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Skitour Report 2015

Skitour 1: Gulme. Ski-day: Flumserberg. Skitour 2: Vanatasch. Skitour 3/4: Churfirsten. So much snow; too few weekends.

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Ski Report: Gulme

It's not like you can do a lot when the conditions are bad. Avalanche danger, fog, rain or just being buggered from a week of working hard do not help one go touring. If you're willing to overcome the effort-hill and then climb the actual hill it makes for a great adventure. This week the best you could manage was a short ski tour with Grég and Meike from Arvenbüel 520 m up Gulme (1789 m) and back.

The trip there by train and bus was easy enough. The track began beside a small skiing area (which you've never heard of) and followed a wide path ascending only a few vertical meters. It was misty, snowy, cold and not especially spectacular but nice to be outside non the less. The farmhouse at Vorderehöhi was open to serve winter adventurers. The farmer in his rubber boots was serving tea and sausages in the cow barn to warm people's fingers. It had a nice atmosphere sitting in the drafty wooden barn watching the steam rise from your hot drinks.

You met a signpost at speed

From Vorderhöhi, the ski tour went straight up Gulme... Or so you assumed, since it was a too foggy to actually see anything. The only sure thing was the trail was narrow, steep, icy and went up. There were parts which felt dangerous; of course this was entirely an assumption, since you only guess how far the cliff to your left dropped or if, in fact, was a cliff at all. After a few dangerous/safe spitzkehren (180°) turns Meike asked how much further to the top. Grég's reply "err... here" made you smile. You really had no idea where you were in the fog.

The way down was navigated by a vague idea in which direction to go. Sometimes you had skiing tracks to follow or the occasional sighting of a tree for orientation, but you were mostly running blind. You took it easy, eventually emerging at "the steepest slope I've ever been on", according to Grég. This was a hell of a way to learn how to ski (having just migrated from snowboarding). You shot down the slope towards a hiking trail sign (typical Swiss), turned too late, clipped your right ski and flew past the post spinning 180° and landed on you back. It was a nice setup for a photo facing back up the hill. You were amused by yourself. Also, glad to have sustained no injuries.

The snow thinned the further you skied down, crossing wide open fields toward the road. It thinned to the point that you exposed the dirt below with every turn until you arrived directly at a bus stop. Ten minute wait and home you went. Very convenient.

Ski Report: Surprise Monday

You were in the train heading home from your last adventure with Grég and Meike, everyone complaining about having to go to work on Monday, just as Charles sent you a massage: "Want to come skiing tomorrow?" Monday was a holiday in Winterthur! Hurray! Your French friend and lovely lady were unimpressed, further enforcing their impression you never work... Lol.

Monday became a spontaneous skiing day with the guys from work. Anders, Bastian, Charles, Stefan and yourself buggered off for some basic slope skiing in Flumserberg. The conditions weren't perfect but the slopes were mostly empty; skiing on a Monday has its advantages, most of all the privilege of lording it over those who went to work. It was a good chance to show the guys just how bad you can ski on piste. The icy slopes went making anything easier.

Flumserberg Talfahrt

During the day you all went down the talfahrt (valley run). At the top there was enough snow to have a good laugh — it was a hell of a ride down the bumpy slope, and it really worked your legs — but there wasn't much snow near the bottom. The one snowboarder of the group wasn't having much fun. In the end it was an injury-free day in the on the slopes in the sun, and perhaps the least adventurous skiing day this year. Still fun though.

Ski Report: Vanatsch, Sedrun

This weekend's adventure was to go touring behind Andermatt. You originally planned to go by train with Grég and Meike, with Stefan +1 coming by car but they didn't want to let his Audi through. He opted to ski in Andermatt to save you three waiting another hour in Sedrun — probably for the best, since it was a long tour.

Planning the route en route

The tour started beside the church and over a loipe, but quickly became a hike. Over the bridge you got into touring mode and headed up into the forest. It was nice and safe and not even steep. The tour followed the road up into the valley, eventually arriving at an ice tunnel. Although originally a car tunnel, dripping water had formed patches of icy floor and an impressive array of shoulder-high staligmights. It was magical (charlie).

