Trip Report
A springtime skitour in the Swiss alps – Oberalpstock – Gross Düssi
Wednesday April 12, 2017 2:34pm
Springtime is when many people are happy that winter is finally over. But springtime is when other people think that the time is good for skiing on big mountains.
And that’s what we did on this past weekend, the first real springtime weekend, with temperatures going above 20°C down in the lowlands and the first people jumping in lakes and rivers.
Skitouring in this time of the year means that you get nice springtime snow, get going early in the morning, you need to be willing to get roasted by the sun, your feet will feel like a meatloaf in the oven, they will smell a lot worse than that, and you will need to carry your skis for quite a long time on the way down. Use of sunscreen must be exaggerated and keep pace with the sweat flowing copiously. But these are rewarding tours, steep slopes will be safe, the snow feels like butter under your skis and standing on a summit surrounded by snow and seeing the valley in full bloom 2000 m further down is just wonderful.
So we decided to take the heat, the sweat, the sunburn and hopefully some snow, not an obvious thing to find at the end of an otherwise rather lousy winter. It had been years since we did the last tour together, and it was not just a great climb and an outstanding descent, it was also a special tour with old friends. Christian, Klemens and I went off on Saturday with people in flip flops and T-shirts giving us strange looks as we carried our skis through town early morning.
Day 1 was fairly laid back, we took the cable car and skilifts in Disentis to the very top, had a coffee and sweets on the restaurant’s terrace, enjoyed the great view and sunshine and finally got going around 11.
Credit: monti
From there it’s a short walk to the ladder that allows one to cross over to the other side of the ridge and get onto the glacier, the Brunnifirn. First pleasant surprise: the first slope was powder, in mid April! Who would have guessed?
Christian on his way up, the first time of many carrying the skis.
Christian on his way up, the first time of many carrying the skis.
Credit: monti
Summit in view, Oberalpstock, our next objective
Summit in view, Oberalpstock, our next objective
Credit: monti
First things first: a few fluffy, powdery turns before starting to swe...
First things first: a few fluffy, powdery turns before starting to sweat again.
Credit: monti
Well, you don’t know till you try, right? From there it’s about 1.5 hours to the Oberalpstock, a popular and easy summit, the highest in the area with a worthy view going from Austria in the East, Italy in the South and the big 4000m peaks of the Valais out West. When you’re late in the day, the advantage is that you’re often alone on the summit, so it was us and nobody else up there.
Klemens on the summit
Klemens on the summit
Credit: monti
Ready to sweat?
Ready to sweat?
Credit: monti
Not crowded!
Not crowded!
Credit: monti
Another good descent from the summit back to the Brunnifirn and from there an easy walk to the Cavardiras hut, where we spent the night.
The hut is at the end of the glacier, just at the col.
The hut is at the end of the glacier, just at the col.
Credit: monti
It was us, 3 Austrians and 5 Italians sleeping there and taking turns cooking, all with the same goal the next day: Gross Düssi. Gross Düssi is not a well-known and not an often visited summit, probably because it’s a bit off-hand, it’s not the highest in the area and there’s no really easy way up. The two possible winter routes are both sort of longish and have some seriously steep and exposed bits; not a place to slip. Having said that, it’s a massive summit, it stands alone, has a great view and the descent is ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR!!!!
Something for tomorrow, the Gross Düssi
Something for tomorrow, the Gross Düssi
Credit: monti
Quite a few of these in the Alps, very convenient for sleeping.
Quite a few of these in the Alps, very convenient for sleeping.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
This will be for some other time, Tödi, the biggest and highest in the...
This will be for some other time, Tödi, the biggest and highest in the area.
Credit: monti
So off we go at 5.30 on Sunday, nobody really wants to go first, but in the end we all leave around the same time. The tour starts with some sketchy traversing on very steep, frozen slopes. Glad to have crampons on my skis, this was the first time I started thinking that falling is not really an option here. This thought was to come a few more times during the day….
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
After an hour or so came the first snow gully where we tied up our skis to the rucksacks and reached the col that brought us in view of our goal, still faaaaaar away.
Carrying skis, once again.
Carrying skis, once again.
Credit: monti
Almost there, ready for the reward...
Almost there, ready for the reward...
Credit: monti
There it is, the reward for carrying up is powdering down.
There it is, the reward for carrying up is powdering down.
Credit: monti
Gross Düssi in the background, not there yet.
Gross Düssi in the background, not there yet.
Credit: monti
And again: great powder on the back side, WOW! After that the usual ceremony: open shoes, stick skins to skis, get crampons on, start walking, don’t slip. By this time the sun had risen and all summits and slopes around us were shining in gold. We were luckily still in the shade for another hour or so, before the big roasting started. After another long series of steep traverses and slopes we finally reached the foot of the first summit of the day.
Klemens, our machine, getting roasted.
Klemens, our machine, getting roasted.
Credit: monti
Now we know what Kentucky Fried Chicken feels like.
Now we know what Kentucky Fried Chicken feels like.
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Take off skis, take off skins, tie skis to rucksack, put on crampons, get out ice axe, get moving up, don’t slip. Another steep gully / slope got us to the summit before the summit.
Last time carrying, finally.
Last time carrying, finally.
Credit: monti
After 5 hours of nearly non-stop moving it can be a bit disheartening to finally reach a summit and seeing that it’s not THE summit, because that happens to be another 150m higher and at the far end of a snowy and rocky ridge.
Not the final ridge yet, this will get us to the summit that is not ou...
Not the final ridge yet, this will get us to the summit that is not our summit.
Credit: monti
The ridge happened to be pretty exposed in one spot, no wider than one shoe with slopes off to the left and right, luckily just a very short bit, the rest was fairly easy going made interesting by the exposure and heavy loads. Unfortunately no pictures of this, as my thoughts in these situations are, in order of priority: holy sh%*, don’t slip, keep cool, watch out, get home alive, take a picture. Since taking pictures is last in priority and the holy sh%* part was dominating all else, no pictures, sorry. But yes, we made it and it was worth every single drop of sweat and adrenaline. One of the Austrians was already up there, the other two followed shortly after and the five Italians were still further back but on their way. It’s good to know that all others made it up and down safely.
Everyone up safe and happy.
Everyone up safe and happy.
Credit: monti
Our machine checking out the next adventure?
Our machine checking out the next adventure?
Credit: monti
Credit: monti
Way down there, that's where we're going next.
Way down there, that's where we're going next.
Credit: monti
Contemplating the descent.
Contemplating the descent.
Credit: monti
The descent was every bit as nice as we hoped for, or even better. Just perfect conditions, perfect slopes, perfect exposure, and a cold beer waiting at the end of the descent. Too bad we still had another 1.5 hours of carrying our loads out to the next road after the beer. But you don’t have the option in these situations; it’s either carry and walk or walk and carry. Walking goes by inertia and the further down we get, the more flowers are blooming, pastures are green, birds are singing, feet are hurting and we’re longing to take off all we can. We end up walking out one of us barefoot, and one of us in his underwear (again no pictures, because the holy sh%* thought was stronger than ever….).
Credit: monti
The walk out, everyone has his own style.
The walk out, everyone has his own style.
Credit: monti
Well-deserved beer after the descent, before the walk out.
Well-deserved beer after the descent, before the walk out.
Credit: monti
All in all a fantastic tour, one of those you realize only after having done it, how great it was. During the tour it’s all about concentration, focus, not slipping, after the tour it’s all about how great it is to be able to do something like this. Thanks to my friends who made this possible.

