AcknowledgementThousand thanks to my friend Karin and her husband Kurt; the credit for the sometimes dramatic pictures goes fully to them – I forgot my camera …..
This has two huge advantages – I am visible on some great mountain fotos at least (not only standing behind the camera). And you can watch my efforts … - well, this is going too far now. Better let us start with the tale.
First DayWinter 2006 / 2007 was a real mess. Where is the snow we were asking ourselfs constantly. Nearly no ski - hike was good this winter. Thus it was nearly optimistic to the point of foolishness to claim for three days of ski - hiking in the Stubai range on the holiday weekend of the first of May. Two friends of mine persuaded me at last that this would be the highlight of the somehow dull ski - hike season. And as the weather forecast told us something about fine weather during the holiday weekend (they always do that before holiday weekends just to spread good moods and we always step happily into this trap) we booked our overnight stays in the Franz Senn Hotel, oh pardon me, Franz Senn Hütte (great site with webcams and good informations).
Due to my workload I went to Stubai Valley one day later than my friends. While I was hurrying to Neustift and to Oberiss, the trailhead for Franz Senn Hütte, they would already be on the glaciers and tackle Wilder Turm and Wildes Hinterbergl, two nice ski peaks in the surroundings of the hut.
As you easily can imagine the weather was not that good as predicted but - my mood was good (see the main aims of a weather forecast above).
This good mood couldn´t be ditched by the sheer fact that at the parking area you couldn´t see any snow. Fresh early spring blossoms adorned the meadows that should still be snow covered in that season. I attached my skis to my backpack and started the not so long ascent to Franz Senn Hütte.
“Mummy what is HE doing??” asked a little girl pointing at my backpack and me? “I think he goes skiing” answered the mother. “But there is no snow” insisted the little nosy sweetheart. My mood started to sink a little bit.
The trail is steep in the beginning. Soon I started to sweat because it was warm and damp like in july (it was end of April, remind !). I asked myself if this was due to global warming and my mood sank a little more.
There was no snow on the trail and on the slopes to my left and to my right. Only high above the valley, yes, something was looking greyish white, that could be snow …
Normally you cannot start your ski ascent to Franz Senn Hütte from Oberiss in april, this is only the summer trailhead. You have to leave your car down the valley and the road is barred at the Alm village of Seduck. But this winter was not a normal one.
I didn´t need to get on my skis to gain the hut. My boots barely touched some quickly melting snow fields. I had my light summer hiking shoes on and my heavy ski shoes attached to my skis. I had so much stuff in my backpack that I was constantly cursing under my breath – but as you surely know you always have too much luggage spending your holidays in a hotel. I was to blame.
And Franz Senn Hütte is like a mountain hotel, although this hut belongs to the Alpine Club. This huge mountain hut is placed at the end of Alpeiner valley at 2147 m. In April the hut should be still covered with snow. There was nearly nothing like that… my mood was definitely down.
Well, I arrived at the hut at high noon so my friends would surely be on top of the surrounding peaks. I had a quick lunch and started to climb Rinnenspitze (3003 m) northwest of the hut.
I did it without ski !!
A normal hike !!
With my summer shoes. Without gaitors (no need to use them). In April !!
It was fun, though.
(Sorry, no pics. See the acknowledgement ….).
Shortly before dinner starts my friends came back. They were looking exhausted because they had to carry the skis attached on the backpack (see my hut ascent report …) because in the Alpeiner Valley there too was no snow and they reported about their day trip with – let us call it “sufficient” snow cover on the glaciers.
We went to bed early because they were tired from their hike (and I was tired from work). Karin had arranged different beds for all of us because they had to endure a group of heavily snoring Italians the night before. Thus we escaped the snoring. We didn´t escape the slightly drunk (and loud) Ruderhofspitzen – conquerors of that day – they were filing in one by one – endlessly.
You think about closing hours at ten o clock in the evening in mountain huts? You think wrong.
I love mountain huts!!
Second DayI love mountain huts!!
I love the huzzle and buzzle in the morning because everybody thinks he will be too late to get some decent breakfast, too late to get started, too late to gear up (some buddies looked like Christmas trees with all their glacier and climbing gear), too late to step out of the hut into the – no, not the warming morning sun but the beginning rain!
Ah yes, the weather forecast and the holiday weekends – never ever forget about that.
Imagine, you step out of the hut to tackle beautiful Ruderhofspitze, the most prominent peak of the Franz Senn surrounding, the weather forecast promised a high pressure area for the holiday weekend and there is only grey sky and a drizzling rain falling down on the last remains of what you might call snow.
Karins wise husband immediately returned to bed.
