Tag Archives: Austria

Zillertal Rucksack Route. VIII.

Friesenberg Haus – Breitlahner and home.

This hut had closed early this year but we wanted to do more of the high level walking on our last day so we walked up to it and along the ZRR before coming down to the valley. It was a misty morning but promised better, the Russians disappeared early up towards the Furtshaglhaus and higher things. We trudged up through the woods into a vast hanging valley meeting some of the staff from the Friesenberg coming out for the last time. An excellent stone track zigzagged out of the valley up to the hut on a higher bluff. At almost 2500m this is the highest hut in the Zillertal. It has an interesting history – built originally in the 20’s as a private Jewish establishment. As the war approached the area was used to train elite German troupes  which put the hut warden in a difficult situation. But tolerance prevailed between mountaineers and there is a bronze plaque outside the hut celebrating against “intolerance and hate”. Today we sat on the steps for a short break as the shutters were closing for winter. We continued along the route in and out of clouds, it was arduous and we realised we couldn’t get as far as we had hoped. Fortunately there was a signed track leading down to Breitlahner – this we followed but it didn’t seem to be used much. Marmots were screaming at us in one area, we realised that we hadn’t seen much wild life on this trip – birds were particularly absent.  Down and down we went into boggy ground and then welcome dwarf pines. The day became hotter and on reaching the valley floor we were ready for a rest. Paths led alongside the gorge, the road had disappeared into tunnels, until we emerged at the Breitlahner which turned out to be an old traditional alpine hotel. A bus whizzed us through Ginzling into Mayrhofen, the scenery was spectacular all the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spot the marmot.

Spot the marmot.

 

Good to be back at the friendly Zillertal Gasthof, we enjoyed a celebratory meal featuring wild mushrooms at the excellent Tiroler Stuben – the rockman had a headache the next morning! The journey back to Janbech and Munich was easy. We found ourselves by chance in the wonderfully atmospheric  Augustiner Restaurant, the Oktoberfest is just getting underway.

The SBahn train to the airport was halted because of people on the line. We didn’t really know what was happening but decided on a panicky train back to Munichost  and then an expensive taxi ride had us at the airport with minutes to spare. An exciting end to our trip.

Quote of the day –   that was close”      at the airport.

 

 

Zillertal Rucksack Route. VII.

A trip up to Italy – PfitscherjochHaus.

The weather reverted to rain and low cloud so an easy walk up to Italy was the obvious choice for today.  We passed some fine waterfalls up the valley and before we knew it we were at the old border post. A little further the Italian hut appeared out of the mist. There was a warm welcome in the modern hut. We settled in for lunch – pasta and good coffee. A large group of cyclists arrived from somewhere to stay the night. The hut has a chequered history, it was blown up by the Italian army in 1966 due to border disputes, rebuilt in 1980 and has continued to provide mountain accommodation.

Compare with yesterday's view from the balcony.

Compare with yesterday’s view from the balcony.

Pfitsherjoch Haus 2277m

Pfitsherjoch Haus 2277m

More food - Italian this time.

More food – Italian this time.

We stole away and retraced our steps down the valley in the mist.

Back at Dominikushûtte supper was interesting – can’t remember the food. A man in soaking camouflage kit burst in from the dark carrying a baby kangaroo style, his wife followed. They turned out to be Russian and doing a similar trip to us! The baby must be hard as nails.  An unfortunate retarded chap [sorry for any unpolitical phrasing] was having supper with his carer and making grunting noises. I went to the loo downstairs and whilst there had the scary movie moment as a stumbling grunting ogre came towards me. Enough said.

Today’s quote – “mustn’t grumble”    determined to enjoy the rainy day.

Zillertal Rucksack Route. VI.

Neumarkte Ronde to the Olperer Hūtte.

The day dawned unexpectedly bright and sunny. We made a quick decision to do this high level circular walk after booking in at the Dominikus for a couple more nights. The breakfast was rather disappointing considering the accessibility, no fruit or eggs, so we were away early.  Back along the road to pick up the signed way, 535, a gradually ascending good path up the side valley, the unpronounceable  Unterschrammachbach.  Lots of people were descending from an overnight Saturday at the hut, suggesting a cramped and noisy night. Fast flowing streams were crossed on new bridges until we met up with the Berliner Höhenweg in a large mountain bowl under the Olperer 3220m. Four lads were heading up to an unseen pass leading to the Geraes Hütte.  Signposts put us on our more modest way switchbacking across the contours coinciding with The Peter Habeler Way [the famous alpine and Himalayan mountaineer haling from Mayrhofen] This route, established in 2006, was well paved with slabs of rock – how do they move them? Views down to the Schlegeis lake and up to the Hochfeiler became more impressive as we moved round. Eventually the Olperer Hütte came into sight on its perch looking most unimpressive from an architectural  point of view, ‘hen-house’ was the phrase we used. It was rebuilt in 2006 and was certainly impressive inside. We sat on the balcony with our teawasser [stingy Brits] enjoying the view down the valley. A group of pygmy goats entertained us below. The way down was heavily used and unpleasant until it entered the pine forest before reaching the road. People seemed to be ascending late in the day. We were back fairly early in the Dominikus enjoying a Radler [citrus shandy beer] and chatting to the family [see quote of the day]. the hut seemed to get busier as the evening went on. Dumplings and sauerkraut were on the menu!

