Category Archives: Tour

Ski Touring near Munich at the Teufelstättkopf

Ski touring near Munich is not hard to find. In recent years its been a little less-than-spectacular due to the low snowfall we’ve had. This year is different! The snow has fallen deep. We’re looking better in December than the last  five years!

With all that snowfall though – come other problems. Snow doesn’t grow from the ground up, it falls from the sky. Today was an example, with light snowfall, but hurricane-force winds up high to go with it. Wind is the builder of avalanches. It transports the snow to low-lying spots. Loading it up in deep drifts just waiting for a skier to disturb their deadly balance.

Markus and I were looking for a route that didn’t take us into the high alpine, and had some shelter. The Bavarian weather service had issued a storm warning. Trees were the theme of the day. Good thing too! The Bavarian mountains are filled with good tree runs,  offering some of the best ski touring near Munich. You just gotta know to zig when everybody else zags.

We met at the trailhead at eight AM. Not so early, but not late either. We were some of the first on trail, parking at the lot of the little ski lift in Unterammergau, right above the Schleifmühle, a great place for a bite to eat, by the way. High clouds were moving by at a moderate pace – but we didn’t feel the wind on our faces – yet…

My hands were cold. I kept my hoods up, and didn’t use my poles to generate more heat.  I started spinning my arms at the shoulders to take advantage of centrifugal force to force the blood in.  Marcus asked me if I wanted to stop and do a little yoga. (he was kidding – BTW. These days, you can’t be sure…)

There is a fork in the road before long. Following to the right will put you on a ridge. Not exposed, but if its windy, it can get uncomfortable. We bore to the left, and stayed in the drainage until later. This is the way to the Pürschlingshäuser, a few huts a ridge over to our goal, but we would traverse and stay comfy.  Both of these spots are great places for ski touring near Munich. Both offer lots of variations in how to climb, and to descend. A nice plus. Marcus comes here a lot.

Making the ridge above the huts was a treat. Unfortunately – they are closed this winter for some maintenance, but in other years, you can get a bite to eat or a beer here. Very nice. The view was rad!

If you follow the ridge up above the houses, you’ll make the Teufelstättkopf. It was here that we began to feel the wind and man was it blowing! Hoods went up, and I even got out my facemask for this one! The wind was howling and moving a lot of snow over the ridge. At the rate it was going – it was clear that dangerous drifts could pile up in minutes – not hours.

We skipped the scramble to the top of the Teufelstättkopf, and decided to ski down the skiers left of the rock peak, into the Teufelstättkar. This was sheltered down low, and as the “alternate” route, it usually has less tracks. We zigged where everyone else zagged – and got rewarded well. Ski touring near Munich can be jammed with people. Knowing an alternative or two can make a huge difference in the quality of the skiing. This is one of those.

We ripped the skins and got out of the wind, forgoing the customary tee and biscuits routine. We carefully threaded the wind-loaded and steep entry. Following proper protocol, we single skied it gingerly until we got into the gut, where the angle goes softer and the wind hadn’t loaded it up so much. There were only a few tracks, so everybody got their own line – and what a line it was! Well up over boot-top with a creamy and easy to ski consistency! We smashed those crystals and met at the bottom of the slope all smiles!

Another climb was in order and we made the three-hundred meter re-tour in quick time. We both thought about lapping – but it was clear that the weather was getting worse. We continued back to the base of the peak and stuffed the skins into our jackets for the last time. Soon, we were tracking the slopes to right side of its ledges.

Here, there was even more snow, and with each turn, it was billowing up to hip level. The terrain here is  rolling, so we both got some hang time. I thought briefly about another run up,  but we could feel the wind. It was time to go!

The way out meanders through well-spaced trees and is not steep. The snow is so good right now, skiing on both sides of the track is possible too. We saw lots of people coming up. Strange, as this is usually the way down. I felt sorry for them that they were walking into a maelstrom. We hit the forest road and made zero turns all the way to the car!

If you are looking for an day trip to go ski touring near Munich, and if you are looking to stay in the trees because of poor visibility or wind – a tour to the Teufelstättkopf might be just the thing.

