It’s the beginning of December and I just received a message from Cristian, my brother in law: “Hey, do you wanna come in Austria and work on a glacier at 3000 m? The slopes are perfect for snowboarding and the views from here are extraordinary. Your photo camera would love them”
“Ok, say no more, I’m in.”
So here we are, on the first days of the new year on the road, together with Alina, my girlfriend and Iancu, our 6 months old son. 1400 km and two days of driving are waiting for us, starting from Transylvania, Romania, passing Hungary, towards Kaunertal in Tirol Austria.
While the first part went smoothly, when we entered in Austria it started to snow. And it kept snowing heavily till the end of our trip. And it was just the beginning. From wet or icy snow, to 15 cm deep snow on the highway, we experimented all type of it. It was a real adventure, and for sure one to remember.
We didn’t know back then, but for the next 2 weeks, we were about to experience one of the most heavy snowfalls that hits the Alps in the last century…
Feichten village in Kauner Valley
On 5th of January we arrived in Kaunertal, and on the next day I was supposed to meet the glacier. But Nature had other plans. Due to the last snowfalls and the rising avalanche danger, the road to the Kaunertal Gletscher and the whole ski resort had to be shooted down. And it remained so for the next 13 days.
View from Fendels between two episodes of heavy snowfalls
After a few days of snowing the access road to Feichten, the village where we are staying in Kaunertal was also closed, due to safety reasons. So here we are, isolated in the Alps, what should we do know?! There are plenty of things to do, and probably one of the most importanting one is, that this situations can offer you time for yourself, for family or friends.
We will also remember the walking towards Quelle Alpin, the local indoor swimming pool, on a beautiful evening, on the main street, that was covered with 40 cm layer of snow.
We also did a couple of night hikes on the lightened sledge road near the village. Together with the night views over the village, this gave us a fairy tale feeling.
Night view over Feichten
After a couple of days of snowing, the sun was coming up and the clouds were vanishing away. We finally saw the majestic snow covered peaks, that are touching the sky, for the first time.
It’s time for hiking on the surrounding of the village or snowboarding in Fendels or on the local ski slope in Feichten. We also decide to have a bit of fun in deep, powder snow. Cristian knows well how to deal with it.
Play in deep snow
It’s been a few days since the snowfall stopped. The great day has come. On 18th of January I finally meet the Kaunertal Glacier and also reach the highest altitude for me, after Schesaplana (2965 m) in Vorarlberg and Saint Antonio Mountain (3068 m) in California.
But the glacier didn’t reveal itself from the first time. After a snowfall during the night, the road was covered with about 20 cm of snow and the mountains were covered in clouds.
The van picked us up from Feichten. We left the inhabited space shortly and we entered more deeply into the mountains. After a few sharp turns we reached the dam. Built in the 60s, is one of the biggest of its kind.
Leaving the fir trees level behind, we entered into the world of the alpine stone pine (Zirbe – pinus cembra). Although I have seen it before, back home in the Carpathians, I was impressed by the size and high number of it. We were practically in a wood full of this magnificent trees. Impressive! I also noticed the high number of other species, such as larch and birch. What a symphony of colours will be here in Autumn.
The van trip came to the end. We reached the Ochsenalm Tall station at 2150 m. Because the road is not yet cleaned from here up to the top, we continue the journey on the pail of a snow groomer (pisten bully). Although is pretty foggy, I can spot some glacial rock formations and also the last stone pines. From about 2200 m up, trees are no longer present due to low temperatures and harsh weather conditions.
After a 10-15 minutes ride we reach the Weissse restaurant at 2750 m. After almost two weeks of snowing, the fresh snow was literally over 2 m deep. A lot of work is waiting for us. We have to clear the snow and prepare everything for the next day opening.
I was detached at the Karlesjoch gondola. After clearing the base station we headed towards the top, at over 3100 m. For the gondola, it was the first ride after almost 2 weeks of break. For me it was like a trip into unknown. Going up, we were entering deeply into the clouds. In a few minutes we reached the top. But we had to stop just a few meters away because of the blizzarded snow that was blocking the entrance for the upper part of the cabin. Patrick saved the situation by jumping from it and clearing the way.
It was about -15 degrees, windy and foggy. But at about noon, the clouds started to vanish away and the biting cold started to fade, in front of the magnificent views that revealed in front of our eyes. We could spot the Wildspitze, the second highest peak in Austria, with its 3770, the Kaunergrat towards north, or the Italian and Swiss Alps at south and west.
Swiss and Italian Alps
The first chapter of my journey was finished. After a 1400 km road trip, from Transylvania to Austria, and another 13 days of patiently waiting, I finally came to meet the Kaunertaler Glacier.