Kellerjoch Chapel

OFF PISTE ADVENTURES

Kellerjoch Chapel Splitboarding

A popular summer tourist destination with a mountain hut nearby this impressive location isn't that far from Mayrhofen. The chapel sits on a knife edge ridge at 2344m above a very quiet local resort in Schwaz.

We just had to figure out a time and a plan to reach the summit and as per usual we’d have a decent amount of success, failure, sweaty hiking, lovely powder and chilly nights ahead. Here are some of the highlights of multiple trips to this epic location.

Mission 1 - Night Navigation

We’d decided that aiming for an overnight camp at the high altitude summer hut would be the perfect mid-staging point for an early morning ascent. From looking over the maps and google earth etc, it looked to be a straight forward approach with a final steep pitch to the hut.

We cruised down the valley and looped back to the local ski resort that would give us a welcome uplift. Due to coaching during the day we started the adventure late afternoon. Heading out from the top lift station things moved pretty well. Obviously any splitboard mission is gonna be an effort, especially after a full day of riding, yet the progression was steady and the views were amazing as the sun started to drop over Innsbruck.

As we started to rise further towards our goal the wind started to pickup. The valley funnels the weather and we started to feel the breeze kicking in the higher we got. The progression was still steady as we reached the final pitch where the conditions took a turn for the worst.

The wind had created a crust on the upper snow layers and you broke through to a soft deep base layer with every step. Without snow shoes we decided to go for the boot pack option, but it was stupidly hard to make any progression. With the light fading and the wind picking up we decided to call it.

Getting back was entertaining. Night navigation, riding off-piste and then cruising down the pitch black piste was actually really cool. We made it back safely to review our strategy and plan for another attempt.

Mission 2 - Overnight Success

On our second attempt the conditions were a lot more favourable. It was another afternoon mission. The snow was more compacted and we cruised up to the mountain hut to witness an amazing sunset. After some welcomed dinner and a build of a snow bank to reduce the effect of the wind, we settled down to a chilly night waiting to head up to the chapel the next day. 

It was a mellow start to the morning hike, but it soon got technical as I had to traverse a knife edge ridge to get to the final face. The next problem was the face was super icy. Luckily I had my ice axe and I could use that for stability and cut in some steps where required to enable me to make the final pitch. Crampons would have made this super easy. Another bit of kit to bring …It was cool to finally make it to the chapel and admire the views before a tentative decent and then an icy shred mission back to the resort as we worked out a future powder route back to civilisation.

Mission 3 - Scoping New Routes

On a day off I’d completed some scoping of the back of Fugen to see about a valley that would link up to the Chapel. I’d seen a summer hut in the middle of nowhere on the maps, plus on the last ascent of the peak I’d seen some ski tourers arriving from the direction of Fugen.

I pulled some of the crew together and we blasted up a local lift to save us around 500m of climbing and headed up to scope out the potential entrances and exits to the valley. It looked to be a very straight forward entrance with some great faces to be had, so I logged everything for a future big mission.

Mission 4 - Dawn Walk

It was spring time and the snow was rapidly changing. Our last week before the pandemic changed life as we know I pushed for a final big mission for the crew. Amy and I set off early from our end point to take a relaxed split through the trees to meet the rest of the crew at the half way point. The crew benefitted from a cable car up via Fugen.

After a quick changeover we started a chilled climb to the Chapel. Progression was steady, but I pushed the crew pretty hard, especially as this was day one, run one of their camp. Basically a 500m morning ascent with fresh pow on the way down, so not all bad.   

Considering the carnage for the rest of 2020 it was an awesome day to bow out of legit off piste shredding.

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