Project High King

Planning a solo unaided climb on my first 'Ultra'
HochkÖnig and übergrossene Glacier

An ultra-prominent peak, or Ultra for short, is a mountain summit with a topographic prominence of 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) or more; it is also called a P1500. There are approximately 1,524 such peaks on Earth. Some peaks, such as the Matterhorn, Eiger and Lhotse are not Ultras because they are connected to higher mountains by high cols and therefore do not achieve enough topographic prominence.

The term "Ultra" originated with earth scientist Stephen Fry, from his studies of the prominence of peaks in Washington in the 1980s. His original term was "ultra major mountain", referring to peaks with at least 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) of prominence. (Wikipedia).

HochkÖnig, is the 6th Ultra prominent summit in the European Alps. Austria has 4 Ultras within the top 10 of Europen Ultras, these are in order of prominence: Großglockner; Wildspitzer; HochkÖnig; and Hoher Dachstein



Clouds clear on a recce approach towards Hochkonig (Winter 2019).
Taking a break on skis
Getting closer

Maria Alm

Looking forward to a winter (2018-2019) of skiing the Berchesgaden Alps in Austria, no matter how good (or bad) one is, one can always grow in confidence and ability applying the core principles of coaching and achieving something new through self-reflection, self-awareness and self-believe; setting goals and overcoming challenges as one skis the HochkÖnig mountains, one of the most spectacular ski regions in Austria.  


While in summer it is time to farm and take the cows higher up into the mountains, with their traditional Glocken (bells) around their necks, which you will hear echoing across the valleys as they enjoy the high green pastures and you trek the high passes. In winter as the first snows begin to fall, it is time for the barn to fill up with sounds of shuffling, and neck stretching mooing, as the cows strain for their summer grass now spread as fodder; and your thoughts turn to the high white peaks. Austria is very different to my home in Denmark.


There is a sub-text to the art and science of alpine skiing and coaching, which can be applied to personal achievement and fulfillment. As you start your journey from the mountain peak to the valley, what has been engendered in me: is the need to take complete control to know when to apply pressure or to ease off; not to look down but to keep my eyes firmly fixed on my goal; to lean forward, always moving onwards; to know when to make that sweeping and carving change in direction; to scan the landscape in front of me anticipating risk and danger; to be able to stop suddenly, when the unexpected approaches; and then choose a different way. Most of all to relax with total confidence and become part of the mountain, not trying to control it, fight it or conquer it, but becoming part of that all encompassing, enveloping nature of the high peaks.


Suddenly as I ski, after a curving sweep my eyes are fixed on my goal, down in the valley. I am not concentrating on how I should be moving, technically what I should be doing, it is just happening naturally. Now is a moment of sheer exhilaration, no effort is required, I'm skiing with and on the mountain, down and further down. Nearly there, I can see the Schihütte; journeys end. Pressure on the right ski, I sweep across the snow and with parallel skis and a flurry of snow come to a halt. 


Twisting, behind me, I use one of my ski sticks to push down on both bindings and free my boots from the skis, burying skis and sticks upright in the snow, but also burying trepidation and anxiety, replaced by proficiency, adeptness, expertise and accomplishment. I open the door of the SchihÜtte, there is no need to remove my boots and suddenly I am in a very different world. Laughing, chatting, live music from the sound of an accordion accompanied by singing. Sizzling pans of Tiroler GrÖstl, are emerging from the kitchen behind the bar and being served to hungry skiers, some with their dogs snoozing under the tables. Children and some very big children are tucking into their Kaiserschmarrn and drowning glasses of Stiegl Weissbier; (Kaiserschmarrn; the favourite dish of the Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph I, consists of shredded pancake with local mountain berries and fruit, usually in Maria Alm blueberries and apple). Above the fire in the corner alcove at an acute angle a wooden crucifix hangs, seeming to cast a blessing across the animated and spirited room, affirming the positive gift of life.


As I find a small space and squeeze in between a window and the bar, hanging up my ski helmet, that most welcome of words comes; 'Bitte'. I have my reply ready, 'Ein groβes Glas Weiβbier bitte'. Soon the tall slender glass of Edelweiss Weissbier is in front of me. Outside it is now dark and silent, but then through the window, I see lights and noise pierces the air, tracked snow ploughs like two giant laser eyed beetles are making their way up the mountain, to prepare the slopes for tomorrow.    


It has been 'der perfekte tag' (the perfect day) and applying the principles of coaching has paid off, way beyond my expectations. I now know where I'm going, what I'm going to do, then that line from 'Vejen til Sankt Gilgen' (The Road to Saint Gilgen)* is suddenly in my mind; 'don't follow the tracks in the snow, make your own way and reach your own destination'. The mountains are calling..... 


* Published 2019

Previous posts from Denmark

Living on the West Coast



Danish Folk High Schools

Inge Lehmann


Aksel Sandermose


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