Rolf Majcen
Rolf Majcen

Guinness Book of Records

My way to the record title: “Greatest continuous descent by toboggan“.

 

Confirmation by Guinness Book of Records is still outstanding; however I sent them all the required material (cover letter, victim statements, video, pictures) on 18th December 2023.

 

PICTURES SEE AT THE END OF THE STORY! 

 

LINK to my 6 minutes video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-HjUvKoZlY

 

Why I decided to break a record?

 

I am a lawyer in Vienna working for a small hedge fund manager, a nature lover and mountain athlete and in winter 2017/2018 I discovered tobogganing as a new hobby with an unexpected dimension. I wanted to show my Chinese girlfriend (my wife now) the beauty of the Alps in winter. She can't ski. Alternatives? Yes, why not go tobogganing! The spontaneous idea turned into an alpine tour through Italy, Switzerland and Austria that took us to 18 different toboggan runs in The Alps. And then, February 2023: It was my love to the alpine nature that has led me since winter 2017/2018 to 68 different toboggan runs between Semmering (Austria) and Matterhorn (Switzerland)! The last highlight of my tobogganing experiences was in February 2023, when I developed the “Eiger-Grand-Tour” in famous Grindelwald (Switzerland): 40 km, 5 different slopes, one day, all together 6000 meters in elevation (downhill) - the ultimate event in The Alps and everything under the spell of the famous Eiger North Face! Then the idea of something new and very exciting came up: Why not to break the existing record of a downhill of 1700 meters in elevation, which was set in Switzerland, where the tobogganers start at the peak of Faulhorn (2681 m) in the Bernese Alps sledging down to Grindelwald (about 1000 m). I thought about whether I should implement my project in Switzerland (Western Alps) or Italy (The Dolomites) and finally decided to the Marmolada, the queen of The Dolomites. I love these mountains and I have a lot of wonderful memories of these mountains since I was a child! The difference between the upper station of the Marmolada cable car (3265 m) and the lower station (1450 m) is 1815 meters; that's enough for a new world record using the famous ski slope “La Bellunese” for the downhill.

 

Description of the event and preparations

 

I have known the famous "La Bellunese" ski slope on the Marmolada for many years and often skied there; I knew that there are steep sections and flat sections, and I thought that I could manage a downhill with the toboggan if the snow conditions are good. On May 3rd, 2023, I contacted Romina from Marmolada Ski Area for the first time and asked she if she would allow me to toboggan from the top of the Marmolada (upper station of the Marmolada cable car) to Malga Ciapela (lower station of the Marmolada cable car). Romina was very nice to me but apologized because – unfortunately - no quick answer was possible because Marmolada Ski Area itself only knows every year in autumn whether a ski slope on the Marmolada glacier can be operated at all!

 

On 20th June 2023, Guinness Book of Records informed me that my application for the record has been accepted under the title: Greatest continuous descent by toboggan. I was really happy! During the summer I was again and again in very good contact with Romina and finally, on 10th November 2023, Romina told me that Marmolada Ski Area will give me an exception to do my downhill for Guinness Book of Records on their slope from the top of Marmolada until Passo Fedaia; on 20 November 2023, also Elisa from Arabba Ski Area, who I immediately contacted on 10th November 2023 after the positive message from Romina, granted an exception to use their slope from Passo Fedaia until the lower station of the Marmolada cable car in Malga Ciapela. This meant that a suitable downhill route with a descent of 1815 meters was now finally found, from the Marmolada to Malga Ciapela, and I could continue to work with my project.

