Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hundstodkenlkopf Couloirs

I completed a long-standing project of mine in a back corner of the Wimbachgries (Wimbach drainage) at the end of March: linking the left and central couloirs of the Hundstodkenlkopf north face.  I wanted to climb up the left couloir, traverse over to the Hundstodkenlkopf peak, down climb and rappel into the central couloir and ski the remainder of the decent.

I wrote about an earlier attempt at this link-up

All the factors alined themselves at the end of March this year: conditions, time, motivation and the proper frame of mind.

The approach to the entrance of the left couloir is 1000 meters of elevation gain and about 9 kilometers.  There is an additional 200 meters of steep switchbacks before the actual climbing begins.
looking down the first couloir after putting on my crampons
At about 1800 meters, there is a short ice section (WI3) that leads to easy mixed terrain.  It was fun and relatively easy to climb as the snow and ice conditions were very good.

Looking up into the first ice section and mixed terrain

Climber's eye view at the top of the ice section
Getting into the narrowest part of the couloir was cramped with the skis on my pack.  Nevertheless I felt secure and didn't need to set up any kind of self-belay system.
100 meters above the ice and mixed terrain
After climbing the ice and mixed ground the couloir was filled with steep hard snow for 250 meters or so.  The next ice step was easy.  This led to a relatively flatter section of thirty-five to forty degrees which ended at an easy mixed ramp.
The exit ramp and sunshine is somewhere up there
I exited the first couloir at about 11:00.  It was the first sunshine of the day.  To This point I needed six and one-half hours to cover the ca. 1200 meters of skinning and 350 meters of climbing.
The view back into the left couloir from around 2200 meters
After getting out of the first couloir, there was 200 meters or so of skinning up to he Hundstodkenlkopf peak. The snow was 10cm of cold powder on a crust which made the last bit to the top quite tedious.

The next part of the link-up was the crux: finding the right entrance into the central couloir.  I had been in the central couloir on two previous occasions.  The second time I was in the central couloir I had gone up as far as possible with skis and then made the first ski descent two seasons prior.
Looking down into the 800 meter central couloir
At just under the Hundstodkenlkopf peak, I chose to down climb a snow ramp that transformed into a steep gully.  The conditions in the gully system were nerve-wracking; cold powder on friable, loose rock.
Just before my first rappel, after down climbing into the gully
Almost to the point of putting on my skis
By a combination of down climbing and rappelling I could eventually get to a point were I could put on my skis and start skiing down.  Despite not seeing any evidence of instability, I was nervous and just wanted to ski down safely and securely.  I didn't take any more photos because I didn't want to take any more time than absolutely necessary.

The ski descent went really well.  The snow pack was very stable and actually great to ski.  The pictures are from my first time in the couloir and give an accurate impression of the descent's ambiance.
About half way through the descent
Just before exiting the central couloir
Looking back after exiting the central couloir
Skiing out of the drainage was fast and pleasant.  I could get to about 750 meters before the snow ran out and I had to put my skis over my shoulder for the remainder of the walk out.

Hundstodkenlkopf North Face, Left & Central Couloir Enchainment
J. Fratianni, solo, 23 March 2012
Total elevation gain ca. 1800 meters, start 600m - peak 2396m
Left Couloir: WI3 & easy mixed, 60-70 degrees, 500m
Central Couloir: down climb & rappel ca. 150 meters, ski descent, ca. 50 degrees
Time estimates: 7.5 hours to peak, 3 hours descent and ski out
Alternative: 1) Ski descent by "Hundstodrieb" ski tour over Lofererseilergraben or Leogangerseilergraben, 2) "Hundstodrieb" in opposite direction over Trischübl-Alm & Wimbachgries-Hütte

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