Morning view from the balcony.

Morning view from the balcony.

Unterschrammachbache.

Unterschrammachbache.

The upper bowl.

The upper bowl.

Looking back down hanging valley.

Looking back down hanging valley.

Well paved Peter Habeler Way

Well paved Peter Habeler Way

Olperer Hutte coming up.

Olperer Hutte coming up.

Sandwich with a view.

Sandwich with a view.

You have to be there.

Dumpling – you have to be there.

Quote of the day – “the sun shines on the right shoes”  our hosts’  misinterpretation of righteous!

Zillertal Rucksack Route. V.

Furtschaglhaus – Schlegeis, Dominikushütte.

Woke to sleet and snow with nil visibility. So a leisurely breakfast and sitting around for a late start as fortunately we were heading down the valley and decided to take a half day. We phoned the Dominikushütte and booked a room, they sounded pleased to have us as the bad weather would put a dampener on the weekend. There was a trail through the snow going down steeply to the valley below, the rocks were slippy and we took our time. Very few people were coming up and our route of yesterday would be out of the question. We arrived in the valley next to the provisions lift from where a track ran to the lake/reservoir. By now it had stopped snowing but the clouds were down revealing only occasional glimpses of the surrounding mountains. We dawdled along the lakeside track, walked through a mainly deserted carpark and arrived at the dam. This 70m wall was built in the 1960s and provides hydroelectric power as well as flood control for the Mayrhofen Valley. The original alpine hut was destroyed in the process and our present accommodation, Dominikushütte, was constructed higher above the water. We received a warm welcome from the family and dog, bowls of Knödel soup went down well as we dried out. Our room was airy and spacious, a change from the mountain huts. We are still at a height of 1800m and the afternoon was gloomy with no one else about, time for festering [an unusual verb describing our activity]     They had given the chef the night off as nobody else was expected but slowly more people started arriving and by evening it was quite busy.  By special request we had Tyrolean Grosti with a great celeriac remoulade for supper. A wicked schnapps finished off the meal.We had three days left and wanted to visit the last three high huts but the forecast was poor, We deliberated over various options but went to bed undecided, lets see what the morning is like.

Quote of the day – “this is better than sleet”  as the morning snow piled up.

Zillertal Rucksack Route. IV.

Berliner Hütte – Furtschaglhaus.

The Schonbichlerhorn.

The Schonbichlerhorn, today’s objective.

 

Today takes us over one of the highest ‘walking’ passes in Austria. The forecast is for rain later so we plan an early getaway. The breakfast in the Berliner is poor and expensive, they could do so much better – some fruit juice and maybe boiled eggs. The hardy young crowd who eat their own breakfast on the terrace are away early, we are happy with 7.15am. It was uphill all the way, at first through shrubs on zigzags and then at a rock wall we took a shelf up to the right into a rocky area. Here a ridge soared upwards towards a vertical rock face, surely we don’t go up there but yes a few hundred metres of scrambling led on. Poles were packed away for the hands on experience, there were cables but they weren’t needed as the rock was solid and full of jugs. From the col the summit cross of Schonbichler Horn, 3133m, was 5mins away. The rockman proudly bore the summit stamp on his forehead and we signed the book “post Brexit”. Fantastic views as you can imagine, a whole new world opened up to the NW, The Tuxertal Alps with the Olperer 3426m prominent. To our left were glacial systems coming off the Grosser Moeler, 3480m, and the  Hochfeiler, 3510m, the highest peak in the Zillertal. We sat and ate more of that stale bread and cheese whilst looking around. Cables led us down loose ground but there was no hard packed snow that had been so difficult last year, our micro spikes were never used. After an 8 hour day the Furtschaglhaus was a perfect traditional hut with super friendly guardians. An early supper and we were in bed way before the beer-swilling weekenders at the hut. We never meet any British walkers.

Looking back to the Berliner and yesterday's pass.

Looking back to the Berliner and yesterday’s pass.

