(Continued retrospective trip reports from my European journey.)
Still a bit jet lagged, but I’m not going to let that get in the way of my first tour on a European glacier. Fritz has skied here, but that was years ago so he retains one of the guides that Dynafit has attending the event. Demitry is an Italian with a big smile and easy demeanor who marches us up through the clouds in good style, the three of us roped together as is wise on a glacier (especially without heavy snowfalls to strengthen crevasse bridges.)
|I mentioned a few posts ago how wonderful the color of the hut is, as it speaks to morning alpinglow that frequently paints the Konigspitze looming behind the building. This is a different photo from another morning — today it’s all clouds and fog.|
|View of the Konigspitze from the room window. This is more along the lines of what things looked like this morning. Kind of dark and dingy with lots of clouds dropping down to nearly our elevation. Getting to the top of Konigspitze is a long involved tour, so we’re instead headed for the Suldenspitze, a 3,376 meter bump up at the head of a glacier.|
I’m still feeling jet lagged, but also happy and excited to be on skis again after a few days off. Snowpack is thin. We skin over a few rocky moraines then reach the glacier. Turns out we’ll travel up the glacier, which I hadn’t known so I’d left my cool little rando harness back in the room. I’m frustrated for a moment, but Demitry has an extra cordelette and jury rigs a harness, so off we go. We make quick work of moderate vertical up to a crevasse area, where we make a false turn but eventually boot up over a serac. We’re now in somewhat of a whiteout, but fleeting glimpses of the mountainside keep us on route. A couple of young rando-race style skiers catch up to us, then head on up to the summit like charging locomotives. They’re not roped, which is probably okay if you’re young, wild, and know your way around. I’m happy to stay roped. Being around a few crevasses doesn’t seem like much — until you fall into one and plummet a few hundred feet to almost certain injury or worse.
|Artifacts from the first world war adorn the summit of Suldenspitze. This barbed wire is a grim reminder of how good we’ve got it; to be here dealing in fun instead of death. Fritz is quite the historian, this from him: “The remains of the battles on our “south front” (Austrian view), that reached from the Slowenian Karst all the way through the Dolomites to the Ortler mountains, are from the first WW (1915-1918, 1915 Italy declared war on Austria, the French and English promising SÃ¼dtirol for that). By the way, Ernest Hemingway wrote ‘A Farewell To Arms’ about the Italian retreat after the decisive Isonzo battle. That victory did not prevent Austria from loosing the war, and he was right when he wrote, ‘the Austrian army is made to loose …..’. In the second WW there was no fighting in northern Italy.”|
|Our route as seen from the hut. It’s not far, just a short tour to learn the terrain. Plan is to tour beyond as soon as the weather lets up. Perhaps tomorrow.
The ski down is tricky. In bad light we drop off the summit down a steep pitch, then ride breakable crust past a crevasse field. We descend unroped, as due to momentum it’s rare for a moving downhill skier to collapse a snowbridge and fall in a crevasse. Crux of the otherwise moderate descent is a sideslip down about eight feet of ice-cube ice, next to a yawning crevasse. I’m thinking to myself, “no wonder these guys are such good skiers.” Then it’s a few thousand feet of breakable crust back to the beer taps and product meetings.
Speaking of products, up till now I’d been skiing on a pair of the new Dynafit Seven Summits skis, which are basically a softened version of the excellent FT 10.0 that debuted last season. Someone snagged my Summits this morning for testing, so I used a pair of FT 7.0, a new twin-tip ski that’s on the narrower side (116-80-106), but at 80 under the foot is close to my favorite dimension for backcountry. These skied quite well in the breakable crust, and Fritz was able to make smooth carve style turns on his once we hit the piste below the glacier (we returned to the hut by skiing down to a tram station, to avoid some hiking through rock piles.)
The Dynafit ski line this year represents a somewhat amazing financial and design commitment. Comprised of, no lie, 15 different models, the line includes interesting purpose built skis as well as general touring skis. For example, the Gasherbrum model is built specifically for steep extreme skiing that involves maneuvering in tight terrain, possibly on hard snow. The ski has a more relaxed sidecut so it doesn’t “bridge” when working on steep snow, and has a layer of spring steel for the ultimate jump turn snap. Another example, three racing style skis that come in at weights around 850 grams in the 160 cm length. And of course Dynafit’s six “Free Touring” category skis (Seven Summit, FT 10.0, etc.) designed for turn oriented backcountry skiing such as is common here in the states.
Word is that the newly formed Salewa/Dynafit North America will be importing all these skis, so you’ll probably see a few at your local shop. They’re very interesting (FT 10 is a proven winner)and deserve a demo.
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.