 

Next step was to find the two witnesses who I needed for the project according to the Guinness Book of Records Regulation. I contacted the tourist office in Arabba, which is close to Marmolada, different ski schools in the surroundings and also pretty far away, several senior citizen`s association within a radius of more than 70 km (I thought seniors might have time), a huge number of hotels in Malga Ciapela, Arabba and further away and even the priest in Alta Badia, in order to perhaps find the two witnesses with God's help. No one answered me or was able to provide help but on 28th November 2023, I got a positive response from Alessandro, the owner of Hotel Roy in Malga Ciapela, per Email and he told me that his son Marco might have be interested. I was extremely delighted and immediately contacted Marco and a few hours later this 20 years young guy – an excellent skier who was grown up at the slopes of Marmolada and who learned skiing as a boy when not even 4 years young – was the first witness in my team. We immediately got along very well via WhatsApp and not even 24 hours later Marco sent me the brilliant news: “I found the second person! He is Adam and is 20 like me, … he lives near the Marmolada like me!” For me, this was an absolutely awesome message, the team with my two witnesses and me was now born!

 

I already had a lot of tobogganing experience because my 68 different slopes resulted in a total length of more than 450 kilometres of all levels of difficulty. My toboggan is a commercially available model from the Austrian toboggan maker Kathrein in Tyrol, Austria (https://www.rodel.at/de/).

 

I did strength and endurance training over the summer to be physically prepared for the demanding downhill.

 

Due to bad snow and weather conditions at the end of Novembre 2023 and beginning of Decembre 2023 the project had to be postponed for some days; it was originally planned for around 1 December 2023.

 

On 12 December 2023, Romina from Marmolada Ski Area proposed to plan the project for Saturday, 16th December. She would organize a snow groomer that will bring me, Marco and Adam at 6.30 AM from Passo Fedaia (2057 m) to the upper station of Marmolada cable Car (3265 m) and I should finalize my downhill in Malga Ciapela (1450 m) around 8.30 AM, the time when they want to open the slopes for the public. I immediately informed Marco and Adam, the witnesses, if they had time and they agreed! Thus, only the OK from Elisa from Arabba Ski area in regard to the part from Passo Fedaia to Malga Ciapela was pending and on December 13th, 11:26 AM I also received the ok from Elisa.

 

On 15th December 2023 I drove from Austria to Italy, Malga Ciapela and met Adam and Marco for the first time in person. Unfortunately, the weather was stormy and it was not sure that we were able to go to Marmolada on the next day.

 

The day of the record!

 

On 16th December 2023, I drove with the car with Adam and Marco from Hotel Roy in Malga Ciapela to Passo Fedaia (2057 m) which we arrived about 6.30 AM. Stefano from Dolomiti Super Ski/Ski Area Marmolada was waiting for us there and brought us with his snow groomer to the upper station of Marmolada Cable Car (3265 m). In the strong headlights of the snow groomer we saw the squalls swirling the snow. The sunrise at the highest peak in the Dolomites was fantastic! Piz Boe, Sassolungo and many other famous peaks of The Dolomite were bathed in a delicate red! Luckily, contrary to expectations, the wind wasn’t too strong and the cold wasn’t a problem!

 

Despite the cloudless sky, conditions on the day of the descent were extremely unfavorable: gusts of up to 60 km/h at night and high double-digit minus temperatures caused the snow on the descent route to freeze hard and made braking extremely difficult. In addition, due to changes in the Marmolada glacier, the route on the northern slope of the Serauta (2959 m) was changed at around 2780 m in the upper section of “La Bellunese” (the famous ski slope of the Marmolada) compared to previous years. A steep slope was connected to a flat section at a 90-degree angle, which meant that the speed had to be reduced to just before the angle, which took a lot of energy. At 7:44 AM I started the downhill with my toboggan, Adam and Marco used ski. Stefano was waiting on the top and watched us riding down some hundred meters, then he also drove down with his snow groomer. Adam filmed the whole downhill and Marco made pictures. We rode the ski slope “La Bellunese” with the variant “Sass del Mur” between a hight of 2830 m and 2570 m due to changed conditions of the Marmolada Glacier. I then also mastered the other steep sections down to Rifugio Fedaia (2057 m). There was a wide steep slope next to it. The slope was icy, I had no chance of coming to a stop on the steep slope, my thighs burned until they were powerless, the toboggan immediately accelerated to 80 km/h in just a few seconds. But that was a calculated risk, because the steep slope turned into a flat section at the level of the Pizzeria La Cianel and I trusted my first-class toboggan, which reacts immediately to every signal from me. After that the difficulties were overcome and from Capanna Bill (1800 m) I was able to totally enjoy the last few kilometers to Malga Ciapela (1450 m)!” At 8:18 AM we arrived at the Lower Station of Marmolada Cable Car in Malga Ciapela (1450 m) and Romina welcomed us.

