One day hikes from Innsbruck – Weißstein and Rosskogel

Last weekend I found myself in Innsbruck, trying to find a hike or two which I could easily do with limited planning. My original plan was to do a part of the Stubaitaler Höhenweg, but bad weather forced us to improvise and change our plans at the last minute. So on the bus from Munich to Innsbruck I was desperately searching for some nice one-day hikes from Innsbruck. One would think that finding a nice hike from Innsbruck should be really easy, but take into consideration that I had to rely on public transport, that the hiking season was ending which meant that many of the hiking buses did not go anymore and that I was not just looking for a hike, but for a reasonably high peak, without any cable car (read tourists), and which was doable in one day..Yes so it turned out to be quite difficult.

After a lot of searching and even considering to just give up and go home, we landed on Weißstein 2640m and Rosskogel 2646m.

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We took the bus from Innsbruck to Gries im Sellrain. Here there was a small shop where we could get everything we needed for a lunch pack. After shopping we had some trouble finding out where the trail started as there were no sig

ns to see. So here is a tip: go behind the shop and pass the church and you will spot the yellow signs. The path up is through a quite steep, but beautiful forest path. 

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Eventually we ended up on a yellow/orange plain. The sun was warm and autumn golden colors shined. This is how autumn is supposed to be.

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The area has a nice small river and there is a possibility to fill a water bottle both on 1700 meters and on 2000 meters.

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Can you spot the Weißstein peak cross?

From the plain we could also spot both peaks. We decided to do Weißstein first and then Rosskogel, but one could also go directly to Rosskogel. The way up to Weißstein went first pass some avalanche protecting yards? Not sure how these things are called.

Once we were pass those we got a dramatic and mysterious view to the peak. We met a couple who had turned around because they didn’t expect there to be so mu

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ch scrambling. And indeed the sign before the last ascent to the peak warned us that it would be a very difficult climb so I guess they were scared that it 

was too much. We on the other hand did not let us scare off, but we had to do some real scrambling before we got to enjoy the view from the peak. But it was not exposed so I did not feel unsafe at any point. The way down on the other side of the peak (for going to Rosskogel) had one really long climb, but that was in a small mountain crack and not exposed. The important point is that there are not many iron ropes or ladders, it’s more of a natural experience 😉

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After a long beak, all alone on Weißstein we went on to Rosskogel. I think we used no more than 30 minutes to get from one peak to the other.

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The view to Weißstein from Rosskogel

On Rosskogel we had some more snacks and then started the descent. The way down was really nice to begin with, once again the autumn showed itself from it’s best side.

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But then we made the mistake to head down to Sellrain instead of Gries. DO NOT DO THAT! What looked like a nice path turned into a long mountain road of zigzags and in the end there were no signs so we got lost. We decided to just follow the road down to the valley and then ask for directions. In the valley it became clear that we had walked pass Sellrain. The guy we asked told us that the next bus stop was 20 minutes walk away, but when I looked at the direction he showed us I was sure that it was much longer and we had only 1 hour to the last bus back to Innsbruck. So in the end we decided to go down to the valley instead of following the directions given to us and to stop a car and ask for directions for the closest bus stop. The driver was so nice and drove us to the bus stop. We could also have made it there by walking as it was not so far, but when you don’t know where the buss stop is getting there takes longer time 😉 Moral of the story is that do not try to be too adventurous, sometimes taking the same path up as down is the best option, especially when you have a bus to catch 😉

The adventure ended well and we made it back to Innsbruck with the last buss. Now the question was what we would do the next day. We started looking at possible hikes again and I found the options below, which are now on my to-do list, as we had to cancel our hiking plans the next day due to bad weather and decided to head back to Munich. One day hikes from Innsbruck on my list:

 

Five peak challenge from Axamer Lizum until Hochtennspitze

This is a five peak challenge via Ampferstein and Marchreisenspitze or you could even make it a six peak challenge, when you add Nockspitze to it. My plan was not to do Nockspitze as I think it is a very popular peak and I prefer to enjoy my peaks alone ;). All in all this is a would be 1570 meters climb up and 1988 meters down. I estimate it to take 7-8 hours. There is a bus to Axamer Lizum from Innsbruck.

Sulzkogel – 3016m

I wanted to do this one when I was in Innsbruck, but unfortunately the bus to Kühtai stops going mid of October so there was no way for us to get there. But the peak is on my list now as it is an easy 3000m mountain. It is just a 1000m climb and a 6h hike up and down.

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There are definitely many other cool peaks in the area and many of them you can also get to without a car, but it takes some planning. The two mentioned are definitely on my list for my next Innsbruck visit 🙂 But the Stubaitaler Höhenweg, and the Innsbrucker Klettersteig will also remain on my list for next year.

 

Hiking & Biking – Birkkarspitze 2749 m, Is it doable in one day?

Birkkarspitze was actually not my plan for this weekend, but as I could not do the hike I had planned in Innsbruck, this was a nice plan B. This is not very easily accessible hike, specially when you want to do it with one day.

