Category Archives: Stubai Rucksac Route.

Stubaier Höhenweg XII – Postscript.

If you have read my last few posts about the ‘Stubai Rucksack Route’ [Stubaier Höhenweg] you will realise how enjoyable hut to hut walking in Austria is. The area is so walker friendly – ease of access, good maps, signed and waymarked paths, superb alpine scenery, excellent friendly huts providing good food and drink, English spoken everywhere ……    I have no reason to doubt that the other Austrian Alpine areas are as good, I will try somewhere different next year. There are many suitable guide books available Cicerone and Rother for starters. Just give it a try.

In my first post regarding preparations I discussed the problems my feet were causing. I’d gone out and bought a new pair of Hi-Tech Eurotrek boots, cheap and light. These proved comfortable from the first day and I had no further blister problems. They were more than adequate for the rough terrain and seemed waterproof. At the end of 10 days walking there was minimal sign of wear on the treads, though with previous pairs I’ve found this is their weak-point.

My other purchase was a cheap light Peter Storm waterproof jacket. We only had one afternoon of rain in the whole trip and the jacket was only worn then. It proved to be totally waterproof but suffered from mild breathability problems that I can live with. So £20 well spent though again I wonder about longer term durability. I will provide an update on both boots and jacket in three months.

Now back home after an excellent night in Innsbruck – recommend The Golden Krone Hotel and  the the nearby Steiglbrau restaurant. Despite the palpable influx of immigrants into Austria and Germany our return rail travel went well, with time for a meal in Munich before a smooth Easyjet flight to Manchester. The evenings have become noticeably darker and the dry weather distinctly Autumnal. Where to next?

The sky is clear tonight with a large bright moon shining into my bedroom. Setting the alarm for 3am to hopefully view the moon’s eclipse.

PPS           When in the Austrian Huts don’t forget  — — or male or female.

Stubaier Höhenweg XI – a fitting finale.

Adolf-Pichler  –  Starkenburger Hut  –  Fulpmes.

An early start for what would be a long day if we wanted to get out of the mountains today. This was helped by the breakfast being only a few slices of bread with cheese – no need to linger. The route up to the Seejochl 600m above was obvious from the hut door and didn’t take us too long. The sun was just coming over the limestone pinnacles as we reached it and a herd of chamois grazed across the scree slopes. There were great views back to the A-P hut and beyond. We passed under some impressive limestone buttresses.

Looking back to the A-P hut, Innsbruck and beyond.

Looking back to the A-P hut, Innsbruck and beyond.

The traverse across the scree below Schlicker Seespitz was exciting and more suited to chamois than walkers. We were rewarded with great views up the Oberbergtal valley to the Franz Senn hut and beyond, the previous days’ routes being obvious. Magnificent scenery. Then in front of us was the Starkenburger Hut with the familiar Habicht behind. We had come full circle. Time for a coffee on the terrace of the Starkenburger and a decision on the way down to the valley. Straight down to Neustift 1300m below…

No thanks!

No thanks!

… or a more leisurely descent to Fulpmes. The latter won out and we enjoyed the easy if longer way for two reasons. One – we arrived at Galtalm just in time for lunch and enjoyed a perfect rosti with eggs and a beer sat in the sunshine on their terrace with views to matchand Two – not much further on we came across a working ski lift which had us down into the valley in no time. Fulpmes was a typical ski resort but we didn’t have to wait long for a bus into Innsbruck. What service.

Stubaier Höhenweg X – Adolf who?

Potsdamer – Adolf-Pichler Hut.

Mist in the valley below the Potsdamer Hut.

Mist in the valley below the Potsdamer Hut.

Had to remind the pieman to go careful with the war jokes.                                                                                                                                                                       Our plans to scale the Schwarzhorn en-route to the Starkenburger Hut were dampened, literally, by low cloud. The hut warden suggested going to the Adolf-Pichler hut instead with the option to continue to the Starkenburger. We clung to a hillside in the mist and worked our way up to a col which seemed to give easy access to the A-P. If we had studied the map more carefully we would have noticed the scale of the area and the size of the intervening valley. We imagined various routes through the hills that didn’t really exist, just be content and follow your red and white waymarks. There is no such thing as a short day here. You have left the big mountains behind and this region borders onto the limestone. We had great views of the ‘dolomitic’   Kalkkögel range. After losing all our height we were cheered by the lovely path heading up again – a true balcony path amongst rocks and low trees with strange bits of steps. There were views down to Innsbruck now much closer. At the next col the A-P hut appeared tucked away below the limestone cliffs and was soon reached. Despite our early arrival thoughts of continuing evaporated as instead we tucked into cheese dumpling soup and chatted to the friendly young staff. The dining room was warm and welcoming with its ceramic stove, the Kachelofen, and a good library to while away the afternoon. We failed that evening to finish the bergsteigeressen  of dumplings – may not want to see another for some time.

