Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I have always read a lot. Usually when I want to figure something out, my first step is to find what has been written about what I am interested in. Therefore, I have read a bunch of books related to climbing, skiing and alpinism: "how-to" and technique books as well as biographies and historical accounts of climbs.

There seem to be a handful of books that I continually come back to when I am looking for advice on training, climbing, tactical information, inspiration or understanding.

I just finished reading Andy Kirkpatrick's book,
Psycho Vertical. The book surprised me with its deapth and very personal introspection that I did not expect. This got me thinking about all the books and authors that have unknowingly helped me out as a climber and person.

Here's the list at this point:

Walter Bonati, The Mountains of My Life. Bonati is without a doubt the god of alpinism. What he did in his alpine career is unbelievable.

Will Gadd, Ice & Mixed Climbing: Modern Technique. The best book on ice and mixed climbing as well as dry tooling. God technique and training advice too - and everything is relayed in Gadd's super positive, motivational voice.

Mark Twight, Extreme Alpinism. The kind of book that you wished you had read before you ever started in the mountains because it would have saved you a tremendous amount of time and money.

The American Alpine Journal. This yearly journal is what is happening in the world of alpinism. The featured articles are extremely informative and inspirational.

Jeff Lowe, Ice World. One of the pioneers of modern ice climbing. His first ascents with leashes and straight-shaft tools are amazing, plus he goes even further to bring these techniques onto long alpine routes throughout the world's ranges.

Mark Twight, Kiss or Kill, Confessions of a Serial Climber. This is the most read book that I own. I turn to it when ever I get fed up with the state of (or overall lack of) all things alpine in Austria, or in my own mind.

Monday, March 23, 2009

failure - purgatory - salvation


Unclimbed alpine ice at WI4+ to WI6. I know where it is and I want it. Checked out the lines on Tuesday. Got a partner and headed back with all the gear on Friday. 1100 meters of elevation gain over a four hour approach. The slope up to the cirque is 30+°. My pack was 18 kilos without one of the half ropes. Ski touring equipment and ice gear - boots to ski with and boots to climb with.

The weather: unsettled, new snow 20 to 30cm, snow showers during the day, some wind.

Can you see where this is leading?

We got to the base of the climbs. The ice looked good. The long massive lines would have to wait for another day. They are bad-ass, multi-hour (multi-day?) affairs.

Okay, let’s start with the double curtain and then move on to the pillar. We’ll get two firsts.

Short and quick: the low angle “ice” to the curtains was mush on top on wet rock – platter-size chunks broke away under your front points and from your picks.

Let’s take a look at the pillar.

30 meters to the column. I put a good screw in 2 meters from the belay. The next screw at a bulge 5 meters up was shit. I pushed its 19cm almost all the way in just with my hand. It’s just ten meters of snow and then the ice. Yeah, right.

There was no purchase. When I stood up, the surface of the snow brushed against my nose. No pro. Maybe I can climbed the small open book of ice to the right of the column and then move back left to get on the blue, compact ice.

No go. The “ice” in the open book was thin sheets in layers formed on top of spin drift. Go far right, there’s an ice bulge, maybe it’s thick and compact. I knocked away the bottom of a 25cm thick icicle. Reaching my hand up underneath, I found that there was a 10 cm gap between rock and ice. Drill a 22cm screw in and thread a sling. Can’t find the fucking exit hole from the screw! Just clip it and call it good.

I move into the chimney. One side ice and the other side rock. I got a 16cm screw in sideways on the ice bulge. Now I had the illusion of security to fuel my human optimism that, “just a bit further would be some good placements”. Idiot.

There wasn’t even mush, just spin drift over wet, brittle, limestone. I dry tooled through two moves using my back to stem against the left rock wall. I found a hole to thread a thin sling and equalized it to a 10cm thick icicle, clip it all together with a Yates “Screamer”. Made me feel warm all over.

I kept trying to borough through the snow hoping to find some solid ice. I uncovered a small cave. In the back were two thick icicles. Crystal clear, solid. I double wrapped a sling around one and drilled a hole through the other to thread a piece of cord. Equalized everything and rapped off. You win.


The indoor climbing gym, what else?

Pulling on plastic with all the other extreme types. I guess it’s better than staying at home and wallowing in failure. But I’m going to lose it if I see one more yahoo pantomiming moves after they’ve been rehearsing the same route for three hours.

I atone, get stronger, train. It’s not even close to climbing boys and girls. At its best it’s nothing more than training.


Halleluiah! Ice climbing pure and simple. Everyone else thinks it’s too late in the season. Can’t think for yourself? Make your own evaluations? It’s better that way because we’re alone. WI5 ice that’s a bit too cold and brittle. Hallow with lots of air in there. Care, diligence, patience, belief. There’s no, “take”, pulling on quick draws, top rope rehearsal, etc., pure, simple and undiluted.

