Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Austria - Day 12

Thursday 20 July 2017 - Sankt Poltener Hut to Matreier Tauern Haus (1512 metres)

8.5 km
200 metres ascent
3.5 hours
16000 steps

Marie served us the usual breakfast for a hut that doesn't have a goods lift - bread, sliced meat, cheese, jam, etc plus as much tea and coffee as you like, and even some specially made hot chocolate for Cary.

Then a delay until 8 o'clock when they could check that Markus had actually paid a deposit when he booked on our behalf.

A sunny walk from the start. We climbed to a small summit, Weinbicht (2545 metres), then gradually descended after a contouring section featuring the final snow patch of the trip.

Saxifrage and mouse-ear were growing amongst the rocks. There were lots of large, curious sheep, and fine views across the valley to Gross Venediger.

The path passed three picturesque lakes, Grauer See, Schwarzer See and Gruner See, with tumbling cascades in between them and reflected mountains within them.

We loitered for some time on a bench beside the lower lake, enjoying the mountain scenery from a little below 2000 metres for the first time for many days.

Several groups were ascending. Perhaps Sankt Poltener Hut would do some lunchtime business.

The path wove its way down the valley, with a little bogginess as we passed through cow pastures. Then it threaded in and out of pines, emerging at a car park from where a short stroll brought us to the hamlet of Tauer, where sadly our twelve day trek drew to a conclusion.

We arrived before midday, so had plenty of time to enjoy a lavish lunch before catching the 13.10 bus to Matrei.

The Matreier Taurnhaus came up trumps. Sue and I enjoyed a superb salad of goats cheese, red onion, lettuce, cauliflower, carrot and button mushrooms with a large crouton,  whilst chickens wandered beneath the tables.

The bus delivered us to the door of Hotel Hinteregger, where a cup of tea was enjoyed before a little bit of washing to make us acceptable for the journey home.

Outside, a violent thunderstorm obscured the mountains. We have been very lucky!

A lazy afternoon was followed by a sociable evening with the Collett's staff and clients who are based here, in particular it as good to catch up properly with Graham and Mary, who we hope to see here next year. It's a great location.

Austria - Day 11

Wednesday 19 July 2017 - Neue Prager Hütte to Sankt Poltener Hut (2481 metres)

15 km
700 metres ascent
8.25 hours
30000 steps

It was a busy morning for breakfast at the Neue Prager Hut. Not our favourite hut of the trip, but I suppose the remote situation of the hut and the nature of their clientele (mainly climbers, often novices, going up Gross Venediger) dictates a fairly rigid and impersonal regime. Quite a contrast to Badener Hut.

Armed with well provisioned packed lunches, we set off with a number of others at around 8.15 after Cary had suffered an unsatisfactory phone call with his bank.

It was unexpectedly spitting with rain. In fact the morning was mostly cool and cloudy, though at one point the sun shone brightly enough for lots of sun cream to be applied.

There were wired sections that dictated a slow pace on a day on which after leaving the main path at Alte Prager hut we only saw four people all day - on the river bed above Venediger Haus - presumably hunting for minerals. A brutal 300 metre ascent up a wide stream bed followed this near encounter.

A couple of tricky snow slopes presented themselves. Justification for bringing axes and crampons, although Sue was the only one of us who took full advantage, using her Yaktrax to cross a steep slope that the rest of us found a way around.

Lunch was taken out of the cool breeze at a path junction leading to Innergschloss.

The  weather then turned - into a glorious sunny afternoon. The shiny noses of curious sheep and cows were adored by Sue. The path contoured with gentle undulations on a superb belvedere route over mixed ground. From grassy corries to rough boulderfields, care needed at times; Cary fell off the path at one point. Ouch!

There weren't quite as many varieties of flowers on today's route, but spring gentians were fairly dominant. Lots of marmots were seen, as well as a pair of Bartgeier eagles, whose massive wingspans floated above us for a while.

Eventually we passed under some incongruous power pylons and found ourselves confronted by today's destination.

Tea and apfelstrudel were enjoyed on the sunny verandah whilst we waited for Cary, who was solving his banking problems lower down the path with the last vestiges of his phone signal.

We are the only visitors tonight and are almost outnumbered by the staff at this 'off the main drag' place. We have the luxury of two separate rooms, so nobody is resigned to a top bunk, and Cary is sharing with me.

There are no showers but the washroom does have warm water.

Best soup of the trip - many different vegetables - then bauerngerösta mit spiegelei (fried potato and bacon bits with an egg on top), followed by peaches cake. Excellent.

Austria - Day 10

Tuesday 18 July 2017 - Badener Hut to Neue Prager Hütte (2796 metres)

11 km
1000 metres ascent
6.25 hours
20000 steps

For those who went up Innerer Knorrkogl, add 0.75 km and 100 metres ascent. The 30 minutes taken is included in the 6.25 hour timing above.

Verena and Marco provided a more basic breakfast than usual, as much tea, coffee, bread, ham, cheese and a selection of jams as you want, with - for a small charge - a self made sandwich for lunch.

It was a perfect blue sky morning, suitable for t-shirt and shorts but not too hot up at 2600 metres.

