Go ski touring in the Alps with a Cicerone guidebook
Alpine Ski Mountaineering Vol 2 – Central and Eastern Alps
This handy pocket-sized guidebook contains detailed route descriptions for Alpine skii touring in the central and eastern Alps. This guidebook includes hut-to-hut trails in the Bernese, Urner, Albula Alps as well as classic tours through the Silvretta, Otztal, Stubai and Ortler. Skiing, mountaineering and navigational skills are all necessary. More...
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For most English-speaking skiers, there is probably only one high-level route – that between Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, often called the Haute Route. Most people are astonished to learn that long before it was skied in 1911, it was a recognised high-level hike established by members of the Alpine Club as a relatively quick, high-level crossing between the bourgeoning villages of Zermatt and Chamonix. They called it the High Level Road. Today, this route between Chamonix and Zermatt is arguably the most famous and sought-after ski tour in the world. It may therefore come as a surprise to many that regard it as the one and only Haute Route that there are in fact a whole host of outstanding high-level routes throughout the Alps.
In reality, the Alps are criss-crossed with stunning ski tours, many of which have gained a classic status. It is difficult to define what ‘classic’ means. It is certainly more than a matter of being popular. The skiing on a classic tour should, in my opinion, demand a range of skiing and mountaineering skills, call for good navigation, and be challenging but nevertheless remain logical as a ski tour. The need to carry skis should be an occasional and logical necessity, whilst the prospect of some outstanding downhill must be high. Once completed, a classic tour should leave you with a better understanding of an area’s physical geography, and above all it should be an enjoyable journey. Each tour in this book is arguably the best of its kind and standard in a particular mountain area and epitomises what is best about ski mountaineering in that region.
The tours in this guide cover significant part of the Northern as well as the Central and Eastern Alps. They range across Alpine Switzerland from its north-west corner to its south-east tip, from Vaud to Graübunden, before sliding east, following the vast arc of the Alps into the Austrian Tyrol and South Tyrol of north Italy.
The mountains beyond Mont Blanc and the Pennine Alps trending eastwards tend, with the exception of Bernina, to be regarded by many climbers as less serious and more benign, with lesser climbs and smaller glaciers. It is true that to the east of the Urner Alps and the Rhöne/Rhine watershed there is only a single outlying 4000m peak, Piz Bernina. It is true that there are no glaciers that compare in length with the Grosser Aletsch or Mont Blanc’s ice streams, but it would be wrong to underestimate these areas when it comes to skiing. In many respects, what they lack in size and fame (compared to, say, Mont Blanc and other regions of the Western Alps), they make up for in terms of their suitability for ski mountaineering. In this matter, they are equal in every respect to the Western Alps.
All the tours described in this guide are in areas that bristle with 3000m peaks, glaciers and extensive permanent snowfields. In fact, these are the very things they all have in common. The Central and Eastern Alps also have an enviable snow record, and in many instances can offer ski touring when other areas are waiting for better snow cover to fill crevasses and make travel on dangerous glaciers possible. This is especially true of the Western Bernese region along with the Urner and Albula Alps.
Within the two volumes of this guide are included some of the finest, most accessible Alpine ski tours in the world – only available, of course, to the complete mountaineer. None of the routes is extreme, although the conditions can be, and it’s then that mountaineering judgement and sound decisions are all important. You do need to plan and prepare properly for these tours if you are to succeed.
The selection covers tours in the most important Alpine regions. They are also varied in length and difficulty, although most fit within a full week’s touring. Of course, if poor weather or conditions prevail they can take a lot longer! The routes also include a mix of ‘circular’ tours, which are convenient for those wishing to leave car or equipment in one place, and ‘linear’ routes that journey hut to hut, even from country to country. These usually require a little more organisation with regard to logistics, travel and packing.
The routes described are all Alpine – in other words, they require both skiing and mountaineering skills. While technical climbing ability of a high standard is not essential, the skills required to operate on steep slopes and glacier terrain, where cramponing, ropework and crevasse rescue may be necessary, are essential for safety, as are navigational skills. It goes without saying that avalanche awareness skills and knowledge are vitally important for everyone who intends to ski mountaineer.