Personen auf einer Skihochtour, im Hintergrund der Titlis

Winter sports

Alpine ski tour: our Titlis round trip

  • #Ski tours
Elia
Sales advisor, Transa store Markthalle Bern
© Fotos

The Titlis round trip offers you everything you need from an Alpine ski tour: rapid descents, razor-sharp gradients, abseiling aplenty and stunning panoramic views. Below we report on our experience of the tour and plus the details if you want to try it yourself.

Engelberg is still in a deep slumber as we set off early and make our way to the Titlis cable car station. It’s already April and the season is drawing to a close. But we’re not bothered: all the better to avoid the snow-hungry crowds. We hop on the first cable car with the resort personnel at 7 am and enjoy a nice head start. Yet there’s a slightly nervous sense of anticipation on the gondola towards Klein Titlis: what snow conditions await us? How’s our schedule looking?

First descent

Shortly after sunrise, we reach the mountain station (3,030 metres above sea level) and soak up the magical, cloudless panoramic views – the steps towards the exit and the thin air get our pulses racing for the first time. Just before we embark on our first descent of the day, Bruno goes through the avalanche transceiver check with us. With our climbing harnesses on and helmets fitted, we’re good to go! We hurtle down the shaded, icy Titlis glacier with our skis clattering against the surface. In no time we reach the start of the ridge via a steep flank on the left, heading towards Vorderes Titlisjoch. We need our wits about us as a single slip could be fatal. 

  • Alpine skiers on the Titlis

    Transceiver check before first descent.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Aussicht auf verschneitem Titlis

    The Alpine ski tour continues along the ridge.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Panoramasicht auf dem Titlis

    Skis in our backpacks, secured in a rope team – on we go.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Skihochtourer auf dem Titlis
    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Skihochtourer:innen am Abseilen
    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Verschneite Abseilstelle beim Titlis
    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Skihochtourerin beim Abseilen
    Photo © Ruedi Thomi

Exposed on the ridge

We’re welcomed by biting winds on the ridge. Good news, as the snow remains nice and compact despite the sun. We rope up, attach our skis and carefully position one ski boot in front of the other. The ridge has now become very narrow – flanked by the abyss on both sides. If someone were to fall now, the other person would have to offset their weight on the opposite side. But we master this key section with ease and now the abseiling awaits. How are we doing for time? 

Gradual descent

Thanks to the snowy winter, there’s plenty of snow in the position and couloir below towards the Wenden Glacier and the cornices are compact. Conditions are good! Mountain guide Bruno and understudy Sebi have to be on the ball; the real challenge awaits 600 metres further down – steep moraines located in a south-facing, wind-protected basin on the way to the bivouac. The risk of wet snow avalanches increases by the minute in these temperatures.

Rock faces to the left, imposing cornices above, icicles sparkling in the sunlight to the right – a recipe for unforgettable moments! Next up two are belays, and the first of them we have to dig out. The temperature rises and the snow gets wetter with every metre of abseiling. We’re already in spring-like snow as we descend and traverse the massive avalanche cones.

Toward the cosy bivouac

We tackle the ascent without additional layers of warm clothing. The sun is intense at this stage. Despite our cautious urgency to avoid a wet snow situation in these temperatures, we remember to take a short drink break and look back with pleasure!

  • Skihochtourer:innen auf dem Wendengletscher

    The Alpine ski tour continues across the Wenden Glacier.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Das verschneite Grassenbiwak

    The Grassen bivouac is our home for the night.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Abendessen im Grassenbiwak

    Supper in the Grassen bivouac.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi

After a few sweaty metres’ elevation and hairpin turns, finally we reach the open plains of the Wenden Glacier. As we proceed across the eternal ice in a trance-like state, the expanse seems endless – as do the panoramic views!

Today’s destination, the Grassen bivouac, comes into view. We make quick work of the last few metres across the Tierberg towards the bivouac … a welcome break awaits. Our accommodation has plenty of views, snow, space and cosiness – it’s even got a small wine cellar. After a well-deserved lunch and an afternoon siesta, we sit down for a nice dinner, savour the last rays of sunshine on the horizon and enjoy the time together as the evening draws to a close.

The Grassen calls

Quarter to four – the alarm goes off. We quickly pack our backpacks, grab a cup of tea and a bar as our first snack, and head off to the summit, guided by our headlamps with our crampons attached.

After an enjoyable ascent, the summit cornice awaits. Bruno out in front, guiding us along with the ridge to the left and the glacier dropping steeply to the right. We reduce the light on our headlamps to a minimum and reach the summit just as the sun rises. Time stands still.

What a moment! The entire mountain range bathed in magical light thanks to the rising sun. We’ll be savouring these moments for weeks to come. But now our stomachs are rumbling. It’s time for the descent.

Descent in sun and slush

The first rapid descent leads us to the bivouac where treat ourselves to a hearty breakfast.

We then continue our descent towards the Engelberg valley: hard and fresh at the top, soft and warm at the bottom. At 2,000 metres above sea level, at 8.30 am, the snow cover is already soft and damp – tricky turns with lots of quick sections.

  • Sonnenaufgang über den Bergen
    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Vorbereitungen im Biwak

    It’s still early as we get ready.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Skihochtourer:innen beim Sonnenaufgang

    Ascent guided by our headlamps.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Sonnenaufgang auf dem Grassen Gipfel

    Reaching the summit of the Grassen.

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Skifahrer auf dem Gipfel
    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Abfahrt nach Engelberg

    Descent towards Engelberg

    Photo © Ruedi Thomi
  • Skihochtourer:innen beim Abstieg

    The last few metres by foot.

What a moment! The entire mountain range bathed in magical light thanks to the rising sun. We’ll be savouring these moments for weeks to come. But now our stomachs are rumbling. It’s time for the descent.

We reattach our skis and the last few hundred metres down in the valley. An avalanche cone on the left reminds us of the snowy winter, while on the right we see a lush green alpine meadow: winter and spring combined. What a tour!

Tour report: Titlis round trip

Start/finish: Engelberg

Duration: 7 h Elevation gain: 610 m 2560 m

Difficulty: moderate

Arrival/departure: Take the train or bus to Engelberg, then take the Titlis cable car to Klein Titlis.

Trip profile: Glacier descent, climb over the ridge edge, abseil 50 metres through a narrow couloir, second descent followed by two more abseils, ascent to the Grassen bivouac, descent to Engelberg. Optional: Grassen ascent.

Note: Avalanche safety kit (probe, avalanche transceiver, shovel) and Alpine touring equipment are mandatory.

Maps: 1:50,000 sheet 255 Sustenpass, 1:25,000 sheet 1211 Meiental.

An avalanche or ski touring course with a professional from Höhenfieber will have you well prepared for your next tour.

  • #Ski tours

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