Preparing for a Glacial Tour

Even in the mountaineering Ziller Valley, glacial tours have a reputation as one of the most prestigious mountain tours.

Glacier tour Zillertal

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Created by Elisabeth Frontull

Several routes lead from Mayrhofen to the eternal ice.

With good preparation, the right equipment and the required know-how (if necessary supplied by a mountain guide), several glacial tours beyond the 3,000m mark are within your grasp. Alfons Hörhager from the Salewa Store in Mayrhofen gives us the most important tips to prepare for your expedition.

 

The Basics

A glacial tour is a major undertaking. But where should you start? “There are some basic things that you should think about before you even consider equipment or choosing a route”, says Alfons. These include questions such as: 
 

  • How many hours of ascent and descent will my physical condition allow me to do? 
  • Which level of difficulty is realistic for me?
  • Who will accompany me on the tour?
  • Do I need the services of a qualified mountain guide? 
  • Where can I get information about weather and tours in the region? 
     

The first questions can be answered quickly, but they are really important. As a general rule, a mountain guide is always a safe and uncomplicated choice, advises Alfons. “It’s best to ask about  tours, the availability of mountain guides, the weather, and hire equipment at a local mountaineering school or a speciality shop. Within ten minutes you’ll have all the information you need. Basic information is also available from the tourist information centre.“

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Indispensable Mountain Guide

 

 

The importance of mountain guides is, unfortunately, only too often evident: “Tragic accidents, which could have been avoided, happen again and again. A qualified guide knows the routes and can better assess dangerous situations. They help to find a good route and can identify crevasses from the snow forms. This is so important as glaciers change on a daily basis. They also understand the risks of rockfall, the most common reason for accidents”, explains Alfons. Mountain guides working in the region of  Mayrhofen can be found on the website of Bergsportschule Zillertal Alpin.

Unpredictable Nature

The weather is an essential factor in a glacier tour.  Websites which specialise in mountain weather offer an informative service on which to base your preparations: 
 

How unpredictable the weather has become, was made apparent by a situation last year:  “In August 2015 the glacial tour on the Löffler mountain could not be hiked for three weeks. The reason: the temperature and the resulting rockfall. In the past, the summer nights were still so cold that the rocks stayed frozen. However, because of the warmer temperatures there is a risk of rockfall even in the morning. And this is the biggest risk on a glacial tour. You have to be wise enough to accept that the route cannot be taken and choose another mountain. The heightened risk of rockfall has been especially noticeable in the last ten years. We call it ‘ausappern’ [thawing]”, explains Alfons.

Gletschertour Zillertal
©Sportalpen
Gletschertour Zillertal
©Sportalpen
Gletschertour Zillertal
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Glacial Tours in Mayrhofen

Every valley in the Ziller Valley offers opportunities for a glacial tour. Two classic tours in Mayrhofen are:
 

  • Schwarzenstein – Tourenbericht
  • Großer Löffler/Floitenkees – Tourenbericht
Gletschertour Zillertal
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Gletschertour Zillertal
©Sportalpen
Gletschertour Zillertal
©Sportalpen

Packing for a Glacial Tour

Good preparation is especially important when packing for a glacial tour. Alfons has put together a list of equipment for anyone who is planning to venture into the realm of eternal ice.


First aid kit

“You should always keep a first aid kit in your hiking rucksack, even if you are not planning a glacial tour.”

Rucksack

“With lots of packing space, easy access to the contents and as lightweight as possible.”

Hiking boots

“Robust hiking boots with support for crampon fitting, a high flex and a suitable sole.”

Crampons

“Some ice surfaces cannot be crossed without these.”

Ice pick

“The handheld counterpart to the crampons on your feet.”

Climbing equipment

“Double waterproofed twin or half ropes are available for glacial tours. They have to withstand use in snow, water and cold temperatures. In addition, you will need a helmet, climbing harness and Expressen for mixed climbing.”

Glacier glasses

“These are special glacier sunglasses, which protect against the strong sunrays in high alpine areas.”

Ice Piton

“An important instrument for emergencies: If you were to fall into a crevasse, you can use an ice piton to climb out.”

Clothing

“Lightweight clothing and multiple layers of Gore Tex material in case you need to touch or sit in the snow.”

Gletschertour Zillertal
©Sportalpen
Gletschertour Zillertal
©Sportalpen
Gletschertour Zillertal
©Sportalpen