are you aware of all the work that has to be done to ensure safe paths in the mountains? do you know how much time has to be dedicated to refreshing markers and mounting signposts? are you informed about the people who take care of handrails alongside steep paths? well, i wasn’t, at least up until the first weekend of july 2016!
after years of splitboard touring, hiking, freeriding and some (easy) climbing in the alps, i decided it was time to give something back to the volunteers who generously donate their free time to ensure safe paths in the mountains for everyone to use free of cost.
in may, after getting inspired by an article about path maintenance, i contacted the Alpenverein to ask about possibilities to help out. i quickly got a reply, offering the chance of joining a team which takes care of the paths on and around the Schneealm in Styria. this sounded like a great opportunity to me – to be taken under the wings of experienced people, getting initiated into the vast field of knowhow around path maintenance.
although the weather was forecasted to be a bit capricious, i set out for Altenberg an der Rax in the morning of the 2nd of july 2016. i arrived at 10pm and met up with Otto from the Gebirgsverein Südwien-Mürzer-Oberland. after a short stop at my accomodation, the Lurgbauer-Villa, we quickly began our drive up the Schneealpe.
our first tasks were improving the mounting and cleaning some signs. we then moved on to the Kutatschhütte, which is a small shelter on the Schneealm. to ensure a welcoming hut experience for all visitors, we cleaned up a little, sweeping the floor, emptying the trash can and folding the blankets.
then we continued our trip across the Schneealm plateau, stopping every few meters to either rectify existing posts with marking or to hammer new posts into the earth, to allow for good orientation even on foggy days. every post needs a bit of barbed wire wrapped around it to keep the cows which graze on the mountain pasture from playing with the posts. they love a good scratch just too much!
after a short break in one of the huts, we continued our work and repainted the letters on some signs. they get worn out by the weather so much that they need a bit of refreshment now and then.
later on, we drove back down towards the valley and stopped at the Knappensteig. we ascended a short bit, carrying a cordless screwdriver and a cordless brushcutter to the path. we enhanced the mounting of a sign and then proceeded to mow the grass covering the path. since a lot of people like to use this path for trailrunning, we made sure to uncover the path as good as possible.
at 5pm, just before the thunderstorm, we ended our work day and i headed back to the Lurgbauer-Villa for a very relaxing night of sleep.
on sunday, the weather was not too friendly – grey clouds and rain greeted me in the morning. still, we had work to do and met up at 10am. this time, we were 4 people in total, since we were joined by Peter and Nikos.
we packed all of the needed equipment into the all-terrain car and drove up to the Nasskamm. at the end of the road, we noticed that a handrail had been partially destroyed, probably by an avalanche in late spring.
our first task for the day was found!
we searched for the missing parts of the handrail and tried to figure out how they could possibly fit together. after getting a general idea of the situation, we started with pulling up one of the longer logs with assistance of a rope to the path over the steep slope. we hammered a shorter pole into the ground and Peter used the chainsaw to even out the ends of the longer log, so that they formed a flat surface to lie upon the tops of the vertical poles. after using long nails to fix the log, the first part of the handrail had been restored successfully.
the rain got more intense and we had to use a hoe a few times to chop steps into the steep, slippery path between working on the handrail. after about 2 hours, we were done with repairing the handrail.
luckily, the weather had gotten better again, so we grabbed spar varnish in red and white, a sledge hammer as well as a chainsaw and started a 20 minute hike upwards to a meadow. orientation in the fog would be a problem here, since the marking on the trees had already faded out too much and the posts with marking were too far away from each other. so we started enhancing the situation. Nikos and Peter added posts and cut away some branches to reveal the paint marking, Otto and I refreshed the spar varnish on the trees.
after this, we took a short break and then proceeded to the last place of action of the day, a path further down the mountain. we followed the path by foot, added posts with marking and cut away the grass around all posts.
when we reached the car again, we packed all equipment into the trunk and headed back down to the valley, where we ended the day at the Altenbergerhof.
although I was tired after two days of work, I was very happy that I decided to take part in this project! especially the hard work on sunday was great, because you could see the results directly afterwards. I was able to learn a lot and I was not aware of all the work that needs to be put into maintaining a safe network of paths.
my goal is to keep participating in these missions to learn enough so that I can contribute on my own in an area near to my home one day.