Karin wanted to go to Ruderhofspitze. I instead wanted to wait a little bit. After a hard fight (we are still friends !!) she gave in. We changed plans: I proposed a shorter ski hike, the summit of Innere Sommerwand (3132 m). The valley east of Franz Senn Hütte, leading up to Innere Sommerwand, had some snow chutes left. So you had the chance to start your hike with your skis on your feet (if you like to traverse meadows on skis to gain the next patch of snow I should add - check the current conditions with this webcams).
Karin: “This is a summit for beginners”.
I: “It is raining”.
Karin: This summit is a real soft option”.
I: “It is raining harder”
Karin: “I know the region and its weather conditions. It will clear up in no time”
I: “The clouds are coming lower and lower”.
We started our ascent towards Innere Sommerwand.
For about one hour we traversed meadows on skis to gain the next patch of snow. Finally we reached the rests of the Sommerwand glacier. There was the above mentioned “sufficient” snow cover (in fact it was sufficient to have real fun skiing down in the afternoon).
And then, as you might have guessed already, the weather cleared up in no time. We had a decent lunch at the Innere Sommerwand summit in full sunlight (sorry, no pics, Karin forgot her camera at the hut).
And it was a soft option (a new summit for me, though).
And there were several groups of beginners on that summit.
Karin: “I will throw you down that rock face. We could be sitting now on Ruderhofspitze summit.”
I: “Why did you forgot your camera?”
As I said we are still friends.
This was, I think, due only to my mentioning the summit of Mittlere Kräulspitze (3302 m). It saved my neck.
Karin, diverted : “What is Mittlere Kräulspitze ???”
I pointed at the bold spire-like summit southeast of Innere Sommerwand. It looked like a real challenge to us. Karin started to smile.
You have to descend the Sommerwand summit, traverse the upper part of Sommerwand glacier and ascent to its uppermost end below the steep north slope of Mittlere Kräulspitze.
Years and years before I tried to summit this peak from its eastside, starting from Neue Regensburger Hütte. But I didn´t manage to get on the top: ascending the Falbesoner Kräulferner (Ferner = glacier) with a friend we recognised that the bergschrund was wide open and there was no chance to get to the rocky east slope. So I thought my chance had come at last to fill a gap.
Now we were now standing at the beginning of the steep north slope of this mountain of destiny of mine. We traversed some snow and ice covered slabs. I was astonished how much snow there was lingering in that north slope to hinder our ascent.
Two thirds up the way the ice started under the snow. The ice which covered the rocks. As you can, I think, easily guess now, we had forgotten some vital things which might have come in handy in such a situation.
An ice axe for instance (ours were innocently sleeping at the hut; the whole day was planned as a hike for beginners, remind!!).
Crampons, to continue (I had mine adjusted to my ski boots in the hut and they were now, yes, you are right …).
We craned our necks: the summit was up there, only 100 meters to go – it was impossible. We cautiously retreated.
Sorry, no new mountain page for the Stubai Alp parent. Mittlere Kräulspitze is still waiting for my summit visit.
But we had a wonderful downhill skiing and we found some chutes with enough snow to bring us to the tables in front of the hut were Karins husband was waiting for us with a fresh beer. He had a joyful day at Rinnenspitze, the hike I did the day before. Needless to add that he started at the hut when the weather cleared up in no time.
The keeper of the hut informed his guests that the weather forecast for the next day had promised excellent weather. I asked myself if the weather guy wanted to menace us.
After dinner we went to bed early. This time there was no Ruderhofspitzen – conqueror disturbing us. Sometimes some rain in the morning can be quite useful in the evening. Consequently Karins husband started to snore ...
Third Day - The SummitThis was the day !
Did you ever in your life had to wait 31 years to summit a certain peak?
I did! (Don´t ask me why!)
Since I first set my boots on the glaciers of the Stubai range in 1976 as a young boy together with my parents I was impressed by Ruderhofspitze. I then started to read a guidebook and there was written something about “a difficult mountain with difficult glaciers and rock ascents”.
I was even more impressed. And a little scared. So I dumped the idea.
Then, years later, when I tried to summit Mittlere Kräulspitze (see day two for that) I intended to summit Ruderhofspitze as well. It was on a holiday weekend in september and you have, I think, learned now thoroughly what the weather forecast and the real outdoor weather tend to be on those occasions.
It followed exactly this pattern ..... I dumped the idea again.
And on this third morning I was stunned, mesmerised, puzzled. After the usual huzzle and buzzle in Franz Senn Hotel I geared up (not exactly like a christmas tree but I took my ice axe and my crampons with me and I begged Karin and Kurt not to forget their cameras so that you can now savour some nice shots at least) and stepped out, no, not in the drizzling rain but in the warm morning sun (well, this is not exactly spoken because it was early in the morning and Franz Senn Hotel is located in a south-north orientated valley and does not see much of the sun during winter and spring, but it was clear skies and rippling cold so the snow, if only there would have been some, would have been frozen nicely.).
