To start my off time, I decided to take a glacier hiking training. I wanted to become more comfortable with hiking in snowy conditions and explore if more ‘technical’ mountains (where you have to know how to hike with crampons and how to use a pickaxe) would be within my reach. After frantic last weeks at work and preparing my off time, I was pretty much exhausted when driving to Munich. Although I had a great (short) time with my friends in Munich, I still felt tired driving to the Pitztal the next day. In addition, rain was pouring with very bad visibility. Finally I made it to our meeting point. 18 people and 3 guides. We started our hike to the Hut “Taschachhaus”.
The beginning was flat and easy, I had good conversations and enjoyed the hike. Until it got steeper. Quickly I was completely exhausted. Sleep deprivation and not enough food or am I really that much out of shape!?
Finally I made it through the fog to the Hut. A rather big one with a great infrastructure. I shared the room with 3 others, Angela and 2 guys, even with closets for everyone to store clothes! Dinner is a four course affair, soup, salad bar, main dish, dessert. Yummy but too much!
We are divided into 3 groups, the fast one (obviously I wasn’t part of this one after almost collapsing on the way up), the guys only and my group. Angela, with whom I am sharing the room. Sandra and Frank, the climbers couple. Birgit, the real mountaineer who will do six 4000s the week after. Reinhard with whom I had nice conversations already and who wants to climb the Mont Blanc in 2 weeks. And finally our guide, also called Reinhard.
Monday morning is still cloudy and we get the first introductions inside. So much stuff, rather heavy to carry.
We learn how to adapt the crampons for our boots. The first knots. In the afternoon we put on our stuff and I feel like a big pretender! I have no clue how to use it! But that’s what I am here for. We walk to a steep part of the mountains, covered in snow. We learn different hiking techniques in the snow, throw ourselves downhill being attached to a rope and finally fall down and stop ourselves.
I can’t get myself to fall head first downhill. But back first I can manage, although it’s the most difficult, you have to do several turns and in the end I am at the very bottom covered in snow – even in my nose!
The third day we hike about 90min to the Taschach-glacier where we learn how to walk with crampons in different conditions. We also have to do some abseiling – very frightening for me!- and then climb up with crampons and 2 pickaxes. I manage somehow but it costs me a lot of effort.
The best day is day four where we do a hiking tour up to the Sexegertenferner. The big difficulty is the amount of snow we have to get through. Basically from the Hut onwards we have to hike through snow. Carefully. Exhausting. Beautiful. Just before the glacier our guides are discussing if we can continue due to avalanche danger. They decide to try but do the south instead of North summit. We put on crampons, climbing harness and tie in the rope. You better not need to pee as a woman from here on! I actually learned also during this course how to drink much less 😉 Up we go. It’s not easy to always adapt your pace to the others. Especially when it gets steep and I am breathing heavily to keep up somehow. Of course I am the one always sinking in, at least knee high and spending even more breath and energy trying to get out of the snow hole! By miracle I finally make it with the others to the top! (as if I had a choice, tied to the others). We enjoy the stunning view of the snow covered mountains. Finally it’s time to go down, a bit easier on my breath but still demanding.
The last two days are spent with some more training on how to hike on the glacier, techniques on how to safe someone fallen in a crevasse, more abseiling and climbing.
The weather is beautiful now but the sun at this altitude combined with snow and long days hurts my skin and eyes (even with sunscreen and good glasses).
Friday evening we say goodbye to our guide, such a hearty person! I always felt safe with him and enjoyed his (personal) mountain stories. Saturday it’s time for us to walk down to Mandarfen, say goodbye and for my part drive to Salzburg for the next part of my off time!
Thank you everyone of our little group, you were wonderful and I enjoyed your company!