Last week, the sun was shining, the skies were blue, and the snow was crusty-slush-ice-powder, depending on when and where you skied in the Großglockner mountain range. The Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria, peaking at over 3700m, in the region of Kärntern (see map of Austria). We arrived on a Sunday early evening to the small town of Heiligenblut, the sun had just gone down, and were greeted, in the center of town, by a live band playing in the town square and a bar conveniently placed right next to it. Who are we to not honor tradition we thought, so we hung out a while drinking some hot wine and enjoying the local band. Hunger and need for shelter forced us out of the main attraction center and down to the lowest part of town to the official campsite, where we had originally planned to spend the night.
We arrived to find an ice-covered field or parking lot, in the darkness it was hard to tell. So we went about to find the people in charge, which turned out to be an local lady, also owner of a restaurant/Gasthaus.
In the morning the sun was shining and our bodies warmed up quickly, to what was going to be a nice day of skiing. Heiligenblut is a nice area, with a total of 1300m vertical, a lot of intermediate runs, not so much expert terrain and some good off-piste and touring possibilities. Map of the ski area
We spent the day skiing either some nice spring snow, or some used up powder, depending of where the sun was shining. All in all a pretty good day, with grandiose scenery, sunshine and beer at the mid station. Once back down we headed lower down the valley to find a convenient spot to locate our night's condo or a cheap room where to cook and dry our stuff. After some searching and trying to make ourselves understood in our poor German, we got a room in a nice old lady's room.
The second day was touring day, just thinking about it my legs hurt and my brain claimed to be on holiday or something. The wind was howling and the weather not as nice as the previous day. We started up a ski trail, then made a long and sometime sketchy traverse, the wind trying to blow us off the hill every time we weren't paying attention, so we finally spotted in the distance, a chalet on top of a knoll. We cut our way into the wind and decided to take our first break there. Once on the sheltered side, we had a look around and were surprised to see a nice lady in her pyjamas looking at us. OOPs, we thought nobody was in the chalet, it did look empty. The lady quickly closed the curtains and we decided that maybe this wasn't the best place for a stop. So we continued on…. We finally made it to the Magrözenkopf Kleiner, just in time just in time to view a wall of clouds closing in on us from the west, or the east, or the south for that matter…After all the time and effort to reach the peak, a pure white, steeply sloping face awaited our arrival and the beautifully shaped turns which we would decorate in the deep, untouched snow, just like the serpentine tracks someone else had previously cut for all to see. It was with great relief and a smile on our faces that we began our descent, thinking about the powder we were about to carve up and the cold beer that was waiting for us down in town. We picked up speed and began a turn….on crusty-ice-slush, the worst type of snow in which to telemark! Onwards and downwards we proceeded, fighting to stay upright with every turn, using more energy to get down than we used to get up the mountain. The gods were definitely laughing at us that day.
The next day was a rest day and we just hiked around. Our last night was spent in an improvised, illegal, camping place (ie: a small hidden spot from the main road), the stars were out showing their best behaviour and a good night's sleep was had by all….except for our female companion, who had to spend the night, Valentine's night, with two half-drunk, belching boys discussing the romance found in sleeping outside in a parking lot underneath the stars in the middle of winter. The next day, we skied at Mölltaler, a glacier-covered mountain further down the valley near Flattach. This area was higher and steeper than Heilgenblut, and also less tracked. The possibilities for skiing off-piste also seemed much better than in Heilgenblut. We stuck to one south-facing slope that descended from the top of the mountain, where there were some good, open, lightly-tracked spaces to practice jump turns and high speeds crashes. The runs were definitely longer than in Heilgenblut. It is definitively worth hiking the extra 5 minutes from the top lift to have the view on most of the Austrian alps and the secret hidden valley behind, which seemed to have a good run leading into. Us, not having any means of coming back from that valley, were prevented from attempting the very nice looking descent. (or skiing capabilities might have had something to do with it also, as the run looked nice, but a tad on the steep side and we had only our telemarks with us). For ski touring, well, the whole valley offers excellent possibilities with many mountain huts to sleep in. All in all, it was a pretty good trip, very enjoyable, with good skiing and some future options. One of them, Kals, a small town in an adjacent valley, seems to be a tourer's paradise from the information we had from our tour book. Maybe soon…. Other interesting info: Heiligenblut valley has a lot of ice climbing possibilities, most of what we saw was dangerous due to the warm weather,, but during a normal winter, enough to keep you busy for quite a while, from ice falls to narrow lines………..
More pictures below (Mölltaler Glacier)