A POWDER DREAM IN THE WILDER KAISER
SKI LOCAL WITH KATHI AND MAX
The Kaiser, with its steep rock faces, cols and gullies, has captivated our athletes Kathi Sandbichler and Max Draeger for years now. The pair live in Tyrol and don’t have to travel far to reach the majestic mountains. It’s a popular, busy destination – but those who set out to discover something new will also find solitude and untouched descents that are the stuff of dreams. Tag along with Kathi and Max on one of their favorites: the tour to the Griesner Kar cirque.
“FOR US, SKI LOCAL MEANS EXPERIENCING OUR LOCAL MOUNTAINS AS A GIANT PLAYGROUND AND FINDING THE PERFECT SKI ADVENTURE OFF THE BEATEN TRACK."
(MAX DRAEGER, ORTOVOX ATHLETE)
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SIDES OF HIS MAJESTY
Once again we’re standing in front of the Fritz Pflaum Hut in the Griesner Kar – the wind is whistling past our ears, it’s bitingly brisk and it’s been snowing for hours. It doesn't look like it’s a good day for skiing. So instead we get cozy in the familiar little room in the mountain hut, have a coffee and shovel the snow away from the window shutters. Memories quickly flood back. Kathi and I live on the other side of the Wilder Kaiser, in Kufstein.
But even before we moved there we regularly explored this lovely little mountain range. One of our very first tours together took us up to the Westliche Hochgrubachspitze, and the descent from the Schönwetterfensterl was my first “serious” alpine skiing experience. Since then, my fascination with ski mountaineering, with the various gullies in the Kaiser – and with my girlfriend – has never left me.
The snow, so soft and deep – too soft and deep
Early in the afternoon, the weather outside the hut finally starts to calm down and the thick clouds part to give us a view of the “Schönwetterfensterl”. It lies before us, invitingly untouched and yet gloomy and forbidding, and we decide to at least give it a try and check out the conditions on site. A snow profile dug into safe terrain gives us faith in the snowpack, we’ll have to move further up before we can judge the shifted snow in the gully. We know the terrain, we make good progress on our climbing skins and then shortly afterwards, when the slope gets steeper, we attach our skis to our backpacks. But then we hardly make any progress at all: the snow is so soft and deep that we struggle to put one foot in front of the other. We spend a good half hour battling to the top, but as the weather gets worse and the spindrift gets stronger, we realize that we don’t stand a chance. Maybe tomorrow...
His majesty is good natured today
And in fact: after a relaxing evening in the hut and a restful night, the next morning greets us with the good weather we were promised and a spectacular sunrise. Our tracks from the day before can scarcely be seen and, conscious of the wind and the new snow from the night before, our senses are alert. But the Kaiser is good to us today: The trudge up to the top is once again incredibly strenuous, but the snow is mostly unbonded and so nothing is standing in the way of our descent of the gully in perfect conditions. We genuinely cannot remember seeing this much snow here in the last few years. The upper part in particular – otherwise often a well-skied, hard and narrow gully – appears as a broad couloir and looks as if it’s inviting us to really tear it up.
While we prepare for our descent in the little col and look back into the cirque, the first ski tourers from the valley round the Fritz Pflaum Hut make their way toward us. We can’t suppress our grins. After all, the first line is ours. 3, 2, 1 – go! Freeriders don’t need us to explain that mix of adrenalin, endorphins and pure joy. What an unbelievable feeling it is to essentially “ski home” down such a fantastic line and in these conditions! With a look back at our tracks, we reattach our skins and move on to make fresh tracks on the next slope. We’re far from finished for the day...
Via the Griesner Kar to the Fritz-Pflaum-Hütte
TYPE: Ski tour
DURATION: 3 h
VERTICAL METERS: 880 m
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: moderate