Also posted on Summitpost here

Three Peaks from the Bielerhoehe

Christian and I left Munich at 6:30 am, then got stuck in a terrible traffic jam by the Austrian border at Bregenz. No fun at all! Finally at 11:30 am we were ready to ski at the Biehlerhoehe, after a gondola and bus ride along the closed high alpine tollway of the Montafon region.

We skied across the big Silvrettasee, foolishly wearing skins on the skis. We didn’t realize how long the lake was. It took a full 30 minutes to get across. Finally though, we were skiing uphill at noon and our day could begin.

We went slowly up the long valley as the sun burned through the morning clouds. Christian tested my German with some question and answer sessions. That was pretty fun. We looked up to see the summit cross of the Silvrettahorn high above, and turned to ski more steeply up to the Wiesbadener Hut. After a final steep and boiling hot slope (yes, in February!) we arrived and checked into our rooms.

After a Spetzi and some Apfelstruedel I was ready to go on to ski up the Dreilaenderspitze. We just had to make sure to be back for dinner at 6. Skiing away, I was impressed by Christian’s pacing. He went more slowly than I usually would, but then we went all the way to where we left our skis in one long trip without stops. We hiked up onto the ridge, and soon had stunning drop offs on both sides to keep us awake in the afternoon heat. Some steep snow, and then tricky rock climbing near the end made it a real mountain climb. There was barely room to stand on the summit, which marks a boundary between Switzerland and two prefectures of Austria: Vorarlberg and Tirol.

The way down was tricky, especially because of some rotting snow over slabs. Christian tried a new way on the shady north side of the ridge, but it had it’s problems too.

I side-slipped down a fair ways, then made some turns. This wasn’t so bad! The snow was a-ok and we had a great, fast trip down the glacier. In only 15 or 20 minutes we were back at the hut, sometime around 5:30. We had a pretty good dinner, but it was expensive. The hut cost 10 euros for the night, but the dinner and breakfast was another 20. Hmm, maybe better to bring food.

Mountains to the south of the Bielerhoehe Christian at the summit of the Dreilaenderspitze The Schneeglocke as seen from the Wiesbadener Huette Skiers pause on the way to the Ochsentaler Glacier Our route goes right of the icefall, beneath the Silvrettahorn Christian on the narrow summit ridge of Piz Buin The view south from the Piz Buin Michael on Piz Buin Christian below a tricky, icy ledge on Piz Buin The way back to the "ski depot" on Piz Buin Majestic peaks to the north from the Silvrettahorn Christian on the Silvrettahorn Making our way up to the Rota Furka Pass, back into Austria Christian getting ready to ski down the Klostertal

We were on our way at 7:30 Sunday morning, skinning up the valley to then climb over a pass and get onto the Ochsentaler glacier. We passed another party before dropping onto the glacier and then had things to ourselves for a long time. Only when we reached the base of Piz Buin did some other parties come up. Leaving our skis, we set off with ice axes to make the 1000 foot climb of the summit block. About halfway there is a rock band, with some ice-filled gullies offering a way through. I tried climbing it directly, but finally went back and put my crampons on. Christian managed without crampons. Once I was past that, there was an easy walk up a trail to reach the summit. Christian had already attained a fantastic view point on a secondary summit. I took some pictures then joined him on the other side of a pleasing sheer ridge. We had the world at our feet!

On the way down I used crampons again for the ice, and soon we were back at our skis, zooming across the glacier to meet a ski trail going up to the Silvrettahorn. A pleasant ski up the hill for about an hour or less brought us to a pass which we could descent to the west for an interesting way home. But we felt pretty good so we left the skis and set off for the summit of the Silvrettahorn, up a mix of trails and snow, finally ending up on a spectacular ridge crest. We saw a party traversing the ridge over to the Schneeglocke, and wished we’d brought our skis to do the same thing. Oh well, next time! I admired the view down the east ridge, which is apparently a great rock climb (though easy).

A quick trip down, then we were skiing steeply down from the pass. Christian made it look easy, but I had to do my share of kick turns! An easy trip down the glacier got us in position for our last climb of the day, over the Rota Furka back into Austria. The steep south facing hillside had rotten snow which was hard to ascend sometimes. But eventually we made it, and enjoyed the best snow of the trip on the north facing slopes down into the Klostertal.

Descending this valley was easy and enjoyable. Back at the Silvrettasee, we glided along, though my ankle was too sore to skate. That cost me about 10 minutes. It was 3:30 PM, we were a half-hour early for the last bus down, so we went to get a drink at the nearby restaurant.

For some reason, people were standing in a miserable line for about 2 hours, waiting for buses. Christian and I were smart and just waited at the bar. Then Christian felt the pressure and went to stand in the cold too. I successfully resisted for 30 more minutes, then went down. 30 minutes of waiting in a line, and we were on the bus, and the gondola shortly thereafter.

We’d had such great weather and great exercise! Alas, we had to pay for our fun with another endless series of traffic jams. Christian drove the whole time both ways, which amazed me. Thanks Christian!