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 my first Volcano – La Malinche 4440 m

La Malinche mountain is an inactive volcano (dormant for the last 3,100 years) located in Tlaxcala and Puebla states, in Mexico. Officially, its summit reaches 4,461 metres (14,636 ft) above sea level, though it is generally considered to be closer to 4,440 metres. It is the sixth-highest in Mexico.

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Here you see the “peak” before the real peak

Traveling to Mexico we did not plan to do any hiking actually, but we should have known ourselves better by now, because off course we could not resist :D. When travelling for two months it is really limited what you can bring so the only equipment we had with us were our hiking boots, one layer of wool and a rain/wind jacket. Considering this to be to little for a 4000m summit, the day before the hike we were in Mexico City and tried to find some warm clothes for the hike. We were not sure how could it could get on 4000m in Mexico, but decided that we should at least have an extra warm sweater. We found the cheapest on sale sweaters, bought a lot of sandwiches, 3,5 L of water and two small chocolates from the Oxxo store and hoped that would get us to the top of La Malinche. As it turned out too little food or clothes was not the problem on this hike.

HOW TO GET THERE:

We took a direct bus from TAPO in Mexico city to Apizaco, wich costs about 135 pesos. From Apizaco we found a collectivo around the Elektra shop, from the corner of Av. Hidalgo and Av. Serdan. You will probably need to ask around as there are tens of different collectivos there, but you are looking for the one written Teacalco or San José Teacalco on. They are slow because the stop in all kind of villages, and the price asked was 60 pesos per person. The last collectivo leaves around 4:30PM the first leaves at 8:20 AM. The collectivo will stop right in front of the Centro Vacacional, so you will not have to do any additional walking. The last busses back to either Puebla or Apizaco leave around 5:00PM. The bus to Puebla costs us 40 pesos each, and took about 2 hours.

CAMPING:

So luckily there is a quite fancy resort just bellow La Malinche, where the trail starts called “Centro Vacacional Malintzin”. It is an ideal location to acclimatize and start an ascent of the volcano as it lies on 3200m. It has a restaurant and a gift shop. Outside the resort, there is also a small kiosk and a little cheaper restaurant. It has very comfortable cabins and camping area. All of the huts have hot showers, TV, fridge, kitchen, fireplace (take your wood with you or buy it at the entrance) and come with either 4 or 6 beds. You can’t just buy one bed, so we were two people renting a 6 persons cabin, which was 960 pesos per night. It was actually cheaper to rent the 6 person cabin than the 4 person cabin, because the 4 person cabins had a kitchen, and were hence more expensive. You can’t book online, so you have to call the center directly and make your reservation. The very nice lady told us that for reservations they normally want a deposit online, but that only works with mexican cards so she let us book over the phone without paying the deposit. For booking over phone call: +521 554822716699 they also have a webpage in spanish.
If you don’t like using the resort you can camp at no fee just outside the “Centro Vacacional” in the forest. There are lots of flat places around, even some accessible by car. Alternatively take your gear and walk about two hours up the trail towards the La Malinche. There are campsites around timberline. For your next day climb to the Malinche you can hide your backpack somewhere in the woods.

THE HIKE ITSELF:

The hiking trail to the summit begins just between the restaurant and the small kiosk outside of the gate of the resort.

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Beginning of the trail

The forest trail is a shortcut over the concrete road that once was open for public, but is now closed of with a gate. After crossing the road several times, the trail leads into a conifer section at around 3,400 meters. Even though the hike might seem like a walk in the park to begin with, it fast turns into a real challenge if you have not acclimatized. We saw hikers throwing up before they reached the tree line, so you have to keep in mind at 4000 m you will get height sickness if you have not acclimatized. From the tree line, you can see the “false” summit for the first time. After that you have to choose either to take a very steep grassland section on right or a very steep gravel and sand path on the left.

 

 

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Picture taken from www.summitpost.org

We did the sand path (in red on the picture). It really was heavy, because for every step you were sliding one step back and it felt like we were not making any progress. I guess the path to the right, over the grass would have been a wiser choice. The ridge starts at 4,200 metres and leads to the summit, which is just behind the false summit. The last 100-or-so metres involve a bit of scrambling.

