Ötztal Ski Tour • April 11-17, 2005

So the "Veterans" return for another adventure... Most of these guys and gals have done it all, the Haute Route, Berner, even the Ortler. Ever seeking new horizons, we all traveled to Austria's Ötztal to peak over yet another ridge, ski another fall-line fantasy. Seattle's Mo Moceri, John Lashbrook from Chicago, Rich Davis and friend Mark Svore, form the Pacific Northwest, and Marc Gallie and Chris Robinson, from Ottawa and Vancouver respectively, joined us for a 7-day tour in the land of Ötzi, the 5000 year old Ice Man.

Other Recent Trips

The crew, in front of our hotel, the freundlich and sportlich Haus Gurgl. We planned on 6 nights out, in 6 different huts, doing a clockwise horse-shoe shaped tour, much of it close to the high crest of the border.


Our starting point of Obergurgl (gotta love that name) is about half way between Innsbruck and St Anton, just north of the Austria-Italy border.


Our first hut, the Langtallereckhütte. Our first day was pretty snowy. But, ever the fun-hogs, a few of us skied up to the Eiskögele, a nearby summit.


Day two was a big one in many ways. not only was the distance covered great, the vertical considerable, but we also had one of those experiences that unfortunately define adventure. We started the day skiing up a narrow canyon, then hopped up onto a glacier. At the transition between canyon and ice, we skied though this wild ice tunnel, left by the retreating glacier. Then up over a high pass, down a steep couloir and on down the valley to the hut.


All was going well, until the descent of the steep couloir. We had the situation well in hand, walking down on foot, skis on the pack when another party arrived at the col. Unfortunately, ignorance, carelessness or whatever allowed one of the members to stray too close to the corniced edge. The cornice collapsed and dropped the skier and the debris on to the small slope just underneath. This, in turn released a small slab avalanche. The avalanche, cornice debris and whatnot hit two of our party, Chris and Mark, as they were down climbing below. Mark and Chris were swept down about 200 feet and got pretty beat up in the process.

A helicopter was called, and about 20 minutes later our two heroes were on their way to the hospital. Mark suffered a nasty cut in of the scalp and also a bad cut in one of his knees. Chris got a bang on the head and 4 broken ribs.

As luck would have it another large group, the Austrian mountain policy were on the same tour and came down to help us. We were all a bit shaken up but continued down to the very nice Martin Busch hut. Chris and Mark were kept in the hospital for the next few days, but we did meet up again with them in Obergurgl at eh end of the trip.

This photo, courtesy of Rich Davis, shows the helicopter.


The Martin Busch hut the on day 3 as we start out in the morning. The pass we crossed on the previous day is up-valley, behind the hut.


The Similaun hut just inside the Italian border. This photo shows us starting in out in the morning on day 4.


Mo and Marc in the Similaun hut.


A view the other direction from the Similaun hut.


On day 4, skiing up to the pass just below the Fineil Spitze.


A couple hours into the day, we pass this monument to Ötzi the Ice Man, commemorating the location where he was found. Here we are looking down into Italy.


Mo arrives at the pass below the Fineil Spitze.


A few of us climbed up the Fineil Spitze, while some elected a more direct descent to the Schöne Aussicht hut. Here, we enjoyed the haus specialty, ribs and beer. Rich chows down while Kathy looks skeptical.


The totem at the Schöne Aussicht hut. We never did learn the significance of the pole, but it did make our northwest contingent feel right at home.


Kathy, Mo, Rich, Marc and John in the Schöne Aussicht hut.


This hut came complete with a sauna! The Schöne Aussicht hut is actually in a ski area, an was a hoppin' place when we arrived around lunch time. But as the area closed things quieted down considerably.


The next day was another big one as we climbed and skied our way up the Weiskugel a big peak on the border. We started with a fast cruise down the ski pistes, then catching a ski lift back up a high slope to the west, then over a peak as we crossed further west to the big Hintereis Glacier on the north side of the Weiskugel.

In this photo Rich skis along a sharp ridge crest.


Skiers and the Weiskugel.


On our descent of the Weiskugel, at the toe of the Hintereis Glacier are amazing ice caves, left by the retreating glacial snout. We had to explore

Photo: Rich Davis


Arriving at the Hochjoch Hospitz.

Photo: Rich Davis


In order to catch Mark and Chris before the flew home, we came out of our tour a day early and enjoyed a fine evening with them and the entire team back in Obergurgl. Here, Rich, John and Mark prepare to dig in.


With one more day remaining, a few of us did a fine day tour up into the peaks just SE of the ski area. A good storm the night before dropped almost a foot of light and fluffy! Marc and Rich on the lift to the start of the day's tour.


An untracked wonderland of good skiing!


Marc arrives at our high point, a fine pass.


Kathy starts down a fantastic 1000-foot shot. She skied this in one giant pitch, several hundred turns of good snow, and a great way to remember the Ötztal.

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