Spitzmeilen


Published by Stijn , 2 February 2016, 19h42.

Region: World » Switzerland » St.Gallen
Date of the hike:30 January 2016
Mountaineering grading: AD-
Snowshoe grading: WT3 - Demanding snowshoe hike
Waypoints:
Geo-Tags: CH-GL   CH-SG   Spitzmeilengruppe 
Time: 2 days
Height gain: 1000 m 3280 ft.
Height loss: 1650 m 5412 ft.

The Spitzmeilen is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable summits in its area. Though the surrounding landscape is mostly relatively gentle, the wild Spitzmeilen summit crag sticks out in a forbidding fashion. The ascent is demanding, be it in summer or in winter. We decided to attempt a winter ascent and to make a two-day trip out of it by spending the night at the Spitzmeilenhütte.

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Day 1
Maschgenkamm - Panüöl - Fursch - Wismilen - Spitzmeilen - Schönegg - Spitzmeilenhütte
WT3 / AD-, 850m ascent, 800m descent, 6h15

Nice weather on a Saturday means busy times in the Flumserberg ski area. We make sure to be there early to take the cable car up to Maschgenkamm. At Maschgenkamm, we put on our snow shoes and walk down to Panüöl (taking a more direct line than the official winter hiking route). From Panüöl, we follow the well-marked and well-trodden track to Alp Fursch and further towards the Spitzmeilenhütte. A little before reaching P. 2069, we turn right, leaving the marked trail. We head towards P. 2318 below the Wissmilen, staying just north-west of a long escarpment, following the trail of numerous ski mountaineers who are already ahead of us. Between P. 2318 and the Spitzmeilenfurggel, a fairly steep slope needs to be traversed. This forms the crux (WT3) of the Wissmilen ascent, since subsequently the summit is easily reached from the Spitzmeilenfurggel along the south-east ridge.

We knew that it would be busy on the Wissmilen summit, but are rather surprised to see that our main goal, the summit of Spitzmeilen just across, is almost as busy. I count at least 23 people reaching the summit today, with several more aborting their ascent and turning back before the steepest part of the couloir that leads to the summit.

We put on our crampons already at the Spitzmeilenfurggel, before doing a slightly exposed traverse around the south side of the Spitzmeilen (probably WT4 with snow shoes). We leave our snow shoes at the bottom of the steep couloir in the south-east face, which provides access to the summit. The snow conditions in the couloir are favorable, with solid steps in the snow all the way up. However, it is so busy that several people are climbing up and down the couloir at the same time, a situation that seems borderline dangerous, especially since not everybody is equally comfortable with the steepness of the terrain. Several people are heading up in their ski boots and are even carrying poles. Personally, I would not have wanted to go up without crampons and an ice axe. It's hard to estimate the steepness of the couloir, but it's definitely well over 45°, which would correspond to an AD (assez difficile / ziemlich schwierig) mountaineering grade. That might seem a little exaggerated, since the difficulties are limited to the 50m tall couloir and there are usually good steps available in the snow. Still, many people seem to find themselves out of their depth in the couloir, so a word of warning is not out of place: in winter, the Spitzmeilen summit should only be attempted by people with previous experience in steep snow slopes! (See also a report by Linard03 with similar experiences.)

Reaching the top of the couloir, the small winter summit (with log book) is immediately to the left, with the even more cramped summer summit (with summit cross) a few metres further to the right, across a short, exposed ridge. There is not much snow on the summit, so the ridge to the summer summit is relatively unproblematic. However, it takes some patience and some 'negotiating' with other summit visitors before there is space for me to climb over to the summit cross and have my picture taken on this iconic peak. Thankfully, there is no time pressure for us, since we are booked in the Spitzmeilenhütte and don't have to get back to Flumserberg today. This also means that we can take our time for a careful and safe descent back down the couloir.

After collecting our snow shoes again, we head east over the Schönegg ridge. Initially the descent is steep, but the terrain soon eases out. Since all the ski mountaineers have turned the other way, back to the Spitzmeilenfurggel, we suddenly find ourselves in a beautiful, relatively undisturbed winter landscape.

A short while later we check in at the Spitzmeilenhütte, which was renovated in 2007 and is now quite modern and comfortable. A large group has cancelled their reservation, meaning that the hut is only half full: frustrating for the wardens of the hut, but it gives even more confort to us. There's a great atmosphere and good food at the dinner table.

Day 2
Spitzmeilenhütte - Fursch - Panüöl - Prodalp - Tannenboden
WT1, 150m ascent, 850m descent, 3h15

As the weather forecast predicted, it has been snowing overnight. We wake up to some 20cm of fresh powder. Having reached our summit objectives already yesterday, we only have a gentle walk back down to Flumserberg on the program for today. Other people have left the Spitzmeilenhütte before us, so a nice trail has already been broken. The conditions are relatively friendly anyway, with only light snow, not much wind and a visibility around 500m. The path down to Fursch is well-marked with orange posts and would still have been safe in much worse weather.

After Alp Fursch, we followed the groomed track for winter hiking and cross country skiing all the way to Tannenboden, passing on the option to take a cable car down from either Panüöl/Maschgenkamm or Prodalp. It's a quiet day in the Flumserberg area, only disturbed every once in a while by the bangs of artificially triggered avalanches in the ski area...

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In spite of the demanding couloir, the Spitzmeilen turned out to be a very popular summit. The ascent would definitely have been more appealing with fewer people around. Going for the summit after spending the night in the Spitzmeilenhütte would be a way to be ahead of the crowds. In our case, the weather forced us to go for the summit already on the first day. But then we got to enjoy perfect conditions, so really there is not much reason to complain. After all, everybody was on the Spitzmeilen for the same reason: a mountain whose difficulty is not to be underestimated, but whose summit is all the more rewarding.

Hike partners: Stijn


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1 Dec 13
Spitzmeilen · tricky
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