Staligmight ice tunnel

After the tunnel things got steeper and included a few tactical shortcuts between bends. You were already buggered by the time you took a tea break at Culom Napels, but that was only half way up. The second half was breathtakingly beautiful, breathtakingly cold and just generally breathtaking overall. The last hundred meters required your harsheisen (touring ski cramp-ons). Depending on where you place the emphasis, that can mean both "ice irons" (harsh-eisen) or "hair shitting" (har-sheisen) in German, so care is required. Care was also required not to slide of the mountain since the way up was so damn steep and slippery.

Heavenly ascent

You traversed to Vanatsch (2478 m), and were quite amused trying to ski with open boots. You all landed it in the snow at one point to the applause of the others. The beginning descent was seriously questionable: it was up to 45° and there was a lot of loose snow. Trying to be careful, you went down one at a time. You went first and waited below to take a photo — right in the path of a potential avalanche; Grég went second and skied off into the distance — too far away to rescue anyone; and Meike came down safely last — at probably no risk since there hadn't been an avalanche so far.

Honigküchenpferd face, according to Meike

The rest of the descent was intermittently steep and slightly up-hill. The snow was fluffy and fun, at least when it went downhill. The trail sent you into a dead-end and then the wrong valley, so you had a good forty minute walk back to Serdun station. It was already dark by the time you trudged back into town, everyone boasting a few new blisters. The train station kiosk helped you along with some supplies for the four-hour ride home. Four hours, urgh... but at least you had beer.

Ski report: Churfirsten Weekend

The plan was hatched, albeit late Thursday evening, to spend the weekend in the Toggenburg area ski touring. Ski touring, ski-touring or skitouring — whatever the correct term may be — was only possible in some places due to the "considerable" avalanche danger. The slopes behind the Churfirsten mountain chain seemed like a good option, so Grég made a booking for three in Alp Sellamatt. Stefan added himself as a fourth. The more the merrier!

The Churfirsten from behind

The first tour went along a cross-country loipe, diagonally through the forest North-East and up Frümseltal. You weren't the first ones there; there were tracks all over the place. At first the going was mostly flat but eventually headed up a steep 700 meters. In the dent between Frümsel and Brisi you were pretty impressed at the view. It looked down over Walensee, west towards the Glänisch and east all the way to Langquart. On a scale of 1 to 10, it was an 11. Totally balls. It was only further improved by a Swiss bloke who brought his alphorn and began tooting. Pateouille Suisse even made a few fly-bys just to celebrate the utterly unbelievable view.

The view from Frumseltal

The way back was fun and the snow was good. Half of it was over open slopes interspersed with snow-buried pine trees, while the rest was down through a steep forest with tight corners. Apart from the bit in between where you had to walk, it was really great stuff. Not the biggest tour of all time, but the long horizontal part tuckered you out. It was nice to retire to a comfortable wooden bench in the sun outside the Alp for a panaché. That night after far too much dinner, you discovered Grég's evil secret: he had been counting his Ligretto cards wrong all these years! That cheeky bugger! Ligretto — a serous game.

Säntis at sunset

The second tour went more or less straight up Gluuristal between Schibenstoll and Hinderrugg. It was certainly steeper and icier than the previous day, meaning a faster ascent but required more breaks. The track passed below some icy cliff walls adjacent to the occasional avalanche wash, so you were motivated to keep things moving. Up and over a small hill and across a really steep, icy part and you were at the top. The view was again good but the edge didn't look especially safe; you kept a safe distance.

Everyone's reflection in Stefan's goggles

The way back was down one short powder-slope followed by a tricky forest adventure. You really enjoy the narrow tras and tight turns between the pine trees but it wasn't to everyone's taste; Stefan and his snowboard was having a tough time turning through the twigs. The rest was so icy all plans to continue skiing were abandoned and you all buggered off home. Great weekend!