Birkkarspitze is the highest peak in Karwendel mountains, I actually thought that Westliche karwendelspitze was the highest one and that I was on top of karwendel when I did Mittenwalder klettersteig. Turns out that it is actually Birkkarspitze 😀

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If you want to hike Birkkarspitze in one day the options are to bike into the Karwendeltal or Hinterautal. The advantage of choosing Karwendeltal is that you will have a hut on the way back and you can do a nice loop, including the ridge over Ödkarspitze. From Hinterautal you can only do Birkkarspitze and you will need to go up and down the exact same path. We did the Karwendeltal route, If I decide to only hike Birkkarspitze, I will do it via Hinterautal.

So our route was the following (Outdooractive link):

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This was the first hike where I bike to the starting point of the hike. I just bought a new (used) bike on Thursday and I was both excited and nervous about using it on this hike. I had read on the all knowing internet that the road to Karwendelhaus should be also bikeable with normal bike, but I also knew that it was 500hm uphill, over 13 km. So I uncertain if my city bike would be suitable for that 😀 But when in doubt I try to remember the advice a Norwegian expeditionist,  Børge Ousland: “Don’t be so afraid of failing”. So with this advice in my head we packed the bags on Saturday and went to bed at nine to wake up 5:30 the day after.  The first train from Munich to Scharnitz leaves at 6:30 so we biked to Hbf. in the dark!! I can’t believe that it was dark, this actually means that winter is coming! Ok I am exaggerating a bit, but still, days are getting shorter fast.

In Scharnitz we took out our outdooractive map and tried to follow it, but still go lost. Luckily there was a nice lady who told us where the bike road to Karwendelhaus starts.

Still, the beginning of the trail was a little bit tricky. We could just follow the road and signs to Karwendeltal, but chose to take a short, but steep as hell, shortcut through the forest. In retrospective it was worth it, because I am quite sure it saved 30 minutes, or more by doing this. But if you do not feel like starting the hike by pushing your bike up a narrow ,steep forest path, just follow the road and signs to Karwendeltal (the outdooractive map follows the forest path 🙂 )

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After sweat 20 minutes in the forest, the path ran into the main gravel road and we were able to start biking. It was still heavy and all the mountain bikers, with their crazy ass mountain bikes, biked pass us. One of them was even asking me if we really wanted to do Birkkarspitze, then laughing and biking pass us. Honesty, not everybody has 2000 euros to invest into a mountainbike, you do not need to be a ***hole about it!

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From Scharnitz It took us 2 hours to bike to Angeralm, but since we forgot to look at the map we biked a bit too far and had to bike back. That cost us probably 15 minutes or so 😦  

At Angeralm we locked our bikes under a nice three and started the hike at 11:45. There were no signs on the whole hike so a GPS map from outdooractive was really very useful. The hike up was very steep to begin with, but flattened out after a while when we reached the ridge. The path itself was hardly visible, and at times it felt like we were not following a path at all, just walking in the wildness. There were no other hikes on the path we took, so I guess most people hike just Birkarspitze from the hut.

 

 

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Do not bike into the forest here, the path starts on the right side of the big tree

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We did not mind having the path to ourselves, the views were amazing and looking up towards the ridge reminded us of the Dolomites, just without all the tourists. Before we got to the real ridge we had to cross a long gravel valley, but it was not steep and was easy to cross. From here the last accent to the real ridge started. There were sections on the ridge that were surprisingly exposed. Luckily there were fixed iron ropes on these sections, which was good because even I felt unconformable at one spot :O :O

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Climbing down from Ödkarspitze

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Another thing that surprised us was that the ridge was not really flat. Looking at the map I thought it would be more or les flat, but in fact we had to go quite a lot up and down between the Weslishe Öderskarspitze (2712m) , Östliche Ödkarspitze (2738 m) and Birkkarspitze(2749), even though their height difference is only couple of meters.

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When we got to the part where you can choose to go up to Birkkarspitze or down to the hut it was 15:30 and so after some discussion we decided to drop the peak. We were not sure how much time it would take and we wanted to have some time at the hut. Also, the path down to the hut looked really hard and we decided therefore to take a small break at the Biwak hut instead, have our Gipfel beer there and then head down. The Biwak hut was nice but very small, I think some of the people coming up planned to stay there overnight. So this would also be an option, but remember, there is no water there, so you need to bring enough water in you want to do this.

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Biwak slefie

In retrospective we could definitely have made the peak as well, but we would then have been stressed about the time on the way down and would not have enjoined it as much. Therefore I am also not too bitter about missing the peak. In the end I don’t do this to gather the most peaks, I do this because I love being in the mountains. From the Biwak we used 1h 30 minutes down, not rushing it. We were at the hut 17:30, but it turned out they did not serve dinner before 6:00. Which meant they only had soup and beer. Not exactly what we were hoping for 😦

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Karwendelhaus, Birkkarspitze is in the fog behind it.

After some beer and Apfelstrudel we started heading down to our bikes, which took us about another hour walking. From Angeralm we just rolled back to Scharnitz in ca. 1 hour. This was pure enjoyment! And at the same time I understood why it was so heavy to bike to Angeralm, it was in fact all uphill! 😀 😀 ..

