Almost like a slanted Table Mountain, the Hoher Ifen towers above the Kleinwalsertal valley. At a height of 2229 m, it is not exactly a giant, but its particular shape makes it really special. For years we have been dreaming of climbing it and this year everything finally seems right.
We have just found out though that it is not actually that easy to reach the peak: the entire summit is surrounded by a ledge, known as the “Ifenmauer”, which only seems to have a few gaps. The normal route, a rope-lined trail in summer, leads through a steep canyon above the ski area through the rock structure.
From a climbing point of view, the difficulties seem manageable, but the ascent leads through the Ifenmulde valley and continues through large, unbroken slopes in the form of crossings – which feel like endless miles, below and along the Ifenmauer. The risk of avalanches is clearly the restraining factor here, because nobody wants to experience a slope of this dimension in motion – especially not while climbing it. But we’re lucky: only a few days ago, the avalanche commission cleared the Ifenmulde of its enormous snow load by blasting it using a gigantic snow slab. Scarily contemplating the dimensions, we climb down the metre-thick, ripped edge to put on our skins for the interesting part of the tour.
With three videographers and a photographer, there are as many people behind the camera today, as in front of it for our film and photo shoot.
Product manager Holger Feist, marketing manager Jan Sallawitz and salesman Christian Morgenroth are the “athletes” today, and EVOC videographers and photographers Baschi Bender and Markus Greber are accompanying them step by step on their climb. Drone filmer, Christian Walter will document the entire setting, together with Daniel Staub. So, besides all the people, a huge amount of material has to be transported up the mountain. A real acid test for our bags and backpacks!
We start off on an easy-going, long stretch across the hillside to the great northern slopes – but even so time is limited: the slopes are huge and in many places the Ifenmauer is crowned by enormous cornices, which you don’t necessarily want on your head. The group gathers below a large boulder. From here it’s a steep climb through the channel and only with an elaborate hairpin bend approach is it even possible to gain more height. The time for the photographers and videographers has now come, because the terrain is spectacular and the views are becoming more and more impressive. The way the “athletes” take the increasingly tight hairpins is certainly worth capturing!
“Contortionists” and “potato beetle in despair” are the most popular images that come to mind. While we are struggling to make our way to the next meeting point, the mountain guide is already preparing the ropes for the only real climbing passage of this tour. In principle, we only need to master a rock face that is about five meters high, but the rock is coated with snow and the grips slope slightly downwards. So, with our entire winter equipment this is a real challenge. But as tempting sunshine is already visible at the exit to the plateau, everyone rushes to get to the top quickly. From here on the impression is completely different: from being in a narrow, shady chimney only a few moments ago, we are now on a huge, flat snow plateau gently rises to the summit cross. With the backdrop of a spectacular panorama, we trudge the last few metres to a well-deserved summit snack.
The view is magnificent: at our feet we have the Gottesacker Plateau and further in the distance is the Bregenz Forest, the Rätikon mountain range and Lake Constance. The Lechquellen range and the grand Allgäu mountains round off the picture.
Feeling fortified, we now face what is probably the most exciting passage of the entire tour: to continue downhill we have to abseil almost forty metres down a rocky spur to the southeasterly slopes. What makes this so special is that the middle part of the wall is overhanging, which means that a good part of the abseiling is without wall contact, but with impressive airtime.
Unfortunately the avalanche situation has deteriorated to such an extent during the day, though, that we have to stay clear of the very large slopes. But even so, we still manage to find plenty of the finest powder snow turns on our way down.
Later, back in the valley, and holding a cold glass of wheat beer in our hands and a little pride in our hearts we look back at this very special mountain, which is now all calm again and covered with afternoon sun.