After all the cool action surrounding the new year on which I will write to in a few different in the coming weeks, I got super motivated after last weekends steep adventure in the steeps of the Styrian alps conquering the Gamskögel Nordrinne.
WHERE IS TRIEBENTAL?
It was Tuesday. I had just returned from a epic week of testing new gear, biwaking in Kaunertal, claiming the Glockturm, and successfully finding some powder in Kitzbühl. There was as yet no new snow on the horizon for the coming weekend and I was eager to do some touring so I sent a quick IM to my buddy Matic, who for the first time in years, is spending a season at home instead of Whistler :P. We were not planing on traversing the whole of the alps but were eager to do something fun at home in Styria.
Styria is a state, not a country here on our south east side of the alps. It spans from Austria over to a good portion of Slovenia. I myself am from the lower portion known in Slovenia as Štajerska. Unbeknownst to most Slovenians, Styrias Austrian part has quite a few Hardcore steep terrains, that we as of yet neglected to explore a lot. I had started with this “quest” when I moved back to mz home town of Maribor from Ljubljana a two years ago.
Here we can find objectives like the Torstein Eisrinne or the Loser steep north face and endless options around the Styrian Matterhorn called the Lugaer in the Gesäuse area. But there was more to be had. Last year while googling around google maps I stumbled on a relatively big area somewhere in between Zeltweg, St. Michael and Lienz. Officially part of the Lower Tauern I had neglected it totally, on my hundreds of trips towards Schladming and beyond.
There I read about a side valley accessible from the north called Triebental and at its end, the Gamskögel peaks with a few fun steep terrains, one aptly named the princess chute aka “Prinzessinenrinne” in German. That one was the easy one. Next to it of course there was a few more including the omnious sounding Gamskögel Nordrinne. As anyone who has done some steep stuff knows by now any peak followed by north something usually equals a lot of fun.
So when Matic sent me the link to the area of interest I laughed out loud since I wanted to do it last April. No snow ment it would have to wait. Until now. “Another one to get done from the bucket list I claim not to have but somehow, end up ticking stuff of off!” I thought.
ASCENDING – FOUR “GÄMSE” ON THE GAMSKÖGEL
We would be a crew of four. Matic Gobec, fellow FPV drone aficionado Marko Koceli Uroš Pintar and myself. We started of relatively late. After all it was only 1.5 hours form parking to the entrance of the steeps and there should not be any annoying pressing involved. Tempo would be as we set it. No running a marathon, After all we are old enough now to call it a day if conditions do not turn out as necessary.
We were not exactly sure how the conditions would turn out anyway. Judging from a foggy webcam of a nearby valley and my knowledge of Sundays return, passing Trieben from Kitzbühl when it had snowed heavily, while exiting the freeway by car, it was anybody’s guess what might have happened to the snow on the steeps and in the area above. Would we be able to make it all the way up to the top? We drove up the serpentine’s into the valley and to my happy surprise there was snow on the road by the time we reached the plateau. By then my spider sense was tingling. I know today would work. The weather on the other hand was going to toy with us a bit.
Still we arrived at the parking lot next to a farm with all kinds of animals, where a few people were getting huskies ready for a fun walk in the snow. Skinning up my super lite G3 minimalist skins I got ready. So did the boys and we were on our way. Passing a little stream over a little bridge touring went smooth and my Suuntos GPS map was was showing us where to go. Weather changed a few times in the hour and a half. We still had no idea if the steep Nordrinne would even be doable.
We made it to its entrance in good time. A wide open space bellow the towering Gamskögel peaks. Checking the chutes we already saw a group of 5 ascending the steepest one we wanted to do. The Nordrinne. Since there were already people in it we would have to be careful. The snow conditions were all over the place and it was better to put on crampons and arm our ice axes. One could see that over the course of the last week this lower part had seen it all. High winds, snow, rain, sun, warm, cold. It felt like we were in technical April conditions on medium altitude.
The climb was going pretty smooth, everyone settling into their tempo. The chute was so motivating, open at the bottom and getting more narrow the higher we got. Somewhere in the middle two riders descended. They were super happy with the middle part of the whole line so we knew that the way down we would be in for a treat. They also told us that the rest exited to the peak judging it to steep to ski. At that point we had a good 200 hm left.
I have to admit I loved it there. For some reason I just love climbing in these chutes. It gives me calm and piece of mind. Concentrating on one move at a time. The boys were also doing well so I did not see any issues. Everyone was ok in their game.
Then we made it to a junction. Left or right. we took the left one. Turned out to be the more demanding one as at the end it was a bit of a technical detail to get over. Not that it was hard but the snow was not that super abundant and 4 people had to get over it. Alas we made it. The end was now in sight. The top was pire pressed ice. A little icy snow bridge above at the end with a man sized hole in it showed the gate to the peak. Marko was first and managed to cram himself trough even thou he was the tallest of our group. For us it was a little easier. Handing packs up front we crawled our way trough one by one. It all went well. Ski mountaineering fun in the middle of a spring like winter. Climate change is wired. The extremes getting more pronounced and require more and more adaptability on our part. At the top it looked a bit like on a icy glacier at high altitude. It would be interesting to ski the upper crusty part I remember thinking to myself.
