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Go ski touring in the Alps with a Cicerone guide - Sample Route

Cover of Alpine Ski Mountaineering Vol 2 - Central and Eastern Alps
Available as eBook
15 Nov 2016
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.5cm
No. Maps
No. Photos
1st Published
1 Mar 2003
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Alpine Ski Mountaineering Vol 2 - Central and Eastern Alps

Ski tours in Austria, Switzerland and Italy

by Bill O'Connor
Book published by Cicerone Press

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.

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The European Alps offer some of the finest and most accessible ski mountaineering in the world. A combination of magnificent and varied terrain, an enviable snow record, excellent public transport, unrivalled hut system and a long ski season make them a focus for mountaineering and skiers throughout the world.

This guidebook includes some of the finest ski tours of the central and eastern Alps – hut-to-hut trails that explore the Bernese, Urner, Albula and Bernina Alps of Switzerland, as well as classic tours through the Silvretta, Otztal, Stubai and Ortler regions of Austria and Italy. None of the routes is extreme, although the conditions can be, and it’s for that reason that mountaineering judgement and sound decisions are all important.

The 11 tours in this guidebook cover a 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 Graubunden, before sliding east, following the vast arc of the Alps into the Austrian Tyrol and South Tyrol of north Italy.

All the tours described in this guidebook are in areas that bristle with 3000m peaks, glaciers and extensive permanent snowfields. 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.

The selection in this guidebook 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 or even from country to country.

The routes described are all Alpine – 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 glacial 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.

  • Seasons
    Generally March until mid-May. Each route has a suggested best time to go.
  • Centres
    Les Diablerets, Kandersteg, Andermatt, Preda, Pontresina, Ischgl, Obergurgl, Gstaad, Grindlewald, Neustift, Innsbruck.
  • Difficulty
    Ski mountaineering is a potentially dangerous activity, and should only be undertaken by those with a full understanding of the risks and with the training and experience to evaluate them.
  • Must See
    Idyllic conditions of perfect snow, few crevasses, a track in place, and perfect clear weather!

Alpine hut seasons

Readers should be aware that seasons for individual alpine huts are determined by the people who manage them and may change. The suggestion of a hut as a stop on a ski tour in this guide does not guarantee that the hut will be open (although most huts have winter rooms open and available throughout the winter as explained in the guide). You should always check ahead, by ringing the numbers given in the guide or by looking at the appropriate Alpine Club website. These websites have the most up-to-date information on the huts: Austrian Alpine Club - www.alpenverein.at; Swiss Alpine Club – www.sac-cas.ch; Italian Alpine Club – www.cai.it; French Alpine Club – www.ffcam.fr; Slovenian Alpine Club – www.pzs.si; German Alpine Club – www.alpenverein.de.