A trip report is also available from Marcus here at Marcus gets around, so you’ll want to follow him for good tips in and around Garmisch.


Parking Lot at the Ski Lift in Unterammergau: Liftweg 1, 82497 Unterammergau, Germany


Between one and a half hours for the experienced, and up to three for inexpirienced


The route is not danger-free – particularly some of the highest slopes near the ridges have both the angle and the loading to cause an avalanche. Be aware!

Live near Munich and want early season pow all to yourself? Have a job and think its impossible? Keep reading

Quikie Tour up the Schönberg, near Lenggries, Germany
My buddy Martin, a part-time ski instructor, husband, father and stand-up guy has got time to run up mountains and see if its any fun to slide down them – it won’t stay that way, but for now, he’ll take it. He called me up to see if I’d like to join, and, seeing as how I am fairly certain sliding down snow-covered mountains is pretty close to a game of Go-Fish with Jesus in the fun department, but not one-hundred percent certain, I thought I might have to go and make sure.
Both Martin and I have to get the kids out of the house, and unlike Martin, I am (still) gainfully employed in a decidedly non-slavish arrangement. We started at eight-thirty in the city and rode out towards Lenggries – about an hour away and near Bad Tolz. The objective for the day was the Schönberg – an eight-hundred to nine-hundred meter climb on a small mountain heavily wooded at the bottom, but open near the top and well-frequented in general. Things looked pretty good – not a lot of snow down low – but much more than I would have expected at this time of the year. We started out.
The snow covered the road, mostly, and we followed for what seemed like quite a while, just happy to be out in the sun. It didn’t look like most of the surrounding forest was skiable…there was enough snow to run, but it hadn’t covered up the undergrowth and fallen logs. I was thinking that the only way back down this low would be the icy rutted road we were on, and, I was right.
After taking a left turn up a steeper and smaller road, with some encouraging uphill tracks on it, I thought we’d soon make the ridge. The road got smaller, the track got less “determined” and before long both of us were asking if the guys who set it knew where they were.
Of course – getting too upset wasn’t possible. Neither of us brought a map, and the last time I was touring here was more than five years ago. We blindly followed tracks. How stupid is that?
We stuck the meandering and unsteady course….and….it dumped us back out onto the main road that we had been following a felt hour later. All’s well that ends well, and we slogged onwards and upwards, finally breaking into to some high meadows that looked a dream to ski.
All in the shade and milky. By now – we’d come higher, and the snow was positively deep. What our unknown trailbreakers lacked in route-finding skills, they made up for with quality skin-tracking – so the way up was fairly easy, asthetic and appreciated.
While it was not a long way up – this tour was a long way around! I kept thinking that soon, very soon, we’d bust out onto a ridge or the peak in the sun and it would be all girls and cold-liquor drinks. Nope. Nope. and Nope. Still the ghost trees were cool and I was dreaming of the lines I would cut in the not-so-pristine but still baggable powder.
Eventually we made it. Meeting the three retirees who set that trail on the way off the peak. Nice guys.
Now – it occurs to me that people who do what they like to do, and do it into old age, don’t generally get curmudgeonly. These guys were smiling – and if I can keep doing this,  perhaps I’ll not only be a smiling retiree, but a smiling husband, father and employee.
The peak was windy, but it was great to look over the clouds and imagine Munich in the soup. Martin and I ripped the fur off and made sweet euro-wiggle turns down the gut of the open glades, never hitting bottom and having quite a bit of fun. It wasn’t as light as we had hoped, but it was still great!
Things got dicey with a couple a creek crossings, which will be covered when the next snow hits, but we managed to pick our way through the lower, less-shacked woods without too much trouble, and hit the forest road which provided a long, easy and underbrush free route back to the car. Even got to make powder elevens over a big flat meadow near the bottom.
All in all – a great tour, and we were back in town for an appointment just after lunch! For anyone looking for a candidate for dawn runs – if you hit the trail at seven AM you could be back by 11 AM no sweat. Less if you are a spandex weirdo.
As always – I’d love to see you all on the trail sometime and hope you’ll subscribe to my blog for silly ramblings about this sport, tips on how to stop sucking at it, and reports about places you can go to do it!

Searching for an exceptional life? Try mediocre skiing.


