Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Saturday, 21 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 20 - Dornbirn (Karren Cablecar) to Viktorsberg (Land- & Panoramagasthof Schöne Aussicht)

Saturday 21 July 2018

Coffee and croissants with Markus, then - after a fairly ruthless reduction of luggage from a car full to two small backpacks - we abandoned the car outside his apartment and accepted a lift to the Karren cablecar. 

Our plan had been to walk a 21 stage route called the Kalkalpen Traverse. It's described by Alan Proctor in his Cicerone guide published in 1986. My copy was bought in 1994 and had luxuriated on a bookshelf until recently. I couldn't buy an updated version because there isn't one.

Stage 1 is from Bödele, near Dornbirn,  to a mountain hut, Freschen Haus. When I started to book the trip just a few weeks ago (at short notice because of 'all change' due to my hernia op) plans were immediately knocked back when Freschen Haus informed me that they were fully booked tonight.

So I plotted an alternative route; Markus edited it, and that's how we find ourselves tonight in a 200 year old room in this nice hotel, with panoramic views of the Rhine valley.

The Karren Cablecar, of which there are clear views from Markus's balcony, runs every 15 minutes from 9am to midnight. We arrived soon after 9am to find a long queue. Curiously large sums were being spent by several groups of people. Once on the cablecar and disgorged at a satisfactory height of 970 metres, we realised that many folk were going up to enjoy a lavish breakfast in the restaurant that overlooks Lake Constance.

The weather forecast was dreadful. But the few bouts of light rain that did pass over hardly warranted the use of waterproofs, though visibility could at times have been better.

We started with a 'selfie' on the skywalk balcony at Karren. The walk to our elevenses stop at the friendly Schuttannen Hütte (1150 metres) was through pleasant woodland on the Salamander Balcony path. There were countless salamanders.

A direct route, which included a steep descent then a steeper ascent on narrow, little used paths, took us to the Emser Hütte (1280 metres) for lunch. Cheese and ham toasties with lots of salad.

From there, the ascent of Hohe Kugel, today's high point at 1645 metres, was a steady pull past a large herd of cows up to a pleasant crest. Fine if rather cloud tainted views, and a posh box containing two fully used visitor's books.

Then a steady descent to Viktorsberg to finish the day at 4.45pm after a 7 hour outing. Just a few folk seen on the final descent, otherwise we had only cows for company all day.

Having moved some way to the west, some of the flowers are different here. Particularly noticeable are Yellow Archangels, Stemless Thistles, Marsh Gentian, St Bernard's Lilies, German Gentians, Salad Burnett, Horse Mint, and a patch of wild raspberries.

Today: 16.5 km, 1100 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
Starting with a selfie and Lake Constance
Salamanders
Hohe Kugel view
False White Helleborine
View of the Rhine valley from near our balcony

'Summer in the Alps' Day 19 - Matrei to Dornbirn

Friday 20 July 2018

Sadly, our group of ten dispersed this sunny day, leaving Sue and me to spend the morning wandering around Matrei as we had all day to achieve the 200 mile journey to Dornbirn, and a welcome from our old friend, Markus.

The parish church of St Alban, the Gothic tower of which dates from the 14th century, dominates Matrei. The meticulously attended cemetery is also a place of interest.

We then spent some time in the Hohe Tauern National Park building, where there is a superb exhibition, and an art gallery.

We also admired the garden from which a number of the ingredients of this week's meals have clearly been sourced.

Our journey was smooth and uneventful. Once at Markus's shiny new flat, we admired the Voralberg view from his balcony with a glass of wine, after a fruitful visit to the local Indian restaurant.
 
Today's pictures:
St Alban's church and cemetery, Matrei (3)
Hotel Hinteregger's kitchen garden
Tomorrow's route, from Markus's balcony

Thursday, 19 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 18 - The Glorerhütte Circular

Thursday 19 July 2018

We were joined by Jack from Collett's and fellow guests Colin and Ann for this magnificent walk from the Lucknerhaus car park above Kals.

