Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

Learning the Ropes without a Rope

17/01/2010

Robi Brendon in Zürs backcountry, Austria

A Ski Mountaineering Adventure
By Randall Richards

Mountaineering, and ski mountaineering mishaps that don’t kill you are chalked up to experience – a learning experience. I had one such experience in Lech and Zürs Austria when working for Strolz Boots G.m.B.H. I was still a greenhorn in the Alps. The Alps was a whole other ball game than the mountains of the western U.S. This was my first year in the Alps

I was just graduated from the University of Utah where I’d spent three years getting a basic, but great  mountaineering education through the U of U recreation department with such climbers and teachers as Harold Goodro and Dennis Turville.  It’s here where I cut my teeth, the Wasatch Range, in beginning rock climbing and mountaineering, snow shelter building and backcountry emergency medicine classes. Harold was the consummate old mountain man.

The author getting "mountain experience", Austria

In the late seventies, he was involved in teaching all the classes, and would observe other instructors manage the top rope sites. But he was always hands-on.  On another day in my education there,  I remember ascending Stairs Gulch with other Utah students under the tutilage of Dennis Turville. Our little group of neophytes were wide-eyed at one point on the ascent, when a few auto-sized blocks of snow and ice came tumbling down the slabs, bowling for students. Two in the group, by running this way and that, managed to avoid being mowed over. Dennis seemed somewhat nonplussed by the event, but that might have just been my perception at the time. Later on the narrow ridge which divides Big and Little Cottonwood, we carefully picked our way up to the summit of Dromedary Peak. Our eyes were still bugging out of our heads for the rest of the day due to exposed terrain and our lack of experience.  We were quickly getting our mountain legs.

Fast forward to the Lectaler Alps in Western Austria. I usually had most of the day to explore the wild mountains above and around Zürs, St. Christophe and Lech on skis and out of bounds, having to report at the Strolz ski boot shop in Lech around 3pm.  It was my first experience where the ski area trails and the high backcountry merged into one big ski experience. I went nuts, cutting it up, (more…)

Summiting the Matterhorn

27/04/2009
Bob Boyce, Scot Bergeron: Matterhorn's Summit

Bob Boyce, Scot Bergeron: Matterhorn's Summit Image: R Richards

Three local guys from Sunapee, New Hampshire, USA summited the Matterhorn via the Hornli Ridge. Although it’s been a few years since the team summitted, a story that happened on the ascent bears worth mentioning here. It’s about boundaries, keeping your cool,  and international relations.

Scot Bergeron, Bob Boyce, and I decided to do the standard route from the Hornli Ridge Hut. Scot and I were playing music just over the hill in Saas Fee for the summer and took a few days off.  I’d done the Haute Route once with a group of Austrian young guns from Strolz Ski Boots in Lech, and another time with a couple of clients, but hadn’t done any climbs in the area, and thought the Matterhorn would be a good place to start.
We were the first out of the hut in the early darkness. We soon found ourselves overtaken by few of the local guides and their clients, not because of our slowness in climbing but the rather slow going in keeping on route which none of us had climbed before.  We’d see headlamps off to our south and figured they were a bit more on route than us, so we’d veer in their direction. As the sun was coming up we came to a roped section just  below the Solvay Hut at 4000 m.  I was belaying Scot, who was just about half-way up the pitch, when a Swiss mountain guide came up to our belay (more…)