Using this Guidebook
On Tour
The Alpine Hut System
Avalanche Awareness
Avalanche Accidents
Helicopter Rescue
A Safety Strategy for Ski Mountaineering
Grading and Difficulty
Equipment List
Bernese Alps West
Stage 1 Col du Pillon – Les Diablerets – Glacier de Tsanfleuron – Arpelistock (Arête de l'Arpille) – Gelten Hut
Stage 2 Gelten Hut – Wildhorn – Wildhorn Hut
Stage 3 Wildhorn Hut – Schnidehorn – Weisshorn – Wildstrubel Hut
Stage 4 Wildstrubel Hut – Weisshorn – Wildstrubel – Lämmeren Hut
Stage 5 Lämmeren Hut – Roter Totz – Kandersteg
Stage 6 Kandersteg – Selden – Alpetli glacier – Mutthorn Hut
Alternative Stage 6 Kandersteg to the Mutter Hut
Stage 7 Mutthorn Hut – Lauterbrunnen
Bernese Oberland North
Stage 1 Grindelwald – Jungfraujoch – Louwihorn – Konkordia Hut
Stage 2 Konkordia Hut – Trugberg – Konkordia Hut
Stage 3 Konkordia Hut – Wyssnollen – Finsteraarhorn Hut
Stage 4 Finsteraarhorn Hut – Finsteraarhorn – Finsteraarhorn Hut – Grünhornlücke – Konkordia Hut
Stage 5 Konkordia Hut – Kranzberg – Hollandia Hut
Stage 6 Hollandia Hut – Äbeniflue – Fafleralp
Alternative Stage 6 Hollandia Hut – Mittaghorn – Fafleralp
Bernese Oberland 4000ers
Stage 1 Grindelwald – Jungfraujoch – Mönch – Mönchsjoch Hut
Stage 2 Mönchsjoch Hut – Jungfrau – Mönchsjoch Hut
Stage 3 Mönchsjoch Hut – Gross Fiescherhorn – Hinter Fiescherhorn – Finsteraarhorn Hut
Stage 4 Finsteraarhorn Hut – Finsteraarhorn – Finsteraarhorn Hut – Grünhornlücke – Konkordia Hut
Stage 5 Konkordia Hut – Gross Grünhorn – Konkordia Hut
Alternative Stage 5 Alternative route to the Grünhorn via the Grünegghorn
Stage 6 Konkordia Hut – Aletschhorn via the Hasler Rib – Riederalp
Alternative Stage 6 Alternative Route via the Mittelaletsch Bivouac
Stage 7 Mittelaletsch Bivouac Hut – Mittelaletsch glacier – Aletschjoch – Aletschhorn, via the NE ridge – Riederalp
Urner Alps Traverse
Stage 1 Realp – Albert Heim Hut
Stage 2 Albert Heim Hut – Winterlücke – Lochberg – Gwüest
Stage 3 Gwüest – Chelenalp Hut
Stage 4 Chelenalp Hut – Sustenhorn – Hotel Steingletscher
Stage 5 Hotel Steingletscher – Sustli Hut
Stage 6 Sustli Hut – Grassen – Engelberg
Tour Soleil
Stage 1 Realp – Rotondo Hut
Stage 2 Rotondo Hut – Witenwasserenpass – Piz Rotondo – Rotondo pass – All'Acqua – Corno Gries Hut
Stage 3 Corno Gries Hut – Corno pass – Griessee– Blinnenhorn – Cesare Mores Hut, or Citta di Busto Hut
Stage 4 Rifugio Claudio e' Bruno – Hohsandhorn (Punta del Sabbione) – Talli Glacier – Binntal Hut, or Mittlebarg Hut
Stage 5 Binntal Hut – Albrunpass – Alp Devero Rifugio – Castiglioni – Scatta d'Orogna – Citta di Arogna Hut
Stage 6 Citta di Arogna Hut – Kaltwasserpass – Monte Leone Simplonhospiz
Stage 7 Simplonhospiz – Niederalp – Sirwaltesattel – Oberfullmoos – SaasBalen – ascent of Sengkuppe
Albula Alps Traverse
Stage 1 Julierpass – Fuorcla d'Agnel – Piz Agnel – Tschima da Flix – Jenatsch Hut
Stage 2 Jenatsch Hut – Val Laviner – Fuorcla Laviner – Piz Laviner – Val Mulix – Nax – Preda – Rätische Bahn to Bergün
