One might think that the Stubai Glacier is a ski resort like any other. Last Friday, however, proved the opposite. After fantastic ski runs in sunshine and fresh powder snow, we tried something completely different: Ice climbing at the Stubai Glacier ice climbing tower.
The last descent at noon leads us from the top towards the Gamsgarten, directly to the massive tower of ice. Respectfully we look up, the turquoise ice is shining in the sun. Hardly arrived, Christoph, our mountain guide, already comes to meet us. He and his colleagues from Stubai Alpin offer a weekly ice climbing taster session here. After a nice welcome and introduction of our mountain guide and course leader, a short explanation follows about the course of the next 1.5 hours.
First we are equipped with a climbing harness, which we can easily put on over our ski pants. This offers us later the possibility that Christoph can hook us to the rope and thus belay us while climbing. Next, crampons are mounted on the ski boots. It is important to set the correct sole length first. Christoph helps us with this. Once the crampons fit well on the shoe, it is still important to make sure that the cage (the front part of the crampon) fits well and the cord is pulled tightly enough. What of course must not be missing is a climbing helmet. This protects against small pieces of ice, which can always fall down when you hit the ice axe into the ice. Of course, it can also happen that you bump into something while climbing, but with our equipment we are well protected.
Well equipped, we now approach the ice tower. First of all, Christoph explains to us how we can walk and climb properly with the crampons. It is important that you kick the footholds into the snow or ice. We try to walk up and down a steep but not vertical section at the base of the climbing tower. We have to pay special attention that when traversing, the lower foot always looks slightly downwards in order to make the best use of the grip in the ice. When going down, we try to bend our knees and shift our weight backwards. We go up and down a few times until we are already quite confident with the crampons after a short time.
Tip: Your legs should be hip-wide, otherwise you will quickly have a hole in your pants.
First, we move to the back of the tower, where the lower part is also already vertical ice. There Christoph now shows us the technique needed to handle the ice tools, also called ice axes. These are basically slightly curved to create an optimal angle for a perfect grip in the vertical ice. At the very bottom, they have a rubberized grip that is perfect to hold onto even when wearing gloves. Our mountain guide Christoph demonstrates the "placing" of the ice axes in the ice and immediately pounds six ice tools into the wall. Now it's our turn. As in a small parcours we layback our way from the left past the axes to the right. First we have to get familiar with the equipment to trust it. After a few runs, we are already quite confident.
Now it's time for the real climbing. Christoph shows us the correct technique sequence before we start. First of all, we have to position the two ice tools quite high and hit them into the ice so that we have a good grip. Then the legs follow. With these, you climb up to the same height, after which you find yourself in a squat-like position. With arms outstretched and legs bent, we try to stand up along the wall. Again the axes are brought to the next higher position. No sooner said than done. Christoph hooks me up to the rope, we do a partner check, this means we check whether everything is sitting correctly and hooked in and if the knots have been made correctly.
Then we can start - very exciting. First I walk up the lower part, which gets steeper and steeper, until I'm standing in front of the vertical ice wall and dare a nervous look up. I wonder if I'll make it, then it's time to go. First the ice tools, then the legs with crampons. Often already existing holes in the ice offer themselves for the ice axe to be placed in there. This saves energy and one doesn't need as much energy as if one had to hammer the tools into the ice. Meter by meter we climb up the ice climbing tower in the Stubai Valley. While climbing, I always feel well belayed. At the top, my arms are already pretty tired, but the view over the Stubai Glacier is magnificent. Wow - I really made it! I give the mountain guide a short signal and he starts the abseiling. It is important to to use your legs to push off from the ice in this process. Once down there, I get "high five" from Christoph and a smiling face on top of it. What a great experience.
You're wondering how you can also get the opportunity for such an experience? It's very simple. An introductory ice climbing course takes place every Friday afternoon from December to March. Outside this period, you can also book a course through Stubai Alpin. You can register by phone at +43 5226 3461 or also by mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When ice climbing, it is essential to have the right equipment. If you don't have your own equipment, that is of course no problem. For our courses at the ice climbing tower Stubai Glacier, Stubai Alpin also provides rental equipment.
For ice climbing the following equipment is needed in any case: