On the top of Austria -Großglockner 3798m.

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Already last year I decided that Großglockner (3798m), the highest mountain of Austria, will be one of the goals for this year. On my birthday I even got home brewed Grossglockner gipfel beer as a present from one of my friends, so it is safe to say that I was determined to make the summit 🙂

IMG_20170831_204524As the summer months passed and the weekend that we had booked for this adventure got closer, we started to look at what kind of knowledge and equipment was needed to do the hike and what we could expect when climbing to the top of Austria. As I am quite adventurous, I was of the opinion that we can do it ourselves, without a mountain guide but after quite a lot of discussion we decided that we would book a mountain guide. I can not take a lot of credit for this decision, but in retrospective I am very glad we came to this conclusion.

We wanted to do the hike during one weekend, because the struggle of having enough vacation days is real and so  decided to rent a car. Driving to Kals am Grossglockner, which is the village under grossglockner takes about 4 hours so we left Munich around 18:00 and arrived at Lucknerhaus at 22:15. This was our very first time renting a car so we were a little nervous. After we got out of Munich city everything ran smoothly.

We had booked a night at Lucknerhaus, which is a cozy privately owned hut right were the accent to Grossglockner starts. I can only recommend staying at Lucknerhaus. The staff was friendly, breakfast was good and they offer sauna for everybody who stay there from 15:00! We did not have any time for the sauna, as we met hour guide the next morning at 10:30. Our guide, Renè, was a nice guy who had worked as a mountain guide for five years. He had no problems with communicating in English, which was also nice :).Renè gave us all the equipment that was needed for the hike. And around 10:00 we started our ascent.

We arrived at  Lucknerhütte 30 minutes later (notice there is both Lucknerhaus and Lucknerhütte). Form here we had to choose the route to Adlersruhe hütte (Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte).  

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Our route, you find the gps track on outdooractive

We did not hike the normal path up to Adlersruhe hütte which more or less crosses the glacier horizontally. The reason for this was that there was a real danger for rockfall from Grossglockner to the glacier. René told us that just days before big rocks had fallen on the glacier path. Therefore we took the path that crosses the glacier vertically on its right side, avoiding placing us right under the steep peak. This kind of information you really only get when hiking with a local mountain guide.

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Ready for the adventure!

From Lucknerhütte the path first went up a not too steep green hill, which turned into a rocky area, and finally ended in the glacier. Here we put our crampons on. We did not have special mountain boots made for use of crampons, but this was not a problem, because René had also crampons for “regular” mountain boots, which was convenient for us. We did not rope up during the glacier travel. I guess this was not needed as there was no fresh snow and not really many cravassess. In addition our guide had done this hike three times already during the week so I guess he was well familiar with the glacier. There was actually a possibility to avoid the glacier totally and just walk on the side of it. There were some people doing this, but when I asked our guide he said that that was actually quite dangerous as there is a big risk that that rocks could fall from the small mountain wall that runs on the side of the glacier. Therefore we walked on the glacier instead so that if any rocks would loosen we would not get hit.. Again good thinking from our guide.

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This is where you want to stay away from the mountain walls
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The normal route crosses the valley over this glacier, spot the big rocks on the glacier??

After perhaps 30 Minutes on the glacier we reached the point where you have to climb a via Ferrata up to the hut. There were no markings so this would have been tricky to find without a guide unless you just follow some other groups. This via Ferrata was actually quite challenging as it was much longer than what I had expected. When I studied the map it seemed to be so short, but in fact I think we used 2 hours before we were at the hut. The climb was really nice, but as you do it on 3000 meters of course it is easier to get exhausted. There were a lots of steel cables and I did not really feel te roped up for this part, but it did not feel like a rope was necessary. Until now we had only been walking in the valley with not much view, so at this point i really wanted to hike slower and to enjoy the view from the ridge and perhaps have another break for food, but as our guide had gotten the information that a thunderstorm was closing in no breaks were allowed. I barely could stop up to take any pictures, and he was really dragging us on the rope all the time urging us to move faster. I guess I understand the reasons, but for me it really destroyed the experience. I felt like a little rain we could handle and the thunderstorms were nowhere to see. I know I know, the weather can change really fast in the mountains and for sure you don’t want to be on a slippery via ferrata during a thunderstorm, but I did not like the rush. So I could not really enjoy that part of the hike much even though I normally love via ferratas. I was just too much dragging on the rope all the time..

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This is how the via ferrata up to Adlersruhe hut looked at it’s easiest.