Misjudgments are immediately penalized. You can’t hide. No bullshit.

Real, climbing.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Eisfallklettern in Schlaningraben

Der Eisklettergarten Schlaningraben zwischen Untertauern und Obertauern in den Radstädter Tauern ist ein Paradies für des Eisfallklettern. Am Sonntag, 08. März bin ich mit einer kleiner Gruppe von der OeAV-Sektion Salzburg dort gewesen. Die so genannte, "Übungstour", war eine noch folgende Veranstalltung zum alpine.ausbildung Fortgeschrittener Eiskletterkurs im Maltatal. Wir haben sehr gute Verhältnisse in der Nähe von Untertauern mit zahlreichen Klettermöglichkeiten gefunden.
Die Spurarbeit hat gedauert, aber mit dem Eis im Blick sind wir immer weiter gegangen.
Der Graben ist im Salzburgerland Eiskletterführer als, "sehr lawinensicher" beschrieben. Da ist er aber nicht, weil man sich immer in einem schluchtartigen Gelände mit sehr engen Stellen bewegt.
Es besteht Durchbruchsgefahr, weil später in der Eissaison der Bach nicht immer zugefroren ist.
An der rechten Seite sind möglichkeiten um WI3 bis WI4 zu klettern. Wegen des Temperaturrückgangs waren die Eisverhältnisse etwas spröde.
Christian im Vorsteig. Wir haben zwei Routen um 20 Meter zum Vorsteig Üben eingerichtet.
Die Routen waren schon im Vorstieg ernst und die Umgebung inspirierend und wunderschön.
Jennifer noch der Drei-Meter Steilstelle am Top-Rope in WI3+.
Nebenbei, einem WI4 auf massiven Säulen mit Röhreneis weiter oben.
Peter hat die Routen am Top-Rope geübt, bevor er erstmals Eis im Vorsteig klettern könnte.
Tages Ziele sind, 1) alle Teilnehmer im Vorsteig klettern und...
2) Eisklettern Technik und Taktik zu verbessern.Eisklettern im Vorsteig ist eine komplette neue Welt im Vergleich zum Nachsteig am Top-Rope.
Auf der linken Seite vom Graben sind viele anspruchsvolle Linien ins Eis bis zu 50 meter hoch.
Christian am Top-Rope in WI4+, ca. 50 Meter lang - Man braucht saubere Technik und Ausdauer.Peter am Top-Rope am linken Eisvorhang: Steilaufschwünge wechseln mit guten Restpositionen vor einer 20 Meter Konstantes 85 bis 90 Grad Passage.
Happiness beim Eisklettern ist eine dicke warme Jacke und trockene Handschuhe beim Sichern zu haben.
Christian in einer Steilpassage mit Eispilzen - Teilweise sehr nervig zum Klettern.

Der Eiskletterkurs im Maltatal und die Übungstour im Schlaningraben hat mir sehr gut gefallen. Als Kursleiter und Ausbildner bin ich sehr glücklich, dass ich eine nette, hoch motivierte und sicherheitsbewusste Gruppe gehabt habe. Wir hatten gutes Wetter und gute Eisverhältnisse an zwei Wochenenden. Einfach super Erlebnisse!

Friday, March 6, 2009

American International School - Salzburg Climbing Course: Picture Gallery

A gallery of photos from the winter climbing course in the Salzburg climbing gym
At the beginning of the trimester we climbed on top rope in the course area with 8 meter long routes
Soon the group was climbing longer (17-18 meter) routes on top rope in the main area of the gym
By the fourth week of the course , the students could independently belay each other safely
The blue panel is 90 degrees steep and requires good climbing endurance
As climbing technique improved, students could start "staying on route", that is climbing on one color which designates a specific route
A climber can not climb with confidence unless their belayer is attentive and thorough
The next step was learning to climb on lead, clipping the quick draws as you move up the route
Next was climbing more physically and technically challenging routes on lead
... and then moving on to routes on overhanging walls
The next AIS-Salzburg course starts up in April. We will be climbing in the climbing gym and then moving outside to the climbing tower at the sport center in Rif once the weather starts warming up.

