I went ski touring on Pfänder a few times in January and February this year. It was surprisingly fun. It’s the closest hill across the border in Austria and in the past I haven’t bothered trying to ski on it. This year I’ve been up there 5x, sometimes having dinner at the hut at the top and sometimes turning around and heading straight back down. It’s quick enough that you can leave work early and head up there catching the sunset on the way up. It doesn’t even take an hour to get up there if you push a bit.
Above: The sunset while ski touring on Pfänder.
Above: View down the piste while ski touring on Pfänder.
It was another clear day and we left early from the Wiessbadener Huette. The snow was hard as the sun hadn’t managed to rise above the mountains behind the hut yet. We headed up the same way as yesterday onto the Ochsentaler glacier. Today it was much windier. We roped up and headed up towards Silverttahorn. The original plan had been to go to the summit and then traverse across to the Schneeglocke but some of us, including myself, weren’t so keen on the strong cold winds. Instead we toured up as far as we could with ski crampons attached. We made a ski depot and then swapped our ski crampons for regular crampons and ice axes. The ascent wasn’t at all technical but the last section along the ridge to the summit was very exposed. The snow hung over the side of the ridge making the ridge appear wider than it actually was. We took posy photos at the top and then headed back down. After a stop for lunch we skied back down over the glacier and out the valley back to the Biehlehoehe where we caught the bus/gondola combination back down into the valley. A nice end to four very good days of ski touring.
We left the Wiessbadener Hütte fairly early and set off towards the Ochsentaler glacier looping around the Gruene Kuppe on the way. The snow crunched under our skis as the sun was not yet high enough to soften it up. Large chunks of ice stuck out of the side of the glacier and sparkled in the sun. We were not alone. The hoards were already about many with the same intention of climbing onto the glacier and crossing to ascend Piz Buin. We roped up once on the flat expanse of snow and slowly made our way across the glacier to a saddle between the Kleine Piz Buin and the Grosser Piz Buin. We left our skis in the little village of skis and joined the crowds for the 300 m climb to the summit.
We climbed with ice axe in hand and crampons. The first part was a steep-ish climb up a face of snow then it turned into a fairly exposed rock scramble, followed by a very exposed rock scramble. For this section we were happy that we could use a fixed rope that another group had installed. We attached a short prussic to the rope and clipped the rope and the prussic with a carabineer. We edged our way along through this section waiting to let traffic from above pass us. Many people did not touch the rope and seemed fine to scramble around the rocks despite the 200 m drop to the glacier below.
The rest of the ascent was a walk up gentler slopes to the summit cross. We took plenty of posy photos at the summit and then sat in the sun for a while and admired the awesome view in all directions. We could see people, all the size of ants, skiing across the glacier below returning from various peaks. There wasn’t a single puff of wind and it was really warm despite the summit being at 3312 m above sea level.
We descended and skied back to the Wiesbadener Hütte first to sit in the sun and drink wheat beer and then later for some expensive and fairly average food.