Hüenerchopf (2170m)

The weather forecast predicted rain and snow in the afternoon. The avalanche situation was uncertain. Mark and I still wanted to do something outside, so we decided to snowshoe up the Hüenerchopf. It's not super steep and most of the approach is on a gentle ridge, meaning there's not much above us that could drop on our heads.

The few houses that make up Vermol.
Don't get caught in one of those fuckers.

We parked at Vermol at the end of a steep mountain road. Luckily free of snow this time. What we didn't expect, but should have, is that this route is also super popular with ski tourers. The slopes were scraped clean to the point that it almost looked like a resort with prepared runs. The upside of course was a nice and easy track for us to follow. No breaking trail this time around.

We made quick progress and overtook a few parties of ski touring people. When we passed a hut we met a local standing neck deep in a hole in the snow he dug for getting water from the creek below. He strongly suggested we head up a specific direction because the slope we were aiming for was "about to go". We followed his advice and indeed we could see a huge old slab avalanche on the approach he had warned us about. The snow was of the wet and heavy kind that would crush you before it'd suffocate you. Thanks dude.

Dramatic clouds and menacing colors in the sky. Loved it!

We gained the summit and met two guys on skis who brought their dogs up. We had vaguely hoped to be able to continue along the ridge to the nearby Madchopf. After a few tentative steps we decided it was too dicey. Windswept untracked snow and exposed terrain followed by a descent into a very avalanche prone face didn't really seem like a good idea. So we headed back down the way we came, racing the two men with their dogs and arriving at our car at the same time with them.

The entire roundtrip of 1150m and 12km took us less than 4 hours so we were already heading home at 1pm. Enough day left to enjoy some nice family time with Leonie and Anita in the afternoon ;-)

Looking back. The summit cross is just visible in the top right corner.
Luckily the ice was next to the road instead of on it...


Ijental (1545m)

Paweł and I went on another snowshoe trip on Saturday. This time the weather forecast was pretty gloomy with snow/rain and significant avalanche danger. Paweł also needed to be back home by 6 to pick up his family from the airport. Thus we decided to play it safe and stay low and chose a route with many opportunities for bailing. We went to the Ijental.

Still in civilization.
Paweł. Säntis in the far distance.

The adventure started with trying to find a spot to park the car. We went up a few of the small roads servicing individual farms on the mountain. These were mostly cleared of snow. The operative term being "mostly". Once I stopped so we could get our bearings and decide where to go, we got stuck. My winter tires were not finding enough purchase to get us going uphill again. So I had to roll back down the single lane road in reverse. We only learned our lesson after this happened for a second time and finally gave up and parked at the church down in the village.

I like these solitaire trees. They seem to be telling a story of a long and proud life.
Sören coming up. Check out the high-heel mode on my snowshoes. Very convenient on steep ascents.

We followed a nice trail through the forest up to the ridge that we had picked as our route for the day. Along the way we met a young ski touring couple coming towards us. She was on skis, he on some kind of snowboard. The curious thing about it was that it didn't seem to have any bindings so he was essentially using it as a surfboard, riding it down the mountain by just balancing on it. Looked very difficult.

We skirted a small ski resort (a single drag lift) where some kind of special event was going on. Lots of hollering and shouting from a small crowd of spectators and a bunch of people dressed up in ancient (military?) uniforms, skiing old wooden skis. No idea what it was, but it looked fun and involved lots of tumbling down the slopes.

Past that we had the mountain to ourselves and were breaking trail along the ridge. We were both not feeling super strong and the snow was extremely sticky, making progress laborious. Thus we decided to forgo the final 100 meters of elevation gain and the only named summit on the ridge (Bremacher Höchi 1641m) and returned via the Ijental valley instead.

Despite the depressing forecast the weather held and we even had a few extremely hot moments when the sun broke through the clouds. I was actually looking forwards to some shade beneath the trees - rare on a snowshoe trip! We covered about 15 kilometers and 900 meters of elevation gain. Another nice day out. But then, you can never go wrong by going to the mountains ;-)


Gross Aubrig (1695m)

Paweł suggested a snowshoe tour up the Gross Aubrig at the Wägitalersee. It was meant as a warm-up trip for him to get back into the mountains after surgery and for me after not doing much at all for three months because of all the nice germs Leonie is bringing into our family (babies should really be bootstrapped with a fully working immune system!). Thus he picked a relatively modest mountain with a planned elevation gain of just 800 meters. It turned out to be the perfect choice.

Frozen trail.
Frozen trees.

It was overcast and cold in the valley. We hiked through a mysterious frozen winter wonderland. Absolutely beautiful under trees covered in hoar. The first few hundred meters we were following someone's footsteps in the snow, but we quickly passed their turnaround point and had the entire mountain to ourselves. Eventually we broke through the clouds and enjoyed blue skies over a sea of clouds.

We're the first to break trail.

The top section of the mountain is significantly steeper than the lower parts and we crossed a few avalanche debris fields. And while the sun was beautiful and warm it also turned the snow into heavy sticky stuff. This made for a rather uncomfortable descent where we carefully retraced our steps going down backwards, facing the mountain. Slippery, with too many slides ending in vertical drops. Anyway, we made it back down safely and could look back at a perfect trip in gorgeous weather. Thanks for organizing Paweł!

Getting steeper.
Breaking through the clouds.
Cruising towards the summit.
Looking back. This almost seems like two photos stitched together.
On the summit plateau.
Summit selfie.
Stairway to heaven.
Frozen Winter-Wonderland.


Sledding Melchsee-Frutt

The Zürich part of my team at work had an off-site where we went sledding at Melchsee-Frutt. At roughly 8 km it is one of the longer sled runs in Switzerland. With every run the five of us became progressively more confident and we had some tight races and lots of fun. The track gets more and more bumpy during the course of a day so that when Björn and I tried a double at the end we got thrown around quite violently. I had a nice collection of bruises on the insides of my legs and sore muscles in my back (in a very weird spot, must be a strange load). Super fun!

It looks harmless until you try it.
About to set off with way more momentum than a single rider.
The GPS recording afterwards. We covered about 40 km on sleds!


Skiing Pizol

I'm slowly working my way through all the ski resorts within a two hour driving distance of Zürich. This Sunday Björn and Thomas joined me and we went to Pizol. I have climbed the mountain in the past on a snowshoe tour and used the ski slopes as my descent route, but I had never actually skied there. It's a rather small resort but the slopes are nice and at a comfortable decline that allows for super fast runs. It's also probably the resort with the most spectacular views - many runs look as if you'd fly off directly into the valley. Anita and Leonie joined us later in the day for some mild hiking and sledding. It was a bit too cold for Leonie to really enjoy it though, so we went home quickly after that.

Björn contemplating the terrible life choices that got him here.
Thomas, Sören, Björn.
Must have missed the turnoff. Experiments in off-piste skiing.
This is rather more fun than on-piste but also more tiring.


Skiing & Sledding Flumserberg

We celebrated Leonie's baptism at the end of January. This meant a lot of travel for our visiting family. To make it worth their while they all stayed for a few days and we went skiing at Flumserberg. Us brothers made the advance party and skied all day while the ladies showed up later for a bunch of sled runs down the mountain. Tons of fun in great weather. And it proved yet again that sledding is so much more hazardous than skiing - almost comparable speeds with much less control ;-)

Not too bad above the clouds.
Damn crowded ski resorts.
Happy faces.
Torsten enjoying a run to himself...
...until Richard shows up and it's crowded again.
"Local" beer.
More happy faces.
After a sled run.
Leonie enjoying the views.