We set off at our usual time of 8 am, waved off with a present of soap from Verena and Marco (who are pictured with us outside the hut) and took an hour and a half to amble 3 km to the only col of the day, Lobbentorl (2770 metres), adorned with war and other memorials and a large crucifix.

En route were some formidable banks of flowers, including one of the biggest stands of edelweiss we've ever seen. That was after big banks of sticky primroses and banks of leopardsbane. The views into the green valley that descends to Gruben were lovely, with just the occasional distraction of some short and easy wired sections where the path encountered a steep drop.

Sue and Susan toddled off to climb Innerer Knorrkogl, a summit a hundred metres higher than the col. Meanwhile Cary and I admired splendid views across the Schlatenkees glacier to our objective for the day, Neue Prager Hütte, perched in the distance on a rocky outcrop.

From the green of the view to the south we now moved down towards the glacier and the brown and grey rockfields and debris that accompany it. It was easy going through the rockfield to reach a good path along the lateral moraine. Sue and Susan debated a shortcut across the glacier that's described in Allan Hartley's Cicerone guide. They eventually decided against it, and we now think the route is no longer safely possible due to the receding glacier.

A group of six Brits was encountered. They were heading to Badener Hütte. We are currently sitting exactly where they were last night in Neue Prager Hut. But this is being sent Much Later due to technical problems.

Quite a number of people were seen today, as we're in an area from which people ascend the Venediger summits.

After a 400 metre ascent, from the valley bottom, we paused at the Alte Prager Hut, a derelict building on which some sort of renovation work is taking place. A pause to enjoy a bird's eye view of the glacier was obligatory.

A gentle rocky path then led up the final 300 metres in 35 minutes to our home for the night, reached at 2.15.

The hut is less rustic and more impersonal than last night's abode, but quite acceptable nonetheless. We enjoyed tea and apfelstrudel before installing ourselves in room 7.

Dinner was good, and yahtse followed like a bad penny.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Austria - Day 9

Monday 17 July 2017 - Bonn Matreier Hut to Badener Hut (2608 metres)

10.5 km
700 metres ascent
7 hours
22000 steps

For those who went up Rauhkopf, add 1.5 km and 300 metres ascent. The extra 1.5 hours is included in the 7 hour timing.

Waking to a perfect blue sky day, windless and warmer than yesterday, we were breakfasted and away by 8 o'clock. There's no packed lunch option here but they are happy for us to make butties from the breakfast buffet. The food is excellent, with last night's choice of three desserts luring most guests into having a bit of each.

After exploring a small chapel near the hut, we set off along the path to our first col of the day, Kalberscharte. Shortly before reaching that, a path left the main route to climb the 3070 metre summit of Rauhkopf. The others were intent on bagging this minor summit. I joined them until the rock became uncomfortably steep. So I'm sitting now in bright sunshine - no shade available - in the rocky coire between Kalberscharte and our next obstacle, Galtenscharte, from which I'm led to believe will be the trickiest descent of this entire trip.

The third picture down is the view from my rocky stance deployed whilst I waited for an hour and a half for the others to climb Rauhkopf.

Once they reappeared, it was a short boulder hop to the Galtenscharte and some photos (fourth down, featuring Grossglockner) before the long descent via lots of essential wires. This was the crux of the entire trip. Great care was needed as we slowly moved down the rock face. Right at the bottom we met a group who were about to ascend. They kindly waited until we were away from the  bottom wire. On we wandered, across much easier ground with kidney vetch and forget-me-nots taking the place of the spring gentians and edelweiss of yesterday.

Two lunch breaks were needed - Sue is pictured with our view from the first of these.

Towards the end of the walk, a 400 metre climb to Badener Hut (pictured - bottom) took us through a zone of fleabane and fragrant red clover interspersed with ubiquitous harebells.

It's a hut with 57 beds, of which 17 are occupied tonight - us, a group of 9 (two Dutch families) a threesome and a lone German cement expert (a collector of minerals) who has joined us for dinner.

Writing this has become increasingly difficult as there are two resident guitarists and numerous vocalists, featuring Cary who is sitting next to me. It's noisy Penny!

The flowers are spring gentians. 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Austria - Day 8

Sunday 16 July 2017 - Johannis Hütte to Bonn Matreier Hut (2750 metres)

13.5 km
1300 metres ascent
7.5 hours
28000 steps

A fabulous mountain day. Markus joined us for the morning's walk to Eissee Hut, over the 2955 metre Zopat  Scharte. A lovely cool ascent of 800 metres in the shade of the steep mountain side.

The col was in the sun, allowing us to linger at this high point. After the recent rain the air was wonderfully clear, with views to many Austrian summits, and to the Dolomites to the south.

During the day several ptarmigan were seen, one with a young family. Marmots sprouted from all angles and there was a distinct absence of cows on the steep ground.

After leaving Johannis before 8 am, we reached the Eissee Hut at 11.30. Lunch was enjoyed there in an idyllic setting on the verandah, before hordes of visitors arrived from the valley. It is Sunday, after all.