Stage 3 Bergün – Tschimas da Tisch – Murtel da Lai – Fuorcla Pischa – d'Es-cha Hut>
Stage 4 d'Es-cha Hut – Porta d'Es-cha – Piz Kesch – Kesch Hut
Stage 5 Kesch Hut – Alp Funtauna – Scalettahorn – Piz Grialetsch – Grialetsch Hut
Stage 6 Grialetsch Hut – Fuorcla Sarsura – Piz Sarsura – Val Sarsura – Zernez
Bernina High-Level Route
Stage 1 Diavolezza – Munt Pers
Stage 2 Diavolezza – Piz Palü – Boval Hut
Stage 3 Boval Hut – Piz Bernina – Marco-e-Rosa Hut
Excursion The Spallagrat of Piz Bernina
Stage 4 Marco-e-Rosa Hut – Bellavista – Marinelli Hut
Stage 5 Marinelli Hut – Fuocla dela Sella – Piz Sella – Ils Dschimels – Coaz Hut
Alternative Stage 5 Alternative Route to the Engadine via the Fex-Scerscen Pass
Extension Optional Ascent of Piz Tremoggia
Stage 6 Coaz Hut – Il Chapütschin – Pontresina
Silvretta Traverse
Stage 1 Ischgl – Zeblasjoch – Heidelberger Hut
Stage 2 Heidelberger Hut – Breite Krone – Jamtal Hut
Stage 3 Jamtal Hut – Dreiländerspitze – Weisbadner Hut
Stage 4 Weisbadner Hut – Piz Buin – Silvretta Hut
Stage 5 Silvretta Hut – Schneeglocke – Saarbruckner Hut
Stage 6 Saarbruckner Hut – Bielerhöhe – Galtur
Ötzal High-Level Route
Stage 1 Obergurgl – Schönwies Hut – Langtalereck Hut
Stage 2 Langtalereck Hut – Hohe Wilde N Summit – Annakogel – Gurgler Ferner – Hochwilde Hut
Stage 3 Hochwilde Hut – Schalfkogeljoch – Schalfkogel – Martin Busch Hut
Stage 4 Martin Busch Hut – Similaun – Similaun Hut – Hauslabjoch – Hochjoch Hospiz
Stage 5 Hochjoch Hospiz – Fluchtkogel – Vernagt Hut
Stage 6 Vernagt Hut – Brochkogeljoch – Wildspitze
Stage 7 Braunschweiger Hut – Pitztaler Jöchl – Pollesjoch – Hinter Pollesalm – Huben
Stubai High-Level Route
Stage 1 Oberiss – Franz Senn Hut
Stage 2 Franz Senn Hut – Wildes Hinterbergl – Franz Senn Hut
Stage 3 Franz Senn Hut – Ruderhofspitz – Wildgratscharte – Amberger Hut
Stage 4 Amberger Hut – Wietenkarsattel – Windacher Daunkogel – Hildesheimer Hut, or Dresdner Hut
Stage 5 Hildesheimer Hut – Pfaffenjoch – Zuckerhütl – Wilder Pfaff – Sulzenau Hut
Stage 6 Sulzenau Hut – Pfaffenneider – Müller Hut – Wilder Freiger – Nürnberger Hut – Ranalt
Ortler Grand Circuit
Stage 1 Sulden – Zaytal Hut – Zayjoch – Schafbergspitze – Zaytal Hut
Stage 2 Zaytal Hut – Zay glacier – Angelusscharte – Laaser glacier – Lyfijoch – Zufritthaus, 1880
Stage 3 Zufritt Hut – Gramsenferner – pt.3285 Martellerjoch – Hintere Schranspitze, and Hintere Rotspitze (optional) – Careser glacier – Veneziaspitze (optional) – Köllkuppe – Hohenfirner – Marteller Hut
Stage 4 Marteller Hut – Zufallfirner – Monte Cevedale – Monte Pasquale (optional) – Pizzini Hut
Stage 5 Pizzini Hut – Gran Zebru glacier – Königspitze (Gran Zebru) (optional) – Col Pale Rosse – Miniera pass – Cima Della Miniera (optional) – Vth Alpini Hut, or Bertarelli Hut
Stage 6 Vth Alpini Hut, or Bertarelli Hut – Monte Zebru – Ortlerpass – Niederer Ortler glacier – Bergl Hut – Trafoi
Appendix A Summary of the Tours
Appendix B Further Reading
Alpine Ski Mountaineering, Volume 1: Western Alps

