This is a quick review (from a too short afternoon visit) of Dachstein Glacier in Austria. It is also a story about backing up from an off-piste descent. You rarely hear / write stories about the decisions to turn back. But I think those might be good to hear more often. Generally, even when we write about exploring backcountry, we do not recommend anyone to push their limits too far. Common sense and feel often dictates what is allright to ski and what not. Also, remember to get a proper avie gear and even more importantly learn and study HOW to use it (you might want to check out our introductary series of avalanche knowledge).
Ok, back to the topic. In my recent trip to Flachau, Austria, on the last day we decided to go and check out Dachstein Glacier near the village of Ramsau. We didn’t know what to expect (even our friend with local knowledge had only skied the smaller areas of the wast Ski Amade group).
I have to say I was really positively suprised. And humbled by the views and massive mountains. After skiing the circa 2,000 meter high so called kopfs and kogels near Flachau, this place really reminded of the likes of Chamonix and LaGrave. We only arrived by afternoon and skied the quite mellow terrain of the glacier, but even on the piste map there was some serious offering for ski touring and off piste descents (you rarely see these marked on the “official” piste maps!).
However, we were late in the afternoon and didn’t have any local knowledge. The route called Edelgriess looked very tempting, but also quite scary. To get into the start of the route you have to climb into a tunnel that goes throuhg the top of Koppen Stollen and then traverse some 200 meters above of very serious exposure. By looking from the view point ( or plateuau) of the gondola top station, it seemed that the traverse is much more serious than the famous traverses of, say, Glacier Rond in Chamonix or Pan de Rideau, LaGrave. And they say Austria is much mellower than France/Switzerland… (good and humbling for us flatlanders to notice the power of mountains once in a while…).
While I searched the web later, I found that local ski school/guides offered the route as medium level. So, we might have been overthinking/misevaluating the demand factor on the route. Anyway, the moral of the story is: it was getting late in the afternoon, we had no idea of the prevailing snowconditions and/or any other local knowledge. On the best case we would have skied the route and had fun and powder turns while doing it. The worst case… well, let’s say even gettin lost in the dark on a totally strange route in the big mountains is NOT fun (and trust me I’ve done that and been there too…).
Next time, if I ever get to the Dachstein again, I’ll hire a mountain guide or get to know some local or locals that ski the place on a regular basis. I can only recommend the place (for now) because of the stunning views, snow security and high mountain athmosphere you rarely find in the Eastern Alps. But I also have a feeling the place has alot of “hidden” potential for freeride/back country skiing.
There was plenty of snow even at the down station (altitude ~1700m)
Someone posted the entrance of the Edelgriess route on youtube, and I have to say that doesn’t look too shabby!
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