Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Saturday, 28 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 27 - Ansbacher Hütte to Dornbirn via Flirsch

Saturday 28 July 2018

Another sunny morning after a slightly disturbed night due to a snorer and early risers. Good buffet breakfast with new found friends, Francesca who lives in Berlin, and Sabrina from Bregenz but living in Copenhagen.

Farewells behind us we set off alone down the path to Flirsch. A flock of choughs was busy breakfasting in the meadow (caterpillars?) and curious sheep approached as we proceeded down the meadowy hillside.

There were enticing views towards the Adlerweg route that we had deserted, but these flower filled meadows were some of the best we'd seen all trip.

It got sweatier as we descended into the heatwave. 17°C at the hut, 24°C at the half way point. Probably around 30°C at the bottom of the hill after passing through a cooler stretch of steep woodland, featuring Ghost Orchids, Red Helleborines and St Bernard's Lilies.

After sussing out travel by bus and train back to Dornbirn, we enjoyed a leisurely cappuccino before catching the 11.32 bus to St Anton. Here we were wetted by a passing storm whilst sourcing luncheon provisions. The 12.57 train to Feldkirch eventually turned up at 13.40 ('late due to a police operation'), so we had plenty of time to scoff our lunch and watch the skies brighten again. St Anton high street was getting ready for a 150 km and 2500 metres ascent Giro bike race tomorrow.

The train journeys to Feldkirch and then Dornbirn were uneventful, with Markus picking us up at Dornbirn station at 3pm and whisking us to his viewpoint balcony for 'beer o'clock' before a refreshing shower (the first since Zug, a few days ago) and a reacquaintance with our wider possessions. The contents of our hutting rucksacks have been duly discharged to a washing bag that can be dealt with next week.

Dinner will be at Fetz, a hillside restaurant with fine views and good food. 

Today: 4.5 km, 50 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
Leaving Ansbacher Hütte
The Adlerweg continues without us
Curious sheep in search of mint
Ghost Orchid
A typical stile

'Summer in the Alps' Day 26 - Leutkircher Hütte (2251 metres) to Ansbacher Hütte (2380 metres) by two different routes

Friday 27 July 2018 - Stage 7 of the Kalkalpen Traverse for Sue, a lower variant for Martin.

Leutkircher was a great hut with a relaxed and friendly guardian despite the stress of being over-full.

After thanking the staff for being so welcoming, and apologising for the continuing madness of Brexit, Sue and I set off on the path to Kaiserjochhaus, reaching a minor col after half an hour or so. Shortly beyond this the lovely looking path became uncomfortably steep for me. So I turned back and Sue continued along the main Kalkalpen Traverse  (aka Adlerweg) route. Her account of a magnificent mountain day should at some point follow.

I returned to the hut, pausing en route for a chat with Christine, a yoga teacher from Constance who started life as a Brummie. She and her friend were having to go down to the valley as all the mountain huts that they could reach today are fully booked.

Path 644 provided an excellent descent towards Pettneu. The only people seen were a guided group moving slowly back down to the valley. I caught them at a snow filled gully that was a little tricky to cross.

The otherwise deserted path descended lazily through orchid and scabious meadows before contouring for a while and finishing the descent on a lovely path cut into the steep woodland - the F.-Kurz-Weg.

At one point a text message informed me that Sue was sitting next to a large white cross high above me. In the photo album of the trip she will appear as a small blur below the cross.

Pettneu was dead to the world. It was hot and humid. I found a path by the river and stopped for a break. It was 30°C in the shade.

By 12.30 I'd reached the deserted village of Schnann. There's a steep and very narrow gorge here. Metal steps are provided. It's a tourist attraction. An elderly couple were struggling down. At the top, near a short tunnel and some hydro furniture, a convenient bench enabled me to dispose of some lunch provisions that had been carried since Lech.

The 600 metre climb to Fritzhütte was steep. Very steep. The schiewasser I bought on arrival disappeared in one gulp.

