JUN 24, 2016
An Unexpected Journey into Inner Mongolia - between traffic chaos, crowds, and the first 5,000m mountain.
The German national team of ski mountaineers were invited by their Chinese colleagues for a week to explore Inner Mongolia and to share their knowledge on a ski camp. The focus of the exchange of techniques was on the ascent and descent and the processes of material handling during change as the ski mountaineering in this region is not very well known. The German team - among them Atomic athlete Toni Lautenbacher - of course would not want to miss on the chance and the experience.
Before the team went on the 16 hours long-haul flight, preparations had to be made on very short notice - apply for visas and passports, select the right equipment, and of course they could not go without their skis.
When they arrived at last, even the exhaustion and the 6 hours time difference could not put a halt to their curiosity. On the way to the hotel the team let the first impressions of the foreign culture sink in. Huge billboards, crowds, bad air and a gigantic transport system.
Reaching the hotel they went straight to the planning of the next days. The team was rewarded with a national-typically dinner, even if the first attempts to use chopsticks failed miserably. The hospitality and appreciation which was brought to the ski mountaineers from everyone at all times was noticeable.
The next day the adventure really took off. Together with 60 ski camp participants they went 6 hours further into the country by bus. Arriving at the first base station at 3,200 height meters a big celebration, the opportunity to interact with the locals and to get to know their lives better awaited them.
After a rather short night the camp was officially opened by the Provincial. Everyone was really only aware of the significance of their visit when the local TV showed interest in the event and especially in the German team.
Next they went to another stop at 3,800 height meters. There another suprise was waiting for the team. 10 mules with drivers waiting for their arrival to transport all of the material to the last base station at 4,250 height meters. Due to the fantastic weather conditions nobody remotely thought of taking a break after reaching the station. A perfect line through a white groove above the camp worked its magic on the team. And so on that same day the ski mountaineers went up another 550 height meters to complete a descent through the channel that directly led back to the camp. The following day the camp then was officially opened. The goal was a technique training and a common rise to nearly 5,000 height meters. After grouping the teams worked their ways upwards about 200 height meters per day. Most of the local aspirants arrived at the target of 5,000 height meters on the last day.
The Main Peak at the altitude of 5,250 meters was always in sight and greatly appealed to Toni and his team-mates. On the last day, the conditions were almost perfect. It was worth a try. The climb proved to be very challenging. After a carrying passage of 300 height meters the German team finally reached the summit. This was the highlight for the team and for Toni also his first 5,000 meters summit. They were rewarded with a colossal view and a descent through the 45 degrees groove at which the new Backland UL 65 were put through their paces and more than just proved themselves. Very light in the ascent and stable enough also with the new Rocker Skins with Glide-Zone in the frontal area. After successfully arriving at the camp the enthusiasm of everyone was huge. Never before has anyone coped with this route with skies on their feet.
“The dimensions overwhelm me. The large buildings, the crowds, …... it's all just oversized.”
Before the boys went on the last leg of the journey back to Munich, they could of course not miss a last meal. The famous Bejing roast duck that gives all honours to its name - it was excellent. Just like the entire week.