THE SCHOOLING

Getting into more serious ski mountaineering has always been on my list, but it was mostly ranked behind my freeride skiing and sport climbing. Last year, I decided that if I really want to get into ski mountaineering and become an equal rope partner on the mountain, it’s time to refresh some technical skills and learn the ones I’m still lacking. After some research on Google, I soon found what I was looking for: the ‘Alpine Expedition Course’ with Adventure Consultants from Wanaka, New Zealand. Managed by mountaineering legend Guy Cotter, Adventure Consultants is a world-renowned mountain guiding company with a legacy of climbing expeditions to the world’s highest peaks, and wilderness treks to the more remote corners of the globe. The also offer a comprehensive course Program in New Zealand, Europe, and North America.

A couple of months later, I found myself on route to the beautiful lakeside town of Wanaka, where I had spent a couple of winter seasons four years earlier. In a way, it felt like coming home. Shortly after my arrival, I was on the way to the AC HQ. There I met the other course participants and my guide Jono Gillan, who was to become the funniest but also most competent teacher I could have wished for.

The crew: T.J., Denis and our guide Jono Gillan

The crew: T.J., Denis and our guide Jono Gillan

I was pleased to find out that we were a small group of only three participants: Denis, a successful and highly intelligent engineer from Brisbane, Australia, T.J., an officer in the U.S. navy who flies in F18F fighter jets and is trained to be as deadly as possible, and myself. After some slightly nervous first introductions, gear and weather check, comes the news: there’s weather coming in from the SW, we wont be locating to the Remarkables mountains in Queenstown today, but doing some rock climbing at Hospital Flat in Wanaka instead. Soon, I was climbing my first routes in leather mountaineering boots, a very strange feeling indeed. With his 90 kilos, T.J. seemed comfortable enough for me to belay him. T.J., Denis and I were checking each other out, trying to gage how we would fit together during the course. After all, we would be spending the next 12 days together, and in close quarters too. It soon became apparent though that we’re going to make a great team. Jono seemed impressed with our climbing level, which made us feel very good about ourselves.

Climbing in leather mountaineering boots takes some getting used to

Climbing in leather mountaineering boots takes some getting used to

Remarkables was on the plan the next day. With almost hyperactive energy levels, Jono shows us the ins and outs of correct crampon and self-arresting technique, and building snow anchors. Then it started dumping, so we decide to head down and cover some theory: roping up on the glacier and pulley systems. Especially Jono’s clear explanation of pulley system theory was incredibly valuable. In no time, I was building and combining 2:1 and 3:1 pulley systems with more clarity and confidence then I’d ever had.

Practicing pulley systems

Practicing pulley systems

Dumping at the Remarkables

It’s dumping at the Remarkables

That night, we cover how to plan food for an expedition and pack everything required for a full week spent in a hut in a very remote location. The following day, we drive towards Mt. Cook village, check into our accommodation for the night and head out to climb one of Jono’s favourite routes on Sebastapol Bluffs, the only crag in New Zealand with true multi-pitch within 10 minutes of the carpark. To challenge ourselves, we choose to climb in our mountaineering boots. Still feels weird.

On our way to Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park

On our way to Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park

At the crack of dawn next morning, we’re up and preparing to fly via helicopter to Tasman Saddle Hut. The weather report had been correct and finally the sky was clear. The flight over the 27 km long Tasman Glacier is awe-inspiring. I’m immediately struck by the seriousness of the mountains flanking the Tasman. Although not particularly high, they look like Himalayan mountains with their steep and heavily crevassed flanks and precariously balanced ice seracs just waiting to peel off the mountainside at any time. I begin to understand why climbing Mt. Cook is so dangerous.

Ready to fly to Tasman Saddle Hut

Ready to fly to Tasman Saddle Hut

Stoked for the heli!

Stoked for the heli!