-> info on path maintenance and volunteering at the Alpenverein website
-> German version of the article on powderguide.com
Ich bin Mitglied des Wegeteams vom Gebirgsverein St. Pölten und arbeite auf freiwilliger Basis bei der Erhaltung von Wegen mit. Die Tätigkeiten beinhalten beispielsweise das Auffrischen oder neu Anbringen von Wegmarkierungen, das Freischneiden von Wegen oder das Wiederherstellen von Wegen nach Unwetterereignissen.
Für PowderGuide habe ich 2016 von meinem ersten Wochenende, bei dem ich auf der Schneealm als Wegewartin eingeschult wurde, berichtet.
on the 18th of march, we packed our gear into our camper and headed west to kaprun. at half past six we dropped into the baumbar to sign up for the fwq*** x over at the kitzsteinhorn.
we ran into many familiar faces and it was really nice to see everybody again. after the cancellation of the fwq** in kappl due to high avalanche risk the fwq*** x over was the first contest of the season for us.
roman still was on the waiting list for the contest at the time and we both hoped that he would be able to make it onto the starting list. it looked bad at first, but then a phonecall brought the change – one of the riders on the starting list wasn’t able to come, so roman was given a starting place and a bib number. he was going to drop in as number 46, whereas i had gotten number 16.
needless to say, we both were very cheerful.
we left the bar shortly after and quickly hit up a supermarket to shop for much needed alimentation.
then we found a good parking spot for our camper and called it a day, after discussing our lines for the contest.
after a night with only a bit of sleep we met up with the others at the gondola at 7am. the sun was already shining when we arrived at the public area to check out the contest face.
the start of the contest was postponed for a few minutes at the riders meeting to allow the crusty surface soften up a bit in the sun.
shortly after the face check, we took the second gletscherjet gondola up to the alpine center and started our traverse and hike up to the start of the contest.
i really enjoyed the hike a lot – i didn’t have a lot of chances this winter to hike / bootpack or go on a splitboard tour, so it was a very welcome change for me to finally be able to move upwards powered by my two legs.
the tension rose while we waited for our turns at the start. somehow i felt a bit more nervous than usually. i watched rider after rider drop in and swoosh away through the soft-looking powder and my urge to cruise down the face got bigger every minute.
then it was my turn! i strapped in, nearly got a cramp in my left leg, and then it was time to ride! i rode the upper part pretty quickly, jumping over two bumps. i tried to find my way into the couloir i had chosen, but got a bit lost and then had to traverse a bit to get to the right entrance.
i was rather happy with my riding in the steeper bottom part of the face. i had two hand drags, but nothing serious.
when i crossed the finish line, i was stoked and a bit exhausted, due to the cold i was suffering from at that time.
i exchanged experiences with the other riders who were waiting in the finish area for the other women and then moved to the viewer area.
a short time afterwards the results of the snowboard women category was shown on the big screen. i have to admit i was a bit bummed to find out that i had gotten second to last.
i didn’t understand the result at first, as i hadn’t crashed and felt pretty good about my run.
when we talked to the snowboard head judge after the contest, he filled me in that the cause for my bad placement had been the traversing i did in the middle section.
well, too bad. it still was a very enjoyable ride!
about an hour after my run, it was time for roman to drop in. he rode smoothly and safe, which secured him the 6th place in the end.
we continued to watch the whole contest and were able to witness some spectacular and inspiring runs, as well as getting our goggle tan on ;)
we went to eat lunch after the end of the contest and then came back for the prize giving ceremony.
after the prize giving, khantu suggested that we should put the rest of our day pass to use and go ride.
this was nearly the best part of the day – we hiked up to the womens start of the fwq* contest from 2014, everyone picked a point to drop in and then we were able to carve turns into an untouched field.
the view was nice up there, our mood was fine and we indulged in the few slushy powder turns we were able to make.
here are some pics to show you what i mean :D
with this good feeling we left the kitzsteinhorn, checked into a camping site with sauna and then fell into our bed where we slept like babies.
