Silvretta - Ortler • March 7 - 11, 2017

Four friends from Norway contacted us for a trip to the Silvretta: Sigurd, Jørgen, Børge and Øystein. The best laid plans oft do, and indeed did in this case, go awry, but we had a great adventure anyway.

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Heading up into the storm: our arrival in the Paznaun region coincided with that of a pulse of bad weather. That, and the resulting poor visibility caused us to abandon our original plan to approach the Jamtal hut via Ischgl. Instead we headed straight in from Galtur.


The peaceful Jamtal valley as the storm gathers.


The following day was bright and sunny and cold. A great deal of snow had fallen in the previous day, but it was light and fluffy and not too wind effected.


We headed up toward the Hintere Jamspitze (the left-most of the three background peaks).


The view back toward the hut.


Beautiful light snow covering the previous day's tracks.


Suddenly our day took on a more serious tone as three remotely triggered slab avalanches released nearby in quick succession. The original release was the one on the right in this photo. Mouse over to see the fracture lines. The previous day's heavy snow had fallen on a shallow snowpack with a persistent weak layer, leading to extreme fragility. Even knowing this, the ease with which these slabs released surprised us.


Skiers were caught in two of the slides; only one was completely buried, and he was quickly extricated by his companions. The helicopter responded to the call, but in the end was not needed. A lucky break by all involved!


The steeper slopes below the summit of the Hintere Jamspitze also showed clear signs of instability, so we contented ourselves with a high point along the adjoining ridge.


Skiing the lower angle slopes was safer and fun in the airy powder. Another lap up the Gemspitze completed a long day of great skiing. We had to pack it in, as the following night and day were forecast to be again, very bad weather.


From left to right: Jørgen, Børge, Sigurd, and Øystein play cards and linger over coffee in the hut. Because.... this:


The night's snowfall had been heavy and relentless. The hutkeeper had offered to drive his snowcat down the Jamtal in the morning to facilitate the speedy ski-out of his guests to Galtur, but in the morning he decided it was too dangerous (he was right!). The image above is of the avalanche bulletin for the day; maybe the worst we had ever personally experienced. He admonished us all to stay nearby the hut and not try to go anywhere. We spent most of the day on avalanche awareness and beacon practice, getting thoroughly soaked but also entertained. The sound of frequent loud and lengthy avalanches in the mists were a great reinforcement of the decision to stay put.


The following day dawned beautiful and clear, but high winds were to continue throughout the next two days, so no improvement in the snow stability was foreseen for some time. The entire population of the hut opted to be helicoptered out to town so as not to miss flights, work, etc. Packed up and ready to go, we had only to wait for the helicopter to become available.




At last the rotations began. We loaded up 9 at a time.


All the skis went out together.


Our turn.


Glad to be on the way after a long day of waiting. Views from the helicopter as we flew down the Jamtal, confirmed the wisdom of the hut keeper's decision not to drive the snowcat down in the storm. Very big loose slides of snow and other debris came down every drainage, several crossing the road.


Arriving back in Galtur.


Meanwhile we had called a hut the Ortler region in nearby South Tyrol, to ask how conditions were there. We learned that the storm had largely missed that area, but that there was enough cover to have a good day. So we drove to Sulden for the night of our day 5, and the following day, our last of the tour, we were on site to head up to Cevedale. Leaving the ski area to head up to the Suldenspitze.


The wind still blowing on the Gran Zebru.


About to enjoy a short but steep descent off the shoulder of the Suldenspitze.


Our goal: Cevedale. Mouse over to see our route.


At the ski depot, transitioning to climbing mode.


Arriving at the summit!


Fantastic views all around.


Descending back down to our skis.


Beginning our descent on the always-windy glacier of Cevedale, the chalky features were actually kind of fun to ski!


Back at the Suldenspitze, we take in the summit before continuing our descent to Sulden.


Beautiful late afternoon light.


We made it! It's all downhill from here.


Though the light did not allow for many great photos, we had one of the best powder descents ever from this peak! A long, delicious ski down all the way to Sulden, what a great ending to a challenging and suprise-filled trip! Thanks to the Norwegian Boys for joining us, for their great efforts, and for taking the many changes of plan in stride.

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