The mighty Tasman Glacier

The mighty Tasman Glacier

Our home for the week, the Tasman Saddle Hut at 2300m, is perched on a death ridge with huge seracs on one side and a sheer, vertical rock wall on the other. Walking carefully over the icy snow, we carry all our supplies and gear down to the hut from the landing zone. But first, Jono tells us about an experienced climber who died here last year after slipping and falling to his death carrying a box laden with food down to the hut. We put on our crampons and carry only one item at a time. Then we gear up to make use of the remaining good weather. We head towards Hochstetter Dome while getting interesting insight to correct rope travel and route finding through glaciated terrain. Streaks or so-called “angry bird” clouds (at least that’s what Jono calls them) warn us of oncoming bad weather and we decide to head back to the hut, the Hochstetter Dome left unclimbed behind us.

The Tasman Saddle Hut (2300m) is perched on a slippery ridge above big exposure

The Tasman Saddle Hut (2300m) is perched on a ridge above big exposure

The mountains around the Tasman resemble Himalayan mountains

Mt. Green, Tasman Glacier

It's good to revise proper glacier travel

It’s good to revise correct glacier travel

Weather is coming in fast

Weather is coming in fast, with the Minarets in the background

Forced to turn back, but still happy

We couldn’t summit Hochstetter Dome that day, but still happy

For the following 48 hours, 200 km/hr winds, freezing temperatures and 50 cm of new snow was the order. We tie in to a fixed rope to walk a few meters through the storm in order to use the outside toilet. I had to muster all my strength to be able to open the toilet door against the wind. Jono though doesn’t let us get bored. With the hut to ourselves, we spend a couple of hours cleaning the kitchen and disposing of left behind and out-of-date food supplies. Then we delve into practicing building rock anchors and crevasse rescue, as well as orientation, weather, and snow and avalanche awareness theory.

Tasman Saddle Hut is comfortable if you have it to yourself. Dress warmly!

Tasman Saddle Hut is comfortable if you have it to yourself. Dress warmly!

Tying into a fixed rope to get to the outhouse safely in a 200 km/hr storm

Tying into a fixed rope to get to the outhouse safely in a 200 km/hr storm

As soon as the weather breaks, it’s go time. Since it’s too dangerous to climb any peaks due to the extremely wind affected snow, we head down the glacier to some huge seracs and spend the day ice climbing and building ice anchors using ice screws and V-thread anchors. We climb until we are completely saturated from the dripping ice, arriving back at our refuge just before dark.

Ice climbing on the big seracs lower down on the glacier

Ice climbing on the big seracs lower down on the glacier

Jono and me

Guide Jono and me

The sunset just before getting back to the hut

Returning to the hut at sunset

After radioing through to base, we find out that more bad weather is on its way. After a quick meeting and with heavy hearts, our group decides to leave the Tasman in favour of doing some alpine rock in the Remarkables area, where the weather is forecast to be better. We still have one morning of decent weather to play with, so at 4 am we’re up and getting ready to reattempt Hochstetter Dome. Jono sets a furious pace and pushes us on as fast as possible towards the summit. We don’t have much time and we still need to get back to the hut, call the heli, pack all our gear and supplies together and carry it up to the landing zone before the weather comes in, and it was already coming in, fast.

Breathing hard, I hammer a snow stake into the hard snow, top clip with somewhat fumbling fingers and yell to T.J. that he’s on belay. T.J. charges up so fast I have to work hard to pull the rope fast enough through my belay device. Definitely using the Munter hitch on the next pitch. T.J. and I move fast and only speak when necessary, passing the other climbers ahead of us who had camped out in the snow. We finally reach the summit, pausing briefly to admire the view. We don’t linger long however, and soon we’re carefully retracing our steps along the very narrow snow ridge, belaying each other back down the icy ridge of Hochstetter Dome. After the ridge, we’re practically sprinting downhill through the knee-deep snow to get to the hut. Poor Denis is roped up with Jono and has to fight to keep up. We make it out of there just in time before the helis are forced to shut down due to a lack of visibility.

Making snow pitches using snow stakes for anchors

Making snow pitches using snow stakes for anchors

Descending back down from the summit of Hochstetter Dome

Descending back down from the summit of Hochstetter Dome

The evening is spent showering and cooking and eating lots of food. Heavenly! We admire the audacity and skill of the early Mt. Cook climbers at the visitor centre the following morning and then drive back to Queenstown. Although the weather has been tough, the mood in our group is excellent. Jono and T.J. are getting along famously, talking for hours about aviation and flying jets. There is much banter and joking, as well as sets of ten push-ups every time one of us said the word “mine”, which, in Jono’s case, was an awful lot.

