currently living in Kleinwalsertal, Austria.
Hohe Ifen ski tour, abseil route, Kleinwalsertal
By utilizing the Hahnenköpfle lift, one only has to ascend two to three hundred height meters (after an initial short descent from the lift station). Thus it's not the length of the tour, but rather its small cruxes that consumes time. The very start of the ascent presents the first crux - at least if one chooses the rock climbing alternative. While including only two meters or so of climbing, the outward reaching holds make one or two moves tricky enough. The possibility to belay through a ring above might thus be welcome. The alternative route further to the right is, given good conditions, simply snow climbing and might be preferrable if the climbing itself isn't the objective of the day. We had excellent snow conditions today if that's any reference.
The Ifen high plateau then carries one straight up to the top without any obstacles. Be greeted by the huge summit cross! Ifen offers an excellent view all around - it would be even better if not obscured by that one giant cross.
One can take the same way down - it's probably the least inconvenient descent route. Or one can ski down on the south side, but there's frequently even higher avalanche risk (than elsewhere on the tour) in the narrow opening where one exits the top plateau. And if the risk is low, the avalanches have probably already gone off, leaving you miserable in a field of their frozen remnants. Also, please don't violate the wildlife protection area. Now, there's also a relatively new abseil pist on the south-west part of the mountain, which we wanted to try out today. So no time to waste, enough with the babbling already!
We found the abseil anchor easily. And not only because we had looked for it during the summer. This is a very popular tour nowadays (although today, amazingly, we were alone), and in the prevalent conditions we could simply follow old tracks. I wouldn't count on that without any local knowledge, though.
Now, chest harnesses aren't an everyday part of our abseil equipment, so it proved wise to have tried them at home on the dry, finding appropriate slings for tying in. This abseil is partly overhanging, and we really appreciated the improved weight distribution, especially considering our quite heavy touring skis strapped on the backpack. But the abseil is short, so you could surely manage without, at least if your belly muscles can hold up if things would muck up.
The abseil ends on the steep upper south flank of Ifen. We came a bit too early today and got some really hard firn - not all that pleasant to ski. Further down it was already melting, providing some fun meters before we too quickly found ourselves back in the flat valley floor of Schwarzwassertal.
So is the tour recommendable...? Well, if you want something quite different, or perhaps just want to practice your rope skills, then yes, have a go! But if a nice descent is important to you there are surely more rewarding tours in the immediate vicinity. As always, every day has it's own unique prerequisites! :-)
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