Easy cables on the lower ramp.

Easy cables on the lower ramp.

It goes up there somewhere...

It goes up there somewhere…

 

 

Pausing for breath.

Pausing for breath.

Easy scrambling to the top.

Easy scrambling to the top.

The Grosser Moseler in the distance.

The Grosser Moseler in the distance.

Sliding down.

Sliding down the otherside.

Hochfeiler at 3509 the highest in the Zillertal.

Hochfeiler at 3509m the highest in the Zillertal.

The Furtschaglhaus.

The Furtschaglhaus.

Serious eating and drinking.

Serious eating and drinking.                                                                                                                                                    Quote of the day – “this must be where the cables start”  –  as we looked up at the precipitous face.

 

 

Zillertal Rucksack Route. III.

Greizer Hütte to Berliner Hütte.

From the balcony of the hut today’s route looked impressive – straight up the couloir on the opposite  wall to a pass at 2872m, Moerchen Scharte. Breakfast was fairly miserable – a tray with two pieces of dry bread, cheese and coffee, we had to buy more of the same for lunch.  Within less than a kilometre we lost about 350m dropping down to the valley to cross awkward rocks in the river bed before clambering up the otherside, these rivers must be dramatic in flood. A 6m metal ladder, straight from B & Q, was loosely attached to the buttress in front of us making a novel start to our climb. For a while wires protected us crossing steep rocky ground on the edge of the couloir but they were hardly needed. The path then came out onto a large grassy spur up which it zigzagged interminably. The morning was enlightened by two fit girls passing us at a trot, one carrying a dog, kangaroo like, in a front pouch. They soon disappeared from sight.

Uphill all morning.

Uphill all morning, spot the ladder.

When I'm cleaning windows.

When I’m cleaning windows.

Who needs the cables?

Who needs the cables?

Its a dog's life...

Its a dog’s life…

The pass is on the right - a long way to go.

The pass is on the right – a long way to go.

The grass ended at a minor col and here was a large boulder field stretching upwards, two people were struggling through it but whilst having lunch [that dry bread and cheese] we spotted a higher traversing path on the right avoiding the difficulties. Towards the top more chains were used on a rather loose buttress depositing us at the pass. A lone lady was sat there unconcerned, she followed us down later but then disappeared. The clouds were coming and going from the tops but we had a good open view of the glacial systems on the Schwarzenstein range.

It's so dry

It’s so dry.

Well above the boulder field.

Well above the boulder field.

Not as serious as it look!

Not as serious as it looks!

Back to yesterday's pass.

Back to yesterday’s pass.

The Berliner Hutte is down there somewhere.

The Berliner Hutte is down there somewhere.

Distant glaciers.

Distant glaciers.

The track wound endlessly down through fascinating rock formations. The granite contained tourmaline, quartz and agate crystals which I probably would have missed without the rockman. The agate was collected in this area in the last century.

Rock chaos.

Rock chaos below the pass.

Tourmaline crystals in the granite?

Tourmaline crystals in the granite?

The Berliner Hütte seemed miles away and we lost a lot of height getting to it. There was a well paved way,  previously for mining or hunting?  Our arrival coincided with the start of the rain. This hut is built on a grand style, all wooden paneling, creaking floors and chandeliers. It was started in 1879 and extended in 1911 to its present size. Photos early last century  show the glacier almost at the back door, the ice has now retreated hundreds of metres up the mountain. We had a great two bedded wooden room, the dinner was good but the whole place felt a little impersonal which is a shame for such an historic place.

Paved way down to the Berliner Hutte.

Paved way down to the Berliner Hütte.

Meant to say I somehow forgot my camera on this trip and all photos are from my phone. One disadvantage of the phone touch screen is I have to take off my gloves to operate it.

Today’s quote –  “I just have to be in the mountains”   the rockman expressing his joy of the day.

 

Zillertal Rucksack Route. II

Kasseler Hütte – Greizer Hütte.

We knew we were in the big mountains when only after 3 hours did we start climbing the 800m to today’s pass, [2701m]  Lapen Scharte The day had started bright and clear, perfect for the long traverse below the glacier of Grosser Loeffler. We hopped across glacial streams with the odd bridge of help. Soon after leaving the hut we passed through the incongruous door, an ‘art’ installation on the hillside which hopefully will eventually disintegrate. The Kasseler remained in view all morning across the valley. Towards the end of the traverse cables helped us across a cliff face. On a magnificent viewpoint down the Stilluptal valley we snacked and girded our loins for the difficult climb through the boulder field up to the pass. Great care was needed not to loose the trail and not to break a leg amongst the haphazard rocks. The final steep pull up was rewarded by views to the steep gully leading to Moerchen Scharte, tomorrow’s unlikely objective.  An Ibex sat and watched us from a perch above the path. I managed to gash my leg badly  on a granite boulder at the pass reminding me to be more careful, I’m not as agile as I used to be. The Matterhorn like Greizer Spitze loomed above. Thankfully the way down the otherside was much easier and we soon sipping Berghütte trinken on the sunny balcony of the Greizer Hütte. Supper with some Dutch lads was enjoyable but we were soon ready for bed, 9pm.  We were assigned a busy dormitory but thankfully nobody snored.