Jono had to do a lot of push-ups in those weeks

Jono had to do a lot of push-ups in those weeks

Upon arrival in Queenstown, we check the weather again and are disheartened to find that it has worsened. Nevertheless, we decide to use the last days camping out in the Remarkables as planned. I’m keen to go over expedition camping skills, tenting, snow caving and bivvies too. Once again, we are forced to turn back on an attempt to climb Double Cone due to high winds, but it was still such a positive experience. We wrapped the course up with another day spent on Hospital Flat, where Jono teaches me the art of placing nuts and cams. It was a steep learning curve and that day I lead my first trad route, with much encouragement from the boys. Finally, we practiced some advanced self-rescue skills on rock including hauling and lowering, and felt very good about how far we had come indeed.

Gear discussions are lengthy and interesting

Gear discussions are lengthy and interesting

Our awesome snow camp at the Remarkables

Our awesome snow camp at the Remarkables

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The Remarkables

Jono up to his usual antics

Jono up to his usual antics

Eying Double Cone, the Remarkables

Eying Double Cone, the Remarkables

Weather can be difficult in New Zealand, but we were unluckier than most perhaps. But thanks to Jono and his huge efforts to pass on as many skills as he possibly could to us, the Alpine Expedition Course was still a big success. I learnt many new skills and gained a lot of confidence in alpine climbing techniques. Rarely have I laughed as much as during those twelve days, and I have made three new friends for life.

Lake Wanaka on the way to Hospital Flat

Lake Wanaka on the way to Hospital Flat

Climbing my first trad lead at Hospital Flat

Climbing my first trad lead at Hospital Flat

FWT 2015 Reflections

What happened previously

My last blog entry about the FWT revolved around learning about how I had been overly focussed on the overall title instead of enjoying each stop for what it was and just thinking about skiing my best. I came to this realisation after having broken my ankle at the start of the season, a good reminder for me that there are more important things in life than winning the FWT. After a sensational third place finish at the FWT Fieberbrunn and a mid-field finish at the FWT Andorra, I had managed to qualify for the much sought-after FWT stop in Alaska, as well as securing my place in the FWT 2016. This in itself is a success, considering my injury and the fact that I had to miss the first stop in Chamonix. I have to keep reminding myself of that however, since I’ve also been struggling with feelings of disappointment after having placed 7th overall in the FWT 2015 ranking. So this is what happened after Andorra.

Haines, Alaska!

copyright: FWT Alaska 2015 by David Carlier

Swatch Freeride World Tour Haines, Alaska, 2015, photographer David Carlier

For me it felt akin to returning home after seeing a lot of familiar faces from having filmed here in 2013 with the Shades of Winter crew. People here are so friendly and welcoming! Hosting a FWT event in the mountains of Alaska is an enormous undertaking. The remote location, accessible only by helicopter, the extremely fast changing und unpredictable weather, all the logistics and technical equipment required to provide a live stream, the list of challenges goes on. For us riders, it meant patience. We had a total of three false starts before we actually were able to compete on the face.

Competition tactics, or lack thereof?

My experience told me that if I played it safe by skiing a clean run, I would probably place very well on this face. I knew the terrain was challenging and that the snow would be unpredictable with all that fresh powder. For me, one thing was clear: I wanted to ski a very special run at this historical event in Alaska. So I decided to go for it! I planned on hitting a big double in the middle of my run, and got to watch some of the snowboard men hit it before being flown to the start. It was good to go! I started my run, excited to be finally skiing the face. I skied beautifully in the top section, then I approached the double, and that’s where everything went pear shaped. I angled the first part of the double a little more to the right, wanting to avoid previous bomb holes, and landed on unexpectedly hard snow from a small slab having broken out there. The snow here was fast, not fluffy powder. The next surprise: the second take-off  of the double was much further away than I had expected (the terrain in this face is just enormous, the greatest difficulty certainly was judging the sheer dimensions of it). Instinctively, I tried changing direction somewhat before the second take-off, since straight-lining this section would have sent me off the jump at mach speed. However, I became unbalanced in the air and couldn’t land the jump on my feet. I crashed, and it was over. In just a matter of seconds, all the build up, all that waiting, all that planing and energy going into one line, gone! I skied down the rest of my line, totally disorientated and demotivated. It was a pretty low feeling and I can tell you, I was bummed. But I was healthy and able to qualify for the finals, the Xtreme Verbier! That gave me consolation.