 

We actually made it to the hut exactly the moment it started to rain, so it was definitely good that we rushed as these iron cables get very slippery in the rain. We were at the hut at 15:00. So we only used 4 hours. The hut was already very busy and full of people so I guess most people started very early from the valley.

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The thought of wiesbier was what kept me going when I could not take a break on the via ferrata.

What can I say about Adleruh hütte? The hut is nice enough, but I did not really feel welcome. They also had this strange policy that you could only stay there if you also had breakfast. As we planned to leave the hut at 4 AM we were not interested in the breakfast, but when I told this to the receptionist he simply told me that you have to pay for it anyway. The breakfast was served from 5:30 to 7:00 which also made it impossible for us the eat it after the summit since we made it down at 8:00. It seems to be a nice deal for them because half of the hut was leaving before breakfast.. Also they take money for water, which tastes quite bad. I mean it is drinkable but I wonder if this was glacier water?? So we ended up using like 10 euros on water. I also wonder if there was something wrong with the food. We all got really gassy stomach after the dinner and I had really problems with getting some sleep because of this. Sleep or no sleep at t 3:45 AM we woke up and tried to sneak down without waking everybody.

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Our guide told us not to pack anything, so we only had to put on our gear. René himself had a small backpack with him and agreed to carry my Grossglockner gipfel beer to the summit 🙂 I had three layers on, wool, fleece and a jacket on and gloves. I needed all these layers because outside it was quite windy. Feeling the wind I was actually afraid that we would not be able to stand on the ridge, but luckily the wind silenced by the time we got to the ridge. From the hut we walked first over the glacier. It was quite steep, but nothing to compared to the climb that waited us after the glacier. Here it was just scrambling. We used our hands and legs as well as we could to climb over the rocks upwards. In the darkness it felt like it the climb would never end, even though I knew it was only 400 hm. Renè went first, found a spot to secure the rope and then told us to follow. He secured the rope behind rocks, because there were no other options (there was only one fixed iron rope on the whole ridge and couple of places where one could use a carabiner) Climbing this 45 degree hill of rocks was even more difficult with crampons on and the fresh snow turned into ice on the rocks when we climbed them. I had most trouble just finding something not slippery to grab onto in order to pull myself up to the next rock. Still, there was only one spot on the entire ridge where I felt uncomfortable. Before the peak itself the ridge goes down a little and there was a thin section where I had to just sit on a rock and slide down. Sliding to the right or left would not end well 😀  but with “summer” conditions that part would not have scared me either. That being said, it is very exposed and there is a reason why we secured ourselves with a rope all the time. One s of us also felt the height sickness a little in form of a headache, so heights is another thing to take into the consideration.

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The last climb, when we finally could spot the summit!

Also on the ridge, our our guide was constantly rushing us and now I started to get really annoyed about this! Because honestly, what was all this rush about? We were on the peak at 6:20 ish and there was no reason to rush what so ever. It seemed to me that the other guides had the same attitude. At one spot I needed more time to figure out how to place my feet and hands to climb further and while I was struggling, one of the other guides who was already on his way down the mountain, started shouting at me that I should not stop up and block the way but keep going! Honestly, is not the guide’s task to keep calm? He shouting at me did not help in any way, that is for sure.

Finally we reached the peak and there were only two other people on it. We stayed on the peak just long enough to see the sunrise in the sky line, celebrate the victory with the gipfel beer and take some pictures. On the way down we could finally get see how exposed the ridge really was. I liked this more. I guess I like knowing better than not knowing 🙂 Generally downhill is always easier for me so it is sad that I often worry about how I will get down during the way up 😦

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On the way down we also met a lot of other groups who were now on their way up. This was actually nice because we had to wait and let them pass us in several places which gave me time to enjoy the view more 🙂 After all, I was in no hurry to get down from this majestic mountain!

 

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Waiting for others to come up and pass us.
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So this part we actually did in the dark on the way up 😀

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Back at the hut I had the worst coffee of my life, and decided not to buy anything else and eat my homemade müslibars instead. We left the hut around 9. It was perfect weather. Amazingly the guide still had a quite fast phase and when I asked him, what the rush was about he said that everybody else were passing us so we were slow. He even denied me to have a break to take off my jacket 😦 It was 10:30 and I had no rush to get back to the valley!! But he saw it differently.  Anyways, we took the “normal path” down. I am not sure why, I think it was only because it is faster, because the risk of rocks falling on the glacier was still there.  At one point we even earned some rocks falling from the wall, so I did actually rush over the glacier 😀

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This was the most tricky part on the way down.
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René giving us rope so we could get down safely

Other than that I did not mind taking this path as we could now take a closer look at the side of the valley. Here we could see the Stüdlhütte and we walked past some nice waterfalls.