The five guys in my WhatsApp group “Hochtirol”, created for another tour in another place at another time, start pinging each other about where we can go riding this Saturday. Three of them I don’t know so well, and there are no descriptive pictures about who’s saying what, so its not long before I’m completely confused and begin typing in old-man Caps: “WHERE ARE WE GOING? LOSERS.” Or something like that.

Tobi cuts the crap and decides on the Pfuitjöchl, a popular tour right behind Lermoos, just across the Austrian border from Garmisch Partenkirchen. I’ve never been up to this particular spot, but the tour goes up to a big ridge-line which stretches for miles on either side, and I’ve been up to the left and right of it several times.


Its a great touring spot in my opinion. There are miles of treeless gentle slopes once you get above treeline, and even if the Germans are lined up like tourists at a cuckoo-clock shop, you can pretty much always find a fresh line by bearing a little to the left or right. Its downside is that the belt of trees at the bottom is pretty tight and gets skied out, making for survival skiing in all but the best years. Its also technically the “wrong” aspect. Fully south-facing, you’ve got to hit it quickly after a snowfall, and there’s got to be a lot of snow too because it is either going to be melted out, or have a crust like week-old bread all over it. Its quite literally on the bright side, however – all the sunshine on that face makes for dicey snow, but average snow in the sun beats good snow in the shade for me most days. When its good there – it’s great.

I picked up Tobi at seven AM at his place, after the drive from Munich. I tanked up and got some croissant fat-nuggets along the way, in wonderment at the people hanging out at the gas station at six in the morning, sucking on smokes and drinking beer while rocking out to techno. At a gas station. Oh well. We met the other guys at the trailhead and started up into the trees and first light.


The snow down low was thin. Skiing it proved to be a challenge later in the day, but thankfully, its mostly grass. That’ll go. As the sun peaked out illuminating the surrounding peaks and making for inspirational-motivational quote photos, we made the treeline and started warming up in the sunshine. Badly needed too. It was going at something like minus 10 degrees Centigrade, so my perennially cold fingers were not doing so hot despite the fast pace and all my hatches battened.


No stops, and we made the round about one thousand meter climb in about an hour and twenty minutes. The snow was not as bottomless as we had hoped, but at least it was fluffy. On the ridge, the wind was howling, and everyone was happy when we dropped into the shelter of a bowl on the backside, which was the best snow of the day. Its only about one hundred and fifty meters of altitude, but it was creamy and good. We treaded back up, and climbed back to the ridge-line we had just dropped off of a little further to the left.

so – who’s the guy on the short and skinnies?

Another rip of the skins was followed by careful skiing down the main face, which proved to be studded with rocks and other undesirables. It wasn’t bad, but when you don’t know what’s down there, you have to ski more carefully – and its not the same. Despite the thinnish snow – I wished for some fatter boards. I took the really light ones out, and my tips weren’t staying up. Faster riding would have helped, but, here again, the danger of shark fins kind of precluded that. I made one cranial snow sample on the way down as a result. So – the next round in the bar is on me – which, with this group, could be a substantial problem.

Tobi – checking if his feet are still there. (Thankfully – he seems to have his boot problems licked)

The sun was in full effect, and we had a quick break at treeline for a bite to eat. I recited my usual “reasons why it is great to be me” to the group. Chiefly, I am good-looking, intelligent, and modest. All were in full agreement, so I truncated the usual four-hour listing after about one-hundred points.


We skinned back up, passing the only group we saw that day, a group of four, I think, with three ladies and a dude, who had left the skirts at a picnic and made for the ridge to the left of where we had descended. They had been conspicuous in their disdain for their equipment on the way down, skiing more rock than snow on the aspect they had chosen, which led to speculation that they must be the heirs to the Conrad Sports ski-shop fortune. Only people that get new gear every day ski like that.


In any case, P-Tex-Rex had broken a nice trail up to the ridge, so we followed it, despite some reservations about coverage. Another five hundred meters or so, and we were up. Mr. Rex had muddled about on the ridge and either disappeared into thin air or dropped off the back side, so the even thinner snow on the face we had just ascended was all ours.


