Austrian ICE

14/02/2013 10:37

10 Days in the Austrian Alps


On Monday 30th of January 2013 we drive direction Innsbruck. My arms are still soar from the “Jedi Minds” i have been working on. A long car drive awaits us, and a changing of worlds: We enter full Highways, the rain reflecting the lights and colours of cars and  buildings. We cross borders and tunnels many times until the evening darkness slowly settles in and we finally reach the first signs of Innsbruck: a beautiful city surrounded by picturesque mountains cloaked in purest white. Here we meet up with some good friends. 


Next days found us heeding towards the “Stubaital” and into the Pinnistal. 

We´re joined by two members of the Arc ´teryx Crew. We climb the “Vorhang” together and due to the changing ice quality we all enjoy the climb and have fun. But this event easily got outcast by the next day, when we decide to take toboggans for a quicker approach: an unusual way of transportation which turns out to be of stunning quality.

Matthias and me decide to go for the “Kerze” icefall while our companions go for the “Rumpelkammer”. The candle is very wet: i climb up towards the first belay while the water is pouring over me. It´s like standing under the shower, i have trouble looking up. Then i cross out of the water- line into unstable ice medusas towards the beginning of a long candle. Here i build a belay.  Matthias comes up and climbs the long second pitch. The ice quality gets better: the candle is much easier formt than the time we have climbed it before, about four years ago. But it still remains a nice climb and i enjoy the climb as a way to dry up and getting warm again.


After an office day we heed up the Pinnisalm again, this time on Skis and with a higher heart rate: it is Sunday, the valley will get busier over the day. Our goal is to climb some classics: “Männer ohne Nerven”, “Kerze”, and “Rumpelkammer”. So we hasten and skin up the valley. Soon we are standing beyond the foot of “Männer”. I know the icefall already: Matthias had climbed it in evil conditions some years ago and even for me seconding it had been a scary experience. Now it is my turn to climb it, but it looks much friendlier. Temperatures have gone cold. I warm up my fingers and start to climb the easier section of the first pitch. When Matthias is on the belay, too, i prepare myself for the second pitch: a long candle with a lot of smaller mushrooms to stand on. The ice is hard but there are a lot of holes already in- it just needs some nerves to trust them...i gain meter over meter and soon achieve the exit of the pillar. The ice gets easier now. There is not enough rope to finish the line, so i build a belay on screws. Matthias comes up and climbs the last meters.



We abseil and heed for the next climb: the “Kerze”. Matthias climbs it in one big pitch and soon arrives at the exit. I follow up and enjoy the security of a rope. Then we abseil and i go imediately for the “Rumpelkammer” just a few meters on my right. It has obviously seen some climbs, the ice is deeply shaped by traces from former climbs  but still it offers some interesting sections. I have fun on the climb and build a belay on screws at the very top. Matthias follows up fast and we prepare the abseil.  Back at the foot of the climb we order our stuff and have a hot tea. The valley is quiet now, the climbs are all abandoned and we enjoy the peace and tranquility of this passing day. Then, finally we slip into the bindings of our ski  and slide down the valley in the oncoming dawn. The Pinnisalm is not in vain an often visited place- it´s beauty remains timeless.  




Next day at 6 sees us on the highway again, direction Munich, ISPO.

It is genius to meet all this wonderful people behind the companies and discover all the many improvements and developments they create.  We also meet a lot of friends there, which is always great.

After Munich, my twin sister Heike joines us for some climbing days. On Wednesday the 6th we climb “das Problem” together in the “Paznautal”, Obergericht. The climb was in good conditions and we all had a fun time.





But the next big and more serious climb should appear soon. The Seebenseefall was a fall we all would experience in mark and bones.


Here the detailed description of the climb by Matthias:


We are ticking classics in the Stubai and Kauner valley. By chance I see a picture from a fantastic line near to the German border on the south side of the Zugspitze. It's called the Seebenseefall. The Seebenseefall is one of those lines where you know, that it will be a very intense day. Formed by surreal daggers, balconies and stalactites it is a crazy universe for itself - a labyrinth both beautiful and terrifying. It's a Sunday and we are early on the parking place of the Zugspitze lift. Blue ski some twenty centimeters of fresh snow and -18 C - no wonder that there are already many skiers too. The fall is partly visible from the parking and there is no track going up. We are anxious to see the fall in real, to know if it will be possible or not. Heike, Tanja's sister, has joined us for the day and together we ski through a romantic forest towards the fall. The fall is an impressive sight. Impossible to see from below if we can make it. We have to climb in to this world, where ice formations seem to have set out the rules of gravity. Over a slender pillar and a short mixed traverse I get on to the main fall. In cave behind huge stalactites I put up a belay. Tanja and Heike are coming up. The ice is cracking - it's cold, very cold. Still there is water pouring down from above put of one of this surreal tubes and so we are all completely coated with ice. I am attacking the next pitch. It's incredible. I climb behind a complex mix of curtains and balconies and there seems to be a passage to get out again and up on the curtain on the right. The passage is extreme, the ice is like glass. I have to cut my tools with the highest caution in to this super fragile creation. One feet on rock and one on this slender pillar I work my way up - no option for pro - the ice is too fragile. The pillar is ending in a weirded kind of balcony and somehow I have to get my feet on this crazy feature that in a sick way is partly holding up the the pillar I am standing on. I am hanging on my tools- and they are not comfortably sticking in solid ice - I just scratched them in. Protection is far below and the passage is overhanging - so not to much time to waste here. On the left I see that the pillar has a more or less solid connection with the rock - maybe 40cm of "solid" ice. In a weirded position I manage to place a stubby. Then I slowly bring up my right foot on the out leaning balcon. I find a placement for my right tool and with the highest caution and by making myself as light as possible I step over the balcony and gain the more solid curtain and medusas on his right. It's done - what a crazy moment. The last meters in traversing to the right side of the fall are still tricky - but then I can put up a belay on a safe spot. Tanja and Heike are having fun coming up and finally we are all very happy to be on the belay... Two more pitches are waiting.

