A Summer in Europe!

Frankfurt Train Station
Frankfurt Train Station

Earlier this week Claudia and I arrived in Germany! We are spending a few weeks in her hometown of Dresden visiting her family and friends and soaking in the ambience of this beautiful city.

But this is just the beginning of our journeys here; we have all summer long to spend trekking around in the Alps! Our plan is to not have a plan – which is the best way to travel. But we do have lots of ideas. The rough outline will be to head south to Bavaria and spend some time in the German Alps. From there we’ll continue into Austria, then possibly down into the Dolomites in Italy. We’ll be back in Dresden at the end of August, then back to the Alps again for September, maybe to the Mt. Blanc area?

Basically, we’re just going to wing it and travel as fast or slow as we feel like. Of course whatever we do will surely involve a lot of hut trekking and photography, with some fun via ferrata climbing here and there to spice things up. For the next three months we’ll be living out of two backpacks and a roller duffel bag, mostly utilizing the efficient train network here to get around.

In an effort to minimize my “eLife” during our travels I won’t be posting blow-by-blow photo trip reports of every trek, nor fully-processed landscape photos, but I will be posting snapshots and short journals from each adventure. So check back often to see what we’re up to!

Auf Wiedersehen!

Nostalgia

I am in the midst of the worst snowboarding season I’ve experienced in my snowboarding career. With the super sketchy avalanche conditions here in Colorado this winter, I haven’t been snowboarding much at all, and I can’t help but reminisce about better times on the snow! Below are a few photos of me snowboarding at Engelberg, Switzerland last winter, taken by my friends Kevin and Jonas.

Snowboarding Engelberg Switzerland

Snowboarding Engelberg Switzerland

Snowboarding Engelberg Switzerland

As you may know if you follow this blog, last winter I spent most of the season in Engelberg, Switzerland. It wasn’t exactly a big winter there either – at least statistically speaking. The season was characterized by occasional big storms followed by weeks of sun. At the time, I enjoyed exploring all kinds of new terrain in the spectacular Alps, but I was also thinking that, well, it just wasn’t that great of a winter. The thing is, when I was in the midst of it, during those weeks-long dry stretches I couldn’t help but think that way. I couldn’t help but think about how much better it could be, about how much more powder I could potentially have been riding on a more generous snow season.

Funny thing is, from my perspective a year later, looking back on my winter in Switzerland I can only remember it as nothing short of epic! This is a phenomenon I’ve experienced before, after other big trips. As time passes I forget about all the in-between downtimes, and all the highlights condense into what I can only recall as a fantastic series of experiences! Indeed, when I think about all the powder days and incredible descents I did score in the Alps last winter, it really does stand out in my mind as one of my most memorable winters.

I think it’s amazing how our memories do this – how they become refined over time, how the mundane stretches of time condense and settle into insignificance while the high points come together and grow in prominence in our minds. Yet I also wonder why it takes me a year or more to gain the perspective to see just how special those moments were as a whole. It’s a great thing to have memories that I can forever cherish and reflect upon, but it’s not good to only be able to truly appreciate those experiences through the rear view mirror. So, I think it’s important to strive for that perspective in the moment. Of course the highlights will be sweet while they’re happening, but it’s those in-between downtimes when I need to relax and see the bigger picture, instead of expecting everything to be awesome every single day and being disappointed when it’s not.

This last month and a half has been one big “in-between downtime” – not snowboarding much, not photographing much, not really getting outside much at all. But I’m not bothered by it. In fact I’m taking advantage of it. I’ve actually been having fun working on some big projects that I’ve had on the back burner for years; I wake up every morning eager to get back to work and get it all finished while I have this chance to focus. So while I know that this snowboarding season will be forgettable, I’m making the best of it in other ways. And in the meantime, I can still savor my memories of powder days past!

Panorama of Engelberg, Switzerland

LARGER VERSION here!

Panoramic view of Titlis and pretty much most of the terrain of Engelberg.

I look at this photo now and I recall so many sweet descents all throughout this incredible terrain. At left center where the radio tower is is the top of Titlis – it takes one gondola and two tram rides to ascend the 6,000 vertical feet to the top there. Below that is the Steinberg Glacier. At far left is the Laub, an incredible 3,000 vert slackcountry face. Behind that is Fürenalp, and way back behind there is the Surenen valley. In the center is Jochstock, with its great lines off either side. To the right of that, more great terrain.

You can see all my favorite ski and snowboard photos from my winter in Switzerland here.