Here’s the video of my run:

20th year edition of the Xtreme Verbier

It was go big or go home for the women’s ski field at the Freeride World Tour finals in Verbier yesterday. Hazel Birnbaum skied an exceptional line with a huge amount of confidence and control, sending a massive double at the end of her run which hasn’t been done before by a female skier. So inspiring! Silvia Moser came in second with a really creative and new line with lots of features, and Christine Hargin came in third showing super solid and fluid riding in the classic line on the lookers right of the women’s venue. The other five ski women qualified for the Xtreme Verbier, including myself, opted to start from start number two on the lookers left of the venue, featuring an obligatory air of around 7 meters. Due to a bombed and skied out landing area on very firm snow, we all unfortunately lost our skis in the landing and none of us could finish our run. Luckily there were no injuries, especially after such huge crashes.I’m hugely inspired by these ladies and am very proud to be part of such a talented group of skiers!

I wasn’t too disappointed about my crash since I felt really good in the air and was committed to stomping my line, that’s the important thing to me. It’s part of the sport of freeriding that you can’t always know 100% what the snow will be like, and both male and female competitors struggled with the conditions on that part of the face.

Video of my run at the 20th year edition of the Xtreme Verbier 2015

Photo gallery Freeride World Tour 2015

Women’s Progression Days 2015

Es ist immer ein Highlight meiner Saison, die Women’s Progression Days – das Freeride und Yoga Camp in Lech am Arlberg für ambitionierte Geländefahrerinnen – zu leiten. Auf Grund einer Knöchelverletzung, die eine Auszeit auf Krücken von insgesamt vier Wochen mit sich zieht, konnte ich schweres Herzens leider nicht selber mit den 27 motivierten Teilnehmerinnen aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz Ski fahren. Zum Glück hatte ich ein Guides-Team von am Arlberg lebenden Skiführern, bestehend aus Angelika Kaufmann, Geli Häusl, Liz Kristoferitsch und Paul Pöcher, auf welche ich mich 100% verlassen konnte.

Trotz schwierigen Wetter- sowie Schneebedingungen kamen die Teilnehmerinnen am Nachmittag mit strahlenden Gesichtern jeden Tag retour. Die Highlights vom Camp waren für viele das intensive Üben an der persönlichen Fahrtechnik sowie an der Linienfindung im freien Gelände, das halbtägige Safety-Workshop inklusive Üben mit der Notfall-Ausrüstung, die Möglichkeit täglich einen anderen Kästle Freerideski zu testen, vom Profi-Fotografen Alex Kaiser fotografiert zu werden sowie natürlich viele neue Freundschaften mit anderen, skibegeisterten Frauen zu schließen.

Bedanken möchte ich mich auch bei meinen Camp-Partner Kästle, Blue Tomato, Lech Zürs Tourismus sowie Bergans of Norway für die tolle Unterstützung.

Die Women’s Progression Days 2015 sind das siebte Freeride Camp für Frauen welches ich leite, und die Resonanz ist groß. Die Women’s Progression Days 2016 finden voraussichtlich wieder im Jänner statt, es empfiehlt sich jedenfalls, sich möglichst bald nach Freischalten der Anmeldungen zu buchen. Ich wünsche euch jedenfalls alle eine hervorragende und erlebnisreiche Wintersaison!

 

Women of Freeride Movie Night

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Skiers and snowboarders around Verbier, listen up!

The ‘Gâra abada movie nights’ are putting on a WOMEN OF FREERIDE film night this Saturday, 17 January, at 8:30pm in the Cinéma de Verbier. A special film night dedicated to female ski and snowboard athletes, celebrating authentic grace, real beauty, genuine comradeship and a shared love for skiing and snowboarding. The feature film of the evening embodies this perfectly: Unicorn Picnic’s ‘Pretty Faces’ by Lynsey Dyer, an all female ski film nominated for film of the year by Powder Magazine.