 

It is important to understand that this downhill was not a dangerous game played by inexperienced people but rather a perfectly prepared act in high alpine terrain, an action that puts risk management first and to the detail! I am trained as a helicopter air rescuer and army mountain guide assistant as well as mountain rescuer and I am a very experienced alpinist and I haven known exactly the risks associated with a descent with a toboggan from Marmolada. Also the two victims who accompanied my downhill with ski -  Marco and Adam - are excellent skiers. I knew that I can only do something like this if I first deal intensively with risk management: Before setting off, I have to go over every single meter of the route many times in my head, assuming difficult conditions. Only perfect mental and physical preparation can give me the feeling of confidence that I absolutely need in this extreme situation!

 

La Bellunese: https://www.dolomitisuperski.com/en/Dolomiti-Super-Stories/arabba-marmolada/La-mitica-pista--La-Bellunese

6:42 AM: Passo Fedaia (2057 m), from left to right: Marco, Adam, Rolf, from this place Stefano brought us with the snow groomer to the top (Punta Rocca, 3265 m)

6:45 AM: Passo Fedaia (2057 m), Stefano fixes the toboggan on his snow groomer

7:10 AM: Driving with the snow groomer up “La Bellunese” and suddenly Punta Rocca (3265 m) was seen.

7:42 AM: At the Punta Rocca Station (3265 m), the building of the upper station of the Marmolada cable car can be seen on the left. Rolf and Adam, the picture was taken by Marco.

7:42 AM: Final preparations for the downhill right next to the upper station of the Marmolada cable car at Punta Rocca (3265 m).

7:44 AM: Start right next to the upper station of the Marmolada cable car at Punta Rocca (3265 m).

 

7:44 AM: The first meters of the downhill, the snow is hard and difficult to ride. I have to be very careful and need to have my speed under absolute control.

7:48 AM: You can also see the upper station of Marmolada cable car on Punta Rocca (3265 m) and Stefano with the snow groomer driving down, Adam was always behind me and operated with the two video cameras.

7:48 AM: Riding down famous “La Bellunese” with the view to Mount Langkofel and Mount Sella, at a hight of 3100 meters.

7:53 AM: You can also see the upper station of Marmolada cable car on Punta Rocca (3265 m) on the right side.

7:56 AM: Sledging down at the north side of Mount Serauta (2959 m) at about 2700 meters.

7:59 AM: The view to Lago Fedaia (2053 m) at a hight of 2490 meters. I am now again on “La Bellunese” after the difficult variant named “Sass del Mur”.

8:03 AM: Close to Passo Fedaia (2057 m) at a hight of 2260 meters.

8:03 AM: Close to Passo Fedaia (2057 m), Adam behind me with the two video cameras in his hands; at a hight of 2150 meters.

8:07 AM: 100 meters south of Rifugio Passo Fedaia (2057 m), at a hight of 2067 meters, frozen snow!

8:08 AM: Frozen snow and very steep slope cose to Passo Fedaia (2057 m).

8:08 AM: High speed downhill close to Pizzeria La Cianel (on the left side) at a hight of 2010 meters.

8:18 AM: Malga Ciapela, lower station of the Marmolada Cable Car  (1450 m) - FINISH!

8:18 AM: The finish line in Malga Ciapela (1450 m), Rolf, Adam, Marco; five meters beside the lower station of the Marmolada Cable Car.

8:20 AM: Romina from the team from Marmolada Ski Area, Adam, Marco in Malga Ciapela, five meters beside the lower station of the Marmolada Cable Car.

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