4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
This is a true Tirolian classic and a much sought after line.
It requires so many skills that only experienced, skilled and knowledgeable skiers need apply.
Before even setting out you will need to exercise judgement about whether the ascent, the traverse into the couloir and the couloir itself will be safe from avalanche.
There is a lot of exposed terrain on this tour and so picking the right day is the first step to skiing it successfully.
If you get it right, and have the pre-requisite skills, you'll struggle to find a better ski adventure than this anywhere in Austria. Start on the road up to Maria Waldrast from Matrei am Brenner (by early March you can drive up the road but before March you'll need to skin up it) and skin south past the Ochsenalm hut into the beautiful valley beneath the imposing east face of Serles. Follow the valley and then skin south-west, either up the open gully shown here, or via the line shown for Serles.
Which route you pick will depend on snow conditions and how worried you are about avalanches coming down from higher above you on Serles (the line shown here is slightly more exposed to the slopes above). Both routes up meet in the hanging valley beneath the south face of Serles.
Skin up this valley, heading for the Serlesjöchl col, which is clearly visible straight ahead. The ascent to the col is quite gentle but kicks up slightly at the end.
The col itself is amazing, with big views of where you've just come from and down into the Stubai valley.
Take your skins off and put your skis on your bag - the next time they are on your feet you'll be skiing! Climb the south-southwest ridge of Serles, initially over some short cable-protected rocky steps, and then on a good path.
Due to the frequent strong winds the path is normally clear of snow but even if it is snow covered and not visible, the ridge is easy to follow.
It's not hard but the rocky steps at the beginning require basic scrambling skills and a reasonable head for heights. Where the ridge begins to widen out, leave it and begin traversing left (north) across an exposed snow/rock slope.
Depending on conditions, crampons could come in very useful here.
(There is also the option to go to the summit of Serles and come back down to this point - allow about 40 minutes if you want to detour to the summit.) Keep traversing until you cross through a small rock band which leads you directly to the hanging col at the top of the north couloir.
The col itself is fabulous and is surrounded by huge, intimidating mountain terrain and yet is wide and flat enough that you can move around and get yourself organised. There is a compulsory abseil to access the line and you will need a 30 metre rope.
The anchor for the abseil is already in place and the abseil leads you onto a steep snow slope which overlooks the main north couloir.
From the foot of the abseil, pull the ropes and then ski rightwards, shuffle down to an exposed shelf and then ski back down and left into the main couloir.
If the ski out right and back left looks to be in bad condition, you can crampon down instead, or another option is to down climb around 20 metres directly from the foot of the first abseil to reach another abseil anchor on the left (as you look down).
From here you can make another abseil into the couloir proper, but this second abseil is 30 metres so you will need two 30 metre ropes to do it.
If you're not sure what conditions are going to be like at the start of the couloir, the extra weight of bringing a second 30 metre rope (instead of just the one you require for the initial abseil) is probably worth it for the extra options it gives you. Regardless of how you got there, you'll find yourself at the start of the couloir proper.
Take a few minutes to soak in the extraordinary ambience, and savour the excitement of knowing that you are about to ski between 2 spectacular, towering rock walls. The skiing is never too steep or difficult but it's sustained and challenging.
Enjoy every turn and seek out any fun-looking variation. As the couloir begins to open up into a wide slope, enjoy some more great turns but begin to drift right and aim to cross underneath the furthest right rock buttress you can see.
From the foot of this, traverse across open slopes and then into the trees, holding your height as best you can, all the way to the track north-west of Maria Waldrast monastery/mountain hut.
Turn right and ski easily down the track for a minute to reach Maria Waldrast.
Grabbing a bite to eat and toasting your success with a beverage is compulsory! All that's left once you've eaten, drunk and said hello to the monks is a short, easy ski back to the car.