The truth about hiking in Georgia – Mestia to Ushguli

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For several years now I have wanted to visit Republic of Georgia. During my other travels people have told me incredible stories about how nice and welcoming the Georgian people are so I wanted to experience that myself, hoping in that they would expire me and make me more positive and open as well. What I discovered was not exactly what I expected, but more about that soon….

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I also could not wait to explore the Caucasian mountains.I read somewhere that Caucasian mountains are like Swiss mountains, but a lot more remote, wild and untouched. This kind of comparison is rises high expectations and I was not disappointed in the beauty of the mountains in Svaneti. The valleys were as green as the Swiss alps and in the horizon you could see the white peaks sparking. I saw both Mt. Ushba, Laila and Tetnuldi.

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Famous Mt. Ushba – one of the most difficult climbs in Caucasus

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Everywhere I looked I could see peaks that I was immediately tempted to climb and in the evening I found myself trying to figure out where one could hike in order to summit them. In the valleys the rivers were filled with ice-cold water from the glaciers and the waterfalls were sliding down from the sides of the green mountains. The main difference from the swiss alps are the paths. The paths in Svaneti are wild, and quite often you find yourself fighting through long grass and pushes. The terrain is less rocky and often wet and muddy.

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Our first guesthouse, this one had an outside toilet and shower – Zahbeshi village

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Oh and we made some friends along the way, this dog was always following the first hiker so when a couple passed us, he abandoned us.
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This bridge was washed away in 2017, we were glad to see that it was rebuilt in 2018!

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Streets of Adishi

It truly is wild, and then when you are approaching one of the old Svaneti mountain villages you feel like going back in time. It is inspiring to see how simple life these people live in these villages. Electricity comes and goes, food is made on fire stove. The daily tasks contain men making firewood, women cooking, children chaining the cows to the stables with dogs and a stick. When there is free time children play outside and not with their phones og tablets. Small girls and boys ride horses instead of bicycles as it was the most natural way of getting around. The older children look after the younger ones, and often more than one generations and families live together. It was nice to experience this time travel.

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The wild “streets” of Svanetian villages
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  The view of our second Guesthouse – Adishi village. This is a quite small village, but we had luck with out guesthouse, they were quite nice and the food was really good…

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Svaneti and Georgian hospitality

Sadly the Svaneti people did not seem to be friendly or welcoming at all. Maybe they were for 10 -15 years ago?? Because there must be something in these stories I have heard from other travelers? Or was I really that unlucky with my experience? I do not think so, I think the tourism has opened the eyes of Svaneti people to money but money and friendship do not mix well together. During my four-day hike we stayed overnight in five different guest houses and not ONCE was I asked where we were from. Mostly our host did not even try to communicate with us (with one exception in the travel in house in Mestia, but I think here the owner is Russian and not Georgian). In most cases we spent hours in their homes without even knowing the name of our host or nothing else about the family we stayed with 😦 I know it’s hard to communicate when you don’t speak the language, but Chinese people were always very nice to me…Anyways, do not expect questions like “Did you sleep well?”, or “Where do you head today?” .. I don’t know.. but I did not feel welcome at all…In some cases they were actually rude. In a restaurant in Mestia, we waited for our food over an hour, so then I asked them if they forgot our order. The waiter, simply said that he did not know, and that everyone wait more than an hour for their food so I should just be patient. Perhaps Svaneti is not where the Georgian Hospitality Reputation comes from?  

Mestia to Ushguli – Some advice

Moving on to the hiking. I did a lot of research about possible hikes in the Svaneti area before flying down there. I wanted to climb some nice peaks and from the pictures I had seen it seemed that the possibilities should be endless, but the information online (and in Mestia or Tbilisi) is very limited when it comes to climbing peaks. Unless you want to climb one of the famous peaks like Kazpeki that is. If anyone knows a good research about hiking other 4000m mountains in Svaneti please share!!

