A Ski Mountaineering Adventure
By Randall Richards
Mountaineering, and ski mountaineering mishaps that don’t kill you are chalked up to experience – a learning experience. I had one such experience in Lech and Zürs Austria when working for Strolz Boots G.m.B.H. I was still a greenhorn in the Alps. The Alps was a whole other ball game than the mountains of the western U.S. This was my first year in the Alps
I was just graduated from the University of Utah where I’d spent three years getting a basic, but great mountaineering education through the U of U recreation department with such climbers and teachers as Harold Goodro and Dennis Turville. It’s here where I cut my teeth, the Wasatch Range, in beginning rock climbing and mountaineering, snow shelter building and backcountry emergency medicine classes. Harold was the consummate old mountain man.
In the late seventies, he was involved in teaching all the classes, and would observe other instructors manage the top rope sites. But he was always hands-on. On another day in my education there, I remember ascending Stairs Gulch with other Utah students under the tutilage of Dennis Turville. Our little group of neophytes were wide-eyed at one point on the ascent, when a few auto-sized blocks of snow and ice came tumbling down the slabs, bowling for students. Two in the group, by running this way and that, managed to avoid being mowed over. Dennis seemed somewhat nonplussed by the event, but that might have just been my perception at the time. Later on the narrow ridge which divides Big and Little Cottonwood, we carefully picked our way up to the summit of Dromedary Peak. Our eyes were still bugging out of our heads for the rest of the day due to exposed terrain and our lack of experience. We were quickly getting our mountain legs.
Fast forward to the Lectaler Alps in Western Austria. I usually had most of the day to explore the wild mountains above and around Zürs, St. Christophe and Lech on skis and out of bounds, having to report at the Strolz ski boot shop in Lech around 3pm. It was my first experience where the ski area trails and the high backcountry merged into one big ski experience. I went nuts, cutting it up, (more…)