Stubaier Höhenweg IX – a pleasant diversion.

Franz Senn  –  Potsdamer Hut.

Leaving the Franz Senn behind.

Leaving the Franz Senn behind.

We had a day to spare in the mountains so rather than go straight to the Starkenburger Hut  we planned an extra night en route at the Potsdamer north of the Wildkopf. There were plenty of choices.  The morning was dull and misty but still dry as we left on the well marked Hohenweg which traversed high across the steep north side of the Oberberg valley. Chamois wee spotted high above us. In parts the path was narrow and shaly above long drops and cables were encountered several times so it took us longer than we thought to reach the small Hochseduckalm.

Spot the path - top right.

Spot the path – top right.

A bench here was an ideal snack stop, there was no one about and slowly the cloud enveloped us. Cursory glances at the signs sent us along the wrong path in the mist for a few hundred metres until we realised we weren’t climbing and a compass bearing sent us back to the hut to start again.  This time it was straight up to the col at 2599m which we achieved in good time. There were no views to linger for so it was straight down the north side on slippery rock, the mica schist glistening with moisture. By now it was raining with thunder in the air so we didn’t stop till we were well down the corrie 500m below. Our sandwich stop there was fairly miserable …

Glum pieman and rockman.

Glum pieman and rockman.

… and we tramped on down an impressive valley, the Potsdamer Hut only coming into view at the last minute. We soon dried out over ‘teewasser’ This was a great little hut with lots of character and a friendly warden. It was quite busy as it is on another hut -to-hut circuit of the Sellrain area. We plotted various routes for tomorrow dependent on the weather.

Stubaier Höhenweg VIII – the stony wastes.

Neue Regensburger – Franz Senn Hut.

A sea of stones en-route.

A sea of stones en-route.

Yet another bright sunny morning though Autumn has arrived and there is a heavy dew. We were off on a short traverse across the hillside with great views back to the Resenburger. Then it was straight up to the Schrimmennieder pass at 2705m. All around were unstable stones and the path looped through them, I found the going tough and couldn’t sort my breathing. Two steps up one step down territory.Arrived at the pass just as H and B set off to climb an adjacent summit, Besslerjoch. I left them to it and relaxed. Chatted to two German lads coming through, they  had studied in Liverpool and we reminisced over some good scouse pubs. The way down the other side was extremely stony and hostile. Several areas have been devastated by avalanches and the route takes a circuitous line to avoid the worst, thankfully well marked with red and white. Even so it was endlessly hard going and one was very aware of the need not to slip or trip. Even when we were out of the steepest sections the path traversing a large couloir went on for ever. The forecast had predicted rain and the day was darkening. Rounding a bluff the hut was in sight and we broke into a gentle trot to arrive before the rain hit us.The Franz Senn Hut is massive and well equipped. Strangely it was the first Austrian Alpine Club owned one we had used.  A large restaurant was welcoming and we were booked into a room with Gunter who must have thought of us as strange English. He was on an Alpine training course along with scores of others who filled the hut, the drying room was particularly busy as they came off the mountains with all their kit.

Aspiring Alpinists.

Aspiring Alpinists.

Some colour in the stony wastes.

Some colour in the stony wastes.

Stubaier Höhenweg VII – the easy way.

Up to the Neue Regensburger Hut.

A quick down to start the day.

There was no change of mind so we were whisked down the hill in the ski lift and onto the valley bus to be dropped at Falbeson. We went straight to the Waldcafe for a coffee and information on the luggage lift to the Regensburger. The owner was the cable supervisor at this lower end and arranged for us to send up our sacks. Whilst sorting mine I realised that my waterproofs were missing, a phone call to the Dresdner and they were found in our room!! How could I be so stupid. I was preparing to go back up for them when the barman said he could arrange for them to be sent down on the ski lift, popped on the bus to here and he would send them up. I was doubtful if this would work but he reassured me and sent us on our way, no load on my back but a heavy load in my heart worrying about the waterproofs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was an initial steep zigzagging  section up through the woods which just had to be taken steadily in the heat. Near the top I picked up a bright bandana meaning to leave it at the hut. There were lots of day walkers using the track and stopping at a delightful cafe in an alp halfway up – we did the same and enjoyed a fresh elderflower drink. We had views down the valley to the prominent Habicht and up to the Regensburger hut. The route then started to climb again in earnest up to the Hut perched on the edge of the cliff. The luggage box wound its way on the cable above us with our rucksacks and hopefully my waterproofs. On the way down was an attractive lass who enquired if we had seen a bandana and when I produced it from my pocket I was rewarded with hugs and kisses – the day was improving!