The long traverse towards the pass in early morning light.

The long traverse towards the pass in early morning light.

Glacial streams.

Glacial streams.

The infamous door.

The infamous door.

Slow progress.

Slow progress.

Looking across to the Kasseler Hutte.

Looking across to the Kasseler Hutte.

Up to the pass.

Up to the pass.

Onwards and upwards.

Onwards and upwards.

Spot the Ibex.

Spot the Ibex.

The commanding Greizer Spitze.

The commanding Greizer Spitze.

Down to the Greizer.

Down to the Greizer Hütte.

Greizer Hutte.

Greizer Hutte.

Tomorrow's gully looks daunting.

Tomorrow’s gully looks daunting.

Today’s quote – “it’s not nice gneiss”  as we crossed the difficult boulder field.

Zillertal Rucksack Route (Berliner Höhenweg). I

 

Up to The Kasseler Hūtte.

The usual bus/train/plane/train had us into Mayrhofen by tea time, sorry coffee time. Our booked  Gasthof Zillertal on the outskirts of town looked a little austere but turned out to be friendly, clean and economical. Basic rooms perfect for one night and a good breakfast thrown in. Mayrhofen is touristy with plenty of funny hats and cuckoo clocks for sale. We retreated into the traditional Berghof Hotel for a civilised dinner of Goulash Soup and Lake Pike fried in butter.  Slept like a log.JpegJpegJpeg

In the morning we walked up to the TI office where we were to catch a private mini bus, sitting outside the time for departure arrived but no bus. A glance down the road spotted a likely looking vehicle which we just managed to board before it departed. Up the Stilluptal valley we passed a famous waterfall and continued on a private track in increasingly dramatic scenery to Grüne Wand Hütte. Here we felt we deserved some refreshment before setting off – it was the best apple strudel I’ve ever had! Jpeg

Jpeg

Jpeg

The steep zigzagging trail through woods and then rocks brought us in 800m to the Kasseller.  A traditional hut sitting on a promontory with excellent views of tomorrow’s walk. I am with the ‘rockman’ and by chance on the terrace in the sun he met a fellow geologist from Israel, much discussion ensued. There was a lovely display of local wild flowers all labelled which interested me more.JpegJpeg

Two geologists.

The two geologists.

We were humorously quizzed about Brexit by the guardian – if you voted in you had a room, if out all you got was a mattress. The usual evening meal was followed by a talk from the guardian about the various route options and the weather [set fair] – a nice touch if we could have understood it all. You may have noticed we’ve hopped into the route on day 2 to avoid the 9hr day from the Edelhûtte. It’s called the Berliner Höhenweg because most of the huts are run by the Berlin section of the German Alpine Club, DAV.

zzcapture-jpgzillertalmap

 Today’s quote – every third night is enough”                                                                                           on discussing shower arrangements.

 

These boots are made for walking?

Last September  we were preparing for a trip to the Stubai in Austria, the HiTec ‘Eurotrek’ boots mentioned then have given me a good year’s walking but there is now little tread left on the heels, a lace eyelet has pulled and the thin leather on the toes is disintegrating. They are still remarkably waterproof but are resigned as from now to garden duties. Not bad for 40 quid.

Looking in the shops many of the boots on offer seemed narrow so I went for HiTec again as they seem to fit. This time I’ve chosen their Altitude version with a rubberized toe cap and a hopefully better Vibram  sole – all at twice the price.

The inexpensive Peter Storm waterproof has been OK in light rain and is proving wear resistant but feels a little thin for the mountains in September. I have upgraded to a North Face version costing four times the price and twice the weight.The jury is out, I’ll report back in a year.

We are heading to Austria again, this time to Mayrhofen and into the Zillertal Alps for another week’s high level trek – Zillertal Rucksack Route (Berliner Hohenweg)

8 Mar 2013 – Zillertal Rucksack Route (Berliner Hohenweg

8 Mar 2013 – Zillertal Rucksack Route (Berliner Hohenweg

8 Mar 2013 – Zillertal Rucksack Route (Berliner Hohenweg

 

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.