Northern Mountain Sport / Blog / Ski Touring in the Silvretta and Aiguilles Rouges (Col de Beugeant)

Ski Touring in the Silvretta and Aiguilles Rouges (Col de Beugeant)

The 2013 ski season continues to deliver snow but it's been COLD. I've just returned from a great ski touring area in Austria - the Silvretta where we completed a 6 day hut to hut tour. The Silvretta alps are designed for touring, relatively easy to get around and furnished with excellent huts (many with showers); it is no wonder that for many people this area is their first experience of hut based touring. We all met in Galtur (where are trip was to finish) and then made our way to the (it has to be said) odd resort of Ischgl. If skiing with your knees together and wearing hair gel (the boys) is your thing then get yourself there. I did wonder whether some of my colleagues may have learned to ski here though.

Either way it's a good base from which to start and you can either ride the lifts to acces the Paliner Kopf (and then perhaps climb peaks such as Pix Davo Sasse) such as when I was here last time or in the case of Hoch (one of our clients) descend from there and then tell us in the valley bottom that you've 'forgotten the skins'. Oh how we chuckled but it does prove that in the Silvretta there are so many options so I set off back to Galtur via lifts, buses and finally returned that evening to the Heidelberger Hut via a 'snowcat' taxi service so all was not lost.

From the Heidelberger Hut we headed towards the Kronenjoch and our first peak of the week, the Breite Krone 3079m. This nice top is typical of the sort of summit you can reach here; steady skinning then perhaps a short stretch with or without crampons. As we were going well we skinned along the ridge to bag our first 'summit cross' also, the Grenzeckkopf 3048m. A pleasant ski down on a little fresh snow had us ensconced in the Jamtal Hut where you have to buy your own slippers (only €2). This hut is owned by the German Alpine club and is used as their training centre (think Glenmore Lodge). Because of this association I've never particularly got on with it (always full of earnest young men and guides with badges as big as their egos) but actually this time it was a bit quieter than normal and pleasant. We decided to day tour the next day and split the group to climb both the Hintere and Vorder Jamspitze. The former again is a great little ski peak which you can 'almost' ski to the top of. The Vorder Jamspitze is a little trickier and needs crampons, axe and a rope. There is a good looking face on this peak which I always think I would like to ski 'sometime' and I think it probably would have been quite good. The problem (or perhaps advantage) with it is it is well seen from the hut and you would be guaranteed an audience. Pity the German guides assessor a year or two back then who demanded his students ski it (after they objected) and then he promptly avalanched himself in front of them and the entire hut (he survived with bruised image).

Our next objective was a crossing to the Wiesbadner hut. Again we split the team according to objectives and I went on to climb to the Ochsenscharte (around 2900m) while two of the team climbed the majestic Dreilanderspitze 3197m. This peak is given a modest grade but I've always found it punches above its weight and I take it seriously (crampons, axe and rope). The descent to the hut was one of the best of the week and those that missed the Dreilanderspitze gained untouched powder fields. We almost felt guilty as Hoch kick turned his way across immaculate wiggly turns getting mysterious looks from the locals.

The next day again we had down as a day tour (with the objective of the Piz Buin) but sadly the weather had other plans and dawned windy, cold and with poor visibility. Perhaps now we really appreciated being here as you can still head out onto some of the glaciers which are not so steep and for all intents and purposes, uncrevassed. We had all seen nice turns descending from the Fuorcla Vermunt 2798m so headed up there in a little over an hour and a half. A nice descent followed (where we managed to pick up a straggling Jagged globe client!) and had us back in the hut for lunch. We then set forth again to the Tirolerscharte 2935m, a pass which links to the Jamtal Hut and again enjoyed the fresh snow.

The last day dawned cold and clearish (minus 20° Celcius) and I ended up skinning with all my extra layers on. We ascended the receeding Rauhkopfgletscher all the way to the Rauherkopfscharte and then enjoyed a really superb powder descent nearly all the way to the Bielerhohe before an energy sapping skate back to the fleshpots of Wirl. All that was left was our goodbyes in the Galtur museum (which serves also as an avalanche defence) and an 8 hour drive back across the length of Switzerland.

Whilst enjoying the above drive I got a call from Goody who was itching to get out with Buzz. I was secretly hoping for bad weather but the meteo promised blue skies so I hatched a plan for the next day. We met in Chamonix the next morning and headed out to the 'sunny' side of the valley - the Aiguilles Rouges. With temperatures being so cold (and windy up high) I thought this slightly lower option might work and for once all stars aligned. We enjoyed the skin with an unrivalled backdrop of the Trient basin, Verte, Drus, Chamonix Aiguilles and Mont Blanc. We headed up to the Col de Beugeant which I hadn't done since my guides test and had vague memories of a roped technical ascent before a terrifying ski. Things mellow with time though and this time round I revelled in the ascent laughing at Buzz trying to free the rope I had placed above my head off blocks (Buzz is four foot six on a good day). We soon reached the col and then descended via lowering/fixed rope on a 40° slope. The slope below was skied on the main line but surprisingly a more direct descent seemed to be unskied. I suspected crust or some such horror and was pleasantly surprised to gain acres of the untouched stuff. Not often I get that in Chamonix so long after a snowfall. We whooped it up untill cliff bands concentrated the mind (and routefinding) for a while but finally weaved our way in to the Berard valley and enjoyed a rollercoaster ride back to Le Buet and waiting beers.

Skiing off the col de Beugeant video

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Ski Touring in the Silvretta

I believe that I speak for all of us in saying that the Silvretta area and the Austrian huts were fantastic and that we had a great trip, in no small part thanks to Tim, Dave, and Tania. All three did a wonderful job, were very well-attuned to our various skill levels and ambitions, and were extremely pleasant companions. -Dick Samuels

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