After a chat with the proprietors, who pointed up to where Sue should have been earlier on the horizon, I set off on a better graded path to tonight's destination. At 3pm a message from Sue informed me of her arrival. She kindly waited for 45 minutes, for me to arrive in time for the order for a litre of teewasser to be placed. Meanwhile, a helicopter rescue was taking place of someone who had come to grief on a variant of the next section of the Adlerweg.

After taking account of my 'there and back' from the hut, as yesterday the easier but longer alternative took virtually the same time as the tougher high level route.

Another sociable evening with good food and two very jolly Dutch couples. Then a chat with Francesca and Sabrina, with whom Sue had finished her day's walk.

Red moon at night, and my Lumix camera should have been able to capture it, but not without a tripod and an encyclopedic knowledge of the 300 page manual!

Today: 18 km, 1500 metres ascent for Martin, a bit less for Sue.
 
Today's pictures:
Leaving Leutkircher Hütte
The path where I turned back (doesn't quite convey the steepness)
Approaching Pettneu
Common Eyebright
On the final ascent to Ansbacher Hütte 

Friday, 27 July 2018

Ansbacher Hütte view

Here's our view at 8.45 tonight, if the posting works.

Blog posting is written but consistently fails to send. Will try again in the morning. 

Thursday, 26 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 25  - Stuttgarter Hütte (2310 metres) to Leutkircher Hütte (2251 metres) via Fanggokar Spitz (2640 metres) and Bodenalp (1554 metres)

Thursday 26 July 2018 - Stage 6 of the Kalkalpen Traverse.

Thanks for your comments, they are appreciated even if they don't receive specific responses.

Last night's dormitory accommodation was fine, and the company was good. We spent the evening with Francesca from Berlin, and Peter from Stuttgart, who we'd encountered earlier, was nearby.

We set off at 8am on another sunny morning, and after admiring tonight's hut supper (second picture) we soon reached Erli Joch. Sue wanted to go to the nearby summit of Fanggokar Spitz (2640 metres) as she has decided to bag as many Alpine Summits as she can. If I ever get around to bagging a second round of summits I won't need to visit this one. I can't specifically remember my previous visit on 16 July 1987. I probably managed the scree slope ascent more easily than I did today, albeit nobody used walking poles in 1987.

The descent to Erli Joch and thence steeply but easily to Erlach Alm did however yield views towards a vivid memory - the site of an impossible looking path number 644 that negotiates steep gullies below Fallersteis-Spitz. In 1987 we made our way to the start of the precipitous traverse before declining its attractions. Today I declined even that walk to the start.

Sue and I walked down the valley to Bodenalp, where we enjoyed coffees and apfelstrudel. It was a pleasant valley walk with good views and no obstacles apart from the occasional mountain biker. They must just cycle up the valley to Erlach Alm and enjoy free wheeling back down; I can't fathom any other routes.

From Bodenalp the path rose on a steep but well-graded path through woods, then shrubbery, and finally across richly flowered alpine meadows, to Leutkircher Hütte. Peter, who had set off on the higher route at the same time as we had taken the valley route, arrived just after us at around 2pm. (Wow! A six hour day!)

A pot of tea and some frankfurters with bread went down well, and we greeted a Dutch quartet who had braved the precipices of path 644.

Francesca and another girl managed the difficulties with ease and have continued on to the Kaiserjoch Hütte.

Incidentally, our esteemed guide book writer, Alan Proctor, dismisses both our route and path 644 simply by stating that the route takes three to four hours, and path 645 via the Ulmer Hut is more interesting and picturesque. Closer reading reveals "There are some sections graded on this route as very difficult".

All in all, the Kalkalpen Traverse,  known these days as 'The Eagle Way', seems to have quite a number of tricky sections.