As we made it to the top the main peak of the Gamskogel 2387 was only a 50m or so away with a big epic Enzian equipped alpine cross. As we were resting two Austrian guys whom we met at the ascent came up to us. We talked a bit and they wished us luck on the descent deeming it a bit to hardcore.
SMILING DOWN ICE AND SNOW
As I took out my 360 cam to take a few pictures it was clear that the weather would not open up. As beautiful as it was here in the solitude of the fog mother nature would not give us blue sky. It did open up a few times during our ascent but not now. Matic was already hard at work getting rid of the little ice bridge so we could enter the chute from above without the need to put skis on in the chute. In retrospect that was probably the best idea of the day as the alternative, crawling back trough the hole and clipping in on the icy super steep entrance, would have been a pain in the ass. Matic was ready to do the honers. I was also getting psyched and giddy like a school girl.
I neatly packed my Ferrino FULL SAFE 30+5 backpack with crampons and ice axes stowed away. The battery on my Insta 360 had died form the cold so, There would be no super steep 360 video this time :(. Oh well. Fortunately I had three backup batteries for my already battery dead GoPro. Note to self buy more batteries I thought. I locked my new dashingly green Lange XT 130 Free boots… I was ready to go!
Since I joined Dynastar this year I had a new pair of steep skis I had not properly tested before. The F TEAM VERTICAL. If you read my 2020 GEAR article you know that these were a bit of a gut choice, and that I had not had skis this narrow with 87 under foot for ages. My first rides showed that they had an interesting steep flex and a nice rocker.
They prove themselves a good match for my biwak outing in Kaunertal a week earlier with 20 kilos of backpack gear. Paired with the LOOK Speedlite 12 pin binding, I had an unknown. I am always very of new bindings. It needs time to build trust. I slipped out while putting them on twice at the top. That made me a little nervous. I stepped in again and locked and was ready to go. Question was how will these skis work on the super technical sketchy entry of the chute. Loosing one would be a pain in the ass as I tend not to use safety lines. Making sure they were completely locked yet again I went for it.
Matic was already past the sketchy entry when I started to get in. It was funny. Since I had the skis waxed the day prior 😛 they were slippy as fuck on the ice but the edges were razor sharp. I leaned in sitting on my but pushing myself lower while trying to keep the edge form slipping. It worked well. If I were smart I would have had one of my Ice picks ready for a worsted case slip but I was confidant as usual and just did it nice and slow.
After getting trough I was in the chute. Matic moved a bit lower and I technically drifted on the ice a bit before doing a turn. The turn reminded me that my right ACL was not 100% yet after my bike injury in the summer so I would have to take it a bit easier. At least in the top part 😛
The ski stayed stiff and stable exactly. I gained confidence on it quickly. No wonder since its made for Cham 😛 A steep gun. I loved it. There was no underfoot slipping of any kind either. In the middle section of the chute the snow got really good. Matic and I were having a ball yodlingly descending. But where were Marko and Uroš.
Usually in these chutes you know when someone is moving above you when the sluff snow comes down. At times I found myself playing with my own in concerto trying to keep up as much as my knees allowed. It was so much fun.
Matic and I made it to the lower open part and still no sing of the boys. Then we waited. There was no phone signal so calling was out of the question. Since we did not have UKW radio there was little left to do then wait. We took pictures and talked and suddenly someone yelled from the bottom. We saw two figures in the distance. I went to check. It was just the two nice guys form the top checking if we were ok. While I was doing that Marko and Uroš had joined Matic. They told us that to be safe they went with ice axes in hand in case of a slip.
It was good to see that everyone used their head and descended in a way that he deemed safe. We also stayed in two groups without any special arrangement. It worked naturally. No dumb jackass stunts that usually end up being more trouble then there worth. Then it was time for the last few turns in the outrun where there was not that much snow. There I hit a shark 😛 Mother nature reminded me that it is a wired winter. No harm done thou luckily this time :).
We were all happy and super motivated for more action. When we made it to the parking the guys form earlier even congratulated us. We got some proper Austrian respect and a few GNAR points I recon. Matic had also planned a few cool FPV shots but the weather did not allow us to fly the drone so he went and emptied a few batteries at the parking lot. While packing up I was already thinking of where to go this coming weekend. After all a snowstorm is moving in form the west. It might not make it all the way to Slovenia but the Zell am See area will definitely get some love :P. Also it is finally starting to dump in Japan (wink :))…
PS: Photo credit goes to all the guys !!!