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Since Joan's illness in China any tour involving a lot of hard climbing has not been an option, so I did this tour with Rosemarie whom we both know well. Peter was not able to join us as he did on previous trips.
Rosemarie and I are both addicts for hut to hut travel in the Alps. We have shared three previous trips together in the Alps and we particularly enjoy the OAV huts of Austria. We had a route for our tour clearly planned before departure. However, the conditions in 2013 turned this into a hard and serious undertaking so we had a rapid change of plan and a move to a different location. From then on we had excellent weather for a mixed bag of walking days.
Our trip started with a flight to Salzburg airport and then a rail journey to Mittersill. The last part of this journey was on a small old-fashioned train. The following morning we took a Postbus up the valley through the Felbertauerntunnel and began our walk.
Our route took us down to the Matreir Tauernhaus and a little along the valley before ascending steeply on an attractive path through woods. Higher the trees stopped and we were left plodding up an open valley under some massive power cables. There was a little rain. We did not know at the time but that was to be the last daytime rain of our tour!
The last part to the hut had included some climbing on snow. It was melting, so not only were there no ready-made steps, but a new step took a few kicks to make and the result was a slippery step. This seemed less than ideal; before the tour started I was worried about the second day being 6 hours long , which would be quite a lot for us so early in the tour. The hut warden soon added his comment: "Not 6hrs - at least 9hrs". This sounded to be more like 12hrs at our pace! We needed to reconsider. After some dry clothes, a warm meal and a comfortable night we had decided.
By breakfast we had definitely decided to re-plan a new route at lower level. At our intended altitude we would have found all the paths buried in snow and, apart from more difficult route-finding, we would have to kick endless steps in heavy slippery snow! But first we would sample the benefits of our current altitude. We would spend the day on a leisurely out and return walk to the Grünersee and go down tomorrow.
The paths were easy. There are many flattish areas around here. The sheeps' pointy feet seem to be very secure on snowfields.
After reaching the Schwarzsee we spent some time lazing around in the sunshine while sitting on (relatively) warm rocks. The snow was melting fast and there was bountiful water in the streams and waterfalls. We then retraced our steps back to the hut.
The route included some easy snow slopes and an easy scrambling route protected by steel wires which might have been handy in verglas conditions.
Click here for an extra sequence of photos on snow.
Click here for an extra sequence of photos on rock.
Back at the hut I took a photo of the Hut Warden's little daughter. She is now 2 years old. I first saw her 2 years ago during a visit made during a violent summer storm in 2011.
We had planned to stay at the Matreier Tauernhaus, but on the way down we were thinking of heading further South to the Virgen Tal. Since the following day was a Sunday there would be no buses running we decided to fork out for an expensive taxi journey. This we did and had a fairly exciting journey during which our taxi driver was stopped by the police and had to pay an on the spot fine!
At Hinterbichl we were tempted by the chance to get a second taxi to take us up to the Johannishütte. The temperature was fiercely hot and we succumbed to the temptation. The ride proved to be another exciting one: this time by the narrow unmade road and the steep drops.
The Johannishütte is one of the oldest in the Alps. However it has been renovated several times, including recently.
We wanted to visit the Defreggerhaus but we were dubious about onward progress form there. So we settled for doing an out and return with a return to the Johannishütte. It did mean we could leave behind some of our gear for the day.
The guide time for the ascent was just 2hr 30m, so we were anticipating a relaxing day. Certainly the weather was kind and the conditions were good. We actually took well over 3hrs. Maybe, with a combined age of 1½ centuries, we are slowing down a bit.
As we approached the hut there was short traverse on snow with a long drop to the side. I rather wished I had brought the ice axe today.
The panoramic view from the Defreggerhaus is excellent.
We sat in the sun, enjoying the view. As often happens, a kindly person offered to take a picture with both of us in it. Luckily our respective partners find these pictures funny!
The return journey was, of course, all downhill and we could look forward to a drink on the sunny terrace of the Johannishütte.
There is also a rather appropriate sculpture visible from the terrace.
We had originally planned to go over to the Essener-Rostoker Hütte, but having realised the long climb would be done in blazing sunshine we decided to go down and across to the Clarahütte. The walk down was very pleasant. The walk up to the Clara is done initially alongside the spectacular Umbal Falls - actually a long continuous band of linked falls. Despite the shade of trees the climb was seriously hot.
Higher up the trees finish but at least the combination of increased altitude and a steep-sided valley reduced the temperature.
When we reached the hut we were told there were no places free! The hut was full of volunteer workers doing the repair work. All this despite a welcoming notice lower in the valley expounding the joys of the "new hut".
We both produced our Alpenverein cards and told the warden she could not turn us away. Two places was found in a sort of attic, but later the warden went down the valley and someone organised a re-arrangement so we could be fitted in. Cramped but warm!
We sat outside in the late afternoon sunshine to eat our food. Around us was a mix of building materials, volunteer workers and a few walkers doing an out and return day to the hut.
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