Schopfheim, in the Southern Black Forest area of Germany. Home to Robert Jasper and his family. The Alps are to the south and the mountains of the Bernese Oberland only a stone's throw away. Too enticing to ignore, especially for an extreme climber like Robert. However, he still has to drive for almost two hours before he reaches more adventurous terrain. Robert Jasper is a world class alpinist and GORE-TEX athlete, an ice and mixed terrain climber, mountain guide and self-appointed custodian of the Eiger. As he sees it, ski touring is good for training and a means to an end. "When I'm out and about on skies, it's either a form of endurance training, or I might be using skis to check out the best starting point for the ascent of a frozen waterfall. Whatever, it's always fun, and great to be outdoors."
Whenever Robert doesn't have enough time to get to the Alps, all he needs to do is drive off in the opposite direction, to the north. To the Black Forest, which isn't always black and green, but quite often very white. Also a place where it's worth getting onto your skies. Belchen or Feldberg are good places to head for – not to be compared with the Bernese Oberland, but on the other hand Robert can be parking his car within three quarters of an hour and at the top of the mountain within one and a half hours. Mixed extremist Robert Jasper going ski touring on the Feldberg? What do people have to say about that? "Well yes, when you meet people who know who you are, they are rather surprised. Fancy that, Jasper on skies! They find it all rather amusing. But why not head for the Feldberg? It's not far from home and this winter the conditions were really good, even before Christmas. It's a great route for training and this year there was deep powder from the middle of November."
A tour for all skill levels: the Feldberg
At a modest 1,493m, Baden-Württemberg's highest peak is – by alpine standards – not much more than a hill and hardly worth talking about. However, because the Feldberg is the region's highest summit, it gets everything the weather can throw at it. The climate can be harsh. The largest snowfall ever recorded was 350 cm. The Zugspitze is almost exactly twice as high. The deepest snow ever recorded there was 780 cm. So, more than double the amount. But when it comes to the lowest recorded temperature it can almost keep up: minus 30°C on the Feldberg, minus 35°C on the Zugspitze. Whatever: ski tourers can have fun on the Feldberg, and if necessary, they can go up and down the same slope five times, like some people do in the Bavarian alpine foothills to make sure they get in enough metres of training. Wherever you are, you should always take all the necessary avalanche safety equipment After all, the overhanging edges of snow on the Feldberg summit are not to be underestimated and you wouldn't want one to break while you're enjoying the powder of the Zastler Loch. From the highest point in the Black Forest, on a clear day the views of the Alps with its numerous peaks are truly spectacular. You can see everything from the Zugspitze to Mont Blanc. Around the Feldberg everything appears to be much more rounded, far less steep. You get the feeling that the Black Forest has seen many more years of wear. And it has: one billion, while, with 135 million, its neighbour to the south is only just approaching puberty. So, it's hardly surprising that there's more going on in the Alps.
There are many routes to the top. So it's worth taking a look at a website that has just recently been updated: weisswald.ski. The name translates as White Forest. Meaning: the Black Forest in winter. You'll find lots of well-presented information about ski touring routes across the region. For more information, you can also check out Outdooractive.com
What other routes does Robert recommend?
In an interview Robert once said: "The Alps are where I go to find adventure close to home." By "close to home", he means the Bernese Oberland, where it seems to me that, apart from the Feldberg, the names of all the other summits start with a B, also the Black Forest Belchen (1,414m).
Make your way to Neuenweg (at 760 m), and then head north to Belchenhöfe where you can park (approx. 900 m). For more details see Outdooractive. The Belchen can also be approached from other directions.
Easy route: Bunderspitz (2546 m)
The route from Adelboden to the summit of the Bunderspitz is attractive but not too challenging. It is not particularly prone to avalanches and the view at the top is spectacular. Which is what makes it so popular. People like Robert with plenty of stamina can complete the 1,150 m of ascent in a morning and be home for lunch. However, I'd recommend taking it more slowly and staying on a bit longer in the region to really enjoy the Swiss mountains. The next day you can try out one of the other routes that Robert recommends.
Make your way to Adelboden. Start from the Bunderle car park (at Ahorni, approx. 1380 m) at the bridge over the Bunderbächli or from Adelboden (Margelibrügg; which adds180 m of ascent to the tour). Avoid wildlife sanctuary zones on your way down! Otherwise – as is often the case in Switzerland – you could end up paying a high fine.
Intermediate route: the Bundstock (2756 m)
Two valleys to the east there's a somewhat more challenging route: at the top of the Bundstock, after completing 1,600 m of ascent you'll find yourself in close proximity to the magnificent Blüemlisalphorn. The view is stunning: you can see the whole valley, from Lake Oeschinen in the south to Lake Thun in the north. It's not without reason that this route is so popular. Although Robert has his own reasons for liking this area so much: around Lake Tschingel there's a great range of outstanding ice and mixed climbing routes. There's everything from an ice climbing wall for beginners to extreme mixed routes.
Just before you reach Frutigen turn off towards Kiental/ Tschingel (toll charge). You start at approx. 1150 m. The first section is alongside the road to Griesalp, where you keep to the right. More information here.
Difficult route: Balmhorn
Large, lofty and majestic, swathes of mist around its peak. Sending rumbles of thunder down into the valley, making all shudder. Although this loosely translated song-text was actually written about the Watzmann, it could just as easily have been written about the one thousand metre higher Balmhorn, or its neighbour the Altels. The glacier-fields of the Balmhorn and the pyramid shape of the side of the Altels tower some 2,500 m above the valley floor. These are two separate tours up different mountains that, nevertheless, have a number of things in common. Firstly: they are both mighty mountains. Secondly: The two mountains are connected by a ridge (but one that cannot be traversed on skis). Thirdly: You set off from the same place. When you get up to an altitude of about 2,000 m, you head right for the Balmhorn and left for the Altels. When you reach Sunnbüel, there's about another 1,800 m of ascent to the Balmhorn and a little less to the Altels. But then, the final climb up to the summit of the Balmhorngipfel is a bit easier. If you want to treat yourself to a night in a mountain hotel, you can start both routes from the Berghotel Schwarenbach. It'll save you 150 m of ascent, but cost you time and money.
Make your way to Kandersteg. Take the cable car to Sunnbüel (of course you can also do the tour "by fair means", but that will mean an extra 700 m of ascent, making the tour a total of 2,500 m, plus a short ascent on the way back to Sunnbüel). Then head into the valley and at an altitude of approx. 2000 m turn left. To get to the Balmhorn either head straight on up and then over the south-west ridge, known as the Zackengrat, or at approx. 2,600 m keep left and cross the Schwarzgletscher (if the conditions are good, this route is worth taking on your way down). By the way: The Balmhorn is also worth climbing in the summer. In 2015, as part of the GORE-TEX Experience Tour, Edurne Pasaban and a team of participants climbed the Balmhorn. If you are looking for garments that will offer you the best possible protection against wind and rain on your ski tours this winter, check out for a wide selection of GORE-TEX jackets and for a great choice of trousers. To find out more about Robert and his latest projects, take a look at his Facebook profile.