It was summer but I wanted to, no had to see the snow ......
Last Monday I was on the GrossGlockner (3798 metres, 12461 feet). What should of been a sunny day turned into a nightmare. Thick fog, hailstorm up on the mountain, heavy rain lower down.
We set off from the top hut (3454 metres) at 6:30am. The weather was good and the forcast was good. We reached the peak a couple of hours later but then the weather changed.
Visibility was very limited and it was a struggle to find the way down. We met two pairs of climbers on the way up and asked about directions etc but none of them could speak any German or much English. The three of us pressed on down into the valley (Gerhard and Sep don't speak any English). The track we were following became fainter with the only tracks left visible going in the opposite direction of our intended course. Gerhard led us deeper down into the valley all the time looking for another path. The way became much steeper and icy until it was almost possible to touch the ice with an outstretched hand while standing up straight. We weaved our way between the breaks in the glacier ice until arriving at a flat section in the ice caused by a small stream. With the small stream dropping down into a pool of water behind us we were able to stand up straight on the ice to see a very steep section ahead of us. I had stiff La Sportiva Nepal Top boots and Grivel G12 crampons while the other two had softer boots and less sturdy crampons. Gerhard led the way first over the steep ice slope to a rock section where he could secure a good anchor. Sep and I watched Gerhard as if he were a tightrope walker, relief after every good step but hope and fear for the next. A fall to below would be to steep rock sections or a large break in the ice meters deep with icy cold water, the chances of survival from a fall were very limited.
Suddenly Gerhard’s left foot slipped, his right foot dug into the ice but failed to secure him; he was down and sliding. With all our equipment Gerhard weighed around 110-115 kg, Sep 100 kg and I slightly lighter at 93 kg. Being next on the rope I would be first to feel the strain, if Gerhard’s weight managed to pull me down Sep would have over 200 kg to hold. I grasped the rope, dug in my crampons and sat back waiting to feel the strain. After the longest few seconds of my life the pressure was on, it was like trying to hold a sail in a storm. My feet remained in place and I held on for dear life letting the rope slip in a controlled manner every time I was pulled too far forward. Sep held onto the rope until his hands passed underneath me, Sep's arms were now putting pressure behind my knees and threatening to lift me off the ice. Sep was leaning forward and we would certainly all go down together if the pressure continued.
Wet from the icy cold stream that had drenched me in the struggle, my legs were burnt out, hacked by the crampons and tired but I was happy to be stationary. Gerhard’s trousers were torn and his thumb was hurt but he was still with us and we pulled him back up the hill.
I was the only one with an ice pick and Gerhard cut steps in the ice with it making a much securer route over to the rocks. We worked our way down the slope cutting steps in the ice and using the pick as an anchor whenever possible. It wasn’t until around 16 hours 30 minutes since our morning departure that we arrived at Frans-Joseph house. The weather had been relentless, we had been hit with hailstorm and heavy rain showers. According to my fitness watch I had burnt over 8500 calories, we were tired, wet, empty and hungry. Thankfully the owner of a local guesthouse picked us up in his car from the deserted car park just after 23:30.
The plan was never to challenge the steep icy slopes but a mistake in the fog led us to them.
Last Monday was an experience and we had bad weather but enough luck to survive.http://ari.rdx.net/abc/mountains/grossglockner.htm
DB[ August 11, 2002, 06:42 AM: Message edited by: DangerousBrian ]