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Fischer Transalp 2019 Daily Journal

 

The Fischer Transalp crew will make their way across the Alps on touring skis for the ninth time, beginning this Monday, April 1st. This year’s tour will take participants all the way from Livigno, Italy to Innsbruck, Austria over the course of six stages.



Fischer Transalp 2019

Selecting the crew from over 540 highly motivated ski tourer entries from all over the world made the final choice as difficult as ever. To ensure safety on the mountain, a maximum of eight of people can be chosen. At the end, the selection came down to the entries that were especially strong and the most creative.

On April 1st the following lucky participants will make their way to the Fischer global headquarters in Ried im Innkreis, Austria:  Paul Norheim (NOR), Thomas Herdieckerhoff (GER), Rahel Bertuzzi (SUI), Flavio Alberti (ITA), Lisa-Marie Reiter (AUT), Matthew Williams (USA), Anastasia Mikhina (RUS), und Franck Mazas (FRA).

Day 1: From Livigno, Italy to Cierfs, Switzerland

Finally, the Transalp adventure begins. We start in Livigno, and at this time of year we get off to an early start, especially when the first stage is much more than just an easy warm-up. 

The climbs between Livigno and today’s destination of Cierfs aren’t really that long, but that means The valley floors in between are that much longer. Covering these distances made us realize that we could’ve definitely used more cross country training in our preparation. 

At the end it was a healthy eight hours on the skis, with the sun beating down, high temperatures, and then even snowfall at the end!


Day 2: From Cierfs up to the Sesvenna Lodge

It feels like the valleys are getting longer and the weather is getting worse all at the same time. That’s how it was today as we blindly made our way through constant snowfall above the village of S-charl and the Fuorcla Sesvenna pass up to the Sesvenna Lodge.

GPS was our best friend today, as it would have been really difficult to reach our goal otherwise. But our mood remains positive through all this, because all the fresh snow should mean sweet powder skiing on the upcoming downhills.

The first two stages were definitely tough going, especially at the pace our guides were setting. Being welcomed by a nice schnapps upon arrival helped put all that behind us, and we’re psyched for the next stages!

Day 3: A Change of Plan After the Sesvenna Lodge

The evening before, we had already been quietly wondering exactly how we could proceed under the current conditions. Falling snow, gusting wind, and extremely limited visibility normally mean you just stay at home. But not on a Fischer Transalp!

The crew, including mountain guides, already knew this exact scenario might happen after last year. So, without further ado, it was time for a new plan.

 

Instead of heading up to the Grionkopf summit, we’ll head down into the valley and back towards Schlinig. Our alternative destination for today is the 8389ft (2557m) top of Watles. As we begin to climb, we all agree that it’s powder over sunshine, if you can have only one. After reaching the top, though, that opinion quickly changes. The weather shows its nasty side as a strong wind blasts icy snowflakes right in our faces.

 We’ll have to rely on our GPS for the descent, just as we did for the ascent, with visibility dangerously low.

 

We’ve given up on the powder we had dreamed was awaiting us during the climb. Our focus now is on making a direct line to the sauna!

Day 4: From Rojental to the 9501ft Griankopf (2896m)

50cm (20in) of fresh snow, and finally a forecast with some sun in it. The morning of day 4 is looking good and promises what should definitely be perfect touring conditions. In addition to that a very special guest is joining us today: Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner!

A glance at the avalanche warning level spoils the anticipation a bit, though. Our planned ascent to the Vernagt Lodge won’t be possible in these conditions. The alternate tour takes us out of the Rojental valley up to the Griankopf summit, where bright sunshine finally lets us enjoy a spectacular mountain panorama which thick clouds and fog had denied us til now. And a perfect powder descent awaits!

 

In spite of our extreme caution an avalanche of size 2 breaks loose from the upper third of the slope, but luckily no one is hurt. We’re all relieved to make it back down safe and sound into the valley. 

Day 5: A picture perfect day, but the theme is still “Safety First”

Yesterday’s avalanche experience was new for almost everyone, so we decided as a group that we’d use today to train to react quickly and correctly to similar situations in the future. Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner joined us on the Pitztaler glacier for a comprehensive avalanche transponder training session. 

The ski tourers’ hearts among us bled a little bit as the snow white peaks laughed in defiance and other touring groups cruised on past us. 

But after an intensive training session in hip-deep snow, all that is forgotten. Today we tapped into the expertise of our guides and learned a lot about this important topic. Yesterday really drove home how critical it is to train for the real thing and be able to just fall into an automatic routine when the worst happens. 

 

Tomorrow’s outlook is for reduced avalanche danger, so we’re looking forward to enjoying the final day and final stage together. 

Day 6: The final stage. We’re back on track.

Our alarms sound at 5am sharp today because the promising weather forecast also means we can count on a rapid rise in temperature. First on foot, then on skis, we quickly put the first vertical meters behind us on our ascent to the Winnebachsee Lodge.

The sun peeks out from early on and after the Winnebachjoch saddle it feels so much like full-on summer that some of the crew wish they had brought short pants along.  

Crampons on, and up we head on a rope laid by one of our guides to the summit of the Winnebacher Weisskogel (10,440ft), where the most spectacular vista of the entire Transalp 2019 awaits us. A fine sendoff after a rough week.

Among the most beautiful and important things that will remain with us after the end of the Fischer Transalp are the unforgettable moments that we were lucky enough to share with other kindred spirits.