It made for entirely mediocre skiing. Which is kind of the point of all this writing. At no point was it awesome, but the combination of sun, good friends, beautiful scenery and a few laughs at my crashes made for a great day. The ride back down through the trees to the car was, as always at this spot, crap – and will probably pay for the Conrad Kids next skis due to the repair work we will need, but all in all, round about one thousand five-hundred meters of skiing was had that I won’t soon forget.


Most people can’t say that about their Saturday – but I’ve been fortunate enough to find this lifestyle where I have it all winter long, nearly every weekend. A day at the resort might be objectively better, but subjectively – this is better than ten days at any resort, for sure. Its tough to say why, but I think anyone who’s done it can agree.

At the car, bases were examined, I was cajoled into not driving in my ski boots, and we all agreed we’d do it again in a week or so. It’s going to be a great winter.

Blowing up a military base in search of powder

As my hordes of loyal readers will have noticed, muggle life kept me out of the hills for two whole weeks. Wasn’t so bad. The snow is beat and I had an injury (sprained spleen) and the time off gave me the opportunity to concentrate all my energies on the psychosis that my double-bathroom renovation is causing me. (Hint: my builders told me “we don’t generally use technical drawings for our projects!”

Enter the spring holidays: Fasching – commonly known in other parts of the world as “carnival” or to the US: Rio de Janero. My kids are off school, so Grandma came down to herd them while me and the missus went looking for some snow.

Things didn’t really get off to a great start. We went down to Tyrol and dropped into a little side valley off of the Inntal – going to the Guest house Innerst, where you can park and skin up to the Weidener Hut. From here, there’s a bunch of tours and, as you are far away from the main valley, you’re up there with your own kind. Coulda been nice. 

Wasn’t. The road in to the Weidener Hut was melted out and we were late in the day to make the 2 hour walk up there. We wouldn’t have been able to do any of the routes from the hut, so it would have left us with another slog out. 

We did what all married couples do in situations like this: we fought bitterly. We turned around – and half-lapped one of our standards again. Mostly without speaking. The snow had gone positively springlike – soggy. The skiing left much to be desired.

The next day we woke to low visibility but at least a little snowfall. We decided not to tour and kicked around Kaltenbach for a while. No big deal. But we were under pressure to make the next day, with its new snow and forecasted great weather, into something special. 

I chose the area around the Lizumer Hut. As you drive down the Inn valley from Ebbs towards Innsbruck, you see a lot of good-looking spots to ski. The area around Wattens, however, is the exception. It would appear that in the hills behind twin, there’s really nothing worth writing home about. 

You’d be wrong.

Behind Wattens, there is a deep and long valley that extends into the heart of the Tuxer range. You can’t see it from the highway because it is waaay back there, and the general public doesn’t head there because there are no ski resorts back there. 

That’s because – at the very back of that valley (the Wattener Lizum) there is an Austrian military base keeping tabs on the groundhogs back there. The whole area is officially restricted – but for reasons that are unclear to me – this does not preclude one from ducking under the checkpoint at the end of the road with ski gear and poaching all that heavily guarded pow.

I was thinking: 2 hours in, a bite at the hut, then a quick jaunt up one of the many routes at the head of the valley and then back out on the road. What we got into was a lot bigger than that though.

The road in is loooong and there is nothing back there save for an isolated guest house which might as well be an outpost on the moon. Then, all of a sudden, a parking lot, with an military checkpoint behind it and lots notices about live ordinance and how awesome it is to shoot stuff.

We ducked under the crossbar while being ogled by a less than steely-eyed draftee and opted for a route off the road in order to avoid, well, the road.

The path worked it’s way along a brook and through a Hansel and Gretel looking forest before opening up for a glimpse of that high mountain valley. Still disconcertingly far off. Undiscouraged, we continued meeting up again with the tank-free road and followed it, and a path through the woods, up past a monument to people dying in lots of gruesome ways, past a barracks that was obviously empty but nonethess huge and almost hotel-like, to the Lizumer Hut.

Wow. What a spot. Sitting in the bottom of that valley and surrounded on thee sides by the highest peaks of the Tuxer range and all above treeline- one can imagine a solitary existence filled with light, silence and endless possibilities for chasing powder dreams. The hut is large, and comfortable with suitably eurohuttish decor. 