That's all for now. The guardian here is very friendly and has admitted that tonight will be a bit of a challenge as he has a surfeit of guests, some of whom are being directed to the winter room. Mattresses and blankets, and dinner, will be provided. It's warm and breezy outside. Our washing has dried already. A group of 15 people with a leader who is having to explain hut etiquette has just arrived....

Today: 14 km, 1200 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
Morning outside Stuttgarter Hütte
Hut chickens hoovering up last night's spillages
On Fanggokar Spitz (2640 metres)
Yellow Bellflower
Tea outside Leutkircher Hütte 

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 24  - Zug to Stuttgarter Hütte (2310 metres)

Wednesday 25 July 2018 - incorporating a short cut between part way along Stage 4 and the start of Stage 6 of the Kalkalpen Traverse.

A friendly start with a hearty breakfast from our hosts, who complained about poor business this season. They encouraged us to walk across the golf course to regain yesterday's path. There's obviously an issue here, as we received angry shouts from distant golfers whilst taking today's top photo from a bridge some distance from the fairway.

We strolled pleasantly into Lech on another sunny morning. Food, water bottle for Sue, two pens and an up to date version of map number 33 were all sourced within about 50 metres of the Rufikopf Seilbahn.

€30 and 900 vertical metres later, we were enjoying cappuccinos at the Rufikopf restaurant, served by a Nepali mountain guide.

The 6.5 km walk to the Stuttgarter Hütte was an absolute delight, with lunch at Bockbachsattel (2336 metres) granting us possibly the best panoramic views of the entire trip. Glittering summits in the direction from which we'd come, and the imposing block of Zugspitze ahead.

Our attempt to arrive at the Hütte after 3pm narrowly failed. Our attempt to get a litre of tea and an apfelstrudel before 3pm succeeded.

It's a great place with friendly clientèle.  Time to chill and socialise before dinner at 7pm. We don't often have that luxury!

Today: 11 km, 500 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
The view back, shortly after setting off
Lech
This area has an open door policy
Trumpet Gentians
Lunch with Zugspitze

'Summer in the Alps' Day 23  - Biberacher Hütte to Zug (Gasthof Auerhahn)

Tuesday 24 July 2018 - incorporating Stage 3 and parts of Stage 4 of the Kalkalpen Traverse.

I've just read Sue's account of yesterday - much better than mine. It even mentions the black grouse I startled. We both nearly flew off the mountainside, the black grouse being rather more adept at that than me.

The dormitory with over twenty people in it was surprisingly quiet. Despite being amongst some climbers - notorious for early starts - it remained quiet until 6.30. Buffet breakfast at 7am saw a large queue forming. Everyone seemed to be getting up at the same time. With large groups milling around, Sue and I got going soon after 8am on what was to be another nine hour day.

It seems that a popular hutting route is the Lechquellenrunde. This involves a short hike from Bregenzerwald to Biberacher Hütte, then short daily walks to Göppinger then Freiburger, on to Ravensburger and finally to Stuttgarter Hütte before descending to finish at Lech. There were lots of people doing this, taking all day to get from Biberacher to Göppinger.

Anyway, due to Stuttgarter Hütte being booked for days on end after tomorrow, I was forced to adjust our route so that we stay there tomorrow. That involves a short cut that means we are omitting three easy but crowded sections of the traverse. In order to achieve the short cut we had to descend beyond Göppinger to the valley today.

What a contrast to yesterday! Deep blue skies and much easier paths.

Here's Sue's account (with a few extra bits):

"Under a blue sky, we set off by 8.15, traversing past a cow that was bleeding profusely from a broken horn, to a farm building. Then we started a descent on a heavily eroded path through muddy cow pasture, then shrubs, to cross a river flowing down a narrow valley. Wires on the far side pulled us up, only to drop further, emerging from shrubs at a track that was the start of a long but stunning ascent.

The track soon evolved into a path that climbed the hillside in wide sweeps. At 10.30 we stopped for a snack behind a farm building, which were told was being relied upon for the provision of lunch for one of the groups. There would be disappointment.

