Getting the best lines often involves lift or heli access. But sometimes the most rewarding runs are the ones you reach using your own two feet. Mitch Tölderer, Bibi Pekarek, Flo Edenberger and myself set out on a mission a few days ago with the intention of telling a story about the trials and tribulations of accessing high alpine freeride lines without lift or heli access. Our mission took place in the Sellrain valley, 30 minutes outside of Innsbruck, starting from Haggen. The idea we had involved hiking up to 2550 meters where we wanted to make base camp for 2 nights. From our base camp we could access 2 impressive faces with multiple freeride lines.
After only the first 100 meters I seriously thought I wouldn’t make it. My backpack, filled with a thick down sleeping back, air matress, skiing and safety equipment, food, water, a change of clothes and fuel, weighed over 30 kilos, more than half of my body weight. My glutes where aching already. The 800 vertical meters ahead of me which would otherwise seem like an easy stroll where grueling to say in the least. However, after I repacked my backpack to make it more top heavy I felt much better. A good pack is essential. The 800 vertical meters took us a good 4 hours (normally I would hike this in half the time). In two sections we were forced to take off our skis because of the steepness of terrain and icy conditions. However, eventually we made it!
After a break we busied ourselves with setting up camp. This included shaping an even surface for our tents and setting those up, and building an area to cook food and water. I have slept in the snow before, in a snow cave, however never in a tent. Thankfully I had a very high quality goose down sleeping bag and air matress but even then I was quite cold the first night.
I had an excited and nervous churning in my stomach the next morning. What will the face and conditions be like? Will the effort and toil pay off? “Face 1” as we called it was accessible after a short hike of 45 minutes. We left our skins at camp and boot packed up the steep ridge. I found it hard going after the hike yesterday, thankfully I drank heaps of water the day before.
I wasn’t disappointed. The snow was good due to the altitude and aspect of the face. Lower down the warm weather and strong sun had made the snow to dangerous wet mush. After studying our lines we skied them one after the other and watched our buddies from below. Half the fun is watching your mates have a great time! Harry Putz was in position to film us. Here’s my first line:
After a warm up line I chose quite a more technical line, dropping in through a small chute lined with rocks. Lucky, didn’t hit any! Then a hard turn to the skiers left to get away from the slough. 3 big turns, then some smaller ones…keeping my speed…and launching off a 5 or 6 meter cliff at the bottom of my line:
It was so much fun. After 3 lines I was exhausted and although there were more lines to do, I was only interested in getting back to camp and having something to eat and drink.
The following day we hiked up to “Face 2”, another North facing ridge. I couldn’t make it work today. The lines I chose were too hard for me, although on a normal day I had the ability to ski them. Maybe the hiking and sleeping at high altitude was taking its toll. The face was also sloughing like crazy, but the snow was good.
I still had fun and enjoyed watching Bibi who ripped an amazing steep line with 3 drops. She showed no hesitation and was strong on her feet, awesome! We all put on an action packed show and Harry was stoked with the footage.