It was an unparalleled adventure: On March 21, 1971, the Austrian mountaineers Robert Kittl, Klaus Hoi, Hansjörg Farbmacher and Hans Mariacher set off from East to West in Edlach on the Rax to cross the main ridge of the Alps. Your destination: the Maritime Alps and the French seaside resort of Nice. Everything was meticulously planned. A support vehicle with driver Alois Schett, a reserve man, more than 200 maps and specially crafted ski equipment supported the athletes in their project.
The unbelievable idea: to cover the whole distance only on foot and on skis! Within eight weeks, 56 days, they wanted to cover the 1200 mile route. Just 40 days later, on April 29, they reached their destination without having taken a single rest day. A total of 300,000 vertical foot journey – unbelievable 2137 altitude and 48 kilometers of distance per day! – lay behind them. And they had not even chosen the shortest or easiest route, but driven the most dominant and famous peaks in the Alps, including Grossglockner (3798 m), Piz Palü (3900 m), Dufourspitze (4634 m) and Mont Blanc (4810 m).
The team was carefully selected. Each of the four was an experienced alpinist and one of the best in his field. Extensive endurance training preceded the company. An Austrian ski manufacturer produced special high mountain cross country skis made of unbreakable plastics and with aluminum edges, which should facilitate the progress – but in no way compare to today’s touring skis.
Especially at the beginning of the venture almost threatened to fail. The problem: There was no time to wait for the best conditions. Storms, snowstorms, avalanche discharges and poor visibility made progress in the Austrian Alps difficult. “Three days and nights it’s snowing without interruption. Horizontally the stormy wind blows the flakes to the weather side of the trees, higher up avalanche-prone slopes. The snow whips us constantly in the face, “noted Robert Kittl, the leader of the team, on 28 March.
But the quartet is fighting against all adversities. “Untiringly we pulled our trace over the mountains of the Alpenhautkamm”, remembered Klaus Hoi 2013 in the Alpine Association Graz news. “We felt like a hurdler in the endless space with no sense of time.” On April 29, 1971, it was finally done. Exhausted but safe, the four ski mountaineers reached Contes near Nice.
Robert Kittl, Klaus Hoi, Hansjörg Farbmacher and Hans Mariacher have achieved one of the greatest achievements in ski history. There were attempts to repeat their enterprise – so far no one has succeeded.