Griessental Sunset Panorama

Griessental, sunset, Switzerland, alpenglow, panorama

Griessental Sunset Panorama : Prints Available

Sunset light illuminates the snow-filled valley of Griessental, February 2011.

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Here’s a photo from my archives, from February last winter in Switzerland. You can see more photos from this hike here.

Back home in “the Switzerland of America” this winter, I haven’t been getting out into the mountains as much as I’d like due to the sketchy avalanche conditions. On the bright side, I’ve been taking the opportunity to work on some projects that have been on the back burner for years. Among other things, I’m learning Adobe InDesign book publishing software and am excited to start creating some photo books. I might even have time to finally put together a screensaver app for sale on my website. So, stay tuned… I’ve got some good stuff in the pipe!

The Sandstone Mountains

Elbsandstein sandstone mountains near Dresden, Germany

Last week we were in Claudia’s hometown of Dresden, Germany, visiting her family there and seeing the sights of this beautiful city. One day Claudia’s father Gundolf and brother Ferdinand took us to the nearby Elbsandstein Mountains, aka the “Saxonian Switzerland”. I was surprised and impressed by these mountains, which are among the more unique mountains I’ve seen. Large sandstone towers jut out of the surrounding forests and hills like a surreal combination of Utah canyonlands and the Pacific Northwest. Gundolf led us on a fantastic day hike that wound through narrow gorges, foggy forests, high ridges, and also included several climbing routes and via ferrata scrambles along the way. Continue reading “The Sandstone Mountains”

Bernese Oberland Ski Hut Tour

Kransbergfirn, Aletschhorn, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland, skiing

Skiing, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland, Äbeni Flue, Konkordiaplatz

Finsteraarhorn, skiing, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

Galmihorn, skiing, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

This last week I went on a ski hut tour in the Bernese Oberland mountains of Switzerland. This is the heart of the Swiss Alps, and during the course of 6 days we skied a variety of routes across the largest glacier system in the Alps. Each night we ate and slept in Swiss alpine huts along the way.

Read further to see the whole trip report from this incredible adventure, with LOTS more photos and info about the trip! Continue reading “Bernese Oberland Ski Hut Tour”

Matterhorn Stars

Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland, stars

Matterhorn Stars : Prints Available

Stars over the Matterhorn, as a rising 10% moon illuminates the sky with pastel hues - as seen from Zermatt.  The camera's high sensitivity long exposure "sees" much more than what was visible to the naked eye; when I took this photo, I could barely even see the shape of the Matterhorn.
Matterhorn, stars, Zermatt, Switzerland

Matterhorn Stars #2 : Prints Available

Dim moonlight, stars, and the Matterhorn.  This was taken after "Matterhorn Stars #1", and by then the very first light of dawn had brightened the sky quite a bit, though still barely perceptible with the naked eye.

3 Days of Splitboarding

Skiing Schafberg, Engelberg, Switzerland

This week I met up with Jonas, a splitboarder from Finland, and we went on splitboard tours around Engelberg on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Here are a few photos from the last three days.

In the top photo, you can see Wetterhorn down the valley.

Splitboarding below Titlis, Engelberg, Switzerland

Titlis dominates the scene at Fürenalp.

Continue reading “3 Days of Splitboarding”

Matterhorn Moonlight

Matterhorn, winter, moonlight, Zermatt, Switzerland

Matterhorn Moonlight : Prints Available

Moonlight illuminates the Matterhorn as a winter storm clears. 
Matterhorn, moon, Zermatt, Switzerland, Cervino

Matterhorn Moonset : Prints Available

The full moon sets behind the Matterhorn (4478m / 14,692 ft.) - March.
Matterhorn, alpenglow, sunrise, Zermatt, Switzerland, Gornergrat

Matterhorn Alpenglow : Prints Available

Sunrise alpenglow paints the summit of the Matterhorn (4478m / 14,692 ft.), as seen from Gornergrat.

The Matterhorn is the icon of icons – easily the most photographed and recognizable mountain on Earth. While I normally try to resist photographing the most iconic, oft-photographed landscapes, the Matterhorn’s magnetic pull is too much for any photographer to resist, especially me!

With a full moon and hopes for a clearing storm, this last weekend Claudia and I splurged for a one-night vacation to Gornergrat, a hotel perched on a high ridgeline nearly 5,000 feet above the town of Zermatt, with an incredible view of the Matterhorn. Though it was snowing as we rode up on the Gornergratbahn rack train, the storm broke shortly after sunset and I was super stoked to catch some photos of the iconic peak in the moonlight!

See more photos below! Continue reading “Matterhorn Moonlight”