We were down at Angeralm at 19.00 and at Scharnitz train station at 20:15. The loop to the hut took us 6.h 30 min. If you want to do the peak you need to add at least 40 minutes, I would say.

We had some time to kill before as the last train back to Munich leaves 21:30. We used the time on stretching and got some beverages and crisps from the local petrol station.

All in all this was a real challenging hike, including the hm from Scharnitz, we did over 2000 hm in one day! The feeling of accomplishment was even stronger as we did it with normal bikes, which is way more adventurous and challenging than cruising to the hut on a mountainbike. Do I recommend this hike for “normal” people ? Well, you differently need to like a challenge if you decide to do it with normal city bike, but let there be no doubt, it is doable!

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This weekend I can’t go hiking because of work 😦 , but the boulder world cup 2017 is held in Munich this weekend, so I plan to stream it and enjoy my sofa. Furthermore, in two weeks I plan to do a real badass hike in Austria, which I need to charge my batteries for, so a weekend at home will be nice. 

 

 

Mittenwalder Höhenweg with T-Rex costume!

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Last weekend I joined a quite bad-ass hike; Mittenwalder Höhenweg. Mittenwalder Höhenweg is a via Ferrata over a ridge in Karwendel. There is an option to take a cable car up, but then it would not be a badass would it? So we hiked 1900 hm up from Mittenwald! That is the most height meters I have done during one day, and I must say it was not bad, not bad at all. I did not feel too tired, but I guess it helped that we decided to take the cable car down 😀

Mittenwalder Höhenweg is not an easy hike, unless you take the cable car up that is. There are several options for hiking up. but they all require you to climb 1900 + hm. One option is to follow the trail under the cable car, but this is very steep gravel path. Not much fun in other words. Then there is an option to hike from Scharnitz and over Brunnensteinspitze, this option is doable. We met actually couple of friends in the middle of the hike who came up that way. It is a really nice hike up to Brunnensteinspitze, but it is steep and so when we met them they were already a little tired. You also climb the most height meters following this trail. The third option is to hike from Mittenwald over Brunnsteinhütte. This was the option we chose, and I am happy we did so. This way you have a nice, not too steep, climb in the beginning, and you can have a rest in the hut, some food (btw, they actually had proper coffee, not some instant coffee) and then continue up where the two paths from the hut and from Brunnensteinspitze meet.

Here we had our second break and decided to have fun with a T-rex costume that my friend Haitham had with him:D When he put it on he instantly became a celebrity. It was so much fun! At one point a guy asked us: “What’s wrong with you people? Why would you ever bring a T-rex costume to a hike?” I laughed and answered him: “Because life is only as fun as you are.” He then laughed and wondered where we came from and if we were Erasmus students 😀 I had to disappoint him and reveal that we are all adults who live and work in Munich. Anyways, we got lots of laughs and comments and many cool pictures 😀



PS. We did not do the kletttersteig with the costume of course, we are not crazy either 😉 Haitham , just took it on couple of times for some awesome pictures.

The klettersteig is level A/B so I thought that a klettersteig set is unnecessary, turned out I was the only one in our group who had decided not to bring the equipment. Therefore got a little nervous when I saw all the people coming down fully equipped, but luckily I am pretty good with highs and did not feel a need for a klettersteig set during the hike. BUT don’t get me wrong, Mittelwalder Höhenweg is a proper klettersteig, and there is a reason why most people use the klettersteig set. I just know that on B klettersteigs I normally would not clip in anyways and therefore there is no point of having the set with me. If you are not 120 % conformable with heights, bring your set! It’s better to be safe than sorry.

The ridge is fantastic. You go from peak to peak. I am actually not sure how many peaks we crossed in the end. Since it is a via ferrata, we needed to wait for people at times and did some queuing, but I did not mind that, not at all. It only gave me more time to enjoy the view and take pictures.

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The klettersteig was really awesome too. At some parts there were planks you had to walk over,  and there was also a very long ladder which we had to climb down. So much fun!!!

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I think the ridge took us 3 hours, but we were not fast and had breaks to play around with the T-rex costume 😀  During the klettersteig we decided to take the cable car down to save our knees. This meant that we had to be at Karwendelbahn before 6. We were there at 5 and had just enough time to run up to the Westliche Karwendelspitze (2385 m) This was our victory peak! We made it, across the whole ridge and had climbed 1900hm! After a short break and mandatory gipfel beer, we headed down to the cable car. I already then could feel that taking the cable car was the right thing to do. When I finally sat in the cable car and looked at the gravel path under us, I was even happier that we took the cable car, it would just not have been worth the struggle to hike down.

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Karwendelbahn in front of the Östliche Karwendelspitze

I saw some nice mountains during this hike that I will add to my to-do list: Östliche Karwendelspitze and Arnplattenspitze.

I really loved this hike, perhaps this could be your next adventure? Mittenwald is really easy to get to from Munich by train. My friend Anna has made a GPS track of the hike available here (This track still shows that we hike down, but in fact we took the cable car)

Other hikes you can do from Mittenwald are Große Arnspitze and Obere Wettersteinspitze. Obere Wettersteinspitze is one of my favorite hikes, so I really recommend it!