The ascent just continued. Cow pasture gave way to steep grassy slopes dotted with flowers. Frog orchids and 4-petaled Field gentians were amongst the many varieties. At the midday stop we watched a marmot, whose head was sticking out of his burrow. He disappeared when two other walkers passed.

After an easy down climb through a steep gully we rose to a huge flat meadow, full of yellow flowers and Spiniest thistles; there must have been a lake there once. Beyond that, a limestone landscape with a river tumbling down and lateral moraines telling of an earlier glacier.

Ciliate rock jasmine, pennycress and deep violet Long-spurred pansies proliferated in this sparse landscape, plus pink splashes of Moss campion. A broad col, and the Göppinger Hütte  (2245 metres) were reached at 1pm. We sat on the leeward, south facing terrace for lunch. It was hot. More sun tan cream please!

Despite the lovely clear views, not everything ran to plan. Our order for soup was mistaken for the tagesüppe, and not the more substantial hüttensuppe. So we got broth with crispy balls rather than potato soup with meat. We had to top up with apfelstrudel with cream! A promised confirmation with Stuttgarter Hütte for tomorrow night was achieved. (How we get there remains a mystery.) But our water bottles couldn't be filled from the tap. A big bottle was purchased and decanted into our water bottles. It was fizzy.

Soon after setting off downhill, a noise was heard, the expanding gas blowing a hole in Sue's water bottle.

After that, it was a lovely afternoon, with a well-graded descent to a pine zone, then along a track to the valley. The path to Zug followed the river, mostly easily, and we were accompanied by the sound of a helicopter making journeys from the valley to the vicinity of our lunchtime hut, where some digging work was in progress.

Once round the golf course, it was easy to find Gasthof Auerhahn, at around 5pm after nearly nine hours of walking. An old building, looking a bit sad, but we have a nice if creaky suite. We watched the last 12km of the Tour de France stage 16 from Carcassonne to Bagnère de Luchon, both of which places stir happy memories for both of us.

Then, much washing and showers before dinner at a nearby hotel (the dinner offered by Auerhahn at €42 each seemed to offer more than we needed). Although still quite expensive at €50 for beers and a main course for the two of us, the food was delicious - a rilette of pork with bread and melted butter as an amuse-bouche, then ragout of deer, spätzle and red cabbage etc (Sue) and red snapper with potatoes and cream sauce etc (M). Very tasty.

Today: 19 km, 1200 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
Leaving Biberacher Hütte
A view to the east
Göppinger Hütte
Field Gentians
Our current library (minus flower book)

Monday, 23 July 2018

'Summer in the Alps' Day 22 - Damüls to Biberacher Hütte (1846 metres)

Monday 23 July 2018 - incorporating the second part of Stage 2 of the Kalkalpen Traverse.

This was supposed to be an easy day. Just six hours in our guide book. So we enjoyed a lie in and a lavish breakfast in our excellent accommodation at the Alpinresort. Besides, it was throwing it down with rain outside.

So it was a 9.45 start, with the first 1.4 km on a pavement in an underpass by way of avalanche protection. There's a footpath on top, but today the rain protection was handy. By the time we reached Faschina at the end of the underpass the rain had virtually stopped. However, the cloud was down and we received only fleeting views. Sue befriended some goats. Lunch was taken on the ascent to our high point of the day, Hochschere (2013 metres).

Our esteemed guide book says 'climb a gully ... which is rough near the top'. My own description would be 'ascend over vertiginous ground culminating in a steep gully, with support throughout from stretegically placed wires.

The only other walker seen all day joined us at the Hochschere pass. Sue went a little higher, then we descended what the guide book describes as a 'meander along the Auf der Mutte'. That was a sustained vertiginous path that lasted for about an hour and a half, occasionally aided by wires.

After that the vertiginous ground became merely steep, and only occasionally vertiginous. The sun made a brief appearance and eventually our destination appeared in the distance.

