Saturday – the best and the worst of it.

Last Saturday I was looking for something fun to do, but i was getting that feeling that despite the blue skies and good weather, this was not a day to get nutty. (See last week’s post) Anonymous John rolled up to the hut around 9 AM – he’s just gotten a new girlfriend, so o-dark-thirty starts are not in the picture for the moment, and I can’t say I was all that unhappy to sleep in myself.

We’d talked about where to go the night before but without too many good ideas and even less options because of the instability of the snowpack, we gave in to decision fatigue and decided to lap the Kleiner Gamsstein – which at a whopping 400 vertical meters barely qualifies as a tour. It does, however, have other advantages: 1) we know where it is! (ha!) 2) its really close 3) there’s parking 4) its in the sun, faces SE 6) its under 2000 meters 7) almost nothing on it goes over 25 degrees…..annnnnd 8) there’s a restaurant nearby that has a giant schnitzel for 10 Euros and beer!

See why I’m always going there?

Anyway – we set off from the parking spot with a couple other muppets and soon were skinning up the forest road with the part-timers behind us. We made the sun-line and soaked up what was looking to be a great great day.

On the way up – Anonymous John and I were talking about how this was going to be a big day for avalanche incidents. We’re not particularly smart or anything – its just that these days, the combination of weekend, sunshine, new snow and a dicey snowpack make fortune-telling the easiest job outside of government work. We both know that on days like these, lots of folks will be getting powder fever, and be doing things they wouldn’t if it was nasty weather. Sadly – we were right.

Anonymous John lost a screw in his splitboard binding. No loctite – no nuttin….! It seems to me that despite all the improvements to splitboard gear in the last few years – there is still a long way to go. A.J. didn’t have a replacement screw – so we “fixed” it with a voile strap. It worked on the way up – but he would have to board today without a toe-strap on his front foot, as the strap wouldn’t allow the binding to slide into downhill mode….glad Anonymous John is such a good snowboarder. He took it well. Relaxed, as always.

We made a secondary peak, which is actually nicer to ski from than the true peak – and I attempted to rip my skins without taking off my gear. While I was doing the funky chicken – Anonymous John was putting together the intricate metal puzzle that is a splitboard, while sleep-deprived from the throes of new passion the night before (I’m sure,) and trying to eat a sandwich. Mind you – I have the coordination of spastic pile of jello – but I was still finished eight minutes or so before A.J.

I think the sandwich and the drink are Pavlovian. I mean…..four hundred meters! People can live for up to four days without any water….but everybody is gulping gallons of the stuff every time they walk up a set of stairs.

The snow was nice! Creamy….a consistency we’ve taken to calling “hot pow”. Its not powder – but its not corn either. Its creamy, but not really heavy like mashed potatoes. As good as it is, it takes a little skill to ski it – and we’ve got a little. We saw some others take a few tumbles off the true peak – but my friend and I made it look good.

We got to the bottom and I pushed for a lap back to the restaurant. John agreed – but was not feeling fit. I knew a schnitzel would be just the thing. Since we only wanted the ridge anyway and we wanted it easy – we stuck to the forest road all the way up. . We’d barely cleared the last band of trees when we saw two helicopters cross over the saddle and run down towards Axum, followed shortly thereafter by two more going to the same place. I knew something big had happened.

Most anyone who is into the sport already knows that on that day, there were two groups of twenty tourers in total from the Czech Republic who got caught in a large avalanche on the Geier, not far from where we were, but on very different slopes. Despite being well equipped – all of them had avalanche packs and all the gear – five were killed. It could have been much much worse. You can read about it here (in German). Many other events also happened in other places. Here is the statistic from the Avalanche Service Tirol:

image001-745163

That’s Saturday over on the right.

So it appears our mojo was working when it sent us to haul whimpy-pow and eats. No complaints from me. Anonymous John and I sat inside and ordered this:

Kleiner Gamstein w John - 16.jpg

Anonymous John gaped at it. I ate it.

Kleiner Gamstein w John - 14

This is the guy

We went out and got another run in. Had some glopping, but some wax and scraping took care of that. We stuck to the skiers left and went down through the trees for the next go, after which point, Anonymous John hit the road to get back to Ms. Anonymous. I took a nap.

Here’s some pics:

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