Its September now, you know summer is almost over when people repeatedly say that TODAY is the last beautiful warm day of the year. Looking at my discoloured hiking boots, worn-out sports shoes, marked-up backpacks of different sizes, and dented water bottles, not to mention the newly-acquired scars on my elbows/knees/ankles, its been a pretty decent summer of adventures in the mountains. A few years ago, I was a city girl whose main sport was doing martial arts indoors. Potential was there for outdoor sports, going hiking and skiing several times a year, I mean, going to the mountains was a BIG thing. Several years later, I am rock-climbing, cycling, hiking in the mountains, walking on glaciers, and even snowshoeing uphill with skis on my back. Every weekend a different mountain range, a different adventure, a different set of necessary skills. Still feeling like a total beginner every time, its a challenge and navigating through the paths in the mountains pushes me to hold off my anxiety in the wilderness and enjoy the beautiful nature. I am happy being outdoors, snow…rain…I don’t care (maybe except thunderstorms and lightning). Coming home afterwards, I feel a satisfaction of having acquired more skills, a stronger body, and a stronger sense of being so much alive. My partner T did this, he gave me the courage to challenge myself in the mountains and the dedication to keep going back. Sometimes I think he brought me back to life.
Stubaier Höhenweg in Austria: We drove to Falberson and hiked up to the Neue Regensburgerhütte (2287 m) Friday evening. It was a cozy mountain hut and was quite crowded while we were there. Saturday morning we followed the Stubaier Höhenweg past Falbersonsee, Grawagrubennieder to Mutterbergersee before winding over to the Dresdner Hütte. The path took a bit more than 6 hours, and was very well maintained. I was careful crossing the snowfields in between. Dresdner Hütte reminds me of an alpin hotel with a quality restaurant. Next to the hut is a cable car station to the Stubaier Gletcher, making it very accessible. After an hour’s pause for lunch and drinks, we continued our way to the Sulzenauhötte (2191 m). It is about two hours ago, and here I hiked over Peiljoch while T ran up the steep Großer Trögler. Dinner was served and after a day’s hike, the mountain hut foods are always delicious. The hut was quite small and the rooms are very comfortable, the showers work and the people there are very friendly. Your quality of sleep depends on how well-adjusted you are to the altitude. Sunday I hiked down from the Sulzenauhütte past the Grawa-Wasserfall while T ran off to the Nürnberger Hütte before heading down. Dipping out feet afterwards into the freezing glacial water stream near the parking lot, it was time for breakfast!
Naturns and the Meraner Höhenweg in Südtirol Italy: Friday night we drove up to Schnatzhof (1535 m), the highest farm on Sonnenberg in Naturns. We were warmly greeted by the family there and in the morning, an amazing breakfast buffet for two awaited us. 5 different kinds of freshly baked bread with homemade jam, cake, meats and cheese, not to mention fresh milk for coffee. The farm is a few metres off the Meraner Höhenweg and directly on hiking route number 6. We followed the number 6 from behind the farm up the very steep and exposed deer track of a path up to Kirchbachspitz (2912 m) with 2 hours of moving time, We descended along a steep rock field to a plateau before heading over to the Obere Mairalm for a snack. There were many cows here and the farm building was quite run down. The view was stunning from there, but I cannot recommend eating there. The gray clouds above were worrisome, but we were told they were passing and there was a very low chance of rain. So T ran back up the mountain to cross the Ginggljoch (2930 m) to go to the Lodnerhütte, going down to the Nassereith Hütte to return on the Meraner Höhenweg. For me, I went down from Obere Mairalm past Dickhof and enjoyed the scenic and comfortable hiking path back to the farm. My feet were quite done by that time, and the evening was spent drinking Hollunderschorle and teaching the kids there to do Sudoku. The next day, we packed the car in the morning and went to Bolzano before going swimming.
