Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Wednesday 12 December 2007 - Highlights of the Year – Part 3 – Berliner Hohenweg - 27 July 2007

The Berliner Hohenweg, or the ‘Zillertal Rucksack Route’ as Allan Hartley describes it in his Cicerone guide published in 2003, was my choice for a hutting route with just The Dishy Pharmacist, to follow our week with other friends in the Dolomites in July.
I still plan to do a report on this trip as the guide book appears to have been completed in a hurry and contains numerous minor ‘debatable’ issues. In fact the route is simple enough to do without a guidebook, though I hope to produce an A3 pamphlet (or equivalent, ie 4 pages of A4) that people could print off. For us, the guide book provided evening entertainment with a red pen, but it also contains a lot of information about excursions from the basic route. Allan Hartley is a mountaineer of the climber genus and clearly enjoyed the diversions more than the basic route that we undertook, so people like Ali and Lay would probably benefit from the book, and reach a number of Alpine summits. For the more pedestrian amongst us, the route is clear, well marked and well used, and Kompass 1:50000 map No 37 – ‘Zillertaler Alpen Tuxer Voralpen’ is all you really need.
The whole trip was a ‘Highlight of the Year’ but I’ll focus on just one day, the last day’s walk from Friesenberg Haus to Gams Hut:
We rose at 6.45, as usual, in our small dormitory where the other beds remained unoccupied. But the dining room was full of breakfasting Alpinistes from 7 o clock. It was hazy, with cloud already obscuring the peaks, but warm enough for shorts as we left on the 14 km trek to Gams Huts before 8 am. The first section was bouldery and passed a small lake, Wesendkarsee, at 2375 metres, where last year I camped in beautiful weather with Mark and Juliana, and I also camped there back in 1993. It’s a great spot facing south east with fabulous views.
The cloud engulfed us here, but it was still bright and it soon cleared again, but felt very humid. We passed Kevin and Alison, the only other Brits seen all week. They planned to descend from Kesselalm as Kevin has a cold. Soon afterwards we passed Manfred, a 67 year old from Cologne who is the only person to have been on the trail with us all week. They all started early as the guidebook suggests 10 to 12 hours will be needed, though the signs say it is a 9 hour day. Manfred has seen gamsbok (antelope) but so far we have only seen a large cobweb and have heard marmots whistling. There’s a sharp descent to Kesselalm (no axes needed this year – we had used one to negotiate a frozen gully last year) where two curious grey calves were frolicking in the meadow. An attractive waterfall oversaw an excellent half hour brew stop. Sue ate several handfuls of bilberries – ripe and warm from the sun.
A hot climb followed, through green meadows with loads of flowers. There were fine views from here, and throughout the day, across the main valley to the route we had enjoyed during the first three days from Edel Hutte.
Pitzen-Alm provided a welcome stop, with a small café perched on the edge of the slope dispensing welcome Schiewasser and Apfelsaft on its balcony. They were surprised we had arrived so early; we must have been going well! We were now well ahead of the others on today’s route. We met Alphonse coming the other way, and he promised to say ‘Hello Manfred’ when passing the gentleman from Cologne. We had done this earlier in the week, and Manfred, walking alone, was always chuffed to be greeted like a long lost friend by complete strangers!
Next, we climbed from the Alm, passing through areas of pasture and boulders, not far above the firs. The gradually increasing cloud at least provided shelter from the burning sunshine, and a few drops of rain were felt as we crossed another boulder field.
The final couple of miles were on a precipitous narrow path, high above the valley, with stream crossings requiring care. Here, at last, we spotted a gamsbok browsing in the steep grass just below us. There were masses of colourful wild flowers, from Houseleeks to Harebells, around here.
Only when we rounded the easternmost point of the main ridge below which we had been walking, did we get a view of our destination, the well appointed Gams Hut, at 1916 metres the lowest we had stayed in all week. The path weaved down through more bilberry bushes, with fine views down the ever widening Ziller valley. We arrived at the Hut at 2 pm, after a 6 hour walk including an hour of stops. Interesting in the context of the 9 to 12 hour timings suggested by guide book and signs, especially as we were not rushing.
We enjoyed a cooked lunch in the Hut, as always, and basked in the satisfaction of successfully completing this high level traverse, before providing a welcoming party for Manfred, who arrived tired but happy and much in need of the beer we had set up for him.
This was the only hut we had felt a need to book in advance (Friday night, close to a holiday town) but only a handful of others arrived. It seems that many folk are put off by the prospect of a long day with steep slopes and boulder fields, and they descend to Ginzling from Kesselalm or Pitzen-Alm. The hut log reveals just 5 visiting Brits in the 8 weeks since the hut opened for the summer. The cloud sat at about 400 metres above us but the expected storm didn’t materialise and the three of us enjoyed our final meal together – schnitzel and salad, with Manfred providing Schnapps, which appeared to be the hut warden’s ‘home brew’. We couldn’t resist topping the meal off with apfelkuchen, which left the two of us with just 6 euros to buy coffees on the way into Mayrhofen the following morning.
There is a slide show of this trip (100 images) - please let me know if you wish to view it.

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