We stopped in Lienz, Austria while heading down to meet my supporter Jarek of Antofaya Expeditions. A lot of our friends from around the world were attending his paragliding tour this week, and it was really good to see them all again.
Towering above Lienz are the Austrian Dolomites, and a Via Ferrata called the Panorama Way. Here's the link: http://www.bergsteigen.com/klettersteig/tirol/gailtaler-alpen-lienzer-dolomiten/sepp-oberlechner-ged-weg
The hike up to start this Via Ferrata was already long, it took us about three hours to get from the Dolomiten Hutte up to the Karlsbader Hutte and then the steep switchbacks. Luckily it was a nice day with only a small chance of thunderstorms. The Via Ferrata worked its way up and over several sharp peaks and it was just us and the rocks and the scudding clouds.
The peak of the Grosse Sandspitze topped out at 2772 meters, and we were looking forward to an easy descent down to the hut and back to our car. That wasn't to be. Just down from the peak, a bank of old snow covered the cables along a steep section. Crossing looked impossible, so we turned back. Dreading the fact that it had taken us 5 hours to get this far, we retraced our steps and decided to take the emergency exit, a shortcut down the scree to the trail and the hut.
That wasn't to be either. The steep chute was still full of snow, and we had a choice of lots more back tracking, or some steep snow descents without crampons or ice axe. We chose the snow, which was soft in the late afternoon sun, and I began kicking steps and handholds down to the scree below. Slowly and carefully we worked our way down. It wasn't our smartest move but eventually we reached the rocks and slid down the scree to the trail. It was a long descent and probably took longer than going back up and over the via ferrata. Oops. Plus the weather decided to drop a few pellets of grapple on us, but we didn't care as our gloves and shoes were already soaked from the snow. It was very nice to finally get back on the road leading down to our vehicle, 9 hours later.
In retrospect, the fact that no one had signed the guidebook on the peak for over a month should have told us something?