Arriving at 6pm, we found the hut to be full of people - a bit of a shock after seeing only one person all day. Dinner was at 6pm so we sat down immediately in a pre-allocated place after being directed to bed numbers 23 and 24 in a huge attic.

It's hot and busy, but there are some nice views.

Today: 19 km, 1500 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
Sue's goats
Great Yellow Gentian
Virtually flat ground compared with the previous two hours (when I was too scared to take any photos)
Arrival at Biberacher Hütte
A view from Biberacher Hütte

'Summer in the Alps' Day 21 - Viktorsberg to Damüls (Alpinresort Damüls)

Sunday 22 July 2018 - incorporating the first part of Stage 2 of the Kalkalpen Traverse.

The forecast was for even heavier rain than in yesterday's forecast. Heavy overnight rain clearly wore out that prediction, as our waterproofs remained stashed all day. As did our sun tan cream.

Breakfast at 7.30 was a good idea. It enabled us to get going at 8.15 on what was always going to be a long day - even longer if like us you can't keep up with the 'standard times'.

Knowing that our route took us to around 2000 metres, it was a little disconcerting to start by dropping about 200 metres to a track at around 700 metres on the north bank of the river Frogisch. Willow-leaved gentains lined the path for a while, and some unusual helleborines also caught Sue's eye.

But once on that track it was an easy stroll all the way to Pobiswiesalpe, about 9km from Viktorsberg. For those wanting to go to Freschenhaus via the 2004 metre summit of Hoher Freschen there is a quicker alternative via a knife edge ridge that our overnight host was fretting about. He was relieved to learn of our alternative proposal. He omitted to discourage us with warnings of a brutally steep 600+ metre ascent from below Pobiswiesalpe. That ascent route seemed to be shared with cows. Luckily there were none on it today, but the overnight deluge had dissolved the surface into a slimy layer of mud. Our boots are still filthy.

This was another prime habitat for salamanders, and towards the top of the climb a couple of chamois rushed past us. In the first 12 km of today's walk we saw just two hikers and one mountain biker, none of them headed for this Langegg ascent.

At the top we turned left onto an easy path aided by boardwalks, up to Freschenhaus, which duly appeared through a cloud that had chosen to engulf us.

Given the weather outside, we decided to ignore our lunch boxes for the second day running. Soup in the hut got the vote, and excellent it was too. I chose the potato based Kartoffelcremesüppchen mit Gemüse, while Sue chose the barley and speck based Bäurliche Gerstensuppe mit Speck. That was all the sustenance we needed all day, apart from a bit of left over cake at the start of the morning's steep climb.

The weather cleared before we had finished our lunch. At this point we joined Stage 2 of the Kalkalpen Traverse as described by Alan Proctor. The afternoon was spent on largely deserted belvedere paths that led eventually to Damüls. A couple of chamois studied us at length before scooting down a precipitous slope in a remote spot.

The sky was overcast, sometimes threatening, but the rain held off and we gained some atmospheric views that reminded us somewhat of the Basque country.

The levelish path was a delight, maintaining a good height above the trees, past cow pastures with the sound of bells. The meadows were full of flowers - rattle, rampions, clovers, orchids, cotton grass, etc.

The well signed path to Damüls took us there for 5.45, a nine and a half hour day, long but satisfying. Google maps helped to locate the Alpinresort Damüls building, where we have a luxurious suite with a view up to the centre of the village and the mountains beyond from our balcony.

Had the supermarket been open we'd have sourced dinner from there, as we have a fully equipped kitchen here. As it was we saunad  and showered then crossed the road to a convenient restaurant, at Berghotel Madlener. We had plenty time so didn't worry about a lengthy wait for our food. They had forgotten our order. That meant more rehydration fluid, this time 'on the house', and the food was excellent when it arrived.

Today: 25 km, 1600 metres ascent
 
Today's pictures:
Early morning view from Viktorsberg
On the woodland track
Freschenhaus
Cotton grass
Evening view from our balcony