last weekend, we decided to venture out on a short trip to the tauplitz, where the snow forecast had predicted about 40cm of fresh snow. coincidentally, we met two riding buddies of ours there, mat and oli, and so we enjoyed two days of riding in a group of four snow hungry friends.
the question of the weekend that caused some fiery discussions between mat and oli: does riding hellbents make you unlearn how to ski? what do you think? post your opinion below! ;)
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let me get this straight – i love winter sports. i love splitboard touring, i love snowboarding, i love cross country skiing, i love going for a walk in a wintery wonderland. last winter, i was very frustrated by the weather. we had had only a few powder days here in eastern austria, and it didn’t look much better in western austria. i was in a bad mood, constantly waiting for this one big dump that i had hoped for since the season before. but it never came.
we enjoyed some really great days in the mountains, but it just didn’t feel like a proper winter.
about 10 years ago, we would get lots of snow, even in the flat lands of eastern austria. when you were unlucky, you had to shovel yourself a passage through a snow windlip on the street to my parents’ village to get through by car. in the morning, you’d find your car hidden underneath some 30 centimeters of freshies and dug in even more by the snowplough. you could often go cross country skiing on the fields nearby, you could bobsleigh down hills, you could go skiing or snowboarding on the mountains close-by.
these times seem to be long gone. and so far, it doesn’t seem like they will come back this winter season.
i have gotten in one splitboard tour in lower austria in november and since then, nearly all the snow has melted and temperatures have risen again.
the big difference to last winter is my personal stance on the weather. i have decided not to get upset about the lack of snow and warm temperatures anymore.
i will do whatever i can to minimize my own negative impact on the climate, like reducing the waste i produce, reusing or repairing stuff before buying new things, eating a plant based diet and using my bike or my feet as means of transportation as often as possible.
i often pick up trash that i find washed upon a beach or lying around in nature. 3 days ago i found an empty bottle of vodka in a forest. i collected it and carried it with me until i reached the next trash can.
i will continue to do things like that because i truly believe that everyone of us can make a positive impact on the environment.
but still – i can’t change the weather, i can’t make it snow and i can’t reduce the temperature.
it is of no use to be upset because of the weather.
i have decided to adapt to the current situation, go with the flow and make the best of it!
for me, this means not driving hundreds of kilometers to the next glacier to be able to snowboard. i’d rather stick to the options i have in my nearer surroundings and embrace the beauty and fun that can be found here.
while i won’t be able to work on my snowboarding technique this way, i still can continue to build up stamina, balance and muscle power to help my body perform even better (and by the way, this year i have finally acknowledged that my body is already capable of so much awesome stuff, i’m really grateful for that!).
two weeks ago on sunday, i decided to flee from the ongoing fog that has been plaguing the valleys and flat land for the last week. i hopped into the car, drove for 30 minutes and then started a short hike. although i was tired and it was cold and foggy at the parking lot, i soon saw the first rays of sunshine and enjoyed a wonderful hike! it was warm and the birds sang a lovely song.
last weekend, roman and i finally had the chance to go on hikes together again!
on saturday, we conquered the paulmauer and on sunday, we summited the göller, both mountains in lower austria. the first one being more of a little hill, the second can be called a decent mountain already ;)
here are some pictures…
i’ve gotten the opportunity to be a #JulboAthlete during the last season and i have enjoyed using their products a lot. Julbo Eyewear is a company from the french Jura region, which was founded in 1888 by Jules Baud. they have a long history in producing eyewear, especially technical glasses for alpinists and athletes of various other sports like climbing or trail running. they produce 75% of their equipment in europe, which is a plus in my book.
on the 24th of november it was time for the first #JulboAthlete meeting for austrian and german riders in salzburg.
we met in the Julbo Showroom, where all the different products they have to offer are put on display. at first, we were able to get to know each other, meet some familiar faces again and chat a bit.
then it was time for the presentations.
we started off with a round of introductions of all the Julbo staff and athletes. we then heard talks about the history and aim of the company and we were able to learn about technical details of the various types of glasses. for example, that Julbo has the glasses with the widest range of possible adaption in light ray transmission of all glass manufacturers and that they use material that was originally developed for military use. that explains the high resilience of their products.
we were introduced to the newest member of the product range – the Julbo Aerospace goggle. this goggle is perfect for freetourers (people who use lifts for freeriding but also do hikes to reach their favourite descends). it offers a brand new functionality – you can easily lift up the glass a few millimeters to allow for maximum ventilation. Julbo even won the ISPO Gold Award for this innovative product!