Whilst Markus then went on his merry way back to Dornbirn and an environmental project that starts tomorrow, the rest of us enjoyed the gently undulating belvedere path that ends in a meandering ascent to this welcoming Hut. The schnapps was most welcome. Thank you.

We took 7.5 hours, but with no threat of a storm we savoured the route and could have moved more quickly, though care was needed on the wired sections. Edelweiss and spring gentians lined this afternoon's path, as well as the alpine moon daisies that I photographed.

Various birds were seen, including an eagle soaring on the thermals high above this hut.

After arriving here at 3.30, time has flown as we've chilled out and washed our shirts and knickers etc, and before we knew it we were tucking into an excellent buffet meal.

Some projects were hatched during discussions with Markus:

1 LEJOG by mountain bike
2 Transalp bike ride - 6 days in late August/early September 2018
3 Eastern Lake District backpacking  before the Calderdale MTB Marathon in October 2018  

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Austria - Day 7

Saturday 15 July 2017 - Essener Rostocker Hut to Johannis Hütte (2121 metres)

8 km
600 metres ascent
3.5 hours
18000 steps

A walk in light rain and snow over the Turmljoch pass (2790 metres).

The rain ceased on the descent to Johannis Hütte, but on the way the snow was up to a few inches deep, with patches of moss campion poking through.

We met two people near the pass, but that was our sole encounter on the walk. Sue and I were delayed on the pass as she lost an overmitt and went on a futile search whilst I sunbathed.

The Johannis Hütte was crammed with people taking lunch. We squeezed in and enjoyed soup, spag bol and a luxury salad.

Laundry and showering then kept us busy until Markus, our good friend from Dornbirn, arrived soon after 3.30.

In the interests of being sociable I'll end this entry now and hope that this and yesterday's postings will 'post' if I buy half an hour's WiFi. 

Pictures are chronological - note Johannis Hütte in the bottom image.

Austria - Day 6

Friday 14 July 2017 - Stroden (1405 metres) to Essener Rostocker Hut (2208 metres)

6.5 km
800 metres ascent
3.5 hours
12000 steps

After a good night at Hotel Hinteregger we could afford a lie in as our bus up the Virgental valley didn't leave until 9.43. It was good to encounter Mike and Sue (last seen in the Picos de Europa), and Graham and Mary, who brought our camping chairs back from the Dolomites a few years ago.

We abandoned unwanted items like down jackets, a broken camera and some tinned fish with Caroline, and set off on the second phase of our trip on the Postbus to Stroden.

The weather wasn't as sunny as usual, with intermittent attempts at drizzle in between the sunny periods.

After setting off around 10.30 we soon reached Stoanalm, where coffee and hot chocolate went down well and Sue and I shared an excellent apfelstrudel, our first of the trip.

The rest of the morning involved a steady scenic plod on a good forest track, emerging from the trees below the small Ochsner Hut, outside which we enjoyed our Collett's packed lunches.

The floral accompaniment had been excellent all morning, but was nothing short of outstanding for the remaining 300 metres of ascent to our destination, reached at 2 pm.

Orchids and bellflowers were particularly abundant.

On arrival at Essener Rostocker Hut we were shown to our room for four, plonked our gear there and set off on an excursion:

Essener Rostocker Hut to Simony See (2350 metres) and back

3.5 km
150 metres ascent
1.5 hours
8000 steps

This was a pleasant romp in light rain to an icy tarn. Lots more flowers, including alpenrose, and wheatears and redstarts. Back at 4 pm for a litre of teewasser and a welcome cuppa.

It's now 5 pm but I can predict beer o'clock (shortly), a four course half board dinner, a game of cards for some of us, flower identification, reading (Ruth Ware's 'The Lying Game' for me), and an early night.

No sign of a phone signal so there may be some delay, as is usual on this sort of trip.

The photos should be self explanatory. As usual, click on them for larger versions.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Austria - Day 5

Thursday 13 July 2017 - Sudetendeutsche Hütte to Matrei in Osttirol (1000 metres)

12 km
100 metres ascent
4.5 hours
23000 steps

We enjoyed a slow start, thanks to a bit of drizzle that subsided as we left the hut at 8.30.

The first 600 metres descent was on a good path, if steep and infested with over-eager sheep.

Once down at the goods lift it was an easy, flattish stroll to the fleshpots of Steineralm. An attentive lady served us drinks in the sunshine with a fabulous mountain backdrop.

Then a delightful contouring path past some cute goats took us to a view that remained with us all morning. Down to Matrei and across the valley to the Venediger peaks that we will pass close to during the next week.

Path 12 led steeply down to some gentler tarmac and a final off road section into Matrei. Thanks to some text messages, we were accosted by Caroline from Collett's and taken to our home for the night, the Hinteregger Hotel. It's an ideal place to slot inside a couple of easy days' walking.

After popping straight out for some lunch, we embarked on a big wash and are now set fair with clean clothes. Hopefully we can leave some items we haven't needed here until we return in a week's time.

Later: we can, and we've spent a lovely sociable evening with an assortment of Collett's staff and clients, four of whom we've met before!

The pictures:
Looking back to Sudetendeutsche Hütte
The view from Steineralm
Matrei and the Venediger massif
A present for AlanR