We've arrived at what appears to be the northern edge of the Alps. There's a great sense of satisfaction in having walked right through this wonderfully varied range of mountains. Today's ridge gave immense views back to the Allgauer Alps that we've recently passed through, and beyond them to the Lechtaler peaks. The most prominent mountain in the huge vista was Zugspitze, but in the far distance there was a further panorama of snow covered peaks.
However, to our north, the plains of Bavaria confirmed that our mountain days were nearly over.
It's interesting that our most challenging day should be in the 'foothills' between 1500 and 2000 metres, where a path is feasible over a long knife-edge roller coaster of a ridge, whereas such a route is rarely feasible for any length in the higher alps, though we did find one on day 1 of our Lechtal holiday, and others earlier in the trip.
Frau Beck, Annie, was a lovely lady in her 80's. She provided this morning's breakfast whilst we admired skiing trophies won by her three sons from the 1970's to the 1990's. They had taken part in several winter olympics.
The bustling village of Gunzesried, with its ancient tractors, had abruptly quietened at dusk, and was still silent when we set off along the E5 path at 8.30. It was already warm, so our 800 metre ascent to the first summit on the long ridge, Steineberg (1661m), was fairly laborious, especially as we were fully laden with water and lunch supplies. We did however enjoy an unexpected drinks break at Vorder Krumbach Alpe farm (1332m).
People coming this way should note the presence of a 20 metre ladder a little to the east of the summit of Steineberg. It's not quite vertical, and it has a hand rail, but be warned. We followed some children up it. Beyond Steineberg, four more main summits and several minor ones await those who want to traverse all the way to Staufner Haus. There are a number of wires to assist we of nervous disposition, but in poor weather the ridge is probably best left to the cows that graze on it and the hawks and choughs that use it as a sort of nursery. There is an excellent alternative valley route. We were fortunate to enjoy perfect, if rather' drippy' weather.
There were quite a few folk on the ridge. It has numerous escape routes so can be used for shorter walks than ours. As we progressed, our final destination, Lake Constance, slowly came into view. The flora on the ridge is wonderful at this time of year, with butterfly orchids, clovers, saxifrages and gentians all flourishing. In the early wooded sections nutcrackers, their beaks crammed with goodies, seemed to be everywhere.
We reached Staufner Haus at 5pm and expected to be in a dormitory, but we aren't complaining about our twin room for €28. It's very cosy.
A hefty rehydration session, plus a good meal soon followed, and after watching a golden sunset over Lake Constance, we enjoyed our final reward for the hard day - an early night.
Top - on the knife edge ridge
Middle - descending to Staufner Haus
Bottom - rehydration fluid in the sun drenched mountain hut
None since the technical problems. Perhaps everyone is on holiday, watching the Olympics, or simply bored to death.
31 July 2012 (what a fantastic way to spend July)
16km in 8.5 hours with 1850m ascent
Number of E5ers seen today: 10 to 20 on the ridge (good for them), and several in the hut
Flower of the Day - Great Masterwort (exercising its dominance today)
Itinerary - http://www.topwalks.com/E5%20Route.html
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