Scouting and powder hunting in the Albula • March 7 - 13, 2012

With a few days off, no new snow in the Chamonix area and news of storms in central Switzerland, Kathy and Mark decide to check out a new hut-to-hut ski tour with an eye to next year's schedule of events. After some hemming and hawing, we decided on the Albula High Route.

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A short movie... Highlights of the Albula tour.


As usual we had big ideas about doubling down and combining two days into one etc. etc., but when we reached the Jenatsch hut (shown here) the route onward, a traverse around a ridge into a high bowl, was untracked, steep, and baking in a hot afternoon sun. We decided to stay and tackle the traverse in the (hopefully frozen) cool of the following morning.


Fortunately, this lovely north facing bowl was just a short hour's skin from the hut. This descent had the most numerous and tightly stacked tracks we saw the whole week. As you can see however there is still plenty of room for more signatures.


At the Jenatsch hut we got the most relaxed and friendly greeting and some of the best food we've ever had in a Swiss hut. And that's saying quite a lot! Clean and roomy facilities too and a great location. The name is etched on the wall in the "sgraffito" style of decorating houses, typical of the Engadine area of Southeastern Switzerland.


The next morning the traverse was indeed safer, but the visibility was not so great. New snow (up to 15cm) with a bit of wind kept us attentive as we continued up to take a look. In the end, despite some tricky passages here and there, the snow was really great and the visibility just good enough to enjoy the descent.


A silent, heavy snowfall down in the pine woods, and a magnificent tree to picnic under, two of Kathy's favorite things!


Our descent dumped us out at the railroad tracks uphill from Bergün where we hoped to stay the night. Expecting to have a walk up the road to the nearest station, we were thrilled to see this snow-covered and nicely groomed luge run along the tracks! A fun glide down into the village.


The snow is still falling lightly as we get to the town.


Typical Engadine style of house decoration.


A brutal transition to the lap of luxury, we sit down to a really nice meal in our hotel... in our finest spare base layers and boot liners! At least we were freshly showered.


The next day dawned clear and cold, with yet more fresh snow to look forward to. We rode the lifts above Bergün, to access this high ridgeline of the Piz Darlux and the Tschimas da Tisch.


Kathy enjoying the ridge-crest air.


After another long, powder run to the next valley bottom, it's time to skin up once more.


The cozy dining room of the Es-Cha hut, our next stop for the night.


The next day we did decide to go for the big distance and roll two "normal" days into one. We also wanted to climb the Piz Kesch however, and oh, there is that nice looking north facing descent we have to skin up for... looks like it's going to be a long day. The weather looks good though...


About an hour above the hut is a short steep step over a rocky ridge, the "Porta Es-Cha". Crampons, chain hand-rail...


We had originally planned to give the Piz Kesch a miss, and just book on along given the big distance we planned to cover. But we couldn't resist, especially as our new German friends were breaking trail...


So after about an hour's detour (maybe a bit more) we stand on the summit of Piz Kesch, and take a quick photo to get down before the arrival of hordes from the valley bottom and nearby Kesch hut.


Descending some of the easier terrain on the climb, we're almost down now and the troops are mustering below.


Our next detour took us into some off-the-beaten-track, completely untracked slopes dropping northward into the Val Funtauna from Piz Porchabella. This fine smokey powder was typical of the quality of snow we enjoyed on this week's outing.


Mark likes it too.


However, the price was steep. Another 800 meter climb on top of the bit over 900 meters we had already done this day, and it's getting late and tired out on the trail. Kathy with nose firmly to the grindstone on the final 100 meters to our high point below Piz Grialetsch.


The end of the trail at last! And still in the sunshine, the Grialetsch hut is a welcome sight.


The following morning we leave early to catch the trains, busses, etc. we need to in order to get back to our car at the Julier Pass. Piz Grialetsch in the morning light.


As we climbed up toward our final high point on Piz Sarsura, high clouds move in and thicken as they drop ever lower.


No descent shots in the fog and flat light, but lower down in the Val Sarsura we had fun in some epic avalanche debris. Kathy is short, but not short enough to get under this without some effort.


An hour's worth of walking along a busy fast road brought us to the train station at Zernez. We were grateful to this angel (does someone think Jesus wears white shoes?) for reminding motorists to stay safe and sane.


We had a great time exploring this area new to us. Look for a trip offering next year!