Silvretta Traverse Day 5 – Piz Buin Classic

Post by blogger | April 15, 2009      
Backcountry Skiing

Silvretta Traverse

If you want more than low angled glacier touring, build climbing or layover days into your Silvretta Traverse schedule. Stay at any of the huts for two nights or more, and you have time for some leisurely peak bagging or decking instead of the mad scramble that some groups go through so they can get a summit as well as reach the next hut in line. This especially true if the weather is poor. And if the weather is good, you need time for sun and socializing on the hut porch. Either way, take our advice and stay those extra nights. After all, what’s arguably the most famous sunscreen in the world is named after Piz Buin, THE peak everyone wants when they’re staying at the Wiesbadener Hut in the Silvretta, as we are.

The second highest peak in the Silvretta, Piz Buin (Romanish for Oxen Peak) is an easy day trip from the Wiesbadener Hut, the luxury accommodations nestled beneath the Ochsentaler Glacier. You skin a moderate route up the glacier to the peak’s base, where you do a short scramble to the summit. The idea isn’t for adrenaline, but rather aesthetics and alpine ambiance. And you have that in spades with everything from glacier seracs glistening with a heavenly blue that Ted mentioned reminded him of Reese Witherspoon’s eyes (just kidding, Ted), to dark rocky razorbacks that crawl upward to dozens of compelling summits.

Piz Buin, Silvretta

Piz Buin highground as viewed from northeast. Routes mark two alternate ways around icefall. Note the skiers acting as marker dots for portions of the route — this area is not exactly deserted. Easter week is a popular time, probably around 200 people a day were climbing and skiing the peak. Please click image for massive enlargement, perhaps you can ID one of your friends on the trail!

Back to the sunscreen. Thoughout my career as an alpinist and backcountry skier, whenever I heard the words “Piz Buin” I recalled some far back advertisement or ski poster, which my imagination populated with bikini clad babes tanning on Silvretta snow near the Wiesbadener, presumably after a morning of firn skiing. I searched the net for this image, but alas, it’s perhaps apocryphal — a figment of my 20-something hormonal imagination. Yet there is hope. During my intense internet blog research, I ran across this testimony for Piz Buin, which does involve the proverbial two-piece swim suit that defines the essence of femininity for many of us in the Y chromosome class. Produits solaires indeed! Besides the mildly frisky advertising, I did find out that Piz Buin traces its roots back to a chemistry student named Franz Greiter, who suffered a Freddy Kruger sunburn while climbing the Buin in 1938. Interestingly, Piz Buin came up with the Sun Protection Factor (SPF), which of course is now used to rate most sunscreens, (though the accuracy of that rating is always an open question in my experience).

Well, enough with the sunscreen. On with the tour. In photos:

Backcountry Skiing

Heading out from the Wiesbadener Hut, at about 10 minutes up the trail. I tell you all, the weather on this trip, something to be remembered!

Piz Buin from Wiesbadener

Closer, we chose the left route as it was said to take a bit less time and be slightly more challenging.

Backcountry Skiing

Me getting the layers under control. Temps were reasonable but on the warm side of the equation.

Backcountry Skiing

On the upper glacier. Again, with a thick firm snowcover and a set of snowshoe tracks to follow, we didn't feel the need for a rope, though we did keep our harness on in case we needed a quick attachment or rescue because we screwed up.

Climbing Piz Buin

The climb starts with a short snowslog that a few folks bother to carry their planks to the top of. This area was so hacked up by foot travel we opted to skip a few turns and just walk like most everyone else.

Backcountry Skiing

Crux of the scramble is a short pitch of snow or ice climbing that's easy, but if you fall you die. We felt ok going up without our rope, but got the cord out on the way down to keep the day nice and light. It's pretty funny watching the elaborate ropework the guides do here, or conversely, watching them tied into four clients while using no anchors, thus ensuring that if one person slips they all go for a flight. Strange technique, that. Arrow indicates our modest accommodations.

Backcountry Skiing

Me on the summit doing my best to strike a heroic pose. Alps seem to go on forever, and hardly a tree in sight.

Backcountry Skiing

The skiing was fantastic. Ted and I fooled around making photos in the serac area, nice backdrop!

Piz Buin skiing

Oh yeah! Nothing like a red jacket to get you into the photos.

Backcountry Skiing

My only question, why is my pack always so big? Whatever happened to the Euro-pack with only a cell phone and a shovel? Americans, they're always too prepared.

Backcountry Skiing

As with Jamtal and other huts on the Silvretta, you ski directly to the sun porch. It simply could not be any better than this.

Backcountry Skiing

About 170 souls were enjoying the Wiesbadener, resulting in multiple gear drying venues. Skins hung everywhere, and as Ted mentioned, the boot room is one of the unique olfactory experiences in mountaineering the world over.

Backcountry Skiing

Me sending grettings from our Wiesbadener 2nd night room.

Oh, and about those rooms. After inhaling my standard beverage on the sun porch, I trekked up the stairs to last night’s lodging, only to encounter a locked door. Not normal, as they don’t normally lock the doors here when a room is in use. After heading out for a recon I find Ted in discussion with the hutmaster, surrounded by plastic buckets full of our belongings. Were we evicted for consuming too much spec, or something equally evil? No, our only sin is we’d spent the night in room 2 on the FIRST FLOOR instead of the SECOND. Turns out a common EU way of numbering floors is to start with number one as the floor above the ground floor. The room we ended up in was kept for extra staff and thus a bit more luxurious than normal. The regular double room we moved to was tiny, with one bunk stacked just a few feet above the other. But it was perfect anyway. I only missed the Italian game shows.


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7 Responses to “Silvretta Traverse Day 5 – Piz Buin Classic”

  1. MJ Hall April 15th, 2009 9:58 am

    That’s funny Lou, only 1 floor off. I wonder how many times you could get away with that line, word might get out to lock the doors when you are on tour in the neighborhood.

    Great trip and photos.

    That rope thing with the guides, it could be a real group adventure for sure, one way or another.

  2. Stefan April 15th, 2009 9:42 am

    Piz Buin stands for Ox. That is why it is “Ochsentaler” Gletscher where Ochse is the german expression for Ox. Actually, think about bovine and buin..very similar…both latin roots

  3. Lou April 15th, 2009 10:24 am

    Stefan, thanks, someone told me that “Piz” meant a peak, so are you saying it’s “Oxen Peak” or something like that?

  4. Lou April 15th, 2009 10:37 am

    MJ, it was pretty funny. Could have been embarrassing if someone had shown up who needed the room, but we slept like babies in our total innocence, thinking wow, these private rooms in the Weisbadener are really something!

  5. Dan Patitucci April 15th, 2009 12:24 pm

    Excellent Lou! Piz Buin was good fun and more reason to drink Weissbier.

  6. Florian April 15th, 2009 10:55 pm

    Piz Buin = Oxen Peak = Ochsenspitz

  7. randy April 16th, 2009 6:41 pm

    That ground floor/first floor thing; I once spent a very frustrating hour bouncing around a hotel in Italia looking for my room…

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