Next pitch is less extreme but still the ice is very bad and the snow crusted medusas demand lots of cleaning and caution. On the left of the final pillar I find a very comfortable place for a belay on good ice with no danger from above. We have a short break - some hot tea and some food. There are thirty meters left. The first half of the next pitch is on a thin freestanding pillar and the second half seems to be on a hanging dagger... I am climbing up on the freestanding - also here the ice is extremely fragile and makes eerie noise when i am searching for placements. Finally I am out of the small freestanding and right away I see the next crux. The next five meters are on very thin ice and slabby rock, that leads to a extremely skinny curtain. From below it looked like a dagger but here I see that it has some connection with the ice below. A stubby gives me some pro while I am approaching this last obstacle. Climbing one foot on the rock slabs and one on the just an inch thick ice layer I am getting to the tiny curtain. I try to place very careful a tool in his base and with a crack the lower part is splintering away. Now it's a dagger again... Somehow I have to get higher without touching this very meager feature too low.

I find a small crack in the rock on the left and finally a good placement higher up also in a crack for my right tool. Hanging on  this I mange to hammer a knifeblade into the crack. At least I have some solid protection now if the whole dagger would collapse with me. Leaning out from the good placement in the crack I bring my feet as high up as possible and start to tick on the dagger like on a eggshell. I create a little placement for my right tool. I am stemming with my feet on the featureless rock and bring up my left tool. The ice sounds better. Right tool again even better - finally I make a pull-up on my tools and lean my feet on the ice. A long move up with my left tool brings me into solid ice. I swing my feet fast to the right on a iced up rock, then I am out. The blood is rushing through my head - that were some really intense meters at the end. An incredible final for an incredible ice fall. We are loosing no time with the descent- we are all cold and still we have some spicy abseiling over the ice chaos below in front of us. Luckily our ropes are long enough and with a last long rap we glide like spiders down under the gigantic icicles. With turns in a wonderful fresh snow a fabulous day comes to an end - what a great experience!





1. pitch


Matthias in the 4. pitch





On Thuesday,12 th of February  founds us on the way again direction Kaunertal. It has been snowing again, we 're a bit worried about the avalanche risk in the valley. But we decide to give it a try nevertheless and to evaluate the snow situation ourselves. The Renkfälle are a big classic in Tirol, many different and demanding lines next to each other, in good winters each one a fine climb. There will be some ice formed  for sure.

We drive through the dark until we reach a steep little road leading through a dense forest. Here we put on snow chains. After  10 further minutes we reach the end of the road and prepare for the approach: the guidebook tells us a two hours walk.Temperatures have become fine, around -5 degrees. We skin up the snow laden valley and pass the feeding place for roe deers - an unusual sight for us, acquainted to the mountain terrain, where man would never think to feed the wildlife. I remember with a smile the astonishment of our Canadian friends when they saw a feeding place first time:" This is how you treat your wild-life??", pure disbelief and non-understanding in their amused faces.

The approach takes it time,  the clouds are closing in: new snow is coming. With the skis I break the trace through knee- deep powder. Finally we stand beneath the Renkfälle, a sight I had not expected to find in Austria. I observe the many lines, most of them are not really in condition. The ice seems brittle and barely protectable on the harder climbs. So we decide to go for the thicker ice on the right side. Heike leads the first pitch. From her movements I already see that the ice is covered with a crust and is stone hard beneath..climbing today will mean a hell  of a work. On belay Matthias and me follow. Then it's my turn. I get cold fingers, the ice is hard and often big chunks are breaking loose. No aesthetic movements but an exhausting battle is what I find. Matthias and Heike have both screaming bafies when they come up. A last pitch is waiting before the end of the climb is reached. It's the same unstable, crusty ice that awaits me, only this time the belay down is not that good protected and I have to be worried about falling ice. High up I build a last belay on screws and await the crew to come up. The snow is now swirling around us in thick flakes and we all feel the exhaustion of the climbs before. No one is really "fresh" today, so we're all suffering a bit more than on normal circumstances. The cold of the night is slowly moving in and everyone feels it. With cold fingers we build the V threat and then start the abseiling. We work now without talking, everyone doing his task. Finally down on the ground again we order the ropes and have a hot tea. Instantly the world looks brighter. By taking the first ski turns down on brilliant snow everyone finds his  high spirits again: It is good to be outside, to go through so many different emotions together. In the end this is what forms us a strong team.