It was a perfect summer's day with a pretty much cloudless sky. That made for great views to Großglockner, which blotted out a nearby horizon, and great views far and wide in other directions.

The ascent to Glorerhütte was well graded. We passed just a few people on the path and we saw only a handful of folk all day. Sue and I recalled our experience of the Rockies last year - there's a marked contrast; the Alps have the benefit of fewer trees, and a route such as today's in the Rockies could be either crowded out or accessible only by permit.

The hut provided refreshments and apfelstrudel, before we ascended from the 2642 metre hut to the 2821 metre summit of Kastenegg. Whilst the ascent included a short and very easy scramble, the wide summit plateau provided an excellent venue for lunch. We stayed there for some time, and even spotted Graham B on the top of Großglockner.

The descent via paths 713a to Pesichachtorl, then path 67 back to the start, was through more of the beautiful meadows that have graced this trip. Marmots and cows went about their business, ignorant of our presence, as we passed by carpets of Alpine Asters and Vanilla Orchids.

After this relatively short excursion, Colin drove us back to Matrei for further R&R and a final meal at Hotel Hinteregger.

Thanks go to Jo, Jack, Katie, Ali and Ben - the Collett's team - and Katerina and her staff at the hòtel, for helping to make the week so pleasurable, and our team of ten for being excellent company.

Today: 11.5 km, 900 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
The view above Lucknerhaus
Apfelstrudel at Glorerhütte
Glorerhütte and Großglockner
Spring gentians
Our group ascends

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 17 - Lienz

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Mike and Sarah joined us for a relaxing day in Lienz.

This started with a 2.7 km toboggan run preceded by a chairlift, the Hockstein Gondola, by which we gained a respectable height (300 metres). With a good braking system these sledges on rails gave as much of a thrill as you wanted. Not much in our cases, but it was great fun and I'd certainly have speeded up if Sue had shown signs of catching up with me.

Then we strolled over to a castle, Schloss Bruck. This place was built between 1252 and 1277 by the Counts of Görz and has a tall tower and a rich history.

Refreshments were taken during a phone call to Grandma Dot, then we enjoyed a tour of the castle. It houses a museum, and an art gallery that focuses on the work of a local man, Albin Egger-Lienz (1868-1926).

There's a small chapel in the castle with impressive artistic decoration, including wall frescos dating back to 1490.

After some WW1 education with reference to the White War in this area, we walked to the top of the tower. Impressive views over Lienz and the surrounding area.

A walk into the old town saw us scoffing lunch in Café Cappuccino at 3pm! Doesn't time fly when you are enjoying yourself!

Returning to Matrei after a further forage into the recesses of Lienz's old town, we were soon installed in Hotel Rauter (next door to Hinteregger) for Blue Trout (for nine of us - Andrew chose Goat) in celebration of Helen's recent big birthday. The meal was classy, but the trout wasn't very blue. Perhaps not quite as blue as Helen's mum Joan remembers it from her visit in 1952...

Today: 3 km around Lienz
 
Today's pictures:
The Lienzer Dolomiten from the top of the Hockstein gondola
Mike the toboganist
Elevenses with Dot
Frescos at Schloss Bruck
Lienz from the Tower
Lienz old town
Dessert

'Summer in the Alps' Day 16 - Türmljoch

Tuesday 17 July 2018

An overcast day with good views but annoying showers.

Thirteen of us, including Sue and me, and Thomas and Andrea from our group of ten, and Jo from Collett's, drove to Hinterbichl to catch the 9.30 taxi up a private road to Johannishütte (2121 metres). This proved a good way to ascend about 600 metres. €12 each well spent.

With rain sheeting down, Sue and I were joined by John and Claire for coffees before setting off in lighter rain behind the other nine, weaving slowly up the mountainside on the good path. The strong coffee saw me rapidly overhaul the rest of the group, but it gave Claire a funny turn! She soon caught up though.

