Sonnenaufgang auf der Kanzelwandbahn | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: David Kögler

07 Jan. 2016 · Winter Activities

a Passion for Ski Mountaineering

David Kögler is 22 years old and comes from Hirschegg in Kleinwalsertal and is training to be a police officer.

I am rudely awoken from my dreams by my alarm clock at 5.15 a.m. I climb out of my warm bed and take a glance out of the window at the clear starry skies. I quickly eat a bowl of muesli, throw on my clothes, put my stuff in the car and head off to the Kanzelwand lift valley station.
Who could imagine being at the Kanzelwand lift at 6 o’clock in the morning? There aren’t even any lifts running yet. This is not a problem as I don’t need one because I am a ski mountaineer. 
 

Auf dem Weg zum Ziel | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: David Kögler

What is that exactly? In simple terms, ski mountaineering describes competitive ski touring. This involves scaling the mountainside with skis in the shortest amount of time possible. Ski mountaineers usually ascend the untouched and snow-covered areas of the mountains away from the ski resorts. It seems that this December Frau Holle, the fairy tale character who makes snow by shaking out her feather pillow, is not feeling very generous so I head off to the pistes that are covered in artificial snow to carry out my training sessions.
 

This is no problem at all because the workers at the Kanzelwand lift have done a really great job. Even though the surrounding areas are all still green, the pistes themselves provide optimum conditions.

I climb up along the route of the downhill run by the light of my headlamp. A special kind of silence prevails at this time of the day. I can hear my own heartbeat, the quickness of my breath and the crunching of my skis. I reach the mountain station in 50 minutes and look down into the valley that is gradually waking up. I quickly pull the skins off my skis and set off down the same stretch that I have just climbed up. When I reach the mountain station for the second time, the sun is slowly rising from behind the distinctive outline of the Allgäu Alps.
 

Aufstieg - David Kögler | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: David Kögler

Training in the Walser Mountains

Moments like this always bring a smile to my face. I now decide to have a race with the sun. I fly down the fantastically groomed pistes into the valley and then make my way up again for the third time. I lose by a whisker because when I reach the mountain station the first rays of sun are shining onto my face and the first skiers of the day are getting off the cable car. Even though there isn’t a great deal of snow, I can only see happy faces. Everyone is pleased to see the pistes in such top condition and they comment on how much luck they are having with the weather. 
 

I rest for a short while, have a chat with a few ski instructors and explain to a few interested visitors exactly what ski mountaineering involves and how it works. A quick glance at my watch tells me that I have already put 2,500 metres of altitude behind me. This is not bad at all and I can end my training session with a good conscience, however, the Hammerspitze climbing area is smiling down on me resplendently in the sunshine. Ok, why not? I fasten the skis to my rucksack and head off towards the Hammerspitze over the ridge. 

This is also part of the training session. It is often necessary to strap your skis to your rucksack and cross steep and exposed ridges during races. Pushing yourself to your physical limits whilst running at competition pace can be quite dangerous and you do not have the luxury of making any errors. 
I scramble over the snow and rocks towards the summit. I reach the summit in the brilliant sunshine and I am rewarded with an awesome view over Kleinwalsertal and neighbouring Stillachtal. I allow my gaze to wander over the local mountains. Even though I have already climbed them all, I will never tire of seeing them. I get to see many places during the race season, including the whole of  Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and France. As beautiful as the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, the Ortler, Mont Blanc, ... are, I always take so much pleasure in taking part in ski tours on my local mountains.
 

Wettkampf  | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: David Kögler

Trip to the First Race of the Season

***Nightattack Flumserberg*** 500 ski mountaineers stood at the starting line at Flumserberg (CH) ready to start the new 2015/16 season together at the Nightattack. This vertical (= pure mountaineering race) involves conquering just under 800 metres of altitude as quickly as possible. The pack included top athletes from Austria, Switzerland and Germany. The starting signal went off at 6.00 p.m. and the front runners sprinted off at breakneck speed. I was determined to keep up, however, I found myself in the thick of the pack shortly after the starting signal and a fellow competitor got his pole caught in the strap of one of my skins and ended up pulling it off my ski. This meant that I had to stop, find my skin, put it on and start again which cost me a lot of time. With a feeling of burning rage in my stomach, I embarked on the chase. I had to slowly fight my way to the front past approximately 300 other runners, yet I couldn’t catch up with the front runners despite the fast tempo I was keeping. I finally reached the finishing line with a time of 40 minutes and 50 seconds making me seventh in my age group. Never mind ... so is the nature of sport!
 

I was satisfied with my achievement and you have to accept that this type of bad luck can happen :)
***Schönleiten Trophy*** During a different weekend during advent, I went to Saalbach (Salzburg) to take part in the Schönleiten Trophy. Three races are held in this competition. I set myself the challenge of taking part in all three races. The Vertical (= pure mountaineering race) started on the Saturday afternoon. The crème de la crème of the German-speaking ski mountaineering scene were all there so the leading positions were occupied by the various World Cup athletes. The race would involve conquering a torturous and extremely steep 550 metres in altitude. I was very pleased to be ranked 23 considering I was among such talented and strong frontrunners. The sprint took place in the evening and I managed, even among such a strong starting line up, to make it into the quarter final. I only missed out on qualifying for the semi final by a few seconds. I was very happy to end the day with this achievement. The individual event took place the next day which involves putting 1,400 metres of altitude behind you. My legs were still tired from the previous day. I was able to keep pace with the top end of the middle of the field, however, I was unable to reach my full potential. I came 18th with a time of 1 hour and 39 minutes. 
 

Entspannen am Berg | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: David Kögler

Back to the Mountain ...

2,700 metres in altitude is enough for today. I pulled my jacket on, took a bite from my energy bar and made my way from the summit towards Kuhgehren, continuing on via the downhill run.
 

I spend the afternoon at home relaxing in my hammock in the sun and looking forward to the next day. The same programme awaits me.

The Kleinwalsertal mountain scenery in the winter is unbelievably beautiful. However, some people underestimate the dangers. If you want to embark on a tour during the winter and discover this magnificently beautiful alpine landscape, it is recommended that you seek advice and assistance from the professionals at the Bergschule Kleinwalsertal (Kleinwalsertal mountaineering school). 
 

Skibergsteiger David Kögler | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: David Kögler

About David

David Kögler is 22 years old and comes from Hirschegg in Kleinwalsertal and is training to be a police officer. He has been mad about the mountains since he was a child. Even though I love mountaineering, mountain running, trail running and climbing, my greatest passion is ski mountaineering. This is the fourth season I have participated in this sport on a competitive level and I just can’t get enough of it. I am attracted to this sport because it gives me the privilege of being able to train in fabulous natural surroundings and to continually push myself beyond my limits of performance. The training is often very gruelling and it isn’t always as successful as I would like, however, it is definitely worth all of the effort. In the future, I would like to train to become a state-certified mountain guide. I would like to guide people into the mountains and enable them to enjoy the unique qualities of our natural surroundings.
 

Freeriding in the Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Frank Drechsel

Reunion on the Gottesacker plateau

“I know you said, it beforehand – but it’s huge!” Eliane can’t take her eyes off the Ifen. And I’m sitting next to her on the chair lift with a broad “told you so” grin on my face.