Exploring the “Freeride Mecca” of Engelberg, Switzerland, with BD Mountain Guide Remo BaltermiaMonday, April 13, 2020
An adventurous round trip in Engelberg
Engelberg is known as a “Freeride Mecca.” And if you are not afraid of a little ascent, one can escape the masses to more adventurous ski terrain. Such as to the snowy summit of Graustock, which you reach on a rather unconventional but exciting way.
Lining up at the valley station in Engelberg is not uncommon. Everybody wants to get up to the highly praised Freeride Mecca around the Titlis. As we finally reach the top, we don't rush into the descent, but put on our skins and in no time have escaped the busy ski area. "If you walk a bit, you're immediately away from the crowds," says Remo Baltermia, our mountain guide, and points out our direction with his ski pole. Gently we climb up from the Jochpass to a southern slope until it suddenly becomes steep. The last few meters on the southwest shoulder of the Red Nollen represent the first crux. "This corner can be tricky depending on avalanche conditions," says Remo. We strap the skis on the backpack and continue on foot.
No sooner than reaching the shoulder, the view opens up again in front of us, looking out towards Engstlenalp and over to the Wetterhorn in the Bernese Oberland. There is total peace and seclusion. It is hard to believe that the ski area is only a stone's throw away. Through hilly terrain Remo lays a pleasant ascent track up the ridge, which ends abruptly at vertical rocks. We will still need our energy, as the physical crux of the tour is still to come. "You are surely good climbers," says Remo with a grin. What awaits us there is a 120-meter-high Via Ferrata, and not just any Via Ferrata, "It is one of the most demanding in the region", says Remo.
Now we're getting right down to business. Along the iron pins we climb up the wall. After a few minutes we already have plenty of air under our feet. One could forget that we are on a ski tour. Light skis are highly recommended for this tour, as the additional weight on the back makes this job not exactly easier. The low weight of our Helio 95 carbon skis is a big bonus here. The upper part of the via ferrata is snow-covered, making you feel like you are in the middle of extreme alpine terrain. "If you want to do this tour, you should first find out whether the ropes and pins are in the wall, sometimes they are taken out in winter", recommends Remo and frees the last ladder from the snow.
Then it's done. The winter peak of Graustock is one to linger: a pleasant plateau with magnificent all-round view. But beware of the snow cornice, which protrudes on the eastside over the vertical wall. Our tour fortunately continues westward. In front of us lay an untouched slope that takes us into the remote Schaftal valley. Always following horizon, we descend over magnificent slopes down to the frozen Engstlensee lake.
The traverse across the calm lake is the perfect end to an adventurous day. In the distance we see the gondola that takes us up to the Jochpass. When we arrive back in the ski area, it is completely empty. The mountain tops are still in the pink of the last sun, along with the Graustock. A beautiful end to an adventurous tour!
"Not everyone can do it," says Remo appreciatively, only to add, "But almost everyone."
Details of the tour:
From the Jochpass traverse the southern slope out to the south-west shoulder of the Rot Nollens (caution danger of avalanches) and then in the terrain chamber behind it (Obri Gummi) at the beginning of the via ferrata. Now follow the via ferrata for 120 strenuous meters (mostly vertical) to the winter summit of the Graustock (Schafberg). The descent follows the Schaftal westwards down to the frozen Engstlensee and over this back to the Jochpass lift. Duration approx. 4-5 hours. Mountain guide: Remo Baltermia, Engelberg.
- Normal touring equipment, preferably light! E.g. Helio 95 carbon ski from Black Diamond
- Light climbing harness, e.g. "Couloir" by Black Diamond (can be put on without having to climb through the leg loops with the ski boots :-)
- Backpack with mounting possibilities for skis, e.g. "Cirque" 35L by Black Diamond, the ideal backpack for demanding ski mountaineering.
- via ferrata set
- Crampons and ice axe depending on snow conditions in the via ferrata
- 30 meters of rope, in case a descender is to be secured