be that much fun in a two-week’s time, it’s been very hot and the snow has been melting rapidly at low altitudes, plus the aspects (mostly E & W) aren’t really propicious to good snow at this time of the year: they get enough sun to create breakable crust but not enough to transform into nice corn.

    That is to be had in the Kaisergebirge, I gather about a 15-minute drive from Fritz’s home :). The conditions were really good on the S aspects last week (ask Fritz about “Herrenstein”, “Ellmauer Tor” and “Rote-Rinn-Scharte”, all in the 30-40 deg. range), if it gets a little bit colder and snows (as is forecast for this weekend & next week), it will hold up. If you end up doing Ellmauer Tor (it’s in one of the pictures you took in Jan.), you could enjoy your beer (or coffee or cake or all of the above 🙂 ) from one of the best panoramic terraces far and wide and say hello to your old friend Gr. Rettenstein as well as to most of Austria’s highest peaks, including Grossglockner.

    There are some nice northern tours as well, the downside is that before you get to the actual tour, you first have to cover about 4 miles on a cross-country track (no skidoos allowed around here! 😉 ). But Fritz or your other Dynagurus will definitely know where the goods are to be had!

    All right, I think you’ve got enough ideas to last several trips, just hope for good weather and snow!

    Lenka K.

  14. AJ February 28th, 2008 4:20 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Lenka mentioned the Ötztal range. A tip for a future trip is the Austrian equivalent of the Haute Route mentioned in the link below.

    I know a few local guides and affordable accomodation. If you need info about conditions etc., just send me a mail. Have fun on your next Euro trip!

    http://www.vent.at/main/EN/VE/WI/aktivitaeten/skitouren/skirunde/index.html

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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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