Strangely- the entire staff is from Singapore, and does not speak German. It’s not really that surprising to me. Huts have a hard time finding people willing to run them. The people who do basically lease the property and have lots of restrictions on what they can do. They often lose money, and an isolated hut like this one, far from the road, with no cell phone service and a strenuous hike in, is a logistical nightmare. More and more Huts are filling positions or even renting out to foreign management. They are either happy for the work, or sometimes, may not know what they are getting into. The ladies here were very nice, and served us some good, traditionally Austrian food.

Then it was back into the sun and the trek began. Routes were, despite the terrain, limited. The bad snow year was in full force here as well, so all the routes on the west side of the valley were dusted dusted. The east side was a little better but the routes were less attractive. Lots of terrain traps and exposure to avalanche hazard over there.

Naturally- anyone who does this enough looks to north facing slopes – and so did we. At the end of the valley there was a ramp up that looked to hold snow, as well as a wide-open bowl next to it that was screaming “unsurvivable slab avalanche” – and since surviving is a temporary, but nonetheless central, life goal of ours, we chose the ramp.

Plus – somebody had already put the skinner in.

Off we went. And went. And went some more. You ever seen that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he digs his way to the beach, but took a wrong turn and ends up in the Sahara? Runs for miles trying to find the surf…. it was like that.

Sometimes – seeing the whole route stretch out in front of you can be daunting. In the mountains, with no trees or buildings, scales can be off, and what looks close just drags on for donkey’s years. We finally made the ramp and we’re happy to have kick turns to give cadence to our climb.

The sun dipped behind the ridge, but the glimmer above and beyond pulled us up, despite the more than 4 hours of steady climbing since the morning.

Then we crested.

It wasn’t the ridge. It was a plateau. We still had a little more than 100 vertical meters to climb to our right. I felt really bummed. Sabine wanted to sit down and cry.

I waited for her while thinking positive ways to cheer her up and contemplating the possibility of digging a hole and expiring in it in a way that would cause me the least possible embarrassment at my funeral.

Sabine came up- and I tried to build her up, and it worked. I figured, we could still make it up and out before sundown – and hey – the snow was stable, and was the best we’d seen all season. So we grit our teeth, had some candy, and slogged up to the top. 

Well, almost. I went to the top. But 15 meters below the peak there was another one of these plateaus, and Sabine called it quits. I went alone- claimed the land for Queen Isabella of Spain, ripped skins and met my sweetie engaged in her usual splitboard puzzle-problem.

The ride out was sublime. We were concerned about lurking shark fins, so we rode conservatively- but we had no contact and things were solid. We yo-yo’d into the valley floor, skinned up and went back to the hut.

Long story short, we made time and survival skied that road with low snow cover, throwing sparks off our edges and making the parking lot in the dark.

We were beat. All in all, we made about 1600 vertical with about 30 miles travelled. That is super-big in anybody’s book. That guest house on the way in got two hungry visitors, and after the whole day in the sun, it might as well have been the Waldorf Astoria.

The food was great – and then all of a sudden, a troop of Fachings-Revelers came in with hand carved wooden masks and elaborate costumes. They danced, and shared schnapps with us, and we felt really lucky to finish our day with such an unusual highlight in that isolated place.

If we go back – the better way would be to make a weekend of it, instead of a day. We will surely return- as there are few places like this left in the alps.

Don’t tell anyone!

Kiddie Patrol on the Kleiner Gilfert

Saturday’s are for resting, so today, despite the super weather, we stayed in bed till late and munched on a big breakfast until nearly midday. My best touring buddy was sick, so I was looking for alternatives. I tried to get my oldest to go for a tour and a Schnitzel up to the Loashütte, but interest was low.

Enter the Kleiner Gilfert. I was able to convince Henry to try a quick yo-yo tour to this peak mostly because we could take the lifts up to the Pfaffenbühl and then just drop off the backside.

I neglected, in a masterstroke of omission, to mention that the climb back up and out is actually much longer than the little 400 meter tour to the Loashütte. Oh well – the weather was FABULOUS!
So my boy is 10 years old. Doesn’t do too badly with a little pow, and will certainly get much better than us very soon. He still bit it – haha! No harm done.

