Germany to Austria to Switzerland to Italy
In August we crossed the European Alps, from Obersdorf in Bavaria, through Austria and Switzerland, to end up in Northern Italy. This walk offered some of the most awesome scenery we have ever seen, with amazing variations in both weather and outlook within a day.
At times we walked through rain, sleet and 40cms of snow, but when we reached lower altitudes the temperatures soared to the 30’s.
We went with a group of ‘UK Ramblers,’ who I would thoroughly recommend.
Meeting in Munich, we journeyed by train to Sonthofen, a resort in south Bavaria. After spending the night there, we travelled to Obersdorf to begin walking.
The first day took us over alpine pastures, and through beech forest with wafting aromas of peppermint, thyme, and marjoram.
Walking up the Tretachtal, we climbed a narrow trail high above the river hanging onto wire ropes fixed to the rock face.
Lots of waterfalls flowed over the track and a huge variety of wild flowers blossomed in every nook. There were larkspur, gentian, aconite coltsfoot, butterbur and harebells - to name but a few. All day, we were accompanied by the clonkle of cow bells, and magnificent views over the snow capped Alps.
We reached Kemptner Hut mid afternoon. It was more like a hotel, than the tramping huts that we know. The bar was the focal point, and a four course meal was served at 7.00pm. This was the pattern in all the huts we stayed in.
Day 2 dawned with brilliant blue
skies. We climbed 20 minutes up to Madelejoch, a pass on the border with Austria. Then an easy downhill walk through Pines, took us to Holzgau, an Austrian ski village.
After a bus ride up the valley, we followed a steep track, for 800 metres, over limestone and shale to reach Kaiserjoch Haus (2310m) by 5.00pm. Here the scenery was spectacular - mountain peaks as far as you could see, in every direction. After another delicious meal finished with apple strudel and ice cream, we were entertained by the hut warden playing us local tunes on his piano accordion .
The next morning started with a clamber up ‘Grieskopt’- a local peak, before heading off to ‘Leutkircher Hut’ at 2,251m.
It was a misty morning, with lots of goats and marmots near the track. We followed an undulating stony path across hillsides oozing water, and sprinkled with prickly thistles, and blue flowers.
As the trail climbed steeply, we again used wire ropes and metal stairs to negotiate very narrow ledges and rocky outcrops. Gradually the rain became heavier, the clouds moved in, and peaks appeared and vanished at whim.
As the sky cleared for a moment, five chamois appeared on the headland opposite. They stood proud for a couple of minutes before vanishing down the other side.
As waves of mist moved across the Opposite page: The Kaisertal in Austria. Above right: The trail between Leutkircher and Matunjoch, Austria. Below right: The Uina Gorge where the path is carved into the rock. mountainside, we had glimpses of the valley floor below, bathed in sunlight. It was a great lift to our spirits. We continued along the trail until a steep path led down to Leutkircher Hut, where frankfurters floating in a bowl of thick soup, were a good revival.
On Day 4 we began by wandering along the Lechtal Alps on a lovely mountain track bordered by erica and arnica. The track climbed steeply, along a narrow ledge for about an hour, and we clung to a wire rope, edging along a sheer drop. When at last we reached Matunjoch (a pass), we sat in warm sun enjoying the view.
Five minutes later, as we headed for Ulmer Hut, the weather changed dramatically. An icy wind blew in thick mountain mist, and we had to scramble to reach the warm hut, for a lunch break.
We continued on down a 4-wheel drive track to a guesthouse in St Anton, where, all our clothes were washed and dried for us - a totally unexpected treat.
The next day, after a short bus ride along the valley to Pettneu, we walked up the Malfonbach. A big gentle house cow wandered up to us, leaving a lovely lingering warm milky smell.
Just round the corner we came to Malfon Alm, where we enjoyed hot chocolate made with her milk.
The track then left the river, and
climbed steeply over rocks and stones, beside waterfalls and numerous streams plunging down to the river. In places the trail became a waterway, and we had to clamber over boulders daubed with red paint, to avoid walking ankle deep in icy water. When we reached Edmund Graf Hut mid afternoon, we found the tops covered in fresh snow, and by 4.30pm it was snowing steadily.
We woke in the morning to a ‘Wonderland’ A blanket of snow covered everything. It was absolutely beautiful. In the afternoon we climbed a local peak - Koher Riffler (3,168m). Only photos can describe the beauty!
A rocky trail led to ‘Boulder Hopping’, and higher up, we were walking through 20cms of snow. The view was well worth the effort. On the way back down, the snow had started to melt, and wild flowers were popping through. We returned to the hut and sat in the sun enjoying a beer in a near perfect world.