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Around 12:00 the guide left us, as he told he needed to rush to another assignment that he had the next day (which was not planned, but he had to step in for a guide who called in sick). So René left us and I felt relieved 🙂 at least I could enjoy the last part of the hike in my speed. Not having to rush anymore we took a break at Lucknerhütte. I had finally some proper coffee and a really delicious Apfelstrudel. This was a perfect ending for the adventure.

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Delicious Apfelstrudel and proper coffee, with a view to Großglockner.

 

We were down at Lucknerhaus at 13:00 and back in Munich at 17:00.

All in all I am really happy with the hike, it was a cool experience, we had nice weather and Großglockner made us to push our comfort zone a little. I am  also really glad we hired a mountain guide. We needed him on that ridge and we learned a lot from him, the only thing I am not happy about was the constant rushing. I get it, for the mountain guides this is just a regular work day and the earlier they are down in the valley, the sooner they can finish their work day, but for me this was is a once in a lifetime experience that I wanted to enjoy! At least it is now clear to me that I have to take some mountaineering courses so that I can do the hikes I want to do the way I want to do them!

Costs:

So we had to hire a car, for 3 days, in additional you have to buy a vignette which was 12 euros, you also have to pay a fee for one of the roads/tunnels on the road (2x 11 euros) and you have to pay for the parking at Lucknerhaus/Großglocknerarena (14 euros). In addition we paid 35 euros for a bed in a dorm at Lucknerhaus and 45 euros for the stay (included dinner) at Adleruh hütte.) The mountain guide cost 205 euros per person. So all in all not a really cheap hike. But if you go for a weekend in London you end up paying the same if not more so it is all about priorities 🙂

 

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. 

 

 

Kayaking in Sunnmøre

Before we went to Norway I had planned to kayak Hjørundsfjorden. To be more exact my plan was to hike Slogen, then kayak from Øye and find a nice camping spot, stay overnight and then kayak the rest of the fjord, but what happened? Well.. Weather does not follow your plans! We could not do Slogen the day I had planned it and we ended up kayaking Eksund – Ulsteinvik instead, since it was supposed to be better weather there. Notice the “supposed” :D? There were no super conditions for kayaking in Eiksund either that day, but it was doable. On the positive side I did learn a lot that day.

Lessons learned:

  1. Do not only consider wind speed, but also wind direction. We had headwind the whole way, which made it very exhausting. Had I considered the wind direction we could have done the route other way around.
  2. Check your map often when kayaking between small islands. Me and Elias thought we knew the direction, but it is just way to easy to lose it between all the small islands and espesially when you also want to take the “shortest path”. Much like when hiking. So we ended up kayaking in wrong direction for one and a half hour. That together with the headwind probably resulted in us not making it the whole way to Ulsteinvik :(.
  3. Kayaking in rain is completely fine, it’s just a different kind of experience 🙂
  4. Kayaking close to each other is a challenge, when in big waves.
  5. On the sea the wind/weather can change within 15 minutes, so sometimes you need to turn around so that the waves do not hit you from the side.
  6. Make sure you seal the kayak covers properly during the breaks and while kayaking. Especially with big waves. Elias did not do this and so all the equipment in his kayak got wet. We did use waterproof bags , but his shoes were inside the kayak without a bag…

 

Eiksund is a village in Ulstein Municipality in Møre og Romsdal , Norway. It is located on the southern tip of the island of Hareidlandet.

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Iniitial plan was to kayak from Eiksund to Ulsteinvik
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The route we ended up doing

The waves were the worst when kayaking towards Eika, so when I afterwards figured out that all this struggle and fear was for nothing I was a little angry at myself. But I on the bright side I got some experience with kayaking in medium to big waves (At least for me they were big 😛 ).

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Yes I know, the water in the pictures looks perfectly still, but belive me it was not like this the whole time. I just did not dare to take out my camera in the big waves, it was more important to stay alive 😀

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After struggling in the waves and realizing that we were on the wrong course, we decided to take a break at Kleppane. We had packed tea and coffee, lots of sandwiches and cookies with us.

 

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From Kleppane on we checked the map frequently to not make any more mistakes. We found a nice place where to take the kayaks to the land, not too far from the road so that we could be picked up.