The hut was in a spectacular position on the edge and as the day was perfect the terrace was packed with diners and drinkers. Most went down to the valley later, though the hut remained busy with a lively crowd up for the weekend. Our sacks were there but no sign of my waterproofs yet, I thought the plan had backfired. We strolled up the valley towards the infamous col but it was too far to make out the conditions. The valley itself had many roches moutonnées and a silted in glacial lake. As we arrived back at the hut another delivery was coming up and this time there were my waterproofs, a celebratory drink followed.

The hut dog.

The hut dog.

A packed boot room.

A packed boot room.

My waterproofs arriving.

My waterproofs arriving.

Quite an eventful day.  Thank you Waldcafe.

Stubaier Höhenweg VI – more and more moraine.

Sulzenau Hut – Dresdner Hut.

The breakfasts are getting better – muesli with yoghurt and boiled eggs as well as the usual bread and cheese. It seems to be normal to make a sandwich or two for the day ahead. We seem to be getting fitter and were up the valley in no time taking the higher route which crossed a rock buttress on unique metal planks.The path now followed the lateral moraine of the Sulzenau Ferner glacial system with close up views of the snout and lake. The mountain in the background is the 3500m Zuckerhuetl which the rockman had climbed aged 16yrs whilst on an Alpine Climbing Course he had enrolled himself onto. On the same trip his guide had fallen and broken his leg leaving the16yr old to help with a rescue – baptism of fire. We trod carefully on the steep rocky slope leading to Peiljoch not wanting a repeat occurrence. This col was a strange eerie place with a multitude of stone cairns more reminiscent of the Himalayas than Austria. There was no obvious reason for these apart from the abundance of flat stones. It was a nice place to sit around for awhile in the sun enjoying the views of the glaciers and onwards to the next hut in the vast Gamsgarten cirque  with unfortunately all the associated ski and gondola construction work.Our way down all the stones was interesting, someone over the years has used them to ‘pave’ a path through the chaos. Eventually we walked along an airy rocky ridge with dramatic views down to the Dresdner Hut and then it was onto endless moraine debris again.The Dresdner was a large modern building, more like a hotel than a hut and being adjacent to the gondola stations coming up from the valley and going to the top of the Stubaier Wildspitze was busy with day trippers. We considered a trip to the top but clouds were coming in so we just relaxed in the sun over soup and radlers.We were allotted a room already partly occupied with only the awkward top bunks free but playing the ‘bad back’ card managed to swap to a smaller room. Much cosier – we are getting soft.The restaurant was a large self service affair and we enjoyed yet another good filling meal. We met the only Brit we had encountered on the trip – a tough Glaswegian trekking with an oriental lady, an odd couple. Chatting to other walkers there was talk of a difficult high icy col and glacier crossing en-route to the next hut, Neue Regensburger. This was already going to be an 8 hour day with the potential problems well into the day with no easy retreat or return. Others were opting out and the hut warden thought it a very long hard day [looking us up and down!] so over a few beers we too came up with plan B. Simple really – go down on the cable car, catch a bus down the valley and then walk directly up to the hut.

Stubaier Höhenweg V – another ‘short’ day.

Nuernburger Hut  –  Sulzenau Hut.

First thing we were above a sea of clouds.  Then yet another blue skied day encouraged us to linger over breakfast.  The rockman was trying to hammer out the blister-inducing ridge in the heel of his right boot. We chatted to two Dutchmen out for a couple of days. Most walkers were German, understandable considering the ease of access. The guide book gives this stage as 4K and yet states 3-4 hours so you can imagine the terrain. We took 5hrs with stops etc.  It also suggests 400m of ascent which is misleading and was actually measured as 550m by my altimeter, this is a recurrent fault everyday as we usually climb 30% more than expected.You could see the wooden cross on the Niederl pass 400m above the hut. [click to enlarge]  All we had to do was plod up.Once there time was spent photographing and relaxing on a wooden bench next to the cross.A group of excited kids came up the cables with a guide, it was their first ‘summit’ and let’s hope it ignited a passion for the hills. There were excellent views of the Wilder Freiger and back to the Feuerstein, as well as steeply down into the next valley and its lakes.Initially we dropped straight down a cliff face on cables and then zigzagged steeply into the cirque and its turquoise lakes. The glacial moraines were set out before us like a geology lesson, of course the rockman interpreted all the features for us.

