Journey through the Alps

 

When planning any long ski journey there is always a conflict between the most interesting route, and the most efficient route. The most interesting route would normally take in higher ground, involve more ascents and descents, and probably include more high passes and summits. Such a route would inevitably involve more days travel, and may be impassable in anything other than ideal weather and snow conditions. The most efficient route would be one that stays on lower ground avoiding the high mountain areas, thus allowing large distances to be covered relatively quickly.

Finding the best route to travel the length of the Alps in winter involves finding a compromise between these two extremes. It would be pointless to travel through the Alps by ski in winter and avoid all the classic ski touring routes and peaks. However every detour from a direct line increases the duration of the project and reduces the chance of overall success. Weather and snow conditions may also dictate a change of plan, forcing a party to follow a less adventurous ‘low level’ route in order to progress when the more attractive mountain route is impassable. The alternative could be sitting in a hut or hotel for several days waiting for conditions to change.

During the journey I became aware of several minor changes that could improve the individual stages. I have added this information to the relevant stages. There are also a few instances where significantly different routes could be chosen.

Preda / Bergun to Solden There are two quite different ways of covering this important section of the Alpine ski traverse: a southern route and a northern route. It is possible to branch onto the southern route from Juf or Bivio. However I intentionally continued eastwards to Preda as this is the last place where it is possible to choose between the southern and northern options. The south route after Preda is: Zouz, S-chanf, Livigno, Buffalora, S-charl, Sesvenna Hut, and Reschen. From this point it is possible to head north to the Goldsee Hut or head east via Melag and the Wesisskugel Hut. Going via the Goldsee Hut opens the way to an interesting crossing of the Otztal Alps in 4 days. A single day detour would allow an ascent of the 3768m Wildspitz from the Taschachhaus. The route via Melag and Wesisskugel Hut is a few days shorter but misses out much of this mountain group, and involves two large sections of road walking in the Langtauferertal and Ventertal.

Kasern to Matreier Taurenhaus There is a northern and a southern route through the Grossvenediger massif. Both routes should enable an ascent of the 3666m summit in good conditions. I selected the northern route via the Warensdorfer and Kursinger huts. This seems to have shorter days despite a potentially dangerous descent on the first day. I have seen Austrian guides advertising the southerly route via the Essener Rostocker hut / Defregger Haus. This may have advantages that I am unaware of and may be better later in the season when the huts are open. In the early season when breaking trail and carrying our own supplies the northern route seemed an easier option.

Grossglockner (between Matreier Taurenhaus and Heiligenblut) Finding a way through this crucial section was key to completing the route. There are 3 options to the north, south and over the summit of Austria’s highest peak at 3798m. While a summit ascent sounds attractive we quickly discounted this as an unseen descent of the steep north face would have been difficult with no tracks in place and no prior knowledge. The southern route via Kals and the Glorer Hut required additional road walking and potentially difficult summer footpaths through steep gorges. The northern route via the Obere Odenwinkelscharte and Oberwalderhutte proved to be the best choice despite unexpected difficulties on the Gamsgrubenweg near Frans Josefs Haus.

 

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David Hamilton
High Adventure
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Email:  david@highadventure.org.uk

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