Okay, I tell you one of my secrets: I’m afraid of heights. It got me into little trouble in the mountains several times now. Or should I say, it puts me into a sudden and uncontrollable instant-panic-mode? Bam. What a bummer for a freerider you may think. And it is… big time. So why of all things am I still doing mountain sports? That one’s easy: Cause I love skiing just too much to let it be. With skis on my feet everything’s cool, even steep or narrow. No prob. Well, skis without skins on and an open binding that is, since that fact can pull me out of my comfort zone too (depends on the terrain). But the absolutely worst of all are ridges, where I have to walk along while carrying the skis on my shoulder. That makes me feel alternately hot and cold showers running down my spine. I get a vertigo and my stupid mind starts the finest blockbuster action. In the matter of seconds I know countless possibilities how to crash down that ridge. In those moments I need all my heart and courage to keep going.
I’ve no idea how many skitours I ended just below the peaks, often with a certain disapproval from others. I was sort of an arms length (Hello Cologne) from the peaks of Kaltenberg, Östliche Eisentaler-, Dreiländerspitze, Piz Buin and so on. Summit crosses are just not my thing… 😉 But sometimes I can outsmart my own mind: with harness and rope. I still get a vertigo, but the blockbuster action is off. I’m secure after all. So no falling down. Ha! Take that stupid brain.
An excellent place practicing this is the via ferrata (fixed rope route) at the Rendl area in St. Anton. It’s a winter via ferrata to be exact. Dirk did it one time without me first and believed I could do it too. No sooner said than done we took a chance last April. And so you know, I did just fine. Okay, nearly fine, cause I needed probably twice the time as anybody else. Occasionally I wanted to quit at the few places that offer a way out, but what’s the point in giving up? So I needed to hold on (the rope harhar) a little longer. Even better when I finally made it. What an ego boost. Awesome. Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker! 10 months later we did it again and this time it went actually a lot better. And faster. Although the rest of our group had to take it slow at a time (Hello Hamburg).
Wanna know some facts of the via ferrata? If you’re not constantly fighting your demons – like me – you have a wonderful 360° view all the time either to the peaks of the Verwall Mountain Range or the Lechtaler Alpen. Only the view would be worth the effort. You find the entrance to the via ferrata right behind the upper station of Riffelbahn II (2.645 m) at the Rendl ski area. The length of the route is about 850 m, always along the ridge. You have to climb up first up to Vordere Rendlspitze (2.816 m) and afterwards a little down to Roßfallscharte (2.732 m). With a normal fitness shape you can make it in 2 or 2,5 hours. It’s not too hard. At the end you have to decide which route you want for the downhill. There’s two: eastern bound (NE) alongside the long and beautiful Malfon Valley to Pettneu (ski bus stop to St. Anton is situated at „Wellnesspark“). Or western bound (SW) alongside the likewise beautiful Moostal via the Rendl slopes back to St. Anton (if you ski down the whole way to the Rossfallalpe, 1.810 m, you can walk up to the Maassbahn Lift at a lower junction of the agricultural road). The latter is a great run, when there’s firn (corn snow). Both routes are technically not too difficult, if you know where to go. If you have no knowledge of the place at all and no equipment either, you should consider a local guide.
Speaking of equipment: On top of the via ferrata set and harness I have a sling with a carabiner to extend the length of the via ferrata set if the rope’s too high. Dirk wears crampons, cause he has an alpine sole under his ski boots. The touring sole on my ski boots is perfect as it is. Dirk always carries an ice-axe which he lends me generously if needed. I don’t want to carry one all the time. If I had to climb with that thing, I’d probably loose an eye or so… And because both runs are in the backcountry, you need the common avalanche equipment too (backpack with ski or snowboard mount, helmet, beacon, shovel and probe). And don’t forget some sturdy gloves. Better not use your finest pair on the rock and rope.
So now, if you meet someone while climbing who is really slow and concentrated, that could be me. Or a fellow sufferer who’s afraid of heights. We gladly let you pass. We would absolutely appreciate, that you keep a little distance from us and not hook yourself in the same rope-section at a crux. Peace.
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