The steep drop with the Sulzenau Hut in the distance.

The steep drop with the Sulzenau Hut in the distance.

We weaved our way through bouldery grazing land where the shepherds were bringing down the flop eared flock before the Autumn snows. Crossing a summer plank bridge held up by an acrow prop we reached the modern clean Sulzenau Hut owned by the German Leipzig club.This coming weekend the Sektion Leipzig were having their annual meet at the hut and they were not taking bookings, this was the reason for our changed schedule. Even tonight the hut is busy and some of the members are arriving early – it will be a jolly party. The hut girls were very friendly and helpful but the guardian himself was a bit surly, maybe he had a lot on his mind. Having arrived early we enjoyed a creamy noodle soup and a Radler [Shandy made with real lemonade – delicious] We had our own room with a view but getting in and out of bunks isn’t easy at our age!

Stubaier Höhenweg IV – over the icy Simmingjochl.

Bremer Hut  –  Nuernburger Hut.

Descending the Simmingjochl.

Descending the Simmingjochl.

The morning dawns bright with mist hanging in the valleys – a perfect start. The time given for today is 3-4 hours but we have been warned that this is hard to match, particularly for us old timers. Despite that we are the last away from the hut.

Typical yellow signs with the Feuerstein behind.

Typical yellow signs with the Feuerstein behind.

I had set off on this trip with both heels badly blistered but now well plastered and causing no trouble, after a kilometre or so the rockman  felt his heel rubbing and when we investigated there was the inevitable. So that was the two of us plastered up. Climbing up to the pass we spotted a small group of Steinbock  [Ibex] and were able to get very close to the male who was grazing and at times scratching himself with those massive horns. Quite a sight, don’t think I have been so close to one before and he seemed totally unphased by our presence..Pulling ourselves away we scrambled up fixed gear to the col, notice the foot staples in the rock as well as the wire. A different mentality to Britain. At the col was a  tiny locked hut used by the border police! We had a grandstand view of the glaciers below the Feuerstein and Wilder Freiger and in the distance our hut for tonight.

The Wilder Freiger and Nuernburger Hut.

The Wilder Freiger and diminutive Nuernburger Hut.

Everything was very icy up here and the view down the steep northern side with fresh snow didn’t look inviting. This is often the case – you romp up the sunny south side only to be stopped in your tracks by the shaded icy north side. Fortunately, although exciting, it wasn’t as bad as imagined and we were soon onto a cabled buttress and then an endless rough boulder field.The glaciated cirque was a pleasant interlude…. But then we were off down steep slabs with lots of cables for assistance… … to eventually cross planks over the river below the Nuernburger Hut. The route had a sting in its tail as we climbed steep bands of rock.

The Nuernburger Hut was a substantial four storied building with great rooms and antique features. Many of the huts in this region are owned by the German Alpine Club [DAV] and reflect its  wealth before the first world war.The staff were super friendly and we ordered the ‘super’ bergsteigeressen which proved to much to eat, noodle soup, salad, two spinach and one cheese dumpling and pudding, but it did come with a free schnapps.

Stubaier Höhenweg III – the first Hutte.

Obertal – Bremer Hutte.

Actually this isn’t the first on the route but because of booking logistics  we had to bypass the Innsbrucker Hut. This meant catching the train to Steinach and then the waiting post bus up the Gschnitzbach valley to Obertal.All went smoothly and we were soon sipping coffee and eating Apple Strudel in the small Laponesalm Cafe further up the lane. That was a stroke of luck because these were the people who load the material cable box up to the Bremer, 1200m higher. Our packs were soon loaded and would be up at the hut long before us. We picked up the red and white waymarks which were to be followed religiously for the rest of the trip. A steep hillside followed by a traverse brought us into a perfect hanging valley with its dried up glacial lake, Simmingsee, time for an apple and then steeper climbing again up glacier smoothed granite to the hut.

looking back down the valley with the Habicht up left.

looking back down the valley with the Habicht up left.

People were sitting about drinking beer and snacking on the terrace of the traditional wooden hut, most seemed to be walkers rather than climbers. It is great to be up at 2411m surrounded by unknown mountains. We had booked ahead and were able to have the luxury of a four bedded room, this is so much better than those large chaotic dormitories. Life in the huts has improved over the years and the Austrian ones are becoming more like hotels. For supper we went for the Bergsteigeressen, [mountain climbers meal] a cheap calorie filled dish, tonight it was pork, rice and salad. An early night, 9pm, set the pattern for the trip.