Villnössertal near Brixen Italy: Friday afternoon we drove to St. Magdelena and had dinner in this hunting lodge right before the forest. Saturday morning we hiked up the Mittagsscharte (2597 m) and while I descended on the steep path on the other side, T did the Via Ferrata over to Sas Rigais before running down to the plateau. It was a very hot and clear day, the sun was going strong. The summer has been very dry and hot, and even the cows on the plateau above 2000 m are suffering from thirst. We first head down to Rifugio Firenze (2037 m) to refill on water and get some food, then in the heat we followed route 3 over another Scharte and kept going on the Höhenweg until Rifugio Genova/Schlüterhütte, where we would stay the night. It was a long way over and a full day of hiking, through some challenging steep and rocky paths. I feel safe with T and I kept going. The hut was very comfortable, with showers, and the food was wonderful. (Ask about the Bergsteiger’s essen). Sunday morning I hiked the long and direct way back to the car and T ran up to Sas de Putia before coming down. Somehow we manage to arrive at the same time :). Brixen was the town to visit afterwards while we chatted about the alpinist Reinhard Messner, who came from this region and climbed these very mountains as a child. Brixen is a small town that seemed to centre around the Duomo and have lots of hotels. Our next stop was Sterzing, another small town with a surprising beautiful and lively centre, I highly recommend a stop there before getting on the Brenner.
Pfundertal in Südtirol Italy: Our group of 6 halfed by the time this weekend came, no matter, the mountains remain. Friday night was spent in Freienfeld, at a self-built, rustic and beautiful B&B Pension Sparber. We arrived late, and the old couple running the pension were nice enough to feed us with Käsenockerl and salad (tasty but heavy). Saturday morning D arrived, and with T, they started running the Pfunderer Höhenweg while I first drove about 45 km to Pfunders in Pfunderertal to park the car, and hiked up a steep deer track up about 1000 m to Mitterhoferalm (2277 m). There were no hikers in sight, and above, the only people to meet were people working on their fields on the mountain. Following the Pfunderer Höhenweg past Gruipaalm (2222 m, closed) and Hauerhütte (2046 m , closed) and not meeting anyone on the way, I hiked up to the Riegler (2221 m) and went past the Kuhscharte before finding a car path going up to the Eisbruggalm. The path was very narrow and not well-maintained, I had to be careful where I step and to not fall back on the steep parts. Only on the last part to the Eisbruggalm did I meet a handful of hikers. At the alm, a few people were working there. I filled up my water bottle there and had a chat with one of the farmers. He was friendly and was happy to answer my naive questions about how his cow farm works. Apparently he had about 100 cows there: 5 stay in the stable to be milked while the rest graze on the fields for about 2 months. Early September he will take them all down to a lower farm for the winter. It was another 45 minutes of hiking to get to Edelrauthütte (2545 m). On the way was the small Eisbruggsee, the water was so clear and so cold. The hut was a simple wooden cabin, about 100 years old, and an additional cabin outside with a sleeping lager. No showers. I took the halb-pension there and it was delicious. The girls working there are very nice, they stay there usually a month at a time. I was super-hungry since I had no lunch, but I wanted to wait for the boys to eat together. At some point I decided to be impolite and ate first. They came quite late in the darkness, and found the way in the last few hundred metres with the help of the hut attendent, and I was happy to see them safe and out of the cold. The next day we hiked down to the car together the straight way down, making the obligatory stop at Sterzing for food and ice-cream before heading home.
Zillertal in Austria: Friday evening we drove down to Mayrhofen and stayed at a pension on Schweinberg with T’s parents. Saturday morning we hiked up to the Berliner Hütte (2042 m), an elaborate and beautiful mountain hut where we had lunch. Afterwards I took care of T’s parents and hiked with them back to the car while T ran off on the Berliner Höhenweg before meeting up at Ginzling. We went off to Mayrhofen afterwards for coffee before getting dinner at a local gasthof. Sunday morning we drove over to Zillergrund and hiked up to see the Speichersee. The view was stunning there and I think that was enough physical exertion for T’s parents before we started heading back north to Germany. I look forward to going back to do some of the Berliner Höhenweg.
One day after work, we drove down to Scharnitz in Austria to hike up to Pleisenhütte (1757 m) in Karwendel to spend the night. The common rooms at the hut did not offer electricity, instead we relied kerosene lamps in the romantically lit dining room and headlamps in the sleeping lagers. The atmosphere was cozy and T made friends with the hut owner Sigi, who is also a runner. A refuge after a day’s work, and the thought of hiking down early morning and driving to work was exciting.
Being out there together and alone creates a romantic atmosphere that cannot be feigned by the gimmicks. This is real, and feeling like a super lucky girl, this is my life.