The WOMEN OF FREERIDE film program was put together by Lorraine Huber, professional freerider and runner-up Freeride World Tour champion. “This film night provides a cross section not only of the high level of female freeriding today, but also features films with a unique approach to filmmaking: films that highlight feminine strengths instead of trying to simply emulate male ski and snowboard movies”.

Special guests include Geraldine Fastnacht and Estelle Balet, who will be on stage to talk the the audience personally. Natalie Segal, a competitive freeride skier based in Verbier, will be moderating the evening instead of Lorraine Huber, who unfortunately can’t be present due to injury.

kOnneX: the ski film

The time has come! Our new experimental ski film kOnneX by filmmaker extraordinaire Hanno Mackowitz with original ?sound design by Marcus Loeber is now online, free of charge! Take five minutes ?timeout and immerse yourself in powder snow. 

Ski films present perfect sequences, everything looks so easy and elegant; the line, the conditions and the skier’s skills, everything is in perfect harmony. That’s why it is easy to forget how large and difficult a task it is to make all the elements come together perfectly.

The real attraction to the sport comes from the relationship between the rider, his or her skills, and the environment, which when combined, make for exceptional experiences in often cold and hostile surroundings. kOnneX is the continuation of last winter’s experimental film Lorraine. The Movie. Unlike other ski films, this film’s focus is on the perfect interaction between the individual elements of snow, ski and skier, and the resulting fluidity when these elements are connected. The film doesn’t require dialogue; the long-lasting impression is forged in the sound effects and music, which have been composed specifically for this film.

Make sure you plug in some good quality speakers or earphones to get the full experience. 

 

Women’s Progression Days by Lorraine Huber

Since 2008 I have been guiding and coaching women to help develop their skills and confidence in freeride skiing. For 2014, the program will be bigger and better than ever. I’m very pleased to announce that I’ll be working together with Arlberg’s best and most experienced female guides to enlarge next year’s program to a total of 4 groups, including, for the first time, one snowboard group. The guides are Angelika Häusl, Angelika Kaufmann, Liz Kristoferitsch, and myself.

The program is geared towards good to excellent off-piste skiers and snowboarders wanting to bring their riding to the next level. Join us and experience some of the best runs the Arlberg has to offer and yes: experience the “female stoke phenomenon” as I like to call it and be amazed. We’re going to rock the Arlberg!

Please put the following date in your calendars: 9 to 12 Januray 2014. Arrival day is the 9th January and we’ll be skiing/riding together a full 3 days. I’ll be offering an all-inclusive package as well as packages without accom/lift tickets. The program is packed with extras such as an instructor-led Yoga session, test gear, film night, and more.

Registration and bookings will be open at the end of next week on lorrainehuber.com, so check back here soon!

Filmfest St. Anton

„Berge – Menschen – Abenteuer“ so lautet der Untertitel des Filmfest St. Anton, das nach zwei erfolgreichen “Außenterminen” in Wien und Kufstein in der letzten Augustwoche (28.8 – 31.8.13) bereits zum 19. Mal wieder in St. Anton am Arlberg, im stimmungsvollen Arlberg-well.com, stattfindet. Vermittelt von Filmen begeben wir uns wieder auf die Suche nach Naturerfahrungen, Abenteuern und Herausforderungen. Das Festival präsentiert sich dieses Jahr ganz europäisch – Szenegäste aus Italien, der Schweiz, Frankreich, England, Polen, Deutschland und Österreich werden erwartet.

Ich bin dieses Jahr erstmals beim Filmfest St. Anton als Moderatorin dabei, und darf unseren Film “Lorraine. Freeriden am Arlberg zu G-Dur” gefilmt von Hanno Mackowitz präsentieren.

Einen Schwerpunkt der Veranstaltung bildet das Thema Frauenklettern: Ines Papert, Barbara Zangerl und Nina Caprez sind vor Ort und führen mit ihren Filmen vor Augen, dass schwere Kletterrouten keine reine Männerdomäne mehr sind.

