For our second tour of the season we searched for something off piste. We knew it had to be high and had to be north facing. We decided to try our luck along high wall that creates the southern German border.
Judging the area based on maps, Elmau, famous for hosting G7 summit, was as close as we could get. We set off in hiking boots carrying gear expecting a lack of snow. No need. Turned out to be snow all the way to the parking lot even in early December.
In the first few kilometres of road we saw snowshoers but after that had the woods to ourselves. After 5.3km we reached a Hütte abandoned for the winter because of Covid. Tucked in under the mountains and snow it was beautiful.
The blue light in the pictures is pretty accurate. Since the sun never hits this close to the wall its cold and blue. A fair price for good snow.
We followed a skin track up past the hütte to a large opening at the base of the wall. Being close to a steep face like this means analysing avalanche potential. In this case we decided the faces above were not that loaded, it was a Northern aspect (most safe this time of year), and given the favourable avalanche forecast we deemed it safe.
Eventually the skin track headed left toward Kämitor. Our goal, Schachentorkopf ridge, was on the right meaning we had to break trail. Making your own path is one of the best parts of touring.
Taking big steps though the powder is slows you down, sure. But drawing your own line through the white canvas is 👌. “Should I go around to the right”?, the left?, “is that lump in the snow a rock”?? An alpine puzzle worth the reward.
It was not all up hill to the ridge. When you are faced with a descent that is not be enough to warrant removing the skins you end up skin skiing. Only the toes of the boot are attached to the ski so it makes for an unstable but fun little ride.
We passed a frozen waterfall on our way to the ridge. Every time I pass a one I wonder if it’s climbable. A few of my friends know how to ice climb and I hope to someday learn.
Finishing with kick turns we made it to the ridge. It runs perpendicular to the wall up the Schachentorkopf summit. We considered attempting a summit but there was no easy way up. Snacks and snapping a bunch of photos was our choice. 📸🍿
For the descent we decided to try making a loop around Schachentorkopf. In hindsight I would have skied back down the west face as there is bit of an up hill portion to the loop. The snow was good making for a few nice powder turns before heading into the trees.
After reaching the hütte we were pretty tired and still had 5km of icy trail / road left to the car. The snow was hard and dotted with holes from snowshoers. Not a problem for skinning up but it made for crap skiing down. The terrain was steep enough to make slowing down difficult but there was not enough room or good enough snow for normal side slashes.
When all else fails do the pizza, (skiing ski tips together). I did this for the better part of 5km down. Afterward I found a black bruise under my toe nail, a narly end to the day.
All and all a good tour. If I get the chance to go back this year I’d like to try going to the left after the hütte.
Stay tuned for more ski touring posts as I catch up on my backlog.