Weekend at the hut: with break downs

After a long winter without any snow to really speak about, this weekend was a real treat. It had snowed a few times this week so the mountain tops were finally covered in white and looked the way a mountain should. We were invited to spend the weekend at a hut and accepted eagerly. We would have to leave at the crack of dawn on Sunday, but still thought it would be fun. The new snow made it impossible to drive all the way to the hut, so we parked as far as the car would make it and hiked the rest. We left after breakfast on Saturday morning with another friend who was going to prepare the hut. The curvy road leading up the eastern side of the Wildkogel Mountain started off dry and good to drive on but became quite snowy once we hit the freezing point. The road was just wide enough for a car to drive on with one side leading up hill and the other side leading downhill, steeply. There were icy tire tracks frozen into the road which were impossible not to follow. The road grew steeper and the snow was deeper. We parked the Ford there and continue on in the Quattro as far as we could. Further up, the cars tire caught the edge of an icy lip and pulled the car over to the hill sinking the driver’s side into a little snow ditch. The Audi was stuck and we tried to push it out, but the car didn’t budge. The sport shock absorbers on the Audi lowers the ground clearance. and it seemed that the undercarriage was what was caught. We got the avalanche shovels out and started digging. The snow was rather sticky and very heavily packed making the shoveling efforts rather strenuous. A few walkers passed by as one older man mumbled that shouldn’t be driving anyway and it served us good. Reaching the packed snow from underneath the middle of the car was the hardest part. We tried sticks and twigs under the wheels to grip but it was all a no-go. Andy called a guy in Jeep to pull us out but a few minutes later, some older ski-tourers offered a hand pushing which we happily accepted. I took the driver’s seat and the guys surrounded the car. When I let up on the clutch I could feel the difference the 5 men together made and felt hopeful. The quattro was released from the icy pitstop. We turned it around and parked it, not pushing our luck further up the trail. We had lost just under 2 hours so had to call for a skidoo ride the rest of the way if we wanted time to go boarding still. The skidoo arrived with a sled attached where we could pile our bags and boards and skis into. We took off flying up the snowy road with ease. The road narrowed even further was pretty bumpy as the snowmobile made its way up the road which was now about as wide as one and a half snowmobiles in total. We crossed over a few small brooks and along narrow paths until we arrived next to a small wooden foot bridge where our driver stopped and we unloaded everything. The hut was at the top of the hill on the other side of the footbridge and we would have to hike from there. We blazed a fresh zigzag trail to the hut. It had 2 floors and was rather cozy as far as huts go. The downstairs consisted of a large iron oven/stove in the center of the room dividing the small kitchen area and a large square wooden table. There was a sink and mirror to wash up and the bathroom with shower. Down a narrow corridor there was a bedroom with a double bed on the left side and a pantry/storage area on the right. The next door on the right led to a further storage area and another door on the left which I didn’t even notice at first. There was another bedroom hidden back there. Upstairs was basically a large room with rows of mattresses on the floor and one more bedroom on the right side. After dumping our things we strapped our snowboards on and rode back down through the small wooded area to the wooden bridge where the snowmobile had unloaded us. At the bridge we had to hike back up to the main path again. I enjoyed my new snowboard backpack which had a special flap to secure the board onto for carrying. It was well worth the price! It started snowing again, a sight for sore eyes after such a warm winter. At the path we could strap in again and ride the rest of the way to the cars. It was not quite as easy as I had expected thanks to some hard icy tracks just under the new blanket of snow. It was a little intimidating. Andy jumped into his car when we reached it and Käserer and I continued riding. At the flat section, I held onto the roof rack and Käserer sat on the hood looking like an oversized emblem. We parked the Audi and switched into the Ford to drive to the resort. We should just make the last gondola to the top of the ski resort where others were waiting for us. Stopping to get sandwiches on the way, Andy got a call saying the ski lifts were going to close early due to bad weather. It would be a close call to make it over to the furthest lift to get where we needed to go. If we were too late, it would mean having to hike all the way up the ski trail to the col where we would then descend the back side of the mountain to the hut. We ran as fast as we could out of the store and to the lift. We ran to the entrance jumping into one of the gondolas. We calmed down during the ride up and enjoyed our sandwiches. At the middle station we leapfrogged 2 gondolas as soon as we could pry the doors open in hopes of making the last lift. We planned our course of action for once we arrived at the top. It seemed that we had entered a real fog cloud as we couldn’t see outside of the gondola anymore and the snowfall had changed over to a small icy kind of snow rather than a real flake. Benji waited for us at the last lift hoping the lifty might wait for us. We got to the top and jumped out of the gondola where we were met with a thick fog and tiny icy pellets. Racing down the mountain as fast as we could, the ice pellets felt like little needles on exposed skin. My vision was getting worse and worse. I couldn’t see a thing after about 30 seconds of riding and was forced to stop to figure out what was up. I had a sheet of ice lining my goggles! I scraped them off as much as possible and could see again… for the next 20 seconds… where I had to stop and scrape once more… and so on and so on. Andy and Käserer were nearly already at the lift. I was impressed and kind of curious to know how they managed without stopping to scrape… could they see better then I could? We arrived at the lift which was still running (they had waited for us!) We rode the Tbar in the thick fog. It was clear that there was some good snow there and that Sunday would be fantastic to ride!
