Friday, January 02, 2009

Snowshoeing: Finnu -> Betthorn

Our chance to play in the snow from the 1st on snowshoes. We head up at around 9:30 to Brischeru (those 600m are becoming routine) and get to enjoy the solitude and quiet. From Brischeru (no one in sight!) up behind the East bit of town and, following some snowshoe tracks from the previous day, across a bowl and then around and up to the Betthorn (12:00pm, 2238m). Along the way we see the first people of the day: a couple touring skiiers part way up the Gärsthorn. At the Betthorn we have lunch with a great view.

We then follow a different set of snowshoe tracks past the weather station and then up the side of the Gärsthorn. When the tracks bend off around the mountain after a relatively short period of time, we pick up a touring ski trail and continue up. The plan (such as it is) is to go from terrace to terrace on the Southeast flank of the mountain and see how far we get before we're tired or it gets too late.

After a bit of climbing we do a "directissima" ascent up a steep bit of slope with really nice climbing snow at the bottom third and then fluffy powder the rest of the way. Tiring! This tops out at a terrace where we have a short break before setting off along another touring ski trail up and across another long, steep slope to the next terrace. At this point we're almost as high as the cross about 1/2 of the way up the mountain (2:00pm, probably somewhere around 2450m) and are tired enough to decide to head back down.

The way down holds a few lessons:
  • In certain snow conditions there are slopes that one can go up on snowshoes but that are difficult to go down in a controlled manner. This was adrenaliny.
    • When things get really hairy, you can turn around and go down backwards, i.e. face towards the slope, like going down a ladder.
  • On steep (but not too steep) slopes one can do a snow-plow like action with the snowshoes (shoes perpendicular to the slope, leaning back so that the teeth aren't biting) and descend very entertainingly.
  • On a bit less steep slopes, you can point both feet downhill, shift your weight backwards and get quite a nice slide. It ends up being a motion something like telemarking, only not even 1 percent as graceful.

On the more gentle last part of the descent to Brischeru, we enjoy some downhill running. Greg finishes the last stage of the run by hitting a patch of deeper snow 5m above the first house and executing a perfect face plant. Andrea, sadly, misses this spectacle.

After a quick snack, we finish the trip back to our flat (3:30pm) and have a well-earned rest.

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