Looking for a secret stash? How about this one?

The weekend was quiet. Not a lot of tourers out on Saturday- not because it sucked, but because the avi danger was high and the near constant announcements on the radio properly frieghtened most people away. I personally thought it  wasn’t so bad – but I did see spontaneous releases on wind-loaded shady slopes above about 1900, so the forecast was in general correct. If you stayed off of the big, fluffy bits and played in the sun though, it seemed ok.

So I decided on a nice tour on Sunday with my buddy Stephan. He’s from Hamburg – and originally from Sylt, an island in the North Sea, but he loves Splitboarding and he makes it a point to tour whenever he can. He was here just a few weeks ago, but got sick as a dog just before, and really couldn’t tour at all, so I was glad to hear he could come for a second try.

Stephan is always trying to improve his skills in the safety and route-finding area, so I figured I’d let him pick the tour. We wanted something short, not too steep and safe. Stephan poured through the guidebooks and found a tour up the Polverer Jochl – which is a high ridgeline near the Hirzer in the Tuxer Range back behind Weer in the Inn Valley.

Not a real peak = not a ton of tourers. Not being the main show in the drainage, which is the Hirzer = even less interest and lastly, no hut and a walk up a forest road to get to the slopes = zero public interest!

What sounds like a dog is actually very, very good. The topos showed broad, gentle slopes with no trees and miles of space to cut your own line. The routefinding looked to be line of sight, and there was only one spot where we would be exposed to a little danger from above. A nice bag. We hoped to have it allot ourselves!

The snow of the last few days really helped us out. For the first time this year, we’ve got the 1 meterish of snow you need to really tour freely. If the 15 degree temps keep up, it won’t last, but we were happy for it. Unfortunately- the snowline  has clearly decided it’s spring, so there was no skiable snow below around 1400. it was a long walk up the forest road!

There was a sign: “last parking space” and also, slightly more menacing “private road” at the turn off where the gravel road went up. Stephan and i dutifully parked there and started up with our gear on our backs. After 15 minutes, we got passed by a clown car with 6 tourers in spandex who parked in a area that was clearly “the real last parking space”….oh well….

We continued, until we finally hit the turn off where the trail started and the snow was rideable. There was a car parked there. In the “really really last parking space.” Stephan and I were not too bummed about losing roughly 40 minutes of walking one-way – this is what happens when you hit a spot for the first time after all- but next time, we’ll gird our loins and brave the towing crews to partake of the “VIP – Very Immense Penis” parking that obviously was available.

It wasn’t long before we popped into sun below a nice-looking hut that is open for beers in the summer. We crossed the creek that is the bottom of the drainage. It’s fairly flat there, which makes me guess that when the snow starts melting, the whole bottom of the valley probably floods out to one extent or another. Probably all gravel under the snow and the few summer huts and constructions are on top of a side-moraine on the west side of the valley. 

We gained that, and followed the back of it to the south, looking at all the great lines around us. Most of it needs safe conditions to ride, but there is a lot back there, and outside of the spandex-crew, and the obviously criminal parking bandits, there was no one back there. We had lost the race team five minutes in, and we never saw the other guys. It was a whole valley just for us.

As we were coming up the back of the moraine, we saw the “peaklet” that we were shooting for, but I kept checking the maps, because it just didn’t really match what was seeing. The geography at the top was ok, but the topography below was showing as undulating and generally flatish north to south. What I saw was another broad ridgeline separating the way up to the Polverer Jochl into two distinct drainages. By distances, the more northerly one was the intended route, but there was no indication of this split on the maps!

This is where I get to rant about the crappiness of Austrian and German maps. 1:50000. Awesome. At this scale- most of the features on this landscape were basically going lost. What looked like a single wide gulley or valley-let was actually two, seperated by a thin, marginally higher ridge, which was nonetheless significant because of the wind-loaded slopes on its northern side.

Stephan was flagging a bit – he’s still not back to full strength after his bronchitis- so I choose to march right up “disappearing ridge” to keep out of any slide paths, and also to work on my tan, as it was above 10 degrees and I was sporting short sleeves and and a thong. I hoped that we could make the top of the ridge, and then decide on further action.

It took a while, but I got there. The top was actually a promontory. Behind, it dipped down just enough to actually show up on the map – but with the warm weather and Stephan’s wheezing, we both decided it would be better enjoy the view and zip the plain we just walked up than to attempt more vert.

From up here we could see team Parkplatz making their way up the Hirtzer in good time. I wouldn’t have done it, but then again, I didn’t get the rad powder turns they made either. They were down and out before I ate Stephan’s powerbar.

Pro-tip. You can go super light and suffer none of the downsides if your friends carry your shit.

I ripped skins, Clicked in, took a selfie, read a chapter of War and Peace, engaged in international diplomacy with Angela Merkel….and then Stephan had pulled the bindings off his splitboard. So, I cured cancer, forgot the cure and contemplated the true meaning of “Friday” until he was done.

