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Good Ski Tour. Bad Ski Tour.

You went on a very good ski tour and a vary bad ski tour.

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Skitour Chli Chärpf

Parents have it rough when it comes to viruses. Kids come home from kita after licking every free surface and eating off the floor, bringing with them a barrage of bacteria and wilfully passing it on to you. Long version short: your friends cancelled weekend plans due to wonky tummies so you went skiing.

Stefan picked you up and you drove to Glarus for a ski tour. At the end of the valley the roads got steep and icy so you parked and got ready. This particular valley didn’t have enough trees — a.k.a. you needed a toilet and there was no cover. You went behind a van and unzipped your fly... then noticed people inside. Moving right along...

Bit chilly in the shade in the beginning

The weather was surprisingly good — no wind, clear skies and pleasant temperature. The trail began in the shade through a forest (warm gloves on) and zigzagged up above the tree line towards hills and sunshine (warm gloves off).

On the way up a few groups passed you. It’s ok, you’re not in a rush you told yourself. That excuse wore thin as the fourth Swiss senior (who looked over 70) powered past with a smile on his smug face. You are not Swiss-ski-tour-fit after all.

Easy ascent

The mountain was a highway of colourful skiwear and soft snow. There were a lot of people out today to the point you would call it crowded, but much of the mountain was pristine. At one point you stopped for a lunch break and noticed you had left your lunch in the car. Bummer.

Sunny ski touring

At an arbitrary point you deemed the top you pulled off the skins and tightened your boots for the descent. Your technique was crap but you made it down with little effort; the near-prefect conditions made it easy. You were grateful that your friends were stuck hugging a toilet and plans fell through after all.

Until the tree line it was all smooth skiing. The forest path was too narrow to slow down; it was actually easier to go careening wildly between the trees and use the bumps to control your descent. This plan worked most of the way down until you fell into a big hole and smashed into a log. Nothing broke.

Good day skiing. Dinner was ready when you got back. Win win.

Worst. Skitour. Ever.

It seems selfish to complain about skiing when you have the privilege to go anytime you want with minimal effort. Regardless, you just went on the worst ski tour ever.

Andermatt early

Guillaume wanted to try ski touring for the first time so you set a day, a place and a very early alarm to head off into the mountains. He picked you up at Bellevue and you drove towards Andermatt. Normally you would take the train but driving took half the time.

From Andermatt you met up with Stefan and took the cog train up to Oberalp. The weather wasn’t so great but you were sure it would improve soon. This hope steadily declined throughout the day.

Within in the first hundred meters you attached your Harscheisen (snow-crust spikes) to prevent sliding down the surprisingly steep and slippery slope. This was only the second time you have ever used them…

Slogging up an icy slope against the wind

Within two hundred meters the weather worsened and strong winds blasted you with ice (as opposed to snow). The gusts were so strong, and came so randomly, they forced you to brace against falling.

Within three hundred meters the fog thickened and you had trouble navigating. The ground had no contrast whatsoever; it was effectively a complete ground-whiteout, making it impossible to determine if the terrain went up or down. This led to mixed success: some progress and many detours.

Within four hundred meters you met a girl standing on a ridge gazing into the white abyss. She was observing her partner slowly traversing a very shifty section of slope below a rocky peak. He was struggling to stick to the ice sheet and cross the hundred-or-so metre span. At this point the way back was perhaps more dangerous than the way forward.

GPS track near the top

You made it across with some effort, only losing one fur in the process. On the other side you stuck your skis deep in the ground to remove the snow — the wind almost blew them away. You huddled behind a rock waiting for the others.

The rest of the ascent was more of the same. The final push was made without skis, digging your boots deep into the crust to gain traction. The hut at the top stood dark, derelict, deserted and 70% snowed-in — clearly not open for a hot cut of tea. The wind got stronger. Cool….

The original plan was to descend towards Andermatt. Preventing this plan was a gigantic snow-rift overhanging a four metre drop into rocks and ice. The alternative was to ski in the opposite direction without any obvious connection home. The latter seemed less risky, but the slope was utterly invisible.

It was an exciting descent. Surprise! A bump. Surprise! A hole. Surprise! A ridge. Surprise! A valley. You may as well have closed your eyes and just hoped for the best.

Made it down the mountain somehow

Sometime later you came across the mountain pass road, which you followed towards the next village. This part was easy, even with an unnerving number of avalanches to ski across. After arriving in Tschamut village you walked up to the train stop and found a button labelled stop on request.

Everyone made it safe. Great experience. Shall not repeat.