You can guess what we did. We attached our skis to our backpacks (I remembered the little girl from the first day and I started to understand her questions deeply) and followed the Alpeiner valley into southern directions.
Alpeiner valley is a beautiful, glacier-shaped alpine valley, nearly level in the beginning with some shallow ascents to overcome. Meadows, glacier-shapes rocks, the sparkling Alpeiner creek coming down from Alpeiner glacier, an enjoyable hike in summer and fall, a nice and easy ski - skate in winter and spring, a stumbling in and out of deep holes in the rests of snow, a wading through swamp - like meadows and a slippery balancing act on the glacier-polished surfaces of rock slabs on our occasion.
Then we reached the beginning of the so-called “sufficient” snow cover. This was at the end of the shallow part of the valley. Now a slope started to ascent up to where the melting and retreating glacier tongue of Alpeiner glacier would wait for us.
We put our skis on our boots and started the ascent on the frozen and icy “sufficient” snow cover. While zigzagging up the gradually steeper and steeper slope it became gradually more and more difficult to traverse the slope without slipping.
Karin: “We should put on our ski crampons.”
Kurt and I: “Good idea.”
No, not what you are thinking now, this would be a too easy guess.
I put my ski crampons out of my backpack (oh yes !!!) and attached them to my skis.
No, not exactly. I TRIED to attach them, I tried even harder, I started to curse (no quotations of this bit) but they didn´t fit in.
The explanation was very simple and after a while it became clear even to me. I had bought new bindings for my skis and hadn´t thought about asking wether my old ski crampons would fit to them. Apparently this was a very serious lapse. I cursed even more and sweared never ever to laugh about geared up christmas trees again. At least THEY would have had everything necessary.
You might guess what I did: I attached my skis to my backpack and continued the ascent by feet. I am still thankful that my heavy bodyweight plus the backpack plus the ski weight were not able to crack the hard surface of the frozen snow. That for sure would have been disastrous.
Arriving at the glacier tongue (me slightly panting) thing did get better. The snow was not frozen hard any longer, I put my skis back on my boots and we started our shuffle up the not so steep glacier into the morning sun while the ice cascade of the glacier in front of us sparkled promising. To our left Mittlere Kräulspitze stood high into the blue sky. It was getting warm and fine. Slowly we gained more height. To avoid the ice cascade we traversed to the north side of the glacier and gained the huge upper glacier basin with the adjacent summits: Ruderhofspitze to the left, Hölltörlkopf, Schwarzenbergspitze, Wildgratspitze and Schrandele.
Little puffy clouds were whirling up the slopes gently into the blue skies, the snow was sparkling, Ruderhofspitze stood enticing to our left, our mood was high and - you know it - it was all too good.
As we proceeded on the now shallow glacier to the east, thus gaining Hölltörl, the upper end of Alpeiner glacier and the starting point of the south ridge, the puffy clouds were whirling even more and after half an our fog started to surround us.
With the fog came the wind. With the wind came the wind chill. And there was a certain limitation of visibility, too.
Thus we arrived at Obere Hölltalscharte and left the skis to start our traverse of the southern arête of Ruderhofspitze. I was astonished how easy this ridge is. Never trust a guide book too much.
Exposed though. Well, the clouds and the fog did their best to wipe away this feeling of exposure. There were some steep short slopes, some belays and some rock scramble actions. At last we arrived at the snow field below the summit and after a traverse and some last steep steps I was standing on the summit of Ruderhofspitze after 31 years. O.K. the first snow and hail shower did abate my high spirits but then the whirling clouds gave way to the sun and the blue sky (for one minute) and my friends had their chance to take some fotos of the conquerors.
I was happy. really. No kidding.
We had a nice rest on that summit, planned new traverses and had a good bite. Then the clouds came back, thicker and blacker than you would like it on an exposed summit and on an equally exposed ridge. We hurried down back to our skis, had some glimpses of other glacier mountains of the Stubai range and started our ski descent down the glacier.
Some people pay for a peeling and a good face scrub. We got it for free. The next hailstorm did it for us. It lasted only some minutes. Then the sun was back and we had a real wonderful ski descent down to the valley floor of Alpeiner valley.
There we fastened our skis to our backpacks (you know this tune now by heart) and hiked back the valley to Franz Senn hut and down to the trailhead and our cars. The sun was shining, the clouds disappeared miraculously and the weather forecast promised for the next working days a huge zone of high pressure with wonderful weather for hiking activities after those slight disturbances during the holiday weekend which are so difficult to predict.
You know what? The weather forecast was right. But I would not want to miss a minute of this trip to Ruderhofspitze.