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after the presentations, we headed for lunch were we could deepen our connections and feel the team spirit.
the day ended with us choosing the products we would like to use for the upcoming season. it was really fun to discover all the different glasses, goggles and helmets, to try on our favourite ones and check with the other riders which helmet or goggle fit us best.
i’m pretty sure everyone chose the Julbo Aerospace goggle, as it’s really a welcome idea to have the opportunity to let in fresh air after a sweaty hike up or maybe an exhausting plow through deep snow.
i can’t wait to get my hands on the new equipment and to test out the new products on my next trips into the great outdoors!
thank you Julbo for having us, it was really informative and fun to be your guest!
it has certainly become a nice tradition that the PIEPS Freeride Team meets up every year at the stubai glacier at the beginning of the winter season.
on the 27th of october, a foggy day, it was time for this years meetup. everyone arrived at the valley station mutterberg early in the morning. this year, we were even more people than before, because in 2015, PIEPS has built up the PIEPS Experts Team, consisting of experienced mountain guides and alpine professionals, who also took part in the meeting together with us freeriders.
greetings were exchanged, stories of the past summer were told and new connections were made. then it was time to enter the gondolas for the ride uphill.
we spent the day near the top station gamsgarten, where the PIEPS crew instructed us at five different knowledge stations on avalanche rescue techniques and showed us their products in detail, like the PIEPS DSP Pro Ice (which is basically the PIEPS DSP Pro with a different, more stylish look) and the improved PIEPS Jetforce backpack.
not only were we able to refresh our knowledge, we also could do a comparison of the functionality of avalanche beacons from different companies. this is especially important for the ones among us who work as guides and need to have an excellent knowledge of various beacons that guests might bring with them.
the PIEPS Freeride Team meeting ended traditionally with cake, coffee and chatting at the Alpenhotel Fernau.
it was a very informative day, with lots of friendly encounters and laughter.
i’m very happy to be supported by one of the best avalanche rescue equipment producers worldwide. i have to say, i’ve been a fan of PIEPS products since i started freeriding and splitboard touring, and in my personal opinion, they make the best products available. i also have used PIEPS products before i got the chance to be a part of their team, because i truly believe in their reliability and usability.
i want to thank PIEPS for their ongoing support and the big effort they put into the PIEPS Team Meeting year after year!
since july, roman, his parents and i are the proud owners of a campervan.
we didn’t make the decision light-heartedly, roman and i had been thinking about it for a long time. pondering about the costs, the endowment we would like to have, the maximum age and kilometers we would accept and the downsides of travelling in a camper as well as the financial commitment involved.
we had already been on a few camping trips and since we overall mostly liked the experience, we decided to start searching for a campervan after romans parents agreed to also invest in the camper, so they can use it as well.
the search ultimately started in may and it took us until late june to finally find a nice vehicle. campervans are very requested, so you have to be fast to score a good one.
we found “burli” (the name the previous owners gave the campervan) at a local camper shop, we checked it out on the same day and agreed to buy it the next day.
it was a quick decision and so far i can only say it was a good one.
burli is about 12 years old but in very good shape, on the inside as well as on the exterior.
we upgraded the camper with a solar panel to supply us with enough power to be able to spend a remote night.
luckily, the camper already came with a built-in ski storage including a drain, as well as with a bike rack.
we have already travelled with burli, visiting friends and family, and went for a 3-week-surftrip to france, spain and portugal. read more about that in the next blog post!
so far, it’s a dream come true for us and we cannot wait to go on many more adventures.