Last time we were on Türmljoch, a 2772 metre pass, it snowed. Today it was just drizzly. We spent a little while there, admiring both Sticky Primroses and Least Primroses once we had established from our flower book which was which, before descending the good path with views across to Simonysee, towards Essener-Rostocker Hütte (2207 metres). A sheltered glade on the way down provided a good spot for lunch, with views across to yesterday's panoramic belvedere walk.

There was more rain while we were hot chocolating in the hut. A game of dominoes passed the time until the rain stopped and we descended back to the cars past a distressed cow in the process of being rescued, through flower strewn meadows full of Martagon Lilies, orchids, columbines,  monkshood, black rampion, angelica and tall woolly thistles, without any further need to deploy our waterproof clothing.

We passed Stoanalm but on this occasion we eschewed its attractions of refreshments.

Beyond a kletterpark, a right turn took us to a path beside a river that thundered down a narrow gorge. Avalanche debris lower down had resulted in the path to Hinterbichl being re-routed. We emerged there in fine weather at around 5.15pm after a thoroughly enjoyable walk.

Today: 18km, 800 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
The view back to Johannishütte and yesterday's hills
Sticky primrose
Türmljoch
Least primrose
Martagon lily
Stoanalm

Monday, 16 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 15 - Berger-See-Hütte Circuit

Monday 16 July 2018

Sue and I were joined by Andrea and Thomas for this lovely walk to the south of Pragraten in the Virgental valley.

Time constraints preclude a detailed entry, but suffice to say we all enjoyed a fine day out with wonderful views despite the occasional rain shower.

A long haul up to the hut saw us travelling only marginally faster than two small children. But we were there in time to be enjoying a plate of apfelstrudel by the time the hail started. In order to remain dry, this necessitated a long stop. 

A rain free walk to a small bothy for lunch saw us sheltering from more precipitation. I was furthest in, so hardly noticed the rain.

A belvedere path used by motor cycles to supply the hut took us to a lookout adorned with a wooden pyramidal structure at 2375 metres - the day's high point.

The belvedere continued along the Lasörling Hohenweg, with fine views of the Venediger range, before dropping sedately to the Lasnitzenalm Hütte at 1900 metres, surrounded by friendly cows.

After more refreshments we continued down a motorable track to a left turn at a hairpin bend. This took us down to path number 68, signed to Pragraten. Large beds of wild strawberries were soon encountered.

Eventually reaching the car at around 5.45pm, we were back at Hotel Hinteregger by soon after 6pm, our latest finish of the trip so far.

Today: 18km, 1200 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
The Virgental
Lunch in a bothy
Yellow Rattle
On the belvedere path
Belvedere viewpoint

Herb Paris was seen today, as well as many different saxifrage and orchids.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 14 - The Lienzer Dolimiti

Sunday 15 July 2018

A group of 13 of us drove up to the Dolomiten Hütte, situated in a wonderful spot at 1620 metres up a toll road to the south of Lienz.

Sylvia was left to potter about whilst the rest of us headed steeply upwards at a brisk pace with frequent pauses. We were accompanied by Jo and Ben of the Collett's staff. Ben only started his job this week, straight from Uni. He's doing fine and can't believe how lucky he is to be working in this mountain environment when many of his friends are stuck in offices.

Some wires on the 'protected path' aided us up to a minor col with fine views on another day of good weather after rain in the night. We passed a salamander that appeared to be in the process of being eaten alive by ants.

Heading on up to the Karlsbader Hütte (2260 metres), John and Claire took an alternative route via a short via ferrata. The rest of us continued over steep ground to reach a driveable track leading to the hut.

Lunch was taken by Laserz See, a small lake with good reflections, then Graham, Sue and I strolled around the lake whilst the others adjourned to the hut for beverages.

A lovely path across a scree slope provided the start of an increasingly steep descent back through woodland to the superbly positioned Dolomiten Hütte, where refreshments were taken indoors due to the threat of a storm that dissolved into sunshine.

Today: 11km, 1000 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
A view from Dolomiten Hütte
Woolly Thistle
On the wires
Approaching Karlsbader Hütte
Lunch at Laserz See