denkundstein / Kletterhalle Salzburg Termine


Kinder Kurse

Donnerstag 15:00-16:00, 19. Feb. bis 23. April 2009

Montag 15:00-16:00, 16. März bis 01. Juni 2009

Dienstag 15:00-16:00, 28. April bis 30. Juni 2009

Mittwoch 15:00-16:00, 06. Mai bis 08. Juli 2009

Donnerstag 15:00-16:15, 28. Mai bis 23. Juli 2009

Jugendlich / Fortgeschrittene Kurse

Montag 16:30-18:00, 16. März bis 01. Juni 2009

Dienstag 16:30-18:00, 28. April bis 30. Juni 2009

Mittwoch 16:30-18:00, 06. Mai bis 08. Juli 2009

Donnerstag 16:30-18:15, 28. Mai bis 23. Juli 2009


Montag bis Freitag 09:30-12:30, 13.-17. Juli 2009

Montag bis Freitag 09:30-12:30, 20.-24. Juli 2009

Erwachsner Privat Kurse / Personal Training

März bis Juli 2009 und September – Indoor, Outdoor und Multipitch

Outdoor Fortgeschrittene, „BaseClimbs“

Mittwoch, 18:00-20:30, 17. Juni bis 08. Juli 2009

Freitag, 15:00-19:00 und Samstag, 09:00-16:00, 19.-20. Juni 2009

Montag, 18:00-20:30, 06.-27. Juli 2009

Freitag, 15:00-19:00 und Samstag, 09:00-16:00, 03.-04. Juli 2009

Outdoor Fortgeschrittene, „MultiPitch“

Freitag, 15:00-19:00 und Samstag / Sonntag ganztags, 17.-19. Juli 2009

(Ersatztermin bei Schleckt Wetter: 24.-26. Juli 2009)

Freitag, 15:00-19:00 und Samstag / Sonntag ganztags, 18.-20. Sept. 2009

(Ersatztermin bei Schleckt Wetter: 25.-27. Sept. 2009)

Kalymnos: Klettern Einführung und Personal Training (auch Multipitch)

30. Juli bis 30. August 2009


denkundstein / Kletterhalle Salzburg

Joe Fratianni

Monday, March 2, 2009

Avalanche Accident

Two weeks or so ago, 14th February, there were two avalanche accidents within a few kilometres of each other in the foothills of the North Eastern Alps near Salzburg. In each accident, one person died.

Both accidents occurred within spitting distance of where I was working as a ski instructor. In one accident the victim skied from the small ski resort into steep wooded terrain alone. There were various small avalanches in the area and he was presumed to have been caught in one of them. He has not been found. The other accident was on a tour that is clearly visible from the ski resort.

I would like to make some comments about the ski tour accident just outside of the Gaissau / Hintersee ski area.

The mountain "Regenspitze" is a small mountain that reaches an elevation of about 1700m or so. Pretty tame. A report about the accident (in German) can be found at http://www.lwz-salzburg.org/ereignissedetail.asp?ID=54.

The avalanche level was at “High”, level 4. There is very specific and carefully chosen wording that is used to describe the risk associated with each level of potential danger at the corresponding hazard level in the evaluation of avalanche danger. At hazard level 4, the following standard phrase is used to characterize the level of risk: “A slab release is already likely with a low amount of additional stress on a slope”. (...ist bereits bei geringer Zusatzbelastung eine Auslösung von Schneebrettlawinen wahrscheinlich.)

On the Saturday in question, there was heavy snowfall, strong winds and very poor visibility. This means that during the day avalanche danger would increase, new snow deposits would develop, there would be limited, if any, ability to see terrain (slope angles), pillows of wind deposited snow and potential rescue efforts would be severely hampered.

The accident occurred on a northwest slope that was 35° steep. The initial slab released in an opening on a slightly wooded slope that funneled into a gully. A second fracture followed from a deeper buried weak layer. The height of the crown was 80 to 90cm and 150m wide. The length of the slide was about 400m. Three people were caught. One died from trauma inflicted during the avalanche, one person was severely injured and buried up to the chest and shoulder and the third person was unhurt.

Using various avalanche risk evaluation methods (i.e., Munter 3X3, Stop or Go, etc.), backcountry skiers should stay on slopes that are not steeper than 30° when there is a high (4) avalanche level. Secondary factors such as new snow, wind, poor visibility and questionable terrain features add to the potential risk. Additionally, 65% of all avalanche fatalities occur on slopes with a north-facing aspect.

In hindsight, it is clear that the decision made by the group to ski this line was poor – whether or not a slab released or a death occurred.

In the mountains, people are generally lucky. In other words, they get away with making poor decisions and do not suffer the associated consequences whether they are ski touring, ice climbing, mountaineering, etc. This leads to a false sense of security and a thought process of, “we did this last time and nothing happened”. Furthermore, many back country skiers think that there are tours or slopes that are avalanche prone and others that are “safe”.

When people make questionable choices in the mountains, they get away with it because they were lucky. Just because nothing happend does not mean the right decision was made. What makes a ski tour or slope safe is not the tour or slope itself, but the conditions in which it is skied on and the manner in which it is skied.