today i went on a little solo hiking mission on my beloved muckenkogel. the muckenkogel is a mellow mountain in lower austria, just a 30 minute drive from my home, which offers 4 different routes to the summit from one starting point and a few more from other points in the valley. the muckenkogel is only a bit over 1200 meters high, still you will have to master 900 meters altitude difference when you start your hike in the valley. all these facts make the muckenkogel a perfect mountain for me to work on my endurance. other than that, it’s also really beautiful there, thus i want to sing an ode to the great outdoors (not odors… post-hike odors are not ode-worthy in my book).
the summit of the muckenkogel in the upper middle of the picture.
hiking is not a badass activity. it’s not glamorous, neither is it very exciting. still, i get excited on a regular basis when i’m hiking and this emotional high is due to the wonderful feeling that being in nature gives me.
i love to take in the vibrant colors of the sky, the plants, the rocks, the animals. when i’m inside a coniferous forest and i inhale the wonderful smell of a warm forest floor covered by needles from the trees it feels like a short holiday for my brain. watching butterflies twirl around in the air delightens me. and discovering a lizard or a beautiful bird is natures version of a surprise egg to me.
these sensations, combined with the physical demand of walking uphill and downhill, make hiking one of my favourite past-time activities.
waterfall number 1 of 5.
and just so you know: science has just proven that being inside a forest is beneficial for our health (which we had already assumed before, hadn’t we? ;)). it reduces stress and the terpenes that plants emission to communicate with each other increase the power of our immune system.
we should all go for as much hikes as possible!
found a broken glass bottle in the forest and picked up the shattered pieces.
please don’t leave glass in the woods, it can cause a fire!
(the great odors)
on monday, i took the day off work to have the chance for some spring splitboarding and new experiences.
we went down south across lower austria to reach the border of styria and parked our car near the small town of niederalpl. no one else was around, and we took off to a lonely tour up the rodel, a wellknown skitouring route, often-times flooded with people.
the normal route leads over a small ladder and then up to the veitsch, but we turned right before that ladder to reach the bottom of the east facing walls of the großer wildkamm, as we had a different mission in mind.
we changed from splitboard to crampons, mounted the boards on our packs, put our helmets on and then started the hike up the wide couloir.
i had quite some respect mixed with a slight feeling of fear when we approached the start of the hike, but i immediately noticed again how well crampons hold onto a hard, slightly icy surface. roman went first and broke the trail for me. i was very thankful for that, this way, i didn’t have to focus on much else than following his steps and maybe looking up from time to time to avoid being hit by snow or rocks falling down. no need to scout the best line to climb, i knew i could trust him. this was a huge relief for me, because i can blend out my fear of heights better when i have something to stupidely focus on.
the steeper parts were actually easier to climb, because the footsteps are supported by more snow underneath and you can rest your legs a little. it gets tough to climb for about 45 minutes solely standing on your toes.
exhaustion kicked in when we were about half way up, but hearing that we had already made it to the upper half of the climb motivated me enough to keep pushing it.
we had to traverse to the right to get out of the couloir and i was nearly done with my nerves there. i was fueled by the thought that we’d be on top of the mountain in a few minutes and quickly made my way to the right.
when we reached the flatter part near the summit, i was overwhelmingly happy, surrounded by a feeling of safeness, thankfulness and pride. it was only a few steps more to the summit, so we left our equiment there for the last meters.
as we stood on the summit, i was so emotional i couldn’t prevent a few tears from running down.
we made an entry in the summit book (and found an old entry from the G and roman, “wos brauch i tirol” ;)) and then quickly went back to our little ski depot, where we took off the crampons, had a little bite to eat and something to drink and put our boards back into ride mode.
roman drew the first line and then i followed. the snow was perfect – not too hard anymore and not yet too soft and slow.
it was an awesome cruise down. i even tried a bit of McNab’s riding technique advice (great article, read it here), finishing one turn completely before starting the next one and it really made my turns more balanced and soft.
from the bottom of the couloir on, the snow was very warm already, making it a lot more exhausting to ride, but we had fun nonetheless. the last bit through the forest was a tad bit strenuous, but i still enjoyed it with every pore.
maybe this was our last splitboarding trip this year. maybe not. anyhow, it was a perfect day, crossing over the border of my comfort zone a bit and still feeling confident.
i’m very happy that i was able to achieve something i had never done before. it feels good to see signs of development and improvement.