Monday, February 27, 2012

Rolleiflex ca. 1937

recently I've had the incredible pleasure of using an almost fully-functional Rolleiflex from (I think) 1937. It's baffling how smooth the controls still feel... this is one of the first photos straight out of the camera. It's a mix of old and new, taken with an ancient camera on Ilford Delta 3200 film (which certainly didn't exist in 1937) using my iPhone as a light meter. This is likely to rekindle my ebay addiction.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Val Tuoi, Fil da Tuoi, Jamspitz

Our goal for the weekend with the Zürcher Studenten Skitourenclub was a possible ascent up Piz Buin (3312m), a celebrity mountain in the Silvretta range on the border between Switzerland and Austria (see here for a map of the area). I've heard much about the Silvretta and seen many exciting trip reports so I was particularly excited to get a chance to go there this winter. Matus and I met up with Urs, Sabine and Gieri in Guarda which is an amazingly conserved village in the Upper Engadine. After a brief pitstop to load up on ovomaltine and discuss the route for the day, we set out through Val Tuoi toward the Tuoi hütte. Overnight trips are something entirely different when the overnight gear consists of a 170g silk sleeping liner. Very nice. (often, overnight adventures require much heavier packs... go here for an example)

Given the current deep freeze engulfing all of Europe, we were surprised to find ourselves sweating a bit on the way up the valley -- it was definitely balmy at around -10 and no wind. To get some turns on the first day we detoured briefly up to Fil da Tuoi (2867m), a somewhat nondescript lump on the ridge leading up to Piz Cotschen. The descent was fun but the wind had definitely taken its toll on the snow. During the entire ascent we heard whoomphing sounds and signs of instability were everywhere. We stuck to mellow cruiser slopes and descended down to the valley, finding pockets of nice powder here and there amidst the wind crust. Now the valley was in the shade and fearing that our faces might freeze off we made a dash for the Tuoi hut... great food (I had no idea I could eat so much mashed potatoes), great company, even a beer and home-made berliners! 

Since the snow conditions were somewhat unfavorable, we decided to leave Piz Buin for another day and instead headed the next morning toward the safer Hinter Jamspitz (3156m). The wind was much worse on Sunday! We made quick work of the snowfields up to the summit pyramid and tagged the cross briefly but didn't dare linger on the top. 

Up there, wherever you look, the sea of peaks and valleys extends forever in all directions. Taking it all in despite the siberian winter wind lashing against your face and searing your lungs makes you vow to come back again and again. And the legs come alive on the well-deserved descent, all perfect powder in retrospect (in reality, lots of crust but thanks to the cold it stayed very firm :) 

We skied out to Guarda, all the way to the train, where we again parted ways. Matus and I back to Zürich, the other three for another week (!!??) of touring in Val Müstair... just a little jealous. 

A fantastic weekend in the mountains, thanks Urs and Sabine for organizing!

Piz Buin towers above Val Tuoi

On the way to Fil da Tuoi

Piz Filana across the valley

Urs gets a gift of Piz Buin lip balm on Fil da Tuoi

Urs names the peaks

first sun rays next morning

On the way to Jamspitz

Piz Tuoi (3084m) on the left - our goal, Jamspitz (3156m) is the third bump from the right (you can see the cross on top)

pausing next to some avy debris

wind. cold. 

mountains everywhere... Sabine and Matus approaching the saddle below Jamspitz

Congratulations on the summit of Jamspitz (3156m)

Matus coming up to the summit
a quick summit panorama before my face got too sand-blasted -- from left to right, Piz Buin (3312m), Dreiländerspitz (3197m), Vorder Jamspitz (3176m) -- Jamtal in Austria extends below
descent back to val Tuoi (if you look closely you can see ice crystals in the air)

Chamonna Tuoi - where they serve fantastic stew and reportedly amazing berliners 

cute little Guarda village - apparently, Ursli lived here (

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A week in Davos and "the only thing better than a ski tour is two ski tours"

The whole astronomy part of our institute spent a week in Davos for the final AstroSim-sponsored event - 70 computational astrophysicists from around the world talking shop. And skiing. We arrived on Sunday morning to spend the day leisurely freeriding with Andreas' childhood friend Jürg, who is a ski guide in Davos. He was an awesome guy to ski with and if you're ever in need of a guided trip in those parts, his website is

I didn't take many photos because I was busy skiing. But the weather was amazing and I snapped a few shots on our way up to the final run.

Andreas and Jürg just before our final climb

We did a short tour on Tuesday but my camera was only training weight in poor visibility... on Thursday morning, four of us (Romain, Andreas, Yves and myself) piled into a trusty Czech Škoda 4x4 and headed to the end of the road in the Sertig valley and up to Gfroren Horn (2747m). The air temperature was very low and the air was filled with ice crystals which made for interesting light. These were some of the best snow conditions I have ever seen! Powder with a *low* avalanche danger... We had some nice views off the top though the ride down left a bit to be desired. Not a bad way to start a day at the conference though... it was hard to focus on talks for 6 hours after a morning like that...

Yves and Romain following the skintrack out of Sertig

Out on the flats below Gfroren Horn

Gfroren Horn ridge ahead of us with special lens fog effect

Romain on the summit ridge

special effects -- my lens fogged up and I didn't notice... Andreas on the summit ridge

on the summit

a rare photo of me -- pretending to know the peaks

descending the ridge

Yves descending from the summit

wine from the Valais to celebrate our valiant efforts