It turns out I really enjoy winter these days! Lots of snowshoeing and skiing, and today just continues the trend. I skinned up from the parking lot in Praxmar in a murky cloud that I figured would be with me the whole day. However, within an hour I was seeing hints of blue sky above, and soon I was in bright sunshine!
Low on the mountain (link)
My skis had a hard time gripping the skin track, but it was really just my poor technique. When I remembered to keep my steps small and to shift weight fully to the standing leg, things went better. There was one guy above me, here you can see him:
Up to the sky (link)
Later we met on the summit – a fellow Münchner!
Crags to the north (link)
Spines to the south (link)
I like summits (link)
To the west (link)
I’m currently reading “Man Swarm: How Overpopulation is Killing the Wild World,” and it’s heavy stuff. It’s very difficult to talk about the problem of overpopulation, but it’s deeply necessary. It’s a problem in the first world, where our resource use per capita is really high, and in the developing world, where large numbers of people drive deforestation just at a time when we need to keep our last big forests.
I’ve got two children, so I realize I’m part of the problem. And my boys are learning about the problem too. We don’t merely need to stabilize the population, we need negative population growth. Lately, we talk a lot about carbon emissions, and are faced with the difficult task of driving them down. The problem is that by the inexorable logic of exponential growth, greater numbers of people will crash through those lower per-capita emissions we may achieve with technological fixes, and bring the total up again by their numbers.
Argh…it is a hard problem! And it goes completely against what our economists preach (they are really the priests of our civilization). They often argue that we can substitute one thing for another endlessly, but there is something special about clean water, air and space for the natural world.
You can’t find a substitute for those.
Here, there is enough space… (link)
I’d like everybody to be able to have space. (link)
So, on my solitary way up the mountain I thought about this stuff. It’s not too late…! But it’s pretty late. :)
However on the way down, S., my new friend from the summit and I skied together and had a great time. We were separated for a while by the thickest fog I’d ever tried to ski in. It was ridiculous! I couldn’t even see my ski tips… and making a turn was a real “heart-in-throat” exercise wondering why I was suddenly accelerating down at an unexpected angle. After 5-10 awkward minutes we were through, and were very relieved to be able to see again.
The rest of the way was fun, and too quickly finished, as usual! I led us boldly down a steep forest that I slightly regretted, my skiing skills not really being up to the task! But it’s all good.
1200 meters up/down.
The next day, with skis freshly waxed at the shop by the hotel, I drove back to Lüsens, parked and started skinning up for either the Hoher Seeblaskogel or the Längentaler Weißer Kogel, I wasn’t sure which I would do. But about halfway up the valley, my skin came off the ski. And the bail at the top was broken. ARGH! Now the skin was covered in snow, and there was no way I could get it to stick to the ski. Cue sound of crying!
But luckily, I had snowshoes in the car. I was thinking Barbara might join me for some snowshoeing, but she had no “Lust” for it (it cracks me up how some words in German have a different meaning in english…). So, I skied quickly back and changed out my gear in a hurry. I stomped back up the road in snowshoes…they made such a loud noise that at least three parties gave me odd or dirty looks. “Entschuldigung für Geräusche!” I would say. No one ever replied, they just looked away. In general, I didn’t experience friendly people today, at least until the end.
Whatever. I passed by the icefall, then turned right and started up under the Sessellift taking supplies to the Westfalenhaus. In the upper valley the wind was strong, and the tantalizing blue sky disappeared, never to be seen again. My tracks were soon filled in with blowing snow. I vaguely followed a duo on skis ahead of me, with another solitary skier above them. Later, the skier in front turned right for the Hoher Seeblaskogel and I decided that was the mountain for me. I was thinking about the long, long walk down without the benefit of skis! The Hoher Seeblaskogel is steeper, and that makes it quicker to get down when walking.
Occasionally, I could benefit from old ski tracks, but it was always only by feel. Especially as the slope steepened, I’d sink deep into wind-pressed pack. Slight sign on the surface of the snow would lure me to one side or the other, and with my boots I’d feel humps and ramps that were remnant tracks. Mostly, they angled low, left and right across my direct way. But sometimes I was beaten down enough by the bottomless wind-pack to try following them. It was never worthwhile – a thin skin-track at low angle across the slope is merely demoralizing on snowshoes. Too often, the wind-driven snow on top is slippery, and you slide beneath the track, especially with the outside foot. So always, back to the grind of direct ascent.
Truly, I aged a few years in the journey from the valley floor to the lower edge of the gully that cradles the Grüne Tatzen Ferner. I stopped for tea above this point and took a bleak picture that reflected my bleak, worn-out state of mind!
The going was easier up here, much less steep. And soon I was traversing the left side of the bowl that (I guess) holds the remnant glacier. I was startled to see a party of 5 up in here, and another party of 3. What had they been doing the whole time? Anyway, they left. A young man and woman were climbing up behind me on skis, but I thought I had a big lead on them.
However, the final slope below the summit was pretty rough. Deep wind-pack over a slippery, slidy base. It felt like two steps forward, one back many times. Finally I moved off the main slope to the ridge crest, though with some worry about cornices. This was a little better. Though, as I grunted and groaned my way up the pair behind caught me, skinning gracefully like Elves in humorous contrast to my bulldog performance. Yep.
I tagged the summit in light snowfall and strong wind, took a listless picture and started down, just missing the couple, as I descended a different way from the summit cross.
Without snowshoes, I plunge-stepped quickly down…snow up to my hips, but how nice it felt to descend! I used snowshoes to traverse the glacier, then removed them again for the steep descent to the valley floor. Just the sound of my breathing, the gray and murky peaks, the snowfall and my warm core.
The couple caught me and stopped to chat. I told my woeful story of the morning. They were sympathetic, but couldn’t imagine why I’d rather just go ahead and climb with snowshoes rather than come back another day with better equipment.
“Can’t waste a day, folks!” I said, or something like that.
Can’t waste a day.
1700 meters up/down.