I hoped to go hiking today again, but that did not work out, the weather is just too unpredictable at the moment 😦 So this weekend is going to be a quiet one, but I got the new issue of Bergsteiger yesterday and am looking forward to just relax and read about some awesome mountaineers out there 🙂

Schöttelkarspitze – a hike that has it all.

Schöttelkarspitze hike, via the Soiuernhaus hut, really has it all. The peak itself is just above 2000 m, and the hike up is not easy, but also not too hard. The ridge is a little exposed, but unless you are really afraid of highs you will be fine. We had actually planned to do both Soiernspitze and Schöttelkarspitze, but that would have been a really long hike for one day. And as the last bus back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen leaves at 19:51, it would also mean not having time for long breaks on the top of the peaks! Therefore we decided to do only Schöttelkarspitze this time, have a long break and nice lunch on the top of the peak and then head down to Soiernhaus for beer and a swim in the Soiernsee. This was my second time in the area. I spotted this mountain for the first time during our winter hike and since then it has been on my list. Now that I have done it and been to the peak, I find it super crazy that some people did it during winter with lots of snow! I guess there are some people out there who like taking bigger risks than I do…

We started out from Krün. The first 1000 m are more or less in forest on a dirt trail. We were glad for that because the trees offered some protection from the sun. It was quite steep so I got a good workout, trying to keep up the speed of our super fast group. The trail got less steep after we got out of the forest at that point we could easily spot Schöttelkarspitze as it is so pointy!

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The view that meets you when you get out of the forest
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Schöttelkarspitze from the distance
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Getting closer 😀

Before getting to it however, we had to hike up to a peak called Seinskof. Well, actually did not go to the peak and its cross, but had a lunch on a ridge, not far away from Seinskof. After Seinskof you can choose if you want to take the upper path over the ridge or a lower path that is not so exposed. If you ask me upper path is so worth it, and it wasn’t really exposed. I mean, there was a little scrambling for couple of meters but that was all. And the views were most certainly better than on the lower path, but it’s nice to have an option to avoid the ridge for the less adventurous ;).

 

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Chilling on the peak, 0h what a view.

After Seinskof the hike was just pure joy. On the peak itself we had a long break, the only thing that got us moving was the thought of a cold beer in the hut and a nice referencing swim to wash off all the sun lotion. We could spot the hut from the peak and had therefore no trouble with finding the right direction. The way down was on a curvy, rocky path, so hiking poles were nice to have (I really do not know how I managed to hike without them for so many years).

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Soiernsee

At the hut we were not sure how much time we could use on a swim and food. We were told by some local mountain rangers that we would need 3 hours to get to Krün. That meant we had only about 30 minutes in the hut. Therefore we had to choose between beer or a swim. I chose the beer this time. Some of my friends went for a swim and could report that the water was refreshingly cold (Read cold :D). After beer/food/swim, we started to head down to Krün, kind of in a hurry, not wanting to miss the last bus.

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Shortly after we started our descent we came to a way cross where we needed to choose between an upper path (to the left) or lower path (to the right). The signs said that both paths would take the same amount of time, so we went for the upper path – Lakaiensteig via the Fischbachalm. This path was very nice, not steep and we had a scenic view to a long and loud waterfall which the other path seemed to cross.

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On our path we also crossed some small mountain rivers where I dipped my head into the cold mountain water, to get rid of some of the sweat and sun lotion. Oh what an amazing feeling! We also filled our water bottles since we forgot to do that in the hut.  Not long into the decent, we met a young couple who were going camping in the area. I was a little jealous at the moment, but it rained a lot that night, so I hope they had a good tent.

After approximately one and a half hour the path ended in a road, the same road we would have walked when taking the lower route. We followed this road for one hour to Krün and missed the 6 o’ clock bus with 15 minutes. That was actually not a problem at all, we just sat and enjoined the sun and the rest of the food we had left by Isar for an hour. Unfortunately Isar was really cold, so swimming was not an option.

We then walked to Krün and were kind of surprised how many restaurants this small place has. If we would have known that I guess we would have skipped chilling by the Isar and had some pizza instead. I am glad we did not know. Sitting by Isar, looking at sunset and stretching a bit was quality time. At least for me.

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My friend Anna has posted a GPS track of the hike here, together with instructions of what bus and train to take from Munich.

Already at the hut it was decided that we will come back to this nice area, perhaps for an overnight hike, perhaps with a tent?  I can not wait!

Now I am getting ready for some adventures in Norway, so stay tuned 🙂

Hiking in China – Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge is a scenic canyon on the Jinsha River. It is located 60 kilometers (37 mi) north of Lijiang City, Yunnan in southwestern China. According to Wikipedia the maximum depth of the canyon is 3,790 meters (12,434 feet) from river to mountain peak. The gorge is about 15 kilometers long, and the hike is doable in one day, but I do not recommend it. The name of the canyon comes from a legend which says that in order to escape from a hunter, a tiger jumped across the river at the narrowest point (still 25 meters (82 ft) wide). Of course we wanted to see if a jump like this would be possible 😀

We started out from Lijiang with a local bus. The hostels in the city all help you to book tickets and show you where the bus goes from. If I remember correctly the price was around 50 yuan (45 there, 55 back). The price for entering the valley itself was 60 yuan.

