I hadn’t gotten much exercise in a while, so when Daniel suggested doing something Saturday I jumped at the idea. We had more ambitious plans, but fresh snow midweek raised the avalanche danger, so we resolved to hike up the Hohe Munde. It’s an impressive, isolated mountain above the Inn Valley. I remember seeing it from the highway when I first moved here. It’s east face was covered in a bulwark of snow. It’s also a hiker’s mountain, offering a trail all the way up, then a via ferrata along a toothy ridge crest to the west. We thought we’d just do that.

We didn’t bring skis or snowshoes, and were a little cowed looking at the face from beneath. It was an ocean of white! Having been in ski areas complaining about the lack of snow, we have forgotten that the real mountains actually have some! We mentally prepared for long slopes of step kicking, and wondered if we could finish it.

Shrugging aside such defeatist thoughts, we laced up our boots and walked up a snow-covered road to reach the Rauthhuette. Daniel looked on the net, and thought the lift was open to there, but it was semi-permanently shut down. A barking dog scared us away from going into the hut to use the restroom.

Steps in the snow led up from the hut on the northeast side of the peak, then branched into three trails on the east. We tried the middle trail, where the tracks ended after just a few minutes. Now began a really tiresome hour of trying to find our own path through small but feisty //latschen// trees. It’s such a lot of work to tunnel through the branches, when your steps in the snow are collapsing into hidden caves under lower branches. We gave up one attempt, then tried another way, then started to think we’d have to go home. We were going back to follow the path on the right, but Daniel wanted one more go at the pioneering approach, as a bench of snow looked like a natural path above. Sure enough, that was the way!

Now we followed a faint skin path up deep powder snow, eventually reaching what looked like a wooden helipad structure. We walked a ways, then started to need ice axes as the slope steepened, despite our care to search out the lowest angle slope. Before long, we were in an awkward spot because a rock-hard ice layer appeared underneath a few inches of snow. Earlier, with a good kick or two we could break through for secure steps. But now I found myself slipping down a little bit as I kicked ineffectually at the slope. “You are slipping Michael!” said Daniel. I swung my axe pick in for a secure hold, then spent a few minutes building a platform where we could put crampons on. Once that was done, we could enjoy really nice front pointing with the axe in the Low Dagger (piolet panne) position. This was tremendously fun, as long as I took the time to rest now and then, my calves being unused to the effort. At least there was no more slow kick stepping.

Daniel and I kept this up a long time, then reached a long pole that served as some kind of marker. Above the pole Daniel adjusted his boots, and we kept on, now at an angle below 45 degrees, though still icy sometimes. An ugly fence decorated the summit slopes, and we got tired of looking at it as we kicked up the deeper slopes. In terms of avalanche danger, I’d say things were okay, though not perfect. The existence of a hard layer under powdery snow gave us some pause, and then in the last steep bit to the summit the wind had packed the snow well such that we thought about slabs. We stayed to the left, near exposed rocks in order to minimize the danger.

Finally, we were on top, with an incredible view of the Karwenel, Stubai and Wetterstein Ranges. This was the Ostgipfel (east summit), not as high as the main summit which looked much too far for us to visit today. We’d have to descend a few hundred feet, then reclimb about 500 feet. It was almost 2 pm, and we were plenty tired after the trail breaking. But it was a good first winter trip for some exercise. We hung around a while, then returned the way we came. We had to be careful on icier slopes, using a mix of French Technique (all crampon points in the ice), plunge stepping on the easy stuff, and facing in and downclimbing the less forgiving terrain.

A strange man with a little plastic sled had followed our tracks partway up the lower slopes. He was “sleeping” as we walked by, then later sped by on his sled, turning corners in the trail neatly. We made the essential stop at the Hut for Wienerschnitzel, struedel and Spezi. It was a satisfying day, thanks to Daniel for pushing on when we were “skunked” by the little trees!

The Hohe Munde

Enjoying the steepening slope

The Karwendel Range over Mittenwald

Climbing on eastern slopes of the Hohe Munde

Michael pacing around on the summit of the Hohe Munde

A poor quality zoom of peaks to the west

The Inn Valley, with the Stubai Range. The Kalkkoegel are the jagged peaks on the horizon

Daniel on the way down

Daniel descending to the helipad

An impressive peak of the Wetterstein Range

More Wetterstein Range peaks