A side note for those interested:
The Swiss topographic institute has an outstanding homepage, where all of Switzerland is mapped down to a scale of around 1:10’000. You also have the options of showing skitouring routes and slopes steeper than 30°. Here is the link:
https://map.geo.admin.ch
Extremely useful if you plan to come to the alps for hiking, climbing, touring, skiing.
If you type Oberalpstock in the search menu, you will find the Cavardiras hut, where we slept, slightly east of the summit and the Gross Düssi North of the hut. And if you need more information, drop me line.

  Trip Report Views: 1,271
monti
About the Author
monti is a mountain climber from Basel, Switzerland, and likes having a beer after the climb.

Comments
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eKat

climber
  Apr 12, 2017 - 02:55pm PT
FANTASTIC!

TFPU!
norm larson

climber
wilson, wyoming
  Apr 12, 2017 - 03:08pm PT
That was great! Tis the season to go big. I think a lot of climbers don't get it that some of the best mountaineering to be had is from the top of a pair of skis. Thanks for posting.
wilbeer

Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
  Apr 12, 2017 - 03:16pm PT
Real,Nice.+++
splitclimber

climber
Sonoma County
  Apr 12, 2017 - 03:28pm PT
Superb!!! Thanks for posting. We are still getting spring powder days in the Sierra as well.
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  Apr 12, 2017 - 04:10pm PT
Wha hoo !
And thanks for the link
Credit: Gnome Ofthe Diabase
&. @!!! Tödi, ?!!?

That's a beautiful mountain ~ "the biggest and highest"
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Apr 12, 2017 - 07:16pm PT
Fantastic indeed, thanks for posting! The Alps are amazing!
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
  Apr 13, 2017 - 06:02am PT
A wonderful adventure and a great write-up, thank you for sharing. Although my home mountains look nothing like the Alps, some of my very best multi-day adventures with good friends have been on skis in the back country. This just inspires me.
skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
  Apr 13, 2017 - 06:20am PT
Excellent!! Thanks for posting up!
monti

Mountain climber
Basel, Switzerland
Author's Reply  Apr 13, 2017 - 12:16pm PT
Thanks to all for your comments, it's motivating to see that the post is appreciated. I'll have more coming.
Gnome, Tödi is indeed amazing, I had the luck to stand on the summit in 2008. I'll dig out some pictures and write it up soon.
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
  Apr 13, 2017 - 12:21pm PT

A dream world... keep them coming...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Apr 13, 2017 - 03:19pm PT
monti- Thanks for sharing your exquisite fun with us here!

Great trip report and fine photos of your haute route.
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
  Apr 13, 2017 - 11:26pm PT
Thank you! This brings back old memories of my time in Switzerland though we never had to carry our skis. We just stuck them in the snow and went up and back without them, then skied down. Impressive endurance on your part.
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Apr 18, 2017 - 01:35pm PT
Very nice! And thanks for the link for dreaming of Swiss adventures.
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