Wann & Wo?

28.08 – 31.08.13
Das Filmfest findet im Arlberg-well.com statt.
Hannes-Schneider-Weg 11, 6580 St. Anton a. Arlberg

Anfahrt:

Mit dem Zug nach St. Anton a. Arlberg und dann zu Fuß in 5 Minuten zum Filmfest
Mit dem Auto: A12 bzw. S16, Ausfahrt St. Anton a. Arlberg. Bitte beim ausgeschilderten Parkplatz parken.

Tickets:

Abendkarte: 13 € (erm.: 10 €), Wochenkarte: 35 €
Karten-VVK in allen Raiffeisenbanken, beim TVB St. Anton a. Arlberg und unter www.stantonamarlberg.com

Samstag, 31.08.

Beginn: 20 Uhr

“Lorraine. Freeriden am Arlberg zu G-Dur” ein Film von Hanno Mackowitz, ca. 10 Minuten.

Alle weiteren Infos zum Programm findet ihr hier.

 

Ich freue mich auf EUER KOMMEN!

The Alaskan Reality

Now, after having had the incredible luck of four blue-bird days in a row of skiing in Haines, Alaska, I feel like my life as a skier has changed forever. The Alaskan mountains are like nothing I’ve ever seen before; skiing this terrain is completely different to anything else I’ve ever done before. First of all, the sheer size of the mountains, with their steep spines, enormous glaciers and crevasses, and ridge lines crowned by meter-high cornices completely overwhelm you. The helicopter can drop you off on the top of lines that are otherwise simply impossible to access.

Ready to drop in!

Ready to drop in!

On my very first day, my very first line, I was towed in by the helicopter and dropped off on a small pyramid-shaped peak on top of a ridge line, offering just enough space for me to get my skis on. A second later the heli and the noise was gone and I was all alone, standing there quite petrified, without time for my mind to adjust to the steepness and exposure. On top of that, there’s a film crew waiting and ready for me to drop in. In that moment I really felt like everything I’ve ever learnt as a skier, all the skills I’ve acquired and all the experience gained, would be put to the test. But I also kept calm and believed I could do it, and then I nailed that run.

Haines, Alaska, is home to the most beautiful mountains to ski in the world

Haines, Alaska, is home to the most beautiful mountains to ski in the world

Alaska makes you a better and stronger skier, especially mentally, because here there is no room whatsoever for self-doubt, hesitation or uncertainties. If you’re skiing big mountain lines here, you better know what you’re doing and you better send it, because there can be serious consequences if you don’t.

You can check out my facebook album of photos from this Alaska trip so far here.

 

 

The Alaskan Dream

Alaska – the mythical last frontier on every skiers’ bucket list, the most filmed mountains in the world due to their beauty and insane terrain, countless stories of skiers waiting for weeks on end just for that one epic day in the mountains with the heli. When Sandra Lahnsteiner sent me an email on 18 March asking whether I wanted to join her and Matilda Rapaport for 2,5 weeks heliskiing and filming in Haines, Alaska, I couldn’t refuse. I’ve never felt ready to ski the terrain and spines I always see in the ski films from Alaska, but I just figured you have to start somewhere. So here goes!

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We’re here to ski the Chilkat mountains accessible by heli just 33 miles north of the town of Haines in South-East Alaska. We’re living in the Funny Farm at Mile 27 so we can be close to the heli port when the weather pops. We’re flying with Alaska Heliskiing, one of two heli-operations in this area. Haines has apparently not the extent of terrain Valdez offers for example, but the mountains here are meant to be the most beautiful in the world if you’re a skier/snowboarder.

Hanging with the girls at the 33 Mile House next to the heli base

Hanging with the girls at the 33 Mile House next to the heli base

Getting a glimpse of the mountains when we first arrived

Getting a glimpse of the mountains when we first arrived

Today is our 6th day without skiing. We’re waiting for good light conditions to fly in the heli and also to film. The great news is that it snowed 70 to 100 cm two days ago above approx. 800 metres, and we’ve got a good weather window from tomorrow onwards for a couple of days. We can hardly believe our luck, but we’re still trying to keep our expectations low because you never know what’s going to happen.