Saturday morning I was skiing up from Galtür at 7:30. I made it to just below the Jamtalhütte at 9:45, had some tea and cookies behind a rock where I hid from the wind. I think that was pretty good time because the guidebook says it should take 3 hours. I continued in the valley for a few more minutes then turned right on tracks leading up to the Totenfeld Glacier and the Haagspitze summit. The wind was strong, blowing down from the valley head and the impressive Vordere Jamtalspitze. Talking with my friend on Friday about the proposed trip, we worried about hot, wet, avalanche-prone slopes. But I actually had the opposite problem! The wind prevented the crusty, icy, skied-out slope from unfreezing.
The Totenfeld Glacier has some impressive icy walls, which I skirted on the right. A short steep slope facing south led to the summit. No worries of avalanche today. A group of 5 french-speaking folks came awkwardly down the frozen slope. I made new tracks to get up as my skins were slipping in polished tracks. Stashing my skis in a semi-protected area, I clambered to the summit, holding my breath for the final dash across a rooftop in violent wind. I hunkered down behind some rocks and started alternately taking pictures and warming my hands. The sky was blue and the sun was out, but the good weather was coming to an end. Clouds scraped by Piz Buin and the Dreiländerspitze, peaks I'd climbed 2 years before with Christian. Clearly, the bad weather in the south was coming to get us!
I scraped gracelessly down the summit-slope, then found decent conditions on the glacier. I would search out wind-protected pockets where I knew forgiving powder snow was hiding. I continued this behavior all the way down to the valley floor, at one point running into the worst "breakable crust" (bruschharsh, in German) I'd ever seen. I simply couldn't turn in it at all. My light Dynafit ski setup was at a disadvantage here...I would go clattering off the wrong way. Ei yi yi...
In the hut I met a nice older fellow named Heinz. He told about his love for these mountains and his grandkids. Meanwhile the wind and clouds built outside...
The next day I hoped to make a big traverse and bag three peaks. I skinned up and to the south to the Chalausferner (a glacier), along with two other guys named Michael and Berndt. We seemed to be the only ones trying to get out today. We traveled in a murk of cloud and light snowfall, sometimes swirled up into icy blasts from unexpected directions.
On the glacier I pulled ahead, and then waited for Michael and Berndt because I wasn't sure if I was right below the pass or needed to continue on steeper glacier to the right. Getting out the map wasn't an option in the screaming wind. In fact, rocks peppered the white slope around me, having been flung here from 100 meters away! After a few minutes I skied down to them, and they confirmed I was at the pass. We had a brief pow-wow, and I decided to do whatever they did for the moment. I wasn't going to go off into Italy by myself in a cloud with these conditions. We figured to hit the pass and hide in some rocks Michael knew about on the other side. Then we could decide if we wanted to ski the Augstenspitze or just turn around.
But after a few minutes of skinning back up to my high point, it was clear it would be crazy to continue. We could barely see the pass in swirling snow, though it was only a short distance above (50 feet?). We organized for descent with freezing fingers, then got the hell out of there. Again a mix of good snow and breakable crust on the way down, though ending in an unexpectedly nice wind-protected gully with decent snow.
I said goodbye to the guys, who were going to the hut for tea. I pointed my skis down-valley for the 7 mile ride to Galtür. It went pretty fast, but there were some tiring sections where I had to skate to make it across some flats or up a short hill.
Out at around noon, I tried to figure out what to do with the rest of the day. 1000 meters of elevation gain just wasn't enough! I drove back over the Fernpass (getting in a 45 minute long traffic jam...grr.), then decided to hike up the good ol' Kramerspitze in Garmisch. I just carried car keys, an iPod and 5 euros up the hill. I reached the hut in 30 minutes, and the high pass in something like 1.5 hours. Another 1000 meters gain. It was enough. I only had tennis shoes and no gloves, so making the snowy traverse to the main summit didn't seem wise. On the way back down I had a cappucino in the hut, then headed home.
So, I didn't really find the great skiing I expected for such a long trip. But I saw some interesting mountains and got some exercise. Good enough!