In Lijiang we were discouraged to do this hike as the weather prognosis said it would rain for the next three days. This was also perhaps the reason for there being so little other hikers on the trail. Despite the weather forecast, we decided to go, after all we had packed our rain clothes with us and a little rain has never killed anyone.

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The best available map of the trail.

We arrived to Qiaotou where the trail starts around 10 o’clock. The beginning of the trail was really not well-marked. Our strategy was just to go to the right and avoid all the roads that turned left. At one point we must have had looked pretty confused or uncertain, as a truck driver passing by pointed out the correct direction for us. The trail started on a asphalt road between the houses in the small village. Before we even got away from the asphalt road, we had changed clothes five times! On with rain clothes, off with rain clothes, on with jacket, off with jacket, on with rain clothes again…. It did rain, but not really much and as it was warm climbing upwards in rain clothes was just not comfortable. After an hour we packed away our rain clothes and used regular clothes. Which actually worked really well, except in a rainsower lasting for 30 minutes later in the day. At times it was even warm enough for shorts, but not wanting to change clothes yet again we just went on in long trousers. At the end of the asphalt road and before the huge construction site, there was a house where we could buy some drinks and water and even refill our thermos with hot water for free. The last part we only knew because Elias was able to read the chinese sign that said so. It was very convenient, since we had instant noodles with us for lunch. The woman in the house also wanted to sell us bamboo sticks for walking. It is slippery she said. We did not buy any and did not regret it afterwards.

The real trail started right after the house. It was a steep dirt trail, at the end of it there was a little sitting place with a roof, that we chose for our first lunch/breakfast. At this point we were actually hoping that we had done the climb and that the path would even out, but we were wrong. The path kept going upwards and it was hard to spot it at times. Again when we were about to go in the wrong direction a local mushroom/herbs picker pointed us to the right direction. On the three-hour path to Nixi village, I could count 4 stands where we could buy snickers, water, fruit and even local weed!! We disappointed most of the sellers, since we were had enough food and water with us.

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On top of the first hill ready for lunch

All in all the first 3 hours of the trail I was really disappointed. I tried to not show it, but I know Elias felt the same. One thing was that we were not prepared for such steep climb, but that was not the main issue. The problem was the huge construction down in the valley that completely destroyed the view. I am not 100% sure what they were building, but it looked like two tunnels for trains, and a bridge over the river to connect them. Because of this it was not quiet, and the river was all brown. Considering that this canyon is supposed to be in world heritage list, I could not understand why they would destroy it just for better train connections (and more tourists).

The trail from Qiaotou to Naxi village was as following: We climbed a lot of high meters, it was quite steep, and we kept seeing the construction site and the destruction of nature in the valley. More or less the moment we got up, the trail started to go downwards again and ending up in the Naxi village. From the village one needs to climb all these high meters up once again. So therefore if I would do it again, I would start the hike from Naxi village (There were actually some Russian girls doing that). Luckily after the Naxi village we could not see the construction anymore, only very tall and steep mountains on the other side of the canyon, hence our mood got much better.

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View to the Naxi Village

The Naxi village itself was not really something special, it is a village not a touristic site. I do not know what exactly I was expecting, but I guess it is nice that it is authentic and not glorified for tourists. From the Naxi village one has to climb the 28 turns. We did not count but, it was a long and steep climb. There were of course several places where you could buy food and drinks, as before. After the 28 turns we did some downhill hiking again and ended up in a the Teahorse guesthouse.

Here we ordered some proper lunch which was chinese noodles with vegetables and tea. We also met a couple from Belgium who were doing the same hike and who were planning to travel for three years!! For me that sounds quite crazy. I guess I like being home too much. The couple from Belgium decided to spend the night in the guesthouse. We were a little tempted to do the same, but it was only four o’ clock, and too early to end the day. We estimated it to be another two hours the Half Way Inn guesthouse and decided to go on. The path to Half Way Inn from the Teahorse guesthouse was very well marked and easy to follow. It was also the prettiest part of the hike, I would say. Now we were finally just walking on the side of the canyon, not climbing upwards and could enjoy the views in front of us! Soon after the Teahorse guesthouse we walked past a temple, sadly it was closed.

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It was cloudy the whole first day, after several hours finally the mountains showed themselves!

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At the next village we were not sure how to find the Half Way Inn guesthouse. There we walked past several guesthouses and already started to consider entering one, just because it also looked quite nice but luckily we didn’t. After passing five or six guesthouses we saw the Half Way In. I still remember the view and the excitement I felt when I entered it. This is by far the nicest mountain hut I have stayed in! The owner spoke perfect English and told me that he had run the guesthouse for 25 years. When I told him that I am Estonian, he said that I was in fact the first Estonian staying in Half Way In. We took a bed in dormitory and were not expecting much, as it was 45 Yuan per person (The most expensive room was 250 yuan). But this is how the dorm looked which we btw. had all to ourselves!!