In general to me hiking in Svaneti seemed a little more developed than hiking in China (where hiking trails were not marked at all or you are forced to hike stairs”) but here too there were many peaks without names and basically only couple of semi marked hiking trails. And as there are no mountain huts (Guest houses are not mountain huts, they are houses in small mountain villages) you really need to bring a tent and be self-sufficient if you want to explore the peaks and get away from the few established trails filled with other hikers. Another option would be to hire a local mountain guide, as there seem to be mountain guides out there who advertise hikes to mountains that are off the beaten path.

www.caucasus-trekking.com has a very good description of the hike and the gpx track. The site basically contains all you need to know in order to do the hike, so I will not repeat the directions here, but I think the following points could be useful if you want to do the hike:

  • The hike is doable in three days, if you combine the first and second day to one day.
  • Download the gpx track in advance there is no internet in the villages.
  • I would also say that I found the trail from Zhabeshi – Adishi the pettiest, but Adishi – Iprali was also very beautiful.
  • If you are running low on time try to drop the last part of the trail Iprali – Ushguli and get a taxi from Iprali to Mestia. This part was my least favorite one.
  • About the river crossing between Adishi and Iprali . The river is could, and when I say could I mean could as in that you can’t feel your toes for five minutes afterwards. Do not try to cross the river barefoot or in flip flops. I saw that going wrong when I was there. Bar foot takes too much time. I did it with trainers, tried to be fast and I still could not feel my toes afterwards. Also, I saw a guy miss his flip flops, so that did not work well either. Oh and use walking poles or at least try to find some stick the day before so that you can use it for balance.. you really want to be fast when crossing that river. Of Course you can take a horse, that is the most comfortable way, but 20 Lari is quite expensive for 20 meters, if you ask me..
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this poor girl had hard time crossing the river barefoot..
  • It is fine to drink the tap water in the guesthouses. You do not need to buy bottled water.
  • The paths in the forest tend to get really muddy so I would advise to hike in proper hiking shoes, but I saw a lot of people doing it in sneakers and they survived 😉
  • Bring enough cash with you, plus a little extra. We paid 50 lari per night per person (including dinner and breakfast), but prices have increased a lot during the last years and I think they will continue to do so.
  • Don’t expect very friendly hosts in the guest houses. You might be lucky, but it is better to manage your expectations.
  • You will not be walking alone, this trail is very popular (at least in high season) and you will at times walk in queue, unless you bring your own tent and can start before everybody else.

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    As you can see there were a lot of us crossing the river
  • The days are not too long, we were mostly in the guesthouses around 14:00 -15:00 so take your time to enjoy the views.
  • Buy enough lunch from 4 days before you start (You can get bread and sausages in Mestia), the only thing you can buy in the villages is some chocolate, beer and coke. Some guest houses provide lunch packages (we only got one from one) but they are often way too small to cover the whole day.

All in all I really liked the nature in Svaneti and the pictures on this blog are just a fraction of my camera roll. It really was beautiful. I would like to go back, but that would require more planning, and more camping and equipment. All the villages are building new guest houses/ hotels so I expect there to be even more tourist in the years to come. Hopefully there will be more trails too and mountain huts which would ease the hikes to the peaks. The potential is there, but as there is not much culture for hiking, this may take time.

 

Hiking Triglav – Slovenia’s national symbol and pride.

One day last year Elias asked if we should go to Slovenia. I must admit, I did not know much about Slovenia at that point, so my first question was: “Are there any nice mountains there?”. Sure enough, Slovenia has a lot of nice mountains. I was really impressed when I saw the mountains from the train window and even more when we later did the hike to Triglav. We took a train to a train station called Lesce-Bled (3 km away from Lake Bled). From there we took a bus to the Bled. Elias had sadly developed a quite hard cold so we were not even sure if we would be able to do the hike. Also, at the hostel they advised us not to go hiking since the weather forecast had announced thunderstorms for the days to come, but we were stubborn and we decided to try. Even though Elias had a lot of trouble just hiking the hill by the Bled lake the day before. Nevertheless, the day after we started our hike.

We planned to do the 7 lakes route. This is probably the most beautiful Triglav approach. It is quite long and quite tough to go one way in one day, both ways is impossible. The best way to do it is to sleep in one of the huts along the way.

We ended up with the following path:

  • Bled – Ukanc (buss)
  • Koca pri Savici hut – Koca na Planini hut
  • Koca na Planini hut – Vodnikov Dom
  • Vodnikov Dom – Dom Planika (Stay overnight)
  • Dom Planika – Triglav traverse – Triglavski Dom
  • Triglavski Dom – Dom Planika
  • Dom Planika – Trenta

From Bled we took a bus to Ukanc. Just get off on the last bus stop before the bus turns around. We told the bus driver that we wanted to hike Triglav and he made sure that we got off at the the right stop. Once off the bus cross the bridge and follow the small road to Koca pri Savici hut. You actually need to take a forest path to the right, before you reach the hut. This path up is really steep and you will feel it in your legs for sure :D.  For us this was really heavy because it was warm and we had more or less full 80L and 60L bags with us. As Elias was sick we really took it slow here and were even considering turning around. There is a reason why Elias still says that this is the hardest hike he has every done in his life. I just remember that it was really heavy, but the nice thing was you could always see the end of the wall so our goal was to make it up the wall and then decide if we should turn around or not. Luckily we decided to at least make it to the first lake and from there on it was not that steep anymore.

