Kandersteg to Engstligenalp

Even with the last two tours under my belt, I still haven’t felt like I’m back in form after getting sick at the beginning of March. My plan for today was to make a moderately long ski-tour at a pace slightly under 400 vertical meters per hour. I’d been thinking about heading up to the multi-pitch routes in Üschenental on Thursday with a climbing buddy, and figured I’d go do some reconnaissance.

I took the first train from Bern to Kandersteg , and started skinning (at 1150m) up into Üschenen just after 8am. After about 45 minutes I popped out above the trees and was treated to a brilliant view of fog. No chance to see if the walls were wet, dripping, covered in snow and ice, etc. So much for recon!

I continued up the valley, and around 10:30 am I hit 2000m and the fog disappeared, just a few wispy clouds gave some ambience to the giant red and grey limestone walls all around the Sulzweng bowl. It got hot, but the snow seemed reliable - knee-deep powder, not at all wind affected. In the shade it was definitely below freezing, and I didn’t see any signs of current glide avalanches. I decided to head up to the Engstligengrat (2627m) and descend down into Engstligenalp. I set the first tracks since the last storm up and felt an incredible silence and loneliness on the last steep slope before the pass. On the other side: people, skilifts, restaurants. At 12:45 I was on the “summit”, eating lunch and beginning to regret my decision not to return to Kandersteg via the long flat Üschenental, but the snow on my ride down into Engstligen was fantastic: 10cm of pow on top of a nice hard crust.

All in all, it was a successful training tour. I made few silly mistakes. For some reason charging my watch (and altimeter!) last night had the perverse effect of draining the battery, which I didn’t notice before leaving home this morning. So much for Finnish quality. I stopped for a break around 11:30 in the sun - which led to completely soaked skins which stuck to the snow for the last portion of the day (despite having sprayed them last night). I think it might be time for some new equipment. But perhaps the worst mistake was not taking off either my pants or tights when the sun came out. I was sweating like crazy in a t-shirt, and managed to sweat away my sunscreen (and I didn’t take the bottle along). The result: a very red and dehydrated bus and train ride home.

Hope to have you along next time!