If anybody has stayed in a dorm with better view, please let me know where 😀 There was a trick to get that dorm thought. We specifically asked if they had a dorm. If you don’t ask, they will not tell you that they also have a dorm (as long as they still have other rooms left). I noticed this when other hikes were checking in and I guess this was the reason for why we were the only ones in that dorm.

After settling in we went to the roof terrace to read and enjoy the view. It was way too easy to daydream and forget the time on those rocking chairs facing the huge mountain ridge right over the canyon.

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Then we were told that the kitchen closes at eight and that we had to order dinner if we wanted some. We moved down to the open courtyard in the center of the guesthouse and ordered some dinner. While sitting there enjoying my tea and food I really started to daydream. I could imagine myself living in that place for a year, perhaps writing a book or something. I could help out in the kitchen and write during evenings. With a room cost of 5 euros a day, that would be much cheaper than living in Munich!!

We sat outside until it turned dark. Back in the dorm I changed my head position, so that I would wake up to the mountain view and left the curtains open. I could not have been happier, even the beads in Half Way Inn were soft. (Or at least softer that what is normal in China).

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View from Half Way Inn Guesthouse

We woke up at 7 so that we could have a lot of time to down in the gorge. I had very good banana pancake for breakfast (that is Chinese pancakes, not crepes). The trail from Half Way Inn was at times very narrow, but we did not mind that at all. We could now see all the way down to the gorge and the river on the bottom of it. We also walked pass several small mountain rivers and waterfalls.

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This is how narrow the trail got – we loved it!

The hike down to Tina’s Guesthouse took us about 3 hours (with a lot of picture breaks). Down in the gorge we had to exchange our bus ticket from Half Way In to the one from Tina’s guesthouse. There is only one bus from Tina’s to Lijiang which leaves at 3.30. It is a strange inconvenient system. After exchanging the tickets, we took the free shuttle bus to the place where one could go down to the gorge and the river.  

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Tina’s Guesthouse, not even comparable with Half Way Inn

Getting of the shuttle bus it turned out you had to pay 15 yuan to enter the trail down to the gorge (yes, even when you had already paid 60 yuan just to enter the gorge itself). We decided to take another path which we drove past, just because I do not appreciate this kind of trickery! 😦

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View of the gorge

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I think the best trail would have been not after the bridge from Tina’s Guesthouse but before it, but I could only see people walking there when we were already down in the gorge. Another disappointing thing was that the paths in the gorge were not connected, so we  only used 1 hour on our gorge tour and then had still 5 hours until the bus left. I even tried to ask if there were more buses, but apparently there was only one. Therefore, if I would do it again I would not rush from the Half Way In Guesthouse to Tina’s Guesthouse. The trail between these guesthouses is very scenic and I would just take my time, perhaps sleep in a little and enjoy a long breakfast in Half Way In. There are tourists who just take a bus to the Tina’s Guesthouse in the morning, walk the gorge and then go back. I do not know what they use their time on, because there is not enough to do or see in that gorge for 6 hours. Luckily we had some books with us so we were not bored to death before finally the bus came. The ride back to Lijiang was on very bad roads in a small bus. Apparently they want to avoid the highway in order to avoid to pay for it. So a set of podcasts saved me on this bus ride. There was also a possibility to take a bus from Tina’s Guesthouse to Shangri-la, and we probably could have had our luggage transported to Tina’s by the bus, but as we left parts of our luggage behind in Lijiang, we needed to get back to Lijiang.

This was our second “real” hike in China. There were no stairs and no guides! Just beautiful nature. During our stay we also hiked in Four Sisters Mountains, which you can read about here.

Hiking Mount Siguniang – The Four Sisters Mountain

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It is 2.30 AM, we are on 4200m, and ready to make it to the second peak of the Four Sisters Mountain on 5200m. Ready because the sky is clear and the stars are shining brighter than ever, the conditions look good and we feel tired, but ok. Nevertheless, I am quite scared, scared of not making it to the peak, because during our 5 hour sleep, I woke up really dizzy and nauseous. Clearly the altitude had impacted me, that much I had expected, but the question I was now afraid to ask myself was if 5 hours on 4200 m was enough acclimation to make it to Erguniang peak on 5200m?

It all started couple of months back when Elias and I decided to travel to China. As any true hiker and mountain lover, I could of course not give up this awesome opportunity to hike some of the picture pretty mountains in Sichuan province. After quite a lot of research we decided to hike the first two peaks of Mount Siguniang or Four Sister Mountain, as it is also called. Our starting point was a small village called Rilong. Rilong is approximately 4 hours drive from Chengdu. It is not much to look at as it is basically just a stop where you can gather some strength and acclimatize for your hike. The village serves as an entrance to all three valleys in Mount Siguniang National Park. The park comprises Mount Siguniang and the surrounding three valleys, namely Changping Valley, Haizi Valley and Shuangqiao Valley. To hike the Dafeng and Erfeng and (the first and the second sister) you trek through Haizi Valley.

