Canyoning in Ötztal

Obere Rossgumpenbach

Group photo at the start of the canyon. It’s been a long walk up and it’s already 1330!

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A day in which we overreached and decided to bail from the canyon.

The day after our Auerklamm epic, we decided to go for a bit of a drive. A very beautiful canyon was located a few valleys over in Lechtal, the Rossgumpenbach. The road was small and windy, and eventually we halted when a load of motorcyclists came hurtling towards us, gesturing for to turn around. We did so, and followed them to a junction with a farm track, where they stopped.

It turned out there was a huge herd of cows being lead down this mountain road. As the cows drew near, we pulled off down the farm track to avoid them goring our car, and watched the huge procession go. Apparently the road was meant to be closed for this, but there had been no barriers or obvious signs. Whoops.

At the top of the road we found a load of Ferrari supercar drivers waiting impatiently at a wooden barrier. We sneakily opened the barrier and went on through, but the Ferrari car drivers were unwilling to wait behind a load of cows on the other side and instead turned round and blasted down the road afterwards.

Clambering down a relatively open canyon. The rigging is a bit more exposed than Auerklamm.

Eventually we parked in Holzgau and began the long walk up. An hour on a forest track, and then another hour up a steep path in the sun. The exertion of the previous day began to show and we moved slowly and without joy in the beautiful valley. At the top we changed, and were almost immediately cold, with a powerful wind blowing down the canyon.

Rhys abseils down. He has to cross this big pool and reach the bolts, handily located on the far side. In the end, he ties off the end of the rope to these bolts so we can abseil without fear of being washed down the next pitch.

There were beautiful slides, crystal clear waters and lovely smooth rock, but none of that seemed to tempt us to appreciate the canyon. We completed the first few abseils, and the chill wind and awkward bolt placement began to take its toll. There were some stunning abseils – a short one into a big swirling pool, which Rhys had to cross to reach the anchors on the far side, and a long technical abseil with lots of water and path finding.

The final pitch we did it rather technical. It starts dry, but then you have to abseil down a sloping slab, with all of the water raining down on you. Here’s Alex by the side of the main flow, with Chris and Rhys watching from above.

At one point Alex saw my blue water filter floating in a pool, about to go over the edge as I rigged my descender. It dropped out of sight, and I hurried down to retrieve it. At the bottom I fumbled for my whistle to signal rope free, keeping my eyes fixed on the filter, which was slowly sinking to the bottom of the next pool. I managed to find the whistle, blow and then dive in, just rescuing the filter before it sank from reach – I’d already lost one on a previous trip and wanted to keep this one!

Whoops! A bit too slippery. He’s fine.

We came to a long walking section with easy escapes. I thought we would warm up, out of the water and moving quickly, but by the end we were all still tired and unhappy. The most positive thing anyone would say is that they would keep going if everyone else did – hardly a resounding endorsement of the canyon!

With heavy hearts we bailed here and walked back to retrieve our dry clothes stashed below. After some minutes of frosty silence we got joking again and realised that had we kept going, we would have finished the canyon well after dark. After a less eventful drive back, we found a restaurant that did both vegetarian pizzas and vast plates of meat, satisfying everyone.

Fortunately this was not a trip where anything actually went wrong. In hindsight we clearly should’ve realised how tired we were from the previous day, and how a two hour walk in would not help with that. It was a beautiful canyon and I’d gladly go back some time, hopefully in better condition!

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