Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mittaghorn ski tour

Mittaghorn is not a particularly creative mountain name... there are no less than 9 peaks named Mittaghorn in Switzerland. You can almost see one Mittaghorn from the Mittaghorn that we climbed (the one to the east of Splügen). Crazy snow conditions (i.e. lots of snow with strong wind) led us to explore the area near San Bernardino, hoping that the wind had been less severe and the snow still fluffy. Getting there was a new experience in public transport-assisted skiing, with the double-decker highway bus (reservations mandatory!) taking us pretty quickly from Chur to Splügen, a pretty popular ski area in these parts and a picturesque village. On the way up, the skin track through the forest was icy, and above treeline there didn't seem to be any snow left so our spirits were not particularly high. We didn't really bother tagging the peak. We approached the ski down with low expectations, but found that the wind had blown all the snow off the mountain into the forest... and skied 45-degree steeps in 50cm of powder in nicely spaced trees! I was pretty busy surfing the snow on my fatties so I don't actually have any photos of this part, but it really happened.

Creative framing on the uphill

Lorenz and Kathi rising up above Untersurettasee

Lorenz and Kathi (and random guy) with awesome pyramid of Pizzo Tambo in the background

Tobias and Sabine fighting the ice pellets

Seehorn with sun on top

snow p0rn
I forgot to take photos at the top... so here's the way down

another attempt at an action shot with the wide angle. Still needs some improvement... 

Sabine shredding

Lorenz finding some pockets of nice snow... I think it's Teurihorn in the background

checking out the woods... fearing the worst, and finding the best

starting out on cruiser slopes...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Searching for snow in Ticino -- Cap. Cristallina

Sabine, Tobias and I attempted to defy the freaky snow-less winter in the north part of the Swiss alps and headed south of the crest, where they are having something like once-in-a-hundred-years quantity of snow. They don't usually get a ton of snow down there so this isn't saying too much, but it's plenty for good touring with minimal chances of wrecking your skis!

We got going at an amazingly early time of 10 am from the Zürich main station and made it up to the beautiful new Cristallina hut by 4 pm. High freezing levels meant that the snow below 2000m was pleasant wet concrete, but up higher it gradually turned into fluffy powder. The Cristallina hut is very new because the old one was destroyed in an avalanche -- luckily they decided on a new location when they built this one so no need to be afraid for your life if you stay there. The hut caretaker cooked up an awesome 4 course meal of minestrone, risotto, pizza, salad and panettone (well the last one was probably store-bought)... quite the feast!

Next morning the clouds gradually gave way to the sun and we did some peak-hopping -- first we climbed Cristallina (2912), then headed across the way to Cima di Lago (2833m) and finally on our way toward our exit route via Val Piana, we stopped on top of Poncione di Val Piana (2660m). The skiing off the peaks was great, although the descent through Val Piana was already almost fully tracked out in the narrow spots, which came as a bit of a surprise. Once we hit the fog layer the snow turned to the awesomest kind of mushy and breakable crust which made the last 400m of our descent a good survival-turn character-building exercise... but we made it down unscathed and even had time to grab bratwurst and beer before catching the bus back to Airolo.

approaching Capanna Cristallina at sunset

Cap. Cristallina

Looking back down toward Val Torta with Il Madone dominating the view

starting out in the morning

steep slopes below the summit of Cristallina

looking north-west toward the giants of Berner Oberland (Finsteraarhorn in middle-left with the peak inside a cloud)
Close up of Berner Oberland 4000ers

ridge leading up to Cristallina

Cima di Lago -- our next objective

Sabine and Tobias hiking up to the summit

naming peaks on the summit of Cristallina

Rare shot of me -- my hair was doing great things that morning (thanks for the photo Sabine!)

spectacular shadow play on the sea of fog

descending from below the Cristallina summit
skiers on the upper slopes of Cristallina

skiers on the ridge below the summit of Cristallina

Tobias descending the steep upper NW face of Cristallina
Sabine skiing with Tobias below

single track on Cima di Lago

Approaching Cima di Lago -- Cristallina in the background

pretty sure this is the first photo ever of Voile V8 in the southern Swiss Alps! (on summit of Cima di Lago with Berner Oberland in the background)

for the first time ever I tried to specifically set up for an action shot -- this first one of Sabine worked out pretty nicely!

somehow I misfired when Tobias charged straight at me...

oops... need to be better prepared next time :) 

Descending from Cima di Lago 

Sabine skiing down from Passo della Cima di Lago

Skiing down Val Piana just before entering the fog

dramatic fog effect