I put him out front. That way, he could set the pace. It was slow, but he kept moving and he wasn’t fooling about with gear, so we made the peak pretty quickly.

Got some nice shots too.

These we’ll keep till he’s big. They’ll be nice.

The peak has a multi-denominational cross on the top. Created by an artist and quite the thing. In reality, the Kleiner Gilfert is not a peak, it’s just a high point on a ridgeline. You won’t find it mother maps. Also – the Gilfert is a peak on the opposite side of the Pfaffenbühl, so even the name is kinda weird. It’s certainly been named by tourists. The tackle up there is selfie-worthy though, so I guess it’s fitting that it’s got a fake name.

We dropped the other side of the ridge in the shade and got at least a few blower turns. Dad tried keeping everyone to the right out of the sun, but neglected to remember that the route cliffs out over there. There is a way down, but it definitely NC-17 and Mom wouldn’t want me barreling our firstborn down that line.

We reversed course and made boot tracks back to the sun-baked slopes frequented by the freeriders crossing out from the resort. Yuck.

The road out was a fast slide, and Henry was happy except for the poling at the end. We made the lot at Hochfügen, and raised a few eyebrows with a kid in tow.

We called mom for a pickup. Everybody was happy and HUNGRY!

But this is my favorite photo of the day:

It’s nice being able to share days like this with my kids. Inreally hope that someday, they’ll like all this as much as I do and I hope they still have places to do it, long after we’re all gone.

Sunny powder day at the Proxenstand

Almost anyway ….. I started out with the plan to head to the Proxenstand because my guidebook told me the whole tour was under the magic 35 degrees and under 1900 meters. The avalanche service has been warning about depth hoar above 1900 on shady north-facing slopes, so my plan was to stay low. I had to search a bit. Close to the hut, but I didn’t want to go to one of my regular places for this kind of situation. I kinda wore them all out last year.

The Proxenstand is a locals tour above Schwatz. Never been there, although it’s just on the other side of the Kellerjoch. The pic above shows the road that runs waaay up to a restaurant up there in the woods on the north-facing side of the Inntal.

You start up through the woods, nothing too thick here, until you break through to the high pasture grounds like this:

Really remarkable, because the whole route is really gentle and just when you think it’s gotta go steep, a route opens up that gets you higher. The way I found was never exposed to any serious slide danger, so when the time came to bend off towards the left for the Proxenstand, a sub peak, I kept going towards this:

Back there, to the left, there is a low angle playground of shaded north powder! The cirque around it is high and steep, but the center of it is raised and forms a natural barrier to the slides that come down off the steep flanks. The way in is flat! You could come here for days in a 4 and as long as you kept the alpha in mind, you could avoid any heavy danger! This place is now on my list of go-to spots! I know some of you will understand my excitement.

It just wouldn’t stop though! I found a stable route out of THAT cirque and into the next drainage on the right (to the west). I gained the ridge, only to find that the ridge wasn’t a ridge, but rather a hanging valley.

I know my map could have told me that, but I hadn’t paid attention and hey – I was only going to the Proxenstand- right?

I followed through that basin, and recognized the Kellerjochhütte – which I’ve been to before, but only from the other side. It became my new goal.

There was a ridge leading up, so I figured I could stay on that and get all the way up. Good thing too:

If you look at the ridge, you can see the self-releases that went all down that north-facing side. These certainly went on the layer of depth hoar that the LWD is warning about. Any safe route would have to stay on that ridge, away from the drop on the other side too – cause by now, I was over 2000 meters. Cue that Kenny Loggins tune….

I gained that ridge, and the Austrians who were already there did a remarkable job of ignoring my existence. Even my physical presence was summarily ignored and two ladies tried to walk through me. I did my best to accommodate them, but the laws of space time made my vaporization quite impossible.

The view is great – you can look over the whole of the Inn valley on one side and the Finsinggrund on the other.

The ride down was perfect ankle deep pow. I had fallen light and has dried out quite a bit. Of course, I doesn’t dry out – what I was skiing on was surface hoar, which can be a drag once snow falls on it, but as a top layer, it’s rad.

