Lizumer Hütte
2019 m

Tuxer Alps
Tyrol, Austria

"You have to check if the mountain likes you"

The Lizumer Hütte is located in a restricted military area and can only be reached from Wattens train station via a pass road that is not cleared in winter. Luckily, there is a reliable hut taxi that will take you to the Walchen parking lot in half an hour, which is the starting point for the hike to the hut.

A senior local drove us on this sunny day and after a bit of small talk about the weather, a very resonant conversation began for me. He knew the mountains around us inside out and talked about ski tours and avalanches long before the time of avalanche reports and transceivers. A sentence that stayed with me for a long time was “You have to check if the mountain likes you.”, after which we talked about the famous gut feeling and turning back on the mountain. I thought about this sentence for a while on the hike up to the hut and repeated it to the participants a few times over the next three days of my basic snowshoeing course. The taxi driver spoke from my heart and confirmed my believe that the mountains are alive.

Uns hat an diesem sonnigen Tag ein Einheimischer etwas älteren Kalibers gefahren und nach ein paar einleitenden Floskeln über das Wetter begann für mich ein sehr nachhallendes Gespräch. Die Berge um uns herum kannte er in und auswendig und erzählte von Skitouren und Lawinenabgängen weit vor der Zeit von Lawinenlagebericht und LVS-Geräten. Ein Satz, der mir nachhaltig im Gedächtnis geblieben ist, war „Du musst schau’n, ob der Berg di mog.“, woraufhin wir über das berühmte Bauchgefühl und Umkehren am Berg gesprochen haben. Ich habe beim Aufstieg zur Hütte länger über diese Satz nachgedacht und ihn in den darauffolgenden drei Tagen meines Grundkurses im Schneeschuhgehen einige Male vor den Teilnehmenden wiederholt. Mir hat der Taxler aus der Seele gesprochen und mich ein wenig mehr darin bestätigt, dass die Berge leben.

Pure joy

We were warmly welcomed at the hut by Tobias who runs it with a lovely team. The hut was completely booked over the weekend and even the emergency beds were full. However, Tobias and his team were peace and quiet and I was impressed by the smooth process and the generally very good organization of the hut. Despite more than 80 guests, the food was fantastic and we were treated to pumpkin risotto, spinach dumplings and Nepalese curry throughout the three evenings. Kaiserschmarrn for lunch couldn’t be missed either of course!

Snowshoes all the way

Most people in the mountains ski in winter. While I used to love skiing, I finally sold my ski equipment last week. I stopped alpine skiing a few years ago because I no longer wanted to support the artificial production of snow and the building of new lifts. I am aware that you also leave your ecological footprint on the mountain while snowshoeing, but it is much smaller if you go everywhere on foot.

I also prefer snowshoeing to ski touring. You move a lot slower in the mountains and therefore see a lot more. You are also more flexible on snowshoes and can unbuckle them if there is no snow. Even slushy or icy snow doesn't take away the fun, so you are much more independent of snow conditions. In addition, walking on flat terrain is more pleasant, so you generally take different routes than skiers. At the fully booked Lizumer Hut, I only counted two other pairs of snowshoes in the drying room besides ours. Snowshoeing is nowhere near as popular as ski touring, so if you choose the right route, you'll usually be alone in the terrain, and that's why it’s so appealing to me.

Safety first

After the taxi ride, ascent, check-in and lunch at the hut, we just had enough time to try out different walking techniques with the snowshoes and check the transmission range and various interference factors of the avalanche transceivers. In unprepared terrain, an avalanche is theoretically possible at any time with a slope of 30 degrees or more and you should definitely be prepared for such a case. Therefore, the next morning we devote ourselves in detail to the search of avalanche victims. The avalanche transceivers, which are worn on the body via a shoulder strap, send signals and can also receive them, so that people buried in an avalanche can be found using the signal search. This has to be done relatively quickly, as uninjured victims still have a 90% chance of survival after 15 minutes, after which the chance drops rapidly to around 30%. This means that rescuing your buddies is crucial and you cannot wait for a mountain rescue team to support. After the process seemed a bit overwhelming on the first attempt, the participants were already quite confident when they practiced again on the last morning and were able to find the buried avalanche transceivers quickly using the search function of their own devices.

All you see is white

The avalanche search is certainly one of the most important and memorable elements of a basic snowshoeing course. However, the past has shown that most snowshoe beginners feel most comfortable in terrain below a steepness of 30 degrees, where avalanches are theoretically not possible if the catchment areas are taken into account. That's why I attach particular importance to comprehensive tour planning at home and while in the mountains. In order to know where you are in the terrain, it is also important to me that the participants can orientate themselves in pathless terrain without GPS and a hiking app. Ultimately, it's about seeing the mountains, noticing changes in the terrain, snow and weather and recognizing dangers. A good feeling for what’s around you ultimately leads to the gut feeling that so often protects us in the mountains.

So it fits quite well that on the way back from our first tour we end up in a complete white-out. I notice how the clouds are slowly thickening and for a brief moment my attention shifts from the group to what is happening around us. You can only see a few meters ahead and everything around us is completely white. However, there is no wind, so our tracks in the snow remain clearly visible. I also have a good feeling, so I decide to let the tour continue and participants can fully experience this situation, even if they cannot enjoy a nice view at the summit. I decided otherwise in a course two weeks before when I turned around with the participants shortly before the summit. The last hour went over a mountain ridge over which an increasingly strong wind was blowing, dark clouds gathered on the horizon and it started to snow. This wasn't predicted in the weather report and within minutes our trail was covered by snow. Here my gut feeling didn't want to take responsibility any further and we turned around shortly before the summit. Turning around is never an easy decision, but I had the feeling that the mountain didn't like us that day.

The best is yet to come

Our last day of touring offered us everything again. On this ice-cold morning with a crystal clear blue sky and the Mölser Sonnenspitze as a beautiful summit destination, I walk silently behind my group. They now navigate themselves without any problems, so I only give a few hints every now and then and can otherwise freely follow my own thoughts. On the saddle in front of the summit we spontaneously decide on the easier neighbouring summit, Skispitze, which is unknown to most ski-tourers. The steep ridge to Sonnenspitze doesn't look particularly inviting to everyone in the group and the traffic of ski tourers puts also the rest of us off a bit. The Skispitze, on the other hand, invites to linger with a fantastic view over snow-covered peaks and we enjoy our well-deserved lunch break there. 

See you soon

On the descent we take a detour to Mölser Lake, where my emotions overwhelmed me for the last time this winter in the untouched terrain and without a soul in sight. On the way back to the hut, I review the past three weeks of guided tours and courses and save all the little moments of happiness that I will keep recalling over the coming weeks. I silently thank the mountains for another accident- and injury-free winter season and look forward to seeing this snow-covered region in its green dress in August on my guided Alpine crossing, when we stay for a night at Lizumer Hütte.