Ger­many to Aus­tria to Switzer­land to Italy

Walking New Zealand - - Overseas Walks - By Barb Lowther

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.

www.walk­ingnewzealand.co.nz

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

www.walk­ingnewzealand.co.nz

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.

www.walk­ingnewzealand.co.nz

Above: Walk­ing down to the Heildieburger Hut in Switzer­land. Be­low left: Barbz and Derek at top of the moun­tains in the alps.

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