I dropped down along my uptrack, staying clear of the north facing side of that ridge enjoying the views and the blue blue sky. The route was flat, so it was all easy cruising, and although I was by no means the first, I still found the goods. Always enough to share.

I dropped back into that first high valley and passed the Proxen alm – which is open in the summer, and looks nice. Those turns in there were the best, and had I had the time, I would have skinned back up to get some more.

The way out through the forest and bearing right took me back to a road and from there a sledding track. I was able to find a few patches of good turns, but there is surely a better way out. I’ll have to come back and find it.

By this late in the afternoon, the alm pastures were getting a little baked, but I muddled through and hit pavement just before the sun dropped behind the ridge.


So – a nice place! Good for when you’re looking to stay safe – but there is plenty of temptation, so if you go, make sure to stick to your plan. Well – mostly.

Rastkogel in June – the long way


June. Not my favorite time, to be sure. I’ve got a habit – and that habit is not fed during the warm summer months. Sure – you can lug your ass down to South America or skid around on a glacier with a bunch of rich Ukrainians who call themselves their country’s ski team, but the air just doesn’t have the same smell, and the sun has a hazy, thick feel – even at four thousand meters. I’m a junky for the winter – but my family was dying for some sun time and for Italian ice cream, so we went down to the non-snowy bits of Italy for a while and had some city-time at home as well. While nice – Tuscany doesn’t get me bubbly in the same way the Italian lakes do – and while the days at home were nice – heading back up to the hut last weekend, I was dying to get some time on my sticks before the great melt finished it all.

I settled on a long tour – all the way out to the Rastkogel and back from Hochfügen. I’ve been touring around this area all winter and I had been wanting to get back there for a while. Its the major peak of the Tuxer Range, quite a way from my usual starting point, and I knew that the long, shaded ravine on the eastern side would probably still hold snow because of its shaded nature.

I also knew that the major portion of the tour would be on foot, as there were only patches of snow starting around 2000 meters, and that the total length of the tour was going to be somewhere around 20 km….so I got ready for a big day – and started hiking at three in the morning – trying to beat the melt and hopefully make some summer corn – and get home in time for a late breakfast.

Darkness at 3 AM - on an iPhone
Darkness at 3 AM – on an iPhone

Good luck on that!

Starting out on a tour alone in the deep of night is kinda spooky. Everything is quiet, but you are all in motion. I tried not to push myself, but its funny how if I sense emptiness – something in me wants to always instinctively fill that space up, with noise, with action, with motion. It was hard to keep from moving ever faster – but I knew that in order to go fast today – I would have to go slow – so I did my best. Going slow to be fast – the most counter intuitive and singular most important lesson I’ve learned in the hills. A lesson for anywhere, really.

I made slow time up the long Finsinggrund, past the ski area and all the way to the back, where the trail steepens and climbs up to the Sidanjoch – round about 2000 meters. I went in full-bore, and eschewed trail shoes, as is my habit for hikes to skiing, and wore my touring boots the whole way out. I am really liking these TLT 6s – no way I would have made this on some beef boots  – and the idea of carrying them strapped to my back seems nearly ridiculous to me.

The late, great Steve Romeo – whom I never met, but who’s blog I was an active reader of, used to call this “Teton Style” – I don’t know what everyone else calls it – but I miss that guy and it makes me happy to think of him. I suppose that doing it his way also makes me feel a little “big time” too…so Teton Style is a good name for it.

I like it so much – that I could imagine getting still lighter boots for these kinds of things. On these kinds of outings – I just don’t need the stiffness, and the lower weight would please me more than a more gripping turn….we’ll see. My wife can’t understand my gear stash as is….I know some of you hear me.

Sidanjoch - a nice view
Sidanjoch – a nice view

The sun started popping up as I was making the Sidanjoch – which was a beautiful view, but it was also at least a half hour later than I had hoped. I enjoyed the sunrise as I walked along the ridge towards the Rastkogel, and I quickly realized that I had misjudged the time it would take me to traverse into the next drainage and get up onto the flank of the mountain. I knew I’d miss breakfast.

this place is rad!
this place is rad!