We rode through nice pow at the top, followed by a minor suncrust in the flats. It was, as always, a mixed bag, but nice! We rode out the way we came, and soon enough we hit the forest road and lamented again not ignoring the signs like everybody else.

As a skier – I can engage in some pretty manky survival skiing to avoid walking. Combine that fact and a heroic disregard for my equipment, and I will ski Asphalt flecked with crisco to the car. I rode on one leg over snowplow debris that was softer than it looked and used the other to slow down by kicking the springtime baby rabbits frolicking in the moss.

Stephan had to walk.

It was a great day- and I’ll be back to this secret valley again. Maybe I’ll see you there.

But that parking spot up top – that’s mine!

10 thoughts on “Looking for a secret stash? How about this one?”

  1. “This is where I get to rant about the crappiness of Austrian and German maps. 1:50000. Awesome. At this scale- most of the features on this landscape were basically going lost. What looked like a single wide gulley or valley-let was actually two, seperated by a thin, marginally higher ridge, which was nonetheless significant because of the wind-loaded slopes on its northern side.”
    Have you seen the Tabacco 1:25,000 maps?

    1. Yeah – but they are just scaled up versions of the 1:50000 maps. No additional detail. But you’ll need four of them for the same area.

    1. Well – the Alps is a big place…..generally, each country has its own maps. They can be offered by any number of companies, but since they were all created by the national mapping services of the country that they are of – regardless of who prints them, they will offer the quality of the national mapping services that made them. (wow – what a sentence – did you get that?)
      The best, by far, are the Swiss maps. They are 1:25000 and if you get lucky, you can even find 1:10000 maps if some of your swiss friends have army maps. (every male in Switzerland has compulsory military service) The swiss have mapped the crap out of their tiny country – and the maps are amazing. You can see single bushes and big rocks. Not kidding.
      The next best are the DAV and OEAV (German and Austrian Alpine Club) maps. These are 1:50000 and are OK. The upside: they are available everywhere and if you get the ski touring versions, they even have some markings specifically for winter travel, which is nice. In the area where I do most of my touring, these are the standard, and you can buy them at most sport shops, or at the DAV directly for less if you are a member. At 1:50000, they are sometimes not soooo great, as I mentioned in the post. But – they’ll do, and they are comprehensive of huge portions of the Alps, and even some other ranges, like the Abruzzen in Italy, etc.
      I really dislike the Tobacco maps, particularly. Tobacco takes the summer versions of the DAV maps, scales them up to 1:25000 and sells them to hikers. They are nice and colorful. Distractingly so, for me, and people buy them because everything is bigger. But – as they are scaled, there is no extra detail, just a bigger package to carry, and if I do have to take a tobacco map, I will often have to take several – as with ski-touring, you can easily go outside of the maps area of coverage.
      The upside of Tobacco maps is that, since they cater to tourists, you can sometimes find a tobacco map that covers an area you want to go a bit better than the DAV maps – because the DAV maps stick to specific ranges – and sometimes, you might be touring in a drainage that has one range on one side, and another range on the other. If you get unlucky – the DAV map will split that, and the Tobacco wont.

      When I’m looking for new maps, I go to the shop and check out all my options. On occation, I will also use my digital skills to piece bits of maps together. In this way – I can be aussured of total confusion whenever I am in the hills. Seriously – I dont know why I bother.

      Go up. Go down. Its usually enough.

    1. Opps – my maps are all at the hut. (Im in the city) I think I may have shifted scales on you….my bad. If the DAV maps are 25 – then the swiss are 10, and so on…. (my memory is not that super sometimes)
      But yes – the maps you are looking at are the ones I use. The ones for Südtirol are of the same or similar quality – even though I think they were surveyed by the italians.
      No worries though. I rant about the maps – but they are pretty good overall….certianly better than most places.

      1. If you’re the same guy going to Südtirol, then you’re more specifically trying to get to the Dolomites….The book you need is called “Freeride in Dolomiti” by Francesco Tremolada. ISBN 978-88-87890-93-8 This book has all the well-known couloirs and many lesser-known ones too – with guides on which lifts to take and what is considered “acceptable” at all these places. Its in Italian, and in English – two books in one….. Order it early, its not all that common.

        Really good book though…..

  2. I have both the Freeride and SkiMo books and they’re excellent–although the most recent Freeride edition was misprinted with pages missing and duplicates in their place.
    I’d give my sense of direction a B-. Some of the route descriptions, especially the entrances to couloirs, are pretty glossy. Hoping to have a good map for the first time just to make sure I’m where I want to be.
    The neat thing about the Dolomites (and other areas in the Alps) is the lift access is so great, you could build familiarity quickly.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Leave a Reply