I read that is often cold and very windy above the tree line, but we were lucky and had quite comfortable conditions. Never the less, I used all my clothes – one  layer of wool, one warm sweater and wind pants + jacket, so don’t come in t-shirt. I have also read that  crampons and an ice axe are necessary whenever it has snowed recently – which typically happens a few times each year. Therefore when you book your cabin with the Centro Vacacional, be sure to ask if there is snow or not.

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The ascent is challenging but not technical. Fit hikers can reach the summit from the resort area in 4 hours, but it is best to plan for 5–6 hours with breaks and it also depends on if you have acclimatized or not. We used 5 hours, but were hiking very slow. My stomach was acting up on the mexican food as it had for several days, and so I was really not in shape that day. I could not really get any nutrition to my body and was only drinking water and eating small pieces of chocolate. To be honest, I am still not sure how I made it to the peak. especially on the way down I was astonished that I had walked all the way up! I only remember focusing on the next steps and trying to keep the negative thoughts out of my mind, thinking that I will soon feel better. Elias was also very supportive and I am sure I would not have made it to the peak without him encouraging me all the way. I think this is the hardest hike I have done sofar?! I know 1,200 hm climb is not much, but that day it was hard, really hard, both mentally and physically.

 

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The peak was really quite crowded. This is a very popular hike in the area so don’t be afraid, you will not be hiking alone, and you will not get lost. A map is really not necessary as you just follow the path and the crowd of people.

After a small break on the peak we started the descent. I was feeling much better now so we used less than 2 hours down. My advise is to take the sandy (red) path down, as hiking downhill in the sand it is really nice and easy for the knees.

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me starting to feel better, and even managed to smile 🙂

 

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The view from the peak

 

The best time to climb is the dry season is November through March, May through September tends to be wet with rain and snow. The “Centro Vacacional” is open all year round, so you can go there anytime if the weather is good. No permits are required to climb. There is no entry fee or parking fee if you park outside the “Centro Vacacional”. This is also true for camping.

 

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Glad I made it !

 

 

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 🙂

 

Alpspitze 2 628 m – my first hike on my own

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Alpspitze has been on my list a long time because it looks pointy and I just love pointy mountains. Every time I took the train pass Garmisch Partenkirchen I got reminded of that I still had not been on top of top of it. BUT NOT ANYMORE! :D:D  Now I can point to it and say have have been on top of it 😀 (as I proudly did when we took the train to Ehrwald last weekend 😀 )

Actually i have tried to climb or planned to climb Alpspitze several times. First I planned to do it in August this year, but then I got sick. Then we tried a month ago, but first we could not find the bus (Bus nr2) that you have to take to get to the Alpspitze cable car and when we finally found the right stop we had to wait 45 minutes until the next bus. That was ok, we had time and the after a coffee and some breakfast we were ready to take the next bus, but when Elias started to look for our train ticket which is also valid on busses, he could not find it anywhere. After some desperate searching we just had to admit that we forgot it on the train. Well ok we thought, we will need new ticket anyways to get home so we decided to buy a new ticket on the bus. Turned out that this bus, which was a local bus and not a regional bus, did not sell Bayern tickets and we had to buy one from the automate in the train station, but as the bus driver did not want to wait for us this meant that we had to take the next bus ad again wait 45 minutes. As we already had very limited time for this hike and needed to be back in Munich for a birthday party that same evening we decided to drop it and take the train back home. It just was not meant to happen, I told Elias and so Alpspitze reminded on my list.

So two weeks ago I decided to try again. It was a very spontaneous decision. I decided to go for it around half past eight in the evening and therefore had to pack in a hurry, not like me at all 😀

Elias did not want to join, not because he don’t like Alpspitze, but because he did not want to use a vacation day. So I decided to be adventurous and go by myself! It had rained so much lately that I could not let this change go pass me.

I wanted to do the Via Ferrata from Osterfelderkopf 2057m. The Via Ferrata was supposed to be easy, but as I was going alone I decided to take the Via Ferrata set with me.