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Rilong village

Hiking in Changping Valley…

We decided to have two days (one day + one evening) in Rilong in order to acclimatize. On the second day we did a small hike in Changping Valley. You can get to this valley directly from the village. Buy the ticket in the visitor’s center and a small bus will take you up to a small and still in use monastery. From there you can hike for hours. First four hours will be on a wooden trail, traditional Chinese style, but you could do a several day hike in this valley, probably not meeting any tourists as most tourist only walk for an hour or so on the wooden trail and then turn around. I think there would be some really nice hiking opportunities in this valley so if you would like to go more on your own, without a guide, this could be the place to do it.

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map over the park – not exactly detailed, but the only available one.

We did not get to the end of the wooden trail but it was a really nice walk anyways. On our way we saw some waterfalls and a nice lake with the Four sisters mountains in the background.

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The view from the Buddhist temple which is just at the entrance of the Changping Valley
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There were not many tourists around, and for the most of the time we had the wooden trail  between mountains for ourselves.

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Finally ready to hike Haizi Valley and two of four sisters…

On the third day we started our hike to Mount Siguniang. The trail goes via the Haizi Valley (which by the way does not really feel like a valley, but rather a ridge) and starts from the same Visitor Center in Rilong. First we hiked up the wall behind the visitor’s center. On the top of the wall we met some Chinese tourist who had ridden up on a horseback and wanted to have a picture with us. This happens quite a lot in China, since there are not that many non-Asian tourists around 😀 After saying bye to our Chinese fans we hiked along the ridge, or valley as they like to call it, more or less alone.

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Already from beginning of our hike we could see the four sisters mountain snow tops. Along the road we saw Chinese women and men picking herbs and mushrooms. It is a big tradition there, and so the locals could just stay in the mountains for weeks to pick herbs and mushrooms.

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We actually only had one horse to carry our food. In the background you see the four sisters. The first two peaks are a non-technical hike, for the other two climbing equipment is needed.

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The dark dirt trails were easy to follow. Every once in a while some trees offered  protection from the sun, but for the most of the time we were walking between yaks on open grass fields. In the horizon as far as we could see there were white mountaintops. I kept asking our guides about the names of the mountains around and if they were “hikable”. Sadly I only got negative answers. I do not know if they just did not want to encourage us or if this really is true that most of the mountains in the park are not being actively hiked. It’s really a shame if the latter is the case, because there is soo much potential for really nice hikes 😀

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We also saw a lot of Yaks. They do look a little scary, but in fact they are used to people and were not dangerous or aggressive. We could get really close to them since they were at the times sleeping on the trail.

After three more hours on the trail between 6000m high mountains, with amazing scenery,  we spotted a quite big lake down in the valley. From there it was just about one hour hike to the base camp. We camped outside at the Erfeng base camp, but there was also a possibility to stay indoors in a very simple sleeping dorm where thin mattresses  were provided.

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Erfeng base camp

After we were all settled in, one of our guides cooked dinner for us in the rather simple but fixed base camp kitchen. Sitting in the small dark hut, after a 9 hour hike, having only our headlights for the light, we would have probably eaten almost anything that we got served, but the food exceeded our expectations. Our guide cooked several different dishes, including rice, noodles, different vegetables, soup and some meat. It all seemed so fresh and was tasty so no complains there!

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We then tried to rush to sleep as we were to wake up 2:20AM for breakfast. For breakfast we were served Chinese rice soup/porridge, bread and some fried vegetables – not exactly traditional western breakfast, but it was ok and experiencing new traditions was part of the experience we wanted to have.

The night, as I already mentioned, did not pass without worries, but at least we were not freezing 🙂 Slowly we started the hike and tried to not lose the sight of our guide in the darkness.  As I was walking there in the middle of the night, I could not really think that it was heavy or long way to go. I was just concentrating on breathing deep and well and on walking slowly. On the steep areas I only saw the warm air from my breath under the light of the headlight. During the breaks and on non-steep areas, I tried to take in the scene of white mountaintops shining on black starry sky as the moonlight hit them. While we were walking the moon was rising higher and higher and then suddenly the sky started turning lighter, first purple and then orange. When you walk as slow as we did, you really have the time to notice these things and take it all in 🙂

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Just before the sunrise.

Without really thinking about it, it was light as day and we were climbing up a steep long wall of snow, pushing our crampons deep into the snow on each step. And when I say steep, I mean it. This hike required us to do some scrambling and was quite steep. I really needed to concentrate in order to not get a too high pulse. The wall was really long and steep, and the worst part was that I had no idea on how long it was until the peak, since it was not visible. Just when I was starting to have my doubts about the wall ever ending and us ever seeing the peak,  we got to a plateau and could see the peak! We were so happy, I was so excited and psyched to go on that I did not want to have a break!

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Oh so happy, I could see the peak!

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Our guide was not sharing my enthusiasm. He did not want go any further because of the snow conditions! We were max 250 hm from the peak!!! We tried to talk him into it, but he meant that the snow did not “feel good”. I must say, that both me and Elias considered the snow to be fine so we are not sure why he had a different opinion. Even though it was incredibly disappointing to not go on, you just have to respect the decision of the guide in these situations. So we did. Not happy about it, since we were both feeling fine, no altitude sickness, the weather was perfect and the peak was so close… but ALWAYS listen to your guide, right?