Sample Route

StartCol du Pillon, 1546m
Ascent1053m including Les Diablerets summit
Descent1302m including Les Diablerets summit
DifficultyBSA. PD. Short sections of S1/S2 on the Tsanfleuron Glacier. Pitches of S3/S4 on the descent of the Arpelistock. Verglas can be a problem along the arête. Some crevasse danger.
Time6–8 hours
Principal AspectE, NE

Col du Pillon, 1546m – Les Diablerets summit, 3209m – Glacier de Tsanfleuron, 2555m – Col du Sanetsch, 2251m – Arpelistock, 3035m (Arête de l'Arpille) – Gelten Hut, 2002m

The ascent to the Sommet des Diablerets, 3209m, from the Col du Pillon, 1546m, is a monstrous 1663m – a huge climb for a first day on tour. Fortunately, it's possible to dispense with the initial 1269m by taking the cable car as far as the top station of the Sex Rouge, 2940m, thus leaving a feeble 269m of ascent to the summit. If it is your first day on tour, it would be advisable to combine its ascent with a day's skiing using the Col Pillon lift system and a night at the Diablerets Hut. The Arête de l'Arpille is an elegant line offering a fine day's ski mountaineering which combines technical interest with spectacular scenery. The final summit pull is quite steep.

Although Les Diablerets is a soft-touch summit, don't despair. If you are lucky to be there on a really fine day the views are as extensive as anywhere in the Alps. The panorama is truly spectacular, extending from Lake Geneva in a vast semi-circle that takes in the highest peaks of the Alps from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn and beyond to the bulk of the Berner Oberland's famous three – the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. To the N the circle is closed with views of the stunning folds of the Prealps.

It's important to take the earliest cable car to the top station of the Sex Rouge. From the station, descend SE on the piste towards pt.2844, which will be pretty busy in the ski season. Instead of continuing to the base of the draglift turn R (south) and climb gently to Le Dôme, 3005m. If you are feeling totally idle you could always take the tow!

Continue SW along the fine crest of Le Dôme before making a short descent onto the Diablerets glacier. The views towards the high peaks of the Valais from here are sensational, made all the more impressive by the seracs at the edge of the hanging Diablerets glacier (crevassed) suspended over the huge basin of the Creux de Voze. Stay R, keeping close to the rocks of Les Diablerets crest, skinning gently SW to reach without difficulty the recently installed summit cross on Les Diablerets. For those wanting different views and another top, the Tête de Barme, 3185m, to the SE is quickly reached. It offers grand views of the magnificent limestone fin of L'Argentine above Solalux and into the depths to the Pas de Cheville.

Climbing steep slopes towards the summit of the Arpelistock, with the magnificent peaks of the Grand Combin (L) and Mont Blanc (R) forming the skyline

Return to Le Dôme and begin the long gentle descent of the Tsanfleuron glacier following the line of the tow to its base at pt.2581. Continue ESE, down its true L bank, keeping under the S flank of the Oldenhorn, 3122m, as far as the Col du Sanetsch, 2251m (high-tension cables). Ahead you will see the sinuous Arête de l'Arpille of the Arpelistock, 3035m. The ridge is part of the single continuous ridgeline forming the primary peaks of the Western Bernese Alps, which this route criss-crosses and follows throughout.

Descend NE-facing slopes to the Col du Sanetsch, 2251m, and gain the Plateau du Senin, 2120m. Bear L in a series of steps to gain the Arête de l'Arpille. The ridge can, in favourable conditions, be followed throughout. It is exposed and can be verglaced. In stable snow conditions, it's possible to bypass the ridge by traversing slopes on the N side. Either route can be followed to a saddle at c.2680m. From the saddle, cross to the SE flank and reach the summit of the Arpelistock, 3035m, on foot via relatively steep slopes. There can be a risk of snow slides near the summit in certain conditions.

What follows is a great descent down the NE flank of the Arpelistock. The initial slope is steep (100m, S3/S4) but soon leads to delightful skiing under the Hüenerhörnli into the Rottal valley, from where the Gelten Hut, 2002m, can be reached on the R bank of the Rottal stream. In poor weather, descent to Lauernen can be made from the hut N via the Rottal. This is a serious descent in all but stable snow conditions.

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