Regenspitz a.k.a. Mount Rain

It was finally time for my second ski tour ever, the virgin excursion for my new touring skis! I met up with Günther near Salzburg; our plan was a tour on the Regenspitz mountain. Gü is a pretty darned good skier (naturally being Austrian, right?!) but I’m not so clearly a little apprehensive.  We stayed in Salzburg near the salt fort on top of the hill overlooking the city. His sister works at the American college up there. We enjoyed a relaxing evening at a sauna in the city so were ready and raring to go on Saturday morning. We parked just inside the forest where the tour began. Several other cars were already there with people getting either into or out of their touring gear. I realized that I had left my ski poles in my car in Salzburg… Being the gentleman that he is, Gü let me use his poles and we started off. It was really sunny which made for pretty soft snow, regardless of the -11°C temperature outside. We started at a fast pace along the trail which led past some houses and huts situated up on the mountain side. We reached a large field which stretched out towards the summit. The slope was long but not too steep, making it easy to keep the fast tempo. At the top of the hilly field we finally had a view of the summit off to the right. It sat aloft a narrow steep slope. Two skiers were sitting on a bench in the sun beside a hut at the top of the hill… the relaxing atmosphere was inviting, but we pressed on. The higher we climbed, the louder my doubts about my descent skills grew. The long steep run for the summit robbed me of my last nerve as it winded up the icy slope. Each step forward seemed to slip back or to the side; seriously tiring and making me feel exposed. A small overhanging cornice overlooked the steep rock face of the mountain along the left; I stayed on the right! It grew steeper as we neared the summit… we had to make kick turns every third step to zigzag upwards; it was very time consuming and took a great deal of effort. I kept trying to picture how I would actually ski down this! Gü reassured me that it would be easier on the other side, since we were crossing the summit rather than descending what we hiked. After the 950 meters of altitude we summited the Regenspitz and were treated with a beautiful mountain panorama. The summit cross was charming and had real character, as it was carved out of wood in old craftsman style. We removed the skins and put some warmer layers on. The satisfaction of reaching the summit was short lived, as I spied over the edge we were planning to ski. “My God!” I thought, how am I going to ski that!! I was never a very strong skier, only really gaining experience between the 5th and 8th year of grade school in the US Northeast. I somehow managed an ugly, drifting kind of scrapping down the steep section at the top. With every meter in altitude that we lost, I gained more and more confidence and was finally able to change the sideways skidding technique into something which actually resembled skiing. In reality, I was wishing I had my snowboard the whole way so far! The snow conditions improved quite a bit further down the mountain. My confidence level rose dramatically once I couldn’t peer over a cliff anymore and I began to ski legitimately. I didn’t quite know how to turn or stop in the deep snow, but since it was so deep, it slowed me down regardless of any efforts I might have otherwise made. I started getting more courageous in the soft powder figuring that crashing wouldn’t hurt. I sped up and really began to enjoy the whole thing. I definitely wasn’t Bode Miller, but I was proud! I enjoyed the feeling of sailing along the powder… it was like floating! After the deep snow, we entered back into the forest which took us back to the car. The wooded path was so narrow it was hard to slow down; trees lined both sides of the path making matters concentration critical. As we arrived back at the car, I sort of felt like I was sissy feeling nervous at the top, there is always some way of getting down. The whole experience was genuinely enjoyable and my only regret was having forgotten my camera. Well, that and forgetting my poles since that gave Gü the right to rag on me for a while. We drove straight over to a ski resort where we skinned up another 450m of altitude to a hut; the amazing location of a birthday party a friend of Gü invited us to. What a wild day!

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