At the top of the hill, we could just barely make out the two figures waiting for us. We joined them and had a look down the back side of the mountain for the first time. That was the way we would be going. The snow blanketed the steep hill waiting for us. The snow was fantastic! It made you feel like you were floating on air, I thought of how amazing it would have been if we could have seen anything! The icy goggle problem became acute and I tried to ride bare-faced. That worked out until I turned a little harder on the steep part of the slope got a face full of powder. COLD! We kept a safe distance from eachother but still tried to stay in view since the fog was not forgiving. We soon arrived at the brook which cut the valley in half and we had to cross it to get back up to the trail which would lead us to the hut. We unstrapped our board and balanced across the few stones necessary to cross the water. On the other side, it was a very steep hill which we had to climb up to get to the trail. At the top of the little hill, we strapped back on and continued along the narrow path to the spot the snowmobile had dropped us off earlier that day. Arriving at the hut, Andy disappeared around the back and reappeared on top of the shed roof. He stepped into the bindings on his snowboard which he had carried up there and I realized that he was planning to jump off the roof. After a few times hopping forward and sliding back, he found a position he liked and jumped. He twisted around and completed a 360° before landing. He landed squarely in the flats and kind of stuck in the snow. He would have needed more speed to make the gap. Inside we fired the oven up and relaxed. Sam joined me at the table with 2 giant mugs of hot tea and berry flavored vodka in it to warm up. My mug said “Christa” and hers was labeled “Lydia”. We only referred to each other by our mug names from that point on. A few more people joined us and we got a poker game using monopoly money going. We switched to a game called “activity” where everyone was involved and joined in. We made 4 teams of 2  by picking names written on folded paper. I got Käserer as my teammate. In general there are cards with words on them and you have to get your partner to guess the word on the card. There are 3 ways you are allowed to do that: either with drawing, pantomiming or speaking without using the word, and you had a time limit. After the first round, we decided to make teams of girls against guys and Sam and I teamed up as the English-speaking team against Benji and Andy who are best friends, thinking they would destroy us all… well, Sam and I wiped the floor with them 😉 . After we won, the other girls group got frustrated and quit, so we ended the game and started cleaning everything up. It was pretty late and we knew we had to leave early so we packed up and got ready for bed. Käserers girlfriend was having a bit of a fit and we decided to leave for home. Somehow balancing all of our gear, we set off in the pitch black night with only a headlamp and a hand held flashlight. We rode pretty slowly since we couldnt see far the weight of the packs changed where the center of gravity was. From the bridge to the road we had to carry our boards again and we walked along enjoying the fresh air and peace and quiet. It was really nice out and we were immediately glad to have made the decision to leave. We talked most of the way back up to the trail where we could get on our boards again and ride down to the car. He was ahead of me which was helpful as I could kind of see his shadow moving, indicating a corner or curve or hill. We were going pretty fast again as we did earlier that day. The frozen ridges were still under the snow although there was a slightly thicker blanket covering them now compared to earlier and they weren’t as bad. A few times it nearly sent me flying and I was really happy to have managed to stay upright on my board. We threw our things into the car and rode home, both glad to have had that adventure. Sunday was bluebird. The bluest blue sky you could imagine and the newly fallen snow awaited us on the mountain. Andy had to teach 10-12 so I went off on my own and enjoyed the fantastic conditions. It started warming up and we opted for a bite to eat outside on the terrace enjoying the sun. After that we went searching for fresh powder that hadn’t been tracked yet. We hiked up behind the top of the lift we rode up the day before to head down to the hut and went over towards the summit of the mountain itself. There were a few slopes from the summit down which hadn’t been touched yet. I had already been up there earlier that day while he was teaching and drew one line which still remained alone up there. We went down the west side of the summit and over to another hill. There we descended the south face but noticed that it was already pretty heavy snow since the temperature had risen considerably and the UV rays from the sun did their work on the exposed slope. We returned to the shaded north face of the resort and rode there for a while. The snow was really heavy overall by now and after another south face run down to the middle station we were getting pretty worn out. Finally around 3pm or so we decided to ride down to the valley on ski trail. It had been closed due to lack of snow for about 2 weeks or so, so we knew that it would require some walking and rough conditions, but we figured it was one of those things you just had to do! So we set off. The snow was very heavy and saturated with water but had a kind of a frozen crusty layer on the top where the trees provided shade from the sun. There were lots of places where the mud and earth was exposed through the thin or patchy snow which kind of made the trail like a labyrinth. It was sometimes hard to say if one of the stripes of snow would lead you to the next patch or if it would end with a big mud puddle that you had to cross somehow. The parts that actually had snow further down were actually more ice than anything, and there were tracks from the snow cats which made for a very bumpy ride. About half way down it was pretty much all over, there were tiny sparse patches of ice clumps amidst a big slope of mud with grassy tufts. The windy road that leads up the hill there was just below us and we had to walk from that point on. There were some elderly people walking on the road and they looked kind of startled to see us boarding down on the mud-ice mix. Andy had thundered through the mud and grass tufts to the edge of the road and his board was just covered in oozy grime. We hiked down the road at a leisurely pace enjoying the warm sun and the sound of the birds tweeting all around us. Spring was so in the air that even the most hardcore winter athletes, had to admit that it was kind of nice. The weekend was so filled with different little adventures that it really seemed to last longer than just 2 days. We enjoyed every minute of it, whether it was shoveling the car free from the snow bank, riding on the skidoo, powdering down the untouched mountain slope back to the hut, midnight boarding back to the car or our valley run down the ice and mud trail. It had been a great weekend!

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