After yesterday’s partly cloudy skies, and thus cutting the last of the day’s goals, we, of course, picked roast bluebird off the Day 4 fantasy menu. And yes, next morning our dreams became reality: perfect azure skies, hundreds of square miles of melt/freeze snowpack, soaring peaks and fall-over views everywhere you looked. At this point Ted is telling me this is the best trip he’s ever done in the Alps. Sure, he’s ticked off a worthy list of ski descents around Chamonix, and been on several other classic hut supported high routes. But by hitting such good weather, staying in some of the Alps’ most high quality huts, as well as setting our own pace by self-guiding, he’s thinking we’ve nailed the ultimate six days in the Silvretta and that it just can’t get any better than this. I tend to agree.
Before continuing the travelogue, some of our readers have been wondering exactly what the Silvretta is. Basically, this is a fairly high altitude (many peaks above 3,000 meters) glaciated area in the central eastern Alps, with the Austria/Swiss border running through it. Alpinism has been popular here for a century or more, with many of the huts first built during the golden age of mountaineering (since expanded and rebuilt/remodeled many times). Note that what we call a “hut” in this region is really a hotel located in the backcountry, with smaller than normal rooms and an overall more rustic ambiance than a hotel or lodge in the city.
All the huts we’ve been staying at have electricity, running water and heat, and are commonly stocked and accessed via a snow-road using snowcats or snowmobiles. While most guests access the huts via human power, it’s not uncommon for people to get hauled in via snow machine. What’s more, as we did the first day, some of the huts are also accessed via ski lifts and cable cars. The mix of mechanized and non-mechanized is fascinating, and quite well blended in my opinion.
But don’t get the idea this is too civilized. Once you leave the hut door, you’re in your harness, have a rope stashed in your pack and ready for deployment, and you’re worshiping your map and GPS. In all, the ethos of the place is this thoroughly enjoyable contrast between comfortable accommodations and full-on backcountry skiing. All topped with easy summits where boredom is soon remedied by the common no-fall zones European hill scramblers seem all too nonchalant about.
(Photos by Ted and Lou.) Stay tuned for part 2, as we make it to the Wiesbadener.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.