A few weeks ago I came to this area, intending to hike to the Wildsee area. I kept sinking into the snow. Knee-deep. So, after a couple of hundred metres, I gave up. Deciding that this wasn’t going to work. On Sunday, I came back with Barbara. This time we were going to make our own snowshoe trail to Wildsee.
We decided to do the ascent to Pizolhütte the hard way, using the Pizolbahn cableway that starts in Wangs. This three-stage cableway starts with a ride in a cozy little cabin. With us in the gondola we had Ronnie and dad Silvio who lives locally in Wangs. Ronnie picked up that we were speaking English and started a conversation with us. I had to draw pictures in the air of Africa to show them where South Africa, my native country is. English was definitely the favourite second language of our young companion.
Ronnie wanted to know if we had already climbed the local peak, Gonzen, the prominent little peak rising to 1,830m above Wangs. The peak, which sits on the eastern end of the massif that contains Churfirsten, is somewhat dwarfed by the highest of the Churfirsten, Hinterrugg which rises to 2,306m. But, it does have a really impressive rock-ridge which runs from a long way down all the way to the summit. A route for another day, maybe…
On the chairlift on the next cableway stage, Barbara and I added layers. The cold wind blowing tears from our eyes, only marginally protected by sunglasses. The final third stage was equally freezing, but fortunately quite a bit shorter. At Pizolhütte the sun was shining bright and warm. A cup of coffee and a shared Mandelstange later, a visit to the loo, and we were ready to get our gaiters and snowshoes on.
On the ‘trail’ to Wildsee – this time with snowshoes
The first part of the unmarked ‘trail’ climbed to a small outcrop. A couple of trails had been laid by ski-touring parties making our life somewhat easier. We picked the one that went over the top of the little outcrop, hoping to connect with the main valley at a higher point than the trail that contoured around the side. In the end we probably gained a bit by going over the top, rather than around and down. Seasoned mountaineers will normally avoid up-and-overs, and choose the contour to get around an obstacle, as you burn a lot less energy going around, rather than over. And if I had the map with me, I would have been able to make an informed decision. But I did not, so had to look at the slopes and make a judgement which fortunately paid off for us.
At the foot of the valley we went the longer way, which moved us further away from the steep slope, and the possibility of being in the path of an avalanche being released. For a short distance, we were in an exposed position. But we moved through it quickly and onto safe terrain, where a bank on our right would protect us from any snow rushing from the slope above us. Then we started climbing the long valley, which Barbara later called the ‘stairway to heaven’ on her instagram account. The going was soft, i.e., slow and tiring. With every step we were picking up a few hundred grams of snow, which added to the weight of the snowshoes.
We took our time, working our way up the valley to the saddle overlooking Wildsee. A few zigs followed by a few zags, and then one final section, with the slope now less steep – Barbara’s ‘stairway to heaven, and then we were standing in the saddle, looking down at Wildsee and across to Pizol. The peak we climbed in August 2019. Barbara’s first grade II Alpine climb.
With the wind howling through the gap and the prospect of it dropping if we head over to Pizol being low, we decided not to go down to Wildsee and across to Pizol. Instead, we rerouted and went in the opposite direction towards Pardiel. This meant retracing our path for part of the way. We stopped for a cup of tea a little way down from the saddle, where we were able to find some shelter. The tea was cold, almost as soon as we poured it, so we drank quickly and left quickly. A few skiers passed us on the way down, going a whole lot quicker than we were…
Towards the base of the valley, we met up with a group of four young people from Vietnam. They were talking to a group of skiers. I noticed they had running shoes on – totally unsuitable for the terrain. When I questioned them, they mentioned that their shoes were already wet, and wet shoes being the first step towards possible frost-bite, I and the party of skiers both advised them not to continue.
On the outcrop above Pizolhütte we stopped and made sandwiches. While we were having our lunch, they came past on their way down. We chatted some more. Advised them to rent some snowshoes from Pizolhütte and come back on another occasion.
After our lunch, we continued. First to Laufböden, and then downhill to Pardiel, on this magnificent panoramic trail. Arriving at Pardiel more than five hours after we set off from Pizolhütte. After a lovely cold shandy for me and an Apfelschorle (Applespritzer) for Barbara we queued up for the gondola ride. Reluctant to leave the sunshine behind.
How to get to Pizol area
The Pizol tourist website contains a lot of information, including how to get there, marked snowshoe trails, operating times of cableways, etc.
Map of our trail on snowshoes to Pizol
Max elevation: 2498 m
Min elevation: 1625 m
Total climbing: 427 m
Total descent: -1023 m