Today's the big day! "Grand beau" weather; clear skies as far as the eye can see. Today is when we ascent the Ochsentaler glacier, go over the Fuorcla dal Cunfin onto the Silvretta glacier, over the Silvretta pass and down the length of the Silvretta glacier.
I slept somewhat fitfully. Could help myself from running what-if scenarios through my head. What if the decent from Fuorcla dal Cunfin is dangerous? How would I secure the safety of our team? Short rope? Full on belay Siemen and Marijn with me (effectively) soloing to meet them at the next belay point? How bad with the crevasses be on the glaciers. Good to think through but not when you're supposed to be sleeping.
We enjoy our breakfast and then it is time to head out. We put our climbing harness on at the hut so that we don't need to do that in the snow at the bottoms of the glacier. Thankfully the German team found the correct trail when they returned to the hut. We have a well-trodden trail to follow to the glacier. Some black ice makes it tricky in places. We cross underneath the "Grüne Kuppe" to the tip of the glacier where we say goodbye to the Austrian climber who is to play in the glacier. We scramble on up the side atop a rock band we then traverse to steeper ice where we rope up. We've made a good time, approximately 1:15hr.
Up the glacier we go, Marijn first, then me and Siemen last. Switching back and forth between the crevasses until the glacier levels out.
Here we take our tea break from where we can see the German team across the Wiesbadener Grätle on the Vermunt glacier make their way to the Ochsenscharte. They've already eclipsed or high point from yesterday.
It is another hour before we reach their high point in front of a large crevasse not far below the Fuorcla Dal Cunfin. From here Marijn has to break trail in 20-50 cm deep snow. We carefully weave our way through the last crevasses to the pass.
Elated to have reached this point I take quick stock of the other side of the pass. We are not on the actual Fuorcla dal Cunfin as marked on the map, but a little further south, halfway between point 3041m and 3117m. The sign marking the actual pass is just north of a notch on the ridge. Accessing it from the Ochsentaler glacier would require some rock climbing though. Marco Bros the hut warden of the Silvretta hut had advised us to take this southern pass. The warden of Wiesbadener hut didn't understand the difference but confirmed that access to the pass was an easy snow ramp. We're in the right place alright.
The descent is a steep snow slope with firm snow interspersed with rock outcroppings. No need to use a rope until we reach the Silvretta glacier below. It would only hinder us and add the potential that one fall could pull all three of us down the slope. Such a fall is much harder to arrest than a single person sliding down the slope. The rope connecting us would act as a giant rubber band catapulting the person who self-arrested forward when the others slide by. Nope rope (and no crampons) for us, we're all capable of navigating this terrain (more) safely on our own.
Descending the slope in giant steps is fun but tiring in the deep snow. The views are amazing this side of the pass, a whole new world has opened up to us. We eat a snack as we rope up at the bottom of the slope ready to walk into the Silvretta glacier. The broad Silvretta pass is less than 100m above us yet feels so far.
Siemen takes the lead breaking trail towards the pass. We pick our way through the large crevasses. We mark our progress by the crevasses we pass, yet the pass remains elusive. Each time there is another high point up ahead. We are well into the afternoon (15:30) and the show has become slushy. We too have stripped down to just a long sleeve shirt. Gone are the jackets, hats, and gloves. It is much to warm for that now. We're positively roasting on this glacier.
Eventually, we do make it over the pass. The crevasses remain large and plentiful. We have to stay alert and choose our route judiciously. When we have a clear line we drop altitude fast. And in about 45min the glacier levels off which means fewer crevasses. Now it is just a matter of stomping through the snow until the end of the glacier. We exit the glacier just before the little lake we walked by 3 days prior on our way to the Rote Furka.
As always there is a little up before we can go down to the hut. We scramble up to the lake where we pick up the trail to the hut. At first, there is only one set of footprints. (Our prints from 3 days ago have been snowed in.) But at a lookout point along the way the prints multiply.
The trail gets slushier and slushier the closer we get to the hut. I walk into the hut at 5 pm, 9 hours since we set out this morning. There are a large German hiking group and a Swiss couple at the hut. Marco is surprised to see us but can fit us in no problem. We celebrate our arrival with a Radler as we're taking off our gear.
Dinner is great: spaetzle with cabbage and goulash. We're treated to a wonderful sunset. The perfect end to an awesome day!
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