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All in all we used 5 hours on this route, but that is included a 40 minutes break and heavy head wind. In other words, on a nice day there should be no problems to make it the whole way to Ulsteinvik, as long as you do not end up taking detours, that is 😀

Now I need to get ready for some serious hiking tomorrow. Last weekend we had actually planned to hike Aplspitze, but I was so tired that I did not even want to watch TV so we had to cancel our plans. I guess the first week back at work hit me like a wall and I just needed some rest after it.

Anyways, I hope for a nice hike tomorrow. Even thought it’s going to be a long and heavy one 🙂

 

 

 

 

Slogen – a hike you can’t miss while in Sunnmøre.

Sunnmøre is the southernmost region of the western Norwegian district of Møre og Romsdal. Its main city is ÅlesundThe district is made up of mainland as well as several large islands such as Hareidlandet, plus many small islands. The region is an hikers wet dream! There are several big fjords in the area which means steep hikes and amazing views. Most of the hikes start around sea level, so even though the highest mountain in the area is bellow 2000 m, fear not, you will get to climb enough high meters. There are few sports that can not be practiced in Sunnmøre, its perfect for hiking, kayaking, skiing, paragliding, and you can even do surfing. There are also a lot of possibilities for climbing.

I have not yet explored all the different possibilities and do not know the mountains as well as the locals do, but I have done around 5 hikes in the area and am convinced that the mountaintops in sunnmøre are what dreams are made of 🙂

If you are lucky enough to be in the area during nice weather, Slogen (1564m) is the mountain you can not miss. Despite its sharp and steep appearance, the top is relatively easy to climb. From the peak you have a fantastic view of the peaks around and the valleys deep down at Hjørundfjorden.

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From the fjord, Slogen rises like a triangular pyramid, straight up. Coming closer you will see that it is not quite as steep.

With nice weather, the hike up is easier than you would think, only the last part is a bit exposed and requires some scrambling, so do not be surprised to meet Norwegians in sport BH and shorts running up. There are some really sporty Norwegians out there so even we had to let some pass us 😀

You do not need any equipment of any kind to get to the top, but I do not recommend this hike with fog or rain, at least not all the way to the peak as the last 100 hm are really exposed. We are talking about several hundred meters right down!

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The trip up to Slogen is suitable for day trips, but there is a possibility to spend an overnight stay at the Patchellhytta before climbing the top the next day. With accommodation here, this trip is also suitable for children.

To get to Patchellhytta (and further up to the top) you can either go up Skylstadbrekka from Øye in Norangsdalen (about 2-3 hours) or up the Liadalen from Engeset not far from Stranda (about 2-3 hours). From Patchellhytta, the trip takes up to about 3 hours. The trail up to the top from Patchellhytta is not marked, but it is quite easy to find. The third option would be to walk from Urke to the hut and then do the peak next day.

Season: June-September.

From Øye: 3 km. 1500 altitude meters, 4 hours.

From Patchellhytta: 3 km. 750 height meters, 3 hours.

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We hiked the route from Øye (Marked black on the map). It is 1500 hm more or less right up, but in return you feel that you are getting closer with every step you take and just after 1 hour, you can already spot the peak. The first 1000 hm are in the forest, after that there is a short part of gravel path and after that you have to jump between the rocks and find you way to the top, while enjoying the amazing view to Hjørungsfjorden.

The path from Øye has normally less snow so it is a nice option if it is early in the season. After perhaps 500 hm you will find a sign to water. It is a nice opportunity to fill up your water bottle as it gets really warm on that side of the valley during sunny days.

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We did not fill up our water bottle on the marked place, so we had to get creative.
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100hm from the peak, there was a lot of snow so we had to climb next to it. This is where you want to stop if you do not like scrambling.

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The views from the peak speak for themselves:

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The one hour that we spent on the top, went way too fast!!

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This view spoiled us on the way down. I need to figure out what the closest mountain is called and add it to my list 🙂

We used 4 hours up (with two 20 minutes breaks)  and 2,5 hours down. The path down is long and steep so I do recommend hiking poles, even thought you will be an obvious tourist while using them (very few Norwegians use hiking poles :D).

If you are a true Norwegian you finish your hike with a refreshing (read freezing) swim in the fjord. Luckily I am Estonian so I had an excuse 😉

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This is just one of the hikes we did during our vacation in Norway this year. In one weeks time, we managed to do another hike and some kayaking in the area. I had also planned outdoors camping, but that we had to cancel due to the weather 😦

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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