Saturday, January 31, 2009

SAC avalanche safety course

Saturday: A rather long train trip to Oberalppass, hike up to the Maighels Hütte with some instructive bits along the way, a bit of theory in the cabin.
Sunday: Hike back to Oberalppass, some practice with the Barryvox near the train train tracks, then up to the Fellilücke. Abort the planned lunch up top due to the extreme wind and blowing snow. Hike back down to Oberalppass with lunch along the way, more Barryvox practice, another long train ride back home.

Very cool and educational, if a bit uninteresting on the pure hiking side.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Snowshoeing : Niederrickenbach -> Klewenalp

A snowshoe tour from the SAC book. We wanted to try a WT4 trip (WT4-, really), and Greg needed to test his new boots.

Gondola to Niederrickenbach (1230m), along the road a bit, then up, up, up (yes, this was an Andrea special) to the Brisenhaus (1753m), where we had a short break. Further up, amongst a bunch of ski touring people, along a slope that was almost like a groomed ski slope. Finally reaching the Glattegrat at Schuenegg. Nice views of the masses of people in the saddle next to the Hoh Brisen starting their descent.

After an equipment-repair stop (Greg really needs new sticks!), along the ridge towards the Risetenstock. This gets pretty narrow and the footing starts to get less than optimal (too many people walking it in ski boots), so at one point it becomes time for Greg to stop. The last 200m or so just look too hairy for his mental state.

The way back isn't particularly appealing, so we follow a group of skiiers down a very steep face. After some careful zig zagging, some butt sliding, and 400 vertical meters, we're back on the valley floor. Back towards the Brisenhaus we decide to avoid going back the way we had come, so we follow the path around the ridge and then across the Sätteli and down into the ski area. The signage is less than ideal in the ski area, so we end up going down to far and have to take a chair lift up to the top. From there it's a stroll to Klewenalp, where we catch the gondola down to Beckenried. Our timing is good, so we take the boat back to Luzern.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snowshoeing : Biel -> Muotathal

This trip, with the Basel SAC, picks up where a previous snowshoeing trip ended.

After a trip to Bürglen that would only be possible in Switzerland (tram, 4 trains, 2 busses, 2 gondolas, all in less than 3 hours!), we started out around the edge of the small ski area and then did our days climbing in a fairly long, but not particularly steep ascent to the Geissgrätli. Back down along the ridge a bit to the Chinzig-Chulm, where we had lunch while enjoying the very nice views.
After lunch, around the valley end a bit, more or less towards the Rossstock, then down the valley floor, past the (snow-covered) Seenalperseeli. Left turn at the valley bottom and then on towards Liplisbüel, along the way we take a quick break (and buy cheese!) at the Seenalp kaserei. Finally down through the woods, along a very nice gorge (though crappy snowshoe hiking - too many rocks), and out into Hinterthal, where we catch the bus.

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.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Daubensee loop

Fantastic weather and 15cm of fresh snow. We drove to Leukerbad and then took the (spectacular!) gondola up to the Gemmipass. From there we walked the winter hiking loop around the Daubensee. Though it's crowded, this is an area we definitely need to come back to.