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Normally I would hike the whole way from the valley, but that is over 2000m climb and with days getting shorter doing this would have most likely meant hiking in the dark on way down. In addition, weather forecast promised rain for after four o’clock. Therefore, not feeling bad about it (ok,maybe just a little), I took the super expensive cable car up and down (27 euros!!) Or at least I paid for it. In fact I managed to take the wrong cable car up! 😦  So if you now read this, learn from my mistakes! The problem was that the bus stops in front of the Kreuzeck cable car station which only takes you up to 1651m. This was the only station I  could see when I got of the bus and had bought the ticket. The Alpspitzbahn is further pass the ticket station  and I did not see it. I therefore took the wrong one 😦

But it was all ok in then end, it just meant that I had to hike up one and a half hour to Osterfelderkopf, where I could finally start the Via Ferrata to Alpspitz. There was just one problem, I had trouble figuring out where exactly the Via Ferrata starts. There are a lot of signboards, but all of them are for touristy easy walks in the area. To find the via Ferrata I walked around the rocks on the path above the road and managed to spot the right sign. I followed the trail further and found the start of the Via Ferrata together with the warnings “for experienced hikers only”. The Via Ferrata starts before the small tunnel, so if you meet the tunnel you have walked too far. From the spot of the warning signs you hike a little further until you meet the sign where it explains how to use the Via Ferrata set. I geared up here and took a nervous selfie before I started the climb.

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I have heard that it gets very busy on Alpspitze during weekends and summer, but I was all alone most of the time. I passed on couple on my way up and I saw that there was one other group of people climbing up after me.

The Via Ferrata is 500 height meters and quite long, but I felt it was easy, and I did not use my Via Ferrata set once. The route was secured meter by meter, also in places where you really did not need any securing. It was quite exposed at times, so it’s not for people with fear of heights. I used one and a half hours up, but I did not take any breaks so with more traffic and more breaks it would take 2 hours for sure.

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This was not uncommon on this path/ via ferrata
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The peak, so close yet so far.

At times I stopped up for a moment to join the view and to feel proud of myself. Not only did I go hiking alone, which I find is brave enough since I have terrible sense of direction, but I also decided to do a hard hike which I had not done before, with a long Via Ferrata! Some people probably think that it is dangerous to hike alone, and I guess it can be, but it is also dangerous to cross the street or drive a car and we still do it? For me it is nice to know that I can go by myself and do not need to be dependent of others. Still, I will always enjoy hiking with others more than alone because I like the social aspect of it and I like to share the moments and experiences.

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On the peak I took a one hour break, and enjoyed the view and my accomplishment. The weather was clear and it was easy to see Zugspitze and Jubiläumsgrat. Jubiläumsgrat is actually on my list. I just need to level up fist or find somebody who has a little more mountaineering experience and will let me tag along 😉

Zugspitze had a construction crane on top of it, the ultimate sign of tourist taking over that peak. This makes me soo sad and this is also why I haven’t hiked Zugspitze yet. I go to mountains to be in nature not to post postcards and stand in a crowd.

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After some time I tried to figure out what path to take down. My original plan was to take Grieskar down, but everybody else were choosing another path called Ostflanke. I did not know how hard Grieskar would be, but I knew that it would be longer. In the end I decided to join another group of hikers who took the popular path down. I just did not want to push my luck and miss the last cable car down. The group of four who I hiked down with german and older than me, but it is easy to find the tone with people who have the same passion as you. We talked about mountains and hiking most of the way down. We had quite fast phase and used one and half hour down. This path was not a klettersteig and was indeed easy, but it was at times hard to spot it. But there is quite a lot of traffic on it so it is always possible to follow others.

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Back at the cable car station I had just enough time to book a bus ticket back to Munich before the next cable car went down. As it was quite early I could have had hiked down, but since I already had the ticket I did not want to waste it. I could not complain about the views from the cable care either:

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From the valley I took again bus nr 2 to Garmisch and had 1 hour to kill before the flixbus arrived. The moment the bus arrived it started to rain and I was quite glad that I did not decide to hike down after all.

When I hiked alone I felt the need to share my joy with somebody when I managed to make it to the top, but there was nobody there. I guess I will get used to this after more alone hiking. The good thing is that I will always have this blog to share some of the moments of my adventures.

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I just finished pacing for my next hike. The weather is supposed to be amazing this weekend, but unfortunately I can only do an easy hike tomorrow. Will blog about it soon 😉

Cheers,

Made.

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.

 

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.