Stubaier Höhenweg II – Austrian Arrival.

Relaxing in an Austrian hotel room this evening and preparing for tomorrow’s trip into The Stubai mountains. Having just eaten a substantial meal and drunk a few local beers in a local brewery/restaurant we were ready for anything.

We are myself, B the rock man and H the pieman, veterans of many a backpacking trip over the years. The hotel, to give them a mention, is The Golden Krone in Innsbruck and the room a cheapish triple. We had met up at Manchester airport this morning for a comfortable flight with Singapore Airlines to Munich. I had relaxed on the flight using the seat-back entertainment console to listen to some jazz classics – the choice was endless. Efficient  German trains transported us to Innsbruck in just over two hours, notice the local ‘lederhosen’ …..  The hotel was well located between the station and the old town. One had to be attentive on the streets to avoid being run down by the bendy trams and numerous cyclists. Calling into a cafe for a coffee we were surprised to find people smoking – there appear to still be premises where this is allowed and this is signed on the door. Innsbruck was busy with tourists admiring the architecture and mountain views. We followed suit and wandered into the streets of the old town. Lots of decorated Imperial mansions and towers. Back at the hotel we emptied B’s rucksack and declared several items superfluous thus saving him a few kilos carry, these were deposited in the hotel until our hopeful return.

Sweet ‘apple strudel’ dreams.

Stubaier Höhenweg I – Prolonged preparations.

“A classic high horseshoe route of 100km, 8,000 meters ascent , 8 huts”  –  The Stubai High Path is supposedly one of the most beautiful altitude hiking trails of the Austrian Alps.

Since my inadvertent trip into Austria last month I’ve been thinking about a proper Austrian hut to hut tour. The Stubai Rucksack Route [Höhenweg] seemed the perfect one. The guide is purchased and maps are borrowed, Austrian Alpine club rejoined, two friends are press ganged into service and flights booked. That is where the problems started. Singapore Airlines fly to Munich from Manchester [don’t know why] and their flight times were more convenient than the rest. Their web site however seemed difficult to navigate, kept refusing my card, and when eventually I’d had finished found that I had double booked. The Internet nightmare. The lovely man in customers’ corner however took pity on my geriatric incompetence and cancelled one of the bookings, saving me a tidy sum – phew. The return flight booking on Easy Jet seemed like a  breeze after that.

Next were the 8 hut bookings, now possible on line, and all went well apart from the central Sulzenau Hut who were hosting an annual club meet of one of the major Alpine Clubs over the weekend and were taking no bookings! Do we just turn up and hopefully get a mattress late in the evening. not much fun. So instead I devise a different start to get us to that hut on the Thursday when they had space. Emails to all the others expressing my apologies and everything seems OK.

Train ticket booking over the internet also seemed difficult but eventually I’ve printed out a piece of paper which might get us from Munich Airport to Innsbruck where hopefully another piece of paper may get us into an hotel for the night. Travel has changed in the last decade with the help of the internet, a lot of the uncertainty and, dare I say it, adventure has been reduced. We will still have some adventurous moments no doubt.

So I seem to have lots of paper work to go with the maps and the by now butchered guide book. Euros, passport, insurances and jottings litter the dining room table. Meanwhile in the spare bedroom a mountain of clothing and equipment is erupting.

The training side for this trip hasn’t been smooth sailing either. I fished out my sturdy mountain boots and did a quick circuit of the Chipping Fells  only to come back with two heel blisters!  Examining the boots showed me how rough and worn were the inside of the heels.  Still cursing my stupidity. So since then I’ve not done much. I have however been out and bought a new pair of lighter weight boots which I’m gingerly wearing round the house and to the shops – great preparation for a mountain tour! These are cheap [£40]  HiTech Eurotreks and it will be interesting to see how they survive. On the same note my very lightweight waterproof has durability issues and I wouldn’t use it for this high level trip, don’t really want to carry my heavier winter jacket either.  Wandering around the store I was bedazzled by technical and expensive garments and unable to do any background research I became indecisive. But at the checkout there was a pile of ‘mac in a pac’ waterproofs by Peter Storm. Lightweight and basic I’m prepared to give one a try for £20.

No mention of Austrian weather.....

No mention of Austrian weather…..

I will report back on these cheap purchases although I’m hoping the weather will be sunny and dry!   So as my ‘learn German in an hour’ disc says – Zeit, um das Flugzeug zu fangen.