Engelberg, CH, Jan. 24, 2019

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Engelberg, CH, Jan. 24, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Feb 01, 2019 8:42 am

ChrisC saw the big dumps of early January and decided to add a few days at Engelberg and Andermatt to his previously scheduled week in the Arlberg. Since his connection was in New York, he had to travel all day Tuesday, but landed in Zurich early enough Wednesday to get on the mountain at Engelberg by noon. So he probably reconned Engelberg as much as we did Wednesday.

On Thursday we hired Sammy of Engelberg Mountain Guides to show us some of the famous off piste routes. Here is a topo map showing the “Big Five” off piste areas.

With guides you get out early and we were on top at Titlis by 10AM to drop into the Steinberg above the cloud layer.

It looked gloomy in town when we started, but the cloud was a band centered around 2,000 meters between Stand and Trubsee.

ChrisC getting after the first pitch of powder:

The Steinberg has overall moderate pitch, but here we are going to traverse right to get around some glacial features.

ChrisC and Liz skiing below the exposed glacial ice:

Closer views of skiing that powder:


The mid-level cloud conveniently started to break up at just the right time.

Here ChrisC is skiing close to where Liz and I had dropped in below Stand on Wednesday.

Sammy is a rock climbing enthusiast in the off season. His yellow jacket is barely visible here where he’s retrieving a climbing pack stashed last fall.

Liz had seen that pack by the rock the previous day.

View back up Steinberg:

Our next off-piste run was the Laub. It is accessible via a straightforward traverse from the Laubersgrat chair. The initial descent was a moderately steep chalky bowl, but within 1,000 vertical it became lightly tracked powder.


The Laub is justly famous as one of the greatest powder runs in the world. The closest North American analogy of a long consistent pitch would be Jackson Hole’s Hobacks but:
1) The Hobacks are 2,500 vertical but the Laub is 4,000.
2) The Hobacks have a constricted bumpy entry at the top before you can spread out, but that chalky bowl was smooth and you can drop in slightly steeper entries left or right.
3) Most importantly the Hobacks face SE while the Laub faces due north.

Looking back up at the Laub from below:

We came out skier’s right to the Ritz restaurant where we had lunch. The Trubsee area is very flat so we took a short bus (1 franc pp) to the Gerschnialp tram to head back up.

Liz was fine on the Steinberg and Laub, but did get worn out some from the Laub. Sammy thought correctly that the Galtiberg would be too much for her. When we got up to Titlis, Liz went inside the ice cave exhibit.


Here they froze some flowers in an ice block.

Sammy, ChrisC and I skied the catwalk to the top of the glacier T-bar, then dropped skier’s right into the top of the Galtiberg.

We are now committed to the valley floor 6,000 feet below.

About 1/3 of the way down we need to traverse left to get around a cliff band.

View back up after 60% of the descent:

Sammy is checking another stashed rock climbing pack here.

Fortunately he doesn’t have to bring this one down.

ChrisC skiing some powder lower down.

The powder was excellent for the full 5,000 vertical of descent in open terrain.

Next came the tough part. There are some couloirs to the valley floor but they filled with avalanche debris during the big dumps of the first half of January. Therefore we must take a tight traverse through trees for most of the remaining 1,000 vertical. No surprise this was far more exhausting to me than the 5,000 of skiing, and was the main reason I’m sure that Liz did not come with us. Here the traverse opens up near a farm hut and old surface lift.

The final sketchy part of the traverse was next to these rocks with icicles.

The traverse finally ends at a bridge crossing the valley bottom stream. From there we ski and skate perhaps another mile or so to the Furenalp bus stop. We just missed a 4PM bus so Sammy called a cab as it would have been another hour for the next bus. ChrisC and I skied 17,000 vertical about 9K of powder. But today's amazing terrain quality was what demonstrated why it’s worth it for American skiers to make the occasional schlep to the Alps.

I had a bird’s eye view of the Galtiberg from Brunni the next day and marked the route here.

You can see where the open descent ends and turns skier’s right into the trees for the traverse out.

In response to James’ question, the lift system does look like branches of a tree, with typically two or three pistes near each lift. The pistes above Trubsee are much steeper than average for the Alps. In St. Moritz or Arosa/Lenzerheide any piste with even a short steep pitch would be marked black. Here the piste would be black only if it was steep for at least half its total vertical.

So it’s definitely true that Engelberg’s claim to fame is its immense and easily accessible off-piste. The Steinberg (glacial features) and Galtiberg (technical route finding) need to be done with guides. It was useful to be guided the first time on the Laub but once we had been there we were comfortable returning on our own Friday. We explored the Steintali (Wednesday) and Sulz (Friday) from Jochstock on our own. The above recommendations are of course with a stable snowpack, which it had been for about a week prior to our arrival in Engelberg. We are required to have full avalanche gear when guided, and we routinely carried it ourselves the other days here and nearly every day on this trip.
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
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Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

Re: Engelberg, CH, Jan. 24, 2019

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:29 am

Looks fantastic. Am looking forward to ChrisC's reports.
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