6 - 7
FATMAP difficulty grade
This is the first day of a truly epic ski traverse across one of the wildest parts of Western Europe.
The Karwendel National Park is enormous and said to be the largest uninhabited area in the entire Alps.
The 2 days on this trip are broken up by a night in the Hallerangerhaus mountain hut which is closed in winter but which has an excellent and cosy little winter room in a small, separate building immediately north of the main hut.
There are beds, blankets and a stove in the winter room but you'll need to take your own food, and taking a little gas stove is not a bad idea in case there's no fuel available for the hut stove. The tour starts with the main section of the classic Stempeljoch tour and then branches off into even deeper wilderness.
Ride the Nordkette lift system all the way to the Hafelekar station.
Walk to the hut to the north of the cable car station and then follow a snow slope to the east up for a couple of minutes to reach the top of a funnel-shaped couloir.
Drop into this and enjoy increasingly technical turns as it narrows and then fans out onto a wide slope below.
Ski the slope and follow the valley it leads into north to the foot of the Mandltal valley. Put your skins on and skin up a fairly steep slope leading onto the long and incredibly beautiful west ridge of the Gleierschtaler Brandjoch.
Skin along the ridge, savouring the huge mountain scenery all around you, to where it narrows considerably.
Take your skis off, put them on your pack and traverse for 10 very exposed metres to where it widens again, just before the final slope to the summit.
Skin up this slope to reach the top of the Gleierschtaler Brandjoch east face.
From here you can choose to tag the summit or just get stuck straight into skiing the east face, which provides an exciting descent into the tree filled valley which is home to the Pfeisshütte. The hut is closed in winter so there is little point in detouring to it.
Instead, pass to the south of it and skin up to the Stempeljoch col, which enjoys commanding views of the Rumer Spitze and Großer Lafatscher peaks. Drop north off the col into the utterly wild Halltal valley.
The initial drop off the col is very steep (pushing 40 degrees) but only for 20 metres or so, after which it quickly mellows into a wide slope which provides some fast, rip-able ski terrain. The slope from the col eventually leads you down to the bottom of the Halltal valley itself.
Once in the valley, put skins on again and head due north, zig zagging up to the final col of the day - the Lafatscher Joch.
The ascent to the Lafatscher Joch faces south, is 30 - 35 degrees and has some big terrain above it.
As such, get up it as early in the day as possible (which means you shouldn't waste any time getting from the Hafelekar to the foot of the skin, and once skinning should get up it as quickly as possible) or, if it is already too hot when you arrive, bail on the trip and head down to Hall in Tirol village.
Only skin up to the Lafatscher Joch in acceptably safe conditions. Once on the Lafatscher Joch, ski some lovely mellow terrain which gradually rolls and gets steeper.
Push out rightwards and find a small little shelf which traverses into a big couloir beneath a huge rock wall.
The traverse in goes where the summer path is so with the help of FATMAP you should be able to locate it.
If you can't, you can instead skin up to the very top of the big couloir and drop directly into it. Whichever route you used to reach the couloir enjoy skiing down it and then push out right and traverse to the Hallerangerhaus.
Enjoy a peaceful evening and get an early night!