Our next day began with crunching on ice and trekking past clumps of half melted snow as we climbed to Kappler Joch.(a pass)
As we headed down the other side, we passed a herd of ibex, quite unconcerned by our ‘invasion’. The trail, marked by the alpine club’s red and white stripes, took us over rocky terrain, past two beautiful deep blue lakes, and open grasslands where rivulets raced down to the stream below.
We then took a high level track, which gave us lovely views, and led along a mountain road to Alpengasthof in Dias.
A cable car took us down to Kappl and a short bus trip to Ishgl. That evening we attended a concert by the local military band. Brass bands are an important part of Austrian life, and most villages in this area have their own band.
Day 8 began with an explanation of the intracasies of ‘Menger’s Sponge’An interesting theory of an Austrian
Germany to Austria to Switzerland to Italy
Mathmetician - Karl Menger. Then after a bus ride to Mathon, we wandered up the Lorein Valley, to Zollwache Hut - an old customs watch house.
The afternoon was spent walking over grassy mountainsides to Ritzenjoch - a pass on the Austrian/Swiss Border.
From here we had stunning views across the upper Fimbatal, before con- tinuing on down, past whistling marmots and very friendly horses, to reach Heildelberger Hut. This hut is ringed by 3000 mountain peaks which look magic when coated with snow.
Next day was a rest day - no big packs. So we had a wonderful time exploring two glaciers, and climbing up Gronzeckopf (3,048m) and Breitekrone (3,079m). It was incredibly beautiful country. High mountains in every direction, and the snow covered the Bernina Range in the distance. There were so many interesting shaped peaks, and the higher we climbed the more peaks were visible.
We spent a couple of hours admiring the scenery, then made our way back down, stopping at a little tarn ringed with cotton grass, to watch big spotty frogs. The evening was spent chatting to other walkers and mountain bikers and enjoying the local brew.
Day 10 started with a climb over alpine pasture to Fimber Pass (2,608m) then steeply downhill to Tschoffla. From there the trail leveled and followed the river to Griosch. Because many mountain bikers were using the trail, we took a steep alternative route to Ramosch, again with wildflowers all the way.
The following day promised to be hard, 1,200m uphill in the heat! But the gods were on our side. It rained all
night and until 10.00am. Postponing our departure time, we walked in lovely cool conditions, with all the vegetation washed bright green.
Starting on a wide path to an alpine farm, the trail became rougher and steeper as it climbed up through larch and spruce trees to the spectacular Uina Gorge. Here we used wire ropes again, as we made our way along a narrow path, with tunnels carved through the rock. It was an impressive section of track. The rain had made the river especially dramatic as it raged through the gorge.
Once through, we followed a path over pasture land across the border into Italy, where we walked to Sesvenna Hut.
Next morning was another free day, so we left early and climbed Rasass Spitz. We sat on the tops for an hour or so, just enjoying the incredible views of ‘Peaks Forever’, and aware that this was near the end of 14 magic days. Above right: In the Uina Gorge in Switzerland. Below left: On the way to Kemptner Hut Bavaria. Below right: Enjoying lunch at Alpen Gashof in Dias, Austria.
Day 13 was a day to be remembered -- Just like the alps in story books, blue skies puffy white clouds, alpine meadows, loads of wild flowers, cows with clonky bells, beautiful horses, and a wide easy grade path.
We climbed half an hour to our last pass, then it was downhill all the way, first over pasture then through spruce forest with thickets of ripe raspberries.
We reached the South Tyrol village of Burgeis at mid day. Sitting on a hotel balcony with spectacular views over the entire area, we relaxed over lunch, with a glass of wine.
Our last leg was a short walk to the railway station at Mals, where we caught a train to Merano Youth Hostel.
The final day we visited Bolzano, then Verona, where we spent several hours wandering around this lovely city before flying back to UK.
I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who is reasonably fit, and loves adventure. Our Ramblers Guide was excellent. The mountains are incredibly beautiful, the scenery is varied - meadows full of flowers, stark scree, glaciers, larch and spruce forests - it’s all there. The weather keeps you guess- ing, the food is absolutely scrumptious, and the huts and staff are warm and welcoming.
Details of this trip can be found online - www.ramblersholidays.co.uk - Across the Alps.
Above: left: A groupo at the Grozechhopt (3048m) Above riight: Holzgau a pretty little Austrian ski resort. Below left: Edmund Graf Hut in the evening.
By Barbz Lowther
Above: Lovely views of the lake in at Dias, Austria. Below left: Barbz Lowther in front of a lake in the Sesvenna Ranges , northern Italy.
Above: Walking down to the Heildieburger Hut in Switzerland. Below left: Barbz and Derek at top of the mountains in the alps.