I picked my way over dozens of smaller creeks, swollen with snow-melt and got down into a hanging valley that marked the start of the snowline and where I could put on my skis. I was already more than 3 hours in by now and the sun was starting to warm up, so I zipped my trouser legs open, got my sunglasses on (bro tilt fully engaged – natch) – but the shade kept my softshell on. I clicked in. Such a great feeling after four weeks off snow! skinned up suncups and got to a moraine which had been blocking my view into the main part of the little basin. What a beautiful scene! The snow-melt was filling a little lake, shallow and tame at one end, with wide, gentle little brooks running into it, getting ever deeper and green-blue at other end, before spilling over the edge of the little valley tumbling into the deep below. I could have stopped right there for a week and watched the snow melt – but I had things to do….

still some white up here!
still some white up here!

I went up the gut of the ravine I had spied some weeks ago from the Rosskopf – and it was good. Well-filled, with firm, but grippy refrozen, not too hard, not too soft, and holding up well due to the ample shade. I was already feeling it – I had been out a while already and was in for about 1000 meters of vert already, so I did my best to cruise.

I topped out into the sunshine and a view of the world! The snow didn’t go all the way, the steeper sides of the summit area were getting pounded by solar radiation, so there was no choice but to dump my skis and scramble to the top over rock, and in some places, rotten snow with semi-supportable crust on it. I was glad I had my ice-axe with me – but I didn’t feel a need to don crampons.

Last summer – I had a death-slide on the Hoher Riffler – so I’ve gotten more careful and take my axe often on spring and summer tours. Its worth it – I suppose.

Not looking grand though
Not looking grand though

The peak was grand! To the north, I could see all the way over the Inn Valley and the imposing Wetterstein and Karwendel Ranges opposite. This wall blocking paths north must’ve been an imposing and important symbol for travelers in the days when everyone crossed these mountains on foot – and you can’t understand this place without having seen them that way – I think. Stretching to the east, I saw the pass over towards Salzburg, and to the south and southeast the massive, glacier-covered peaks of the Main Ridge of the Alps. From up there – the glacier at Hintertux looks strangely small, and massive at the same time. Strange to think of the times I have been there – from up of the Rastkogel, it looked like a flat rock in the sky, not much like a ski hill.

I enjoyed it, but not for long – I had to get moving.


I scrambled back down, drank some water, and clicked in for some turns! The snow was perfect summer corn, fully isothermal and breeze to ski. I made nice Euro-Turns down the gully,milking my 700 meters of goodness. I stopped a few times to admire my work, but in no time I was back at the bottom, back at the little lake, and looking at about three hours of feet-beating to get back to the porn pit.

see him?
see him?

I saddled up and got to it – but by this time the sun was up high and baking, so I dropped the softshell and went in sleeves. The way down, was just like the way up, just hotter, brighter and tired-er. The wind was right (wrong for groundhogs) so I snuck up on a groundhog and got a good look. Winter wasn’t too bad for them, is my guess.

My route was also peppered with a mix of hikers who either were genuinely curious about my skis and where I had found snow on the seventh of June, or people who gave me the stink-eye for no good reason. I suppose some of them are of the opinion that anyone who skis when others go sunbathing is a nutter – and as such – should be informed of it. They don’t bother me though….some people just love putting other people down.

By this time – my legs and feet were aching – and the distance was taking it out on my toenails. I was REALLY late for breakfast though, and the missus had already told me on my call from the peak (had reception up there) that she was not pleased I had missed my deadline. So I ran. In ski boots.

For about 8 miles.

the smile that says: ouch!
the smile that says: ouch!

While my lungs and my heart may be iron-man tough – my tootsies are delicate swans. That run did them in. Perhaps for good. My toenails are all beat up from years of too-small boots and actions like these – wearing sandals is an exercise alternating in pride and shame – depending on my mood, and I think this trip made it worse.

So – after getting home about midday – I sucked it up and went to lunch with the family and some friends, and managed to be somewhat sociable until falling asleep at about four pm. Now – several days later – I still haven’t gone jogging – but it’ll happen.

That may be it for this summer – unless one of you wants to go to a big hill somewhere!