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Our guide, in front of the peak, not wanting to go any further.. Looking at this picture now, I still feel like we could have easily continued 😦 …

So we headed down, still quite happy, because the view in front of us could not let us feel anything else than pure joy.

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We were back at base camp around 10 and decided to take a nap before moving to the DaFeng base camp. DaFeng base camp was just 200 m lower and 1,5 hours walk from ErFeng base camp. So now you probably wonder why we did not do the lower peak first and then the higher one. That was actually the initial plan, but since we heard that the weather was going to be bad on the third day we decided to change plans in order to get best conditions on the highest peak.

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Dafeng Base camp, Dafeng itself is in the fog to the right.

During our walk to base camp the weather turned colder and windier. Once in base camp, we sat up our tent again and just when we were ready to go to sleep it started to snow. Due to the “bad” weather, we were to only ones to camp outside. We were allowed to sleep until 4.30 AM this time and got luxurious 9 hours of sleep.

In the morning the sky was cloudy and the ground was white. After some porridge and coffee we started the ascent. This time the trail was much more rocky, but not that steep. Once again were the only ones hiking. It was hard to spot the peak because it was covered in fog and before we knew it our guide said that we were almost at the top. I almost did not believe him! How could we be on 5000 m so easily? Where is the altitude sickness, the headache and the muscle ache? Unfortunately we got no stunning view from the 5038 m peak, but at least we made it to the top this time 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Almost on the top, but ehh where is it?
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Found it – happy couple on their first 5000m mountain top.
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The dramatic sky on our way down to the base camp

The hike was easy and we were back down in base camp at ten o’clock. Since we were so quick and were not really tired, we decided to descent down to Rilong even though the initial plan was to spend the night and then head down the next day as we had to descend more than 2000 m.

Just when we got to our hotel in Rilong it started to rain heavily and then to snow. We only had time to acknowledge that we made the right decision heading down a day early, before we fell asleep at 7 PM. We woke at 8:00 AM the next day to a completely white Rilong. It is safe to say that we were really happy that we had an experienced driver to take us over the mountains back to Chengdu …

We did also some other hikes while in China, so I will be writing some more posts about hiking in China soon. Below you can see where we were during our travel. The red pointer is were Rilong and four sisters mountains are located.

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Hiking adventure in China – preparations part 1

Early January we started to plan vacation for this year. Only thing we knew was that we wanted to travel somewhere little further away this time, out of Europe. In the end we limited our destinations down to a list of four:

  • Indonesia
  • Mexico
  • China
  • Japan

These are all awesome destinations that I want to visit, but in 2017 it’s going to be China!!! This will not be my first time in China. I have been there two times before and I just loved it there both times. Last time I was there we hiked The Yellow Mountain – Huang Shan 1 864 m. Or to be honest I do not know if this counts as hiking because it was mostly just walking up stairs, endless stairs :D, but it was definitely a cool experience that made me appreciate more the untouched mountains and nature here in Europe.

Pics from 2013 – Huang Shan 1 864 m.

This time our goal is to hike a mountain that is not full of tourists and stairs. After a lot of googling we found that Four Sisters Mountains in the Sichuan province should be perfect for just that. The Four sister mountain or Mount Siguniang contains of four peaks: Daguniang Feng (Big Peak or 1st peak), Erguniang Feng (2nd peak), Sangungiang Feng (3rd peak), and Yaomei Feng (4th peak). The highest peak is Yaomei Feng is at 6250 meters. We are not that experienced in high altitude mountaineering (in fact I have been above 3000m only once), so we decided to go with the two lowest peaks- Daguniang Feng  5025 m and Erguniang Feng 5276 m. Still, I am sooo exited and I wanted to write a bit about the preparations we are doing now before we travel.

So first of all in order to travel to China you need a visa. That part is easy (but expensive I think it was 65 Euro per person).  The next step in the preparations was to find a travel agency that could organize a mountain guide for us. This was not that easy, but we found one and I will write a review about them after we have done the trip.

We still need to figure out what equipment to pack with us and how to pack it, because after the hike we want to travel around for two more weeks and so this is where it gets difficult. We also need to get some new lightweight equipment and we need to go to the doctors to get a prescription for altitude sickness just in case we need some…and make sure we have all the needed vaccines. Oh the dodo list is quite long 😀

Additional preparations I have done so far is to watch a move about hiking Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Afrika. The high meters we are going to do is approximately the same so this gave me an idea of what can be waiting us, what kind of equipment should we have and most important of all – how slow we have to walk ( It is reeealy slow).

We start out from Rilong Town at 3160m, not too fra from ChengduThe hike itself is planned to take 4-5 days (depending on if we will need an extra day for acclimatization). We will have a horse that will carry food and water + some of the equipment to the base-camp (around 4000m) and we will be a group of two + guide.

This is differently going to be one of the biggest adventures in my life so far and I am super exited. Stay tuned for more updates to come 🙂