On Saturday, February 16, 2019, I was able to activate a summit that had been on my list for long: The Spuller Schafberg, 2679m, OE/VB-083, one of the peaks surrounding the Ravensburger Hut (closed in winter but with an accessible winter shelter). This was the first activation and the first winter activation in one turn :-).
Logistics and Route Descriptions
The Spuller Schafberg is in the Lech valley area, close to Zug, in the Arlberg region where alpine skiing was actually invented. In the summer, the normal route is a steep mountain hike from the Ravensburger Hut (see e.g. https://www.hoehenrausch.de/berge/spuller-schafberg/). There is also a challenging classic rock climbing route from the North (see e.g. http://www.super-gsi.net/2011/08/eine-alpine-herausforderung-spuller-schafberg and here https://snowlion.at/web/bergsteigen/alpintour-detail-seite/-/asset_publisher/HIzy6Ax3HykI/content/alpintour-spuller-schafberg-2679-m); a trad route in the UIAA V level with, as far as I know, no bolts or fixed installations whatsoever.
In the winter, one can either go from Zug via the Stierlochjoch and the Ravensburger Hut, taking the south-east face (very steep), or from Zug via the northern faces; the first part of this approach is similar to the skitour to the Mehlsack, the neighboring summit, which is very popular in winter (many crazy people even do heli-skiing for the poor to that summit, sorry for the pun; this is just a useless waste of resources).
We took the northern approach, because we would expect better snow for the descent and because the steepest parts are a bit less steep. The approach from the south might be safer in Spring conditions (very early in the morning after a cold night).
Our route is described here: https://www.bergwelten.com/t/s/9642
Parking is a bit difficult in Zug; start early - ideal is the small parking lot near the toll station at the very end of the small route from Zug to the Spullersee.
Even though the link above classifies the route as “moderate”, it has significant challenges. Most faces in the ascent are steeper than 30 degrees and the main exposition is north-northeast, so you will face better snow for skiing down, but also higher avalanche risks in general.
As the neighboring Mehlsack is so popular in winter, the ascent up to where the two routes split is hard to miss due to the many slopes. At the ridge at 2530m, however, the nature of the two routes change: To the Mehlsack, there is a trotten path. To the Spuller Schafberg, there were no signs of previous ascents, despite the good weather. Since the final faces are pretty steep (35 - 38 degrees I guess), we first tried to avoid that face and find a passage through the rocks. After 30 minutes and finding ourselves in terribly loose rock, we turned around and made a very careful descent back to the ridge.
After a thorough assessment of the avalanche risks, we decided to make an attempt on skis through the steep face, with a lot of safety distance between the two of us. It is quite a difference drawing your own ascent line into maiden snow in a steep mountain face than following a popular trail, also from the level of adrenaline ;-).
We made it to the next ridge near a rock tower (“Gendarm”) and took a right turn to make the final ascent via the east-northeast face. On the summit, there are two crosses on a rather large plateau.
By 14:05Z, we arrived on the summit.
I used my TinySOTA station (MTR3 with power + accessories in a single enclosure), the @HB9BCB EFHW with traps for 40-30-20m, attached to a 6m carbon-fibre mast from Decathlon, deployed in an inverted-V from North to South.
By 14:15Z, my @HB9BCB 3-band EFHW with traps was deployed and ready for use and I started calling CQ on 7.031 by 14:19Z. An RBNhole spot followed two minutes later at 14:21Z. Propagation on 40m was quite good:
It took a short while until @OH6KSX called (14:22Z) and the first QSO was logged. SP9PND followed, then @HB9AGH. Shortly thereafter, I was about to complete the exchange with an OZ station, but a very aggressive PA station kept calling over and over again, ignoring my “OZ? OZ?” requests. Unfortunately, I could not complete the OZ contact. I was then able to work @EA2DT and @OM1AX despite further PA QRM. I had actually planned to not work any PA station from that summit, but still took @PA0SKP in order not to punish a third party.
By 14:36 I had to QRT because my partner was getting cold, the day was fading, and we still had 1200m of descent ahead of us.
A big thanks to all chasers!
And a plea to the unknown PA station (and all others): Please send your call only once, and obey requests for partial callsigns or regions. In the time I lost fighting off the PA QRM, I could have made 5 - 8 more contacts on that first activation. Nobody is perfect, and least am I, but we should all try to keep this an enjoyable activity.
We then had a great descent, skiing down 1200 m vertical distance in perfect powder. Man, that was a joyful alpine experience!
Attached, please find a few pictures.
73 de Martin, DK3IT
Romantic winter wonderland at the beginning:
The ridge between Spuller Schafberg and Mehlsack (view towards Spuller Schafberg):
Failed attempt on foot via the rocks:
The steep face (lots of adrenaline):
On the final ridge (look towards the Gendarm (tower of rock)):
Final Ascent (picture taken after our descent; this face was maiden before our visit):
On the summit:
Downhill powder fun:
Look back to the Spuller Schafberg (the summit on the right end of the ridge in the background):