Skimountaineering on the main range of Carnic Alps and in the Alps of southern Gail has a particular charme. It’a s mix of the traditional atmosphere in Gail and Leasch valleys with the typical Italian lifestile of their southern slopes: this blending is perfect for an extraordinaire experience in these mountains still not tainted by mass tourism – hopefully, for a long time to come!
Concerning skiing, the snow here is generally safe and compact, at least for north-facing routes, and the ideal season for skiing is remarkably long, stretching from December half April. Besides the “classic” routes, we have chosen a fine selection of treats, for a total number of 101 routes, exploring less packed areas, including the legendary traverse from Sillian to the pass of Monte Croce Carnico.
As we did in our previous skimountaineering guidebooks, each route comes with an useful data sheet, containing essential info (such as height gain, Ski difficulty, etc), a schematic topo and several pictures. We’re sure that the nice photographies will attract many skiers!
Robert Zink was born in Stiria (Austria) in 1970. A chemist, he’s fond of mountains since he was a teen. He lives in Villach since 1999, a veritable playground for his explorations, often carried solo in the magic landscapes of Julien Alps and Carnic Alps, which he deems as his home. He travelled skimountaineering all over Europe and in Africa, North America and Caucasus, besides climbing expeditions to the Alps, Colorado and Yosemite.
Skiing off a virgin summit in Alaska. Awkward turns under a heavy backpack in Oregon. Full-tilt powder turns in British Columbia. Bouncing between huts in Osttirol. Peering westward across the many peaks of the Karnish Alps, each more alpine than the last. Every one of these memories reminds me of the freedom and self-responsibility of the mountains. The friendships and perfect turns earned there.
The border region between Austria and Italy offers some of the least known and secretive mountains I’ve visited in the Alps. An explorer can find a huge variety here, from a distinct alpine-feel in the west, to the sublime tree skiing in the eastern, these are mountains worth knowing well.
But take note, with variety comes complexity. Here you have to earn your knowledge along with your turns. Take time to get to know the particular snowpack of this region, remembering that more WW1 soldiers died in avalanches here than in the Julian Alps not so far away. And while the winds may be lighter than the higher peaks to the north, the north faces hold cold snow long after the storms, and with this consistent cold instability often persists. Venture carefully, prudently.
Here is a place where you see the Italian flair, the dramatic Sextener Dolomites dotting your horizon. You will often find solitude once you move beyond the most popular tours. Being far from any big cities, and without any famous summit, your self-sufficiency will be in high demand. The routes can be serious, the huts are closed in the winter, so be careful, learn to depend on your own judgment.
Where ever you’ve come from, where ever you’re going, all tours in the wild winter backcountry share the same inspiration for exploring deep, sometimes solitary spaces that reward attention, self-reliance, and a delight in the unknown. This is one such place. Go carefully. Ski well. Go deep.
Steve House, November 2015
Ridgway, Colorado, USA