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The first lake, the water look tempting but there is a reason why nobody is swimming

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From the first lake you can follow the signs to Koca na Planini hut. Fill all your water bottles at this hut as there is no water at the huts to come ( at least during summer season). The path from the hut was through a thin forest, meaning that we got some protection from the sun, which was nice. From here the plan was to make our way to the Dom Planika hut. Which I remember turned out to be much further away than we expected.

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Relaxing at the last lake
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The beginning of the final steep section.

The final steep section was before Vodnikov Dom .First you hike up to a moon like landscape. Really this is how I expect moon to be like. This was really cool, but there was no protection from the sun and we were running out of water.

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Can you see the holes? This is what I would expect the moon to be like.

After wandering around on this moon we finally reached a big way point from where we could see Triglav (I did not know it was Triglav at the time) in front of us.

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Triglav is just to the left, barely visible from the clouds

From here we took the steep gravel path down and held to your left. You can also take a path over the mountain to your left to Dom Planika, but we did not have any energy left for that.

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Elias making sure that we did not take the wrong path.

 

Hungry and thirsty we made the steep descent down, quite desperate looking for our hut we finally saw it behind a turn. Oh what a feeling that was!! And what a view. I was really so tired and thirsty at that point that Elias went ahead to see if he could spot the hut and then reported back to me that we were close.

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Dom Planika hut

The hut was nicely placed with a idyllic view. Since we hadn’t booked ahead we were a little anxious about getting a place to sleep, but this was not a problem at all. There were people arriving after us who also got a madrass. The food at the hut was simple and the portions quite small for hikers, but we expected that so we had a lot of bread with us (hence the big bags). We were glad for the extra food we had with us because hiking on empty stomach is not enjoyable, at least not for us.

Since the thunderstorms were supposed to hit Triglav the day after, we decided to wake up at 5AM to start the ascent to Triglav.  We left our bags at the hut so that we could be faster and took only the most necessary with us. From the hut it was only 700 hm to the peak. The hike from the hut to Triglav can be divided into two; The first ascent of 200m on a nice and well established path. Then a part that is more or less flat and then a wall.. it is literally a wall.. looking at it we were really not sure how it would be possible to hike it. It was possible, it is steep, there is one part (only 3 m or so) which was really exposed (You were latterly walking on air) and it is all scrambling. Just the way we like it! It was awesome!

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The peak from distance.
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The wall, this is where we started wondering how we were going to hike this ting up, because the path lead us directly to the wall, not to its right or left.
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And this is how, and you cat see it but there was more than 100m fall right down. Therefore, if you have problems with highs this path is NOT for you. Instead try the ascent from Triglavski Dom, where you can use a ViaFerrata set.
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Happy couple on top of Triglav, no thunderstorms to see.

After a long break on the top (an hour or so, since there were no thunderstorms to see) we went down from the other side of the mountain, which I recommend since the ridge is super nice and it makes you feel like a queen on to of this majestic mountain. If you do this you will end up at the Triglavski Dom. Also I was happy we did not have to go down the same way we came up because there were places there were there were not much space to meet the traffic from other direction.

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From Triglavski Dom we hiked back to Dom Planika hut. It was a really nice hike, and it was easy to forget the time while looking at the surroundings. It took a little bit longer than we expected but around 14.00 we were back at the hut and picked up our bags. With no long break we started our descent down to Trenta from where we planned to take a bus to Ljubljana.

The ascent is steep and boring. I am glad that we did not hike up that trail. It was more or less endless snake trail between the same mountains. We met other hikers who were on their way up and they asked us how far it was to the hut. I felt bad but, I could not lie, they still had a lot of height meters to climb. We had to hurry up to catch the bus, so we were running when possible. During the last hm down it started to rain so we were glad to make it down from the mountains when we did. We made it to the bus stop 10 minutes before the bus came and had just enough time to buy some snacks for the bus ride (there is a little Kiosk on the other side of the bus stop).

It must be said that originally we had planned to do Triglav and some other peaks close by but since the weather was turning bad we decided to drop that. We were right in doing that since it was raining for a week after our hike. Luckily the weather was nice in Ljubljana so all in all we had quite some luck weather wise during this travel 🙂

 

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.