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