Monday, July 18, 2011

Trekking in the Zillertal Alps

The Zillertal Alps are located in southern Austria, along the Italy border. Although the mountains are not as high as they are in some of the surrounding countries, the Zillertal Alps are less traveled and the views are exquisite. After riding in the train all night and getting very little sleep my friend, Becky, and I finally arrived in the charming border town of Brenner and started our 4,618 foot climb up to our first hut. Our entire trek consisted of 5 strenuous days of backpacking, 4 huts, the summit of 2 mountains and jumping into a very cold, glacier lake. Every hut had it's own unique view and atmosphere, and each day of hiking presented new, challenging adventures. Every day presented us with beautiful views and the opportunity to meet new people.

Day 1: Landshuter Hut
Distance: 4.3 miles
Total Ascent: 4618 feet (1408 meters)

The Landshuter Hut is located right on the Austria, Italy border. It was my favorite as far as hospitality. There wasn't much of a view, but it was less crowded and the man that ran it was very nice. He didn't speak English, but was very patient with us as we tried to figure out German. The best part of this hike was at the beginning when we passed through a few farms with cows grazing along the trail.

Day 2 Olperer Hut
Distance: 10 miles
Total Ascent: 1,280 feet
Total Descent: 2,913 feet (888 meters)

This was by far my favorite hut as far as the view and the people. Because the view was so spectacular we decided to stay here 2 nights. It was one of the smaller huts we stayed at and we hit it on a weekend, so it was very busy. Fortunately, we were able to get a bed for 2 nights and discovered that because we were members of the Austrian Alpine club they had to find a place for us to sleep.

The first part of the hike was in Italy and about halfway down we came to the Austria/Italy border where we met a kid from Germany who was backpacking from Munich to Venice. We had a beer with him at a small hut right on the border and continued on our way back into Austria.

Once we got to the Schlegeisspeicher reservoir (a breathtakingly beautiful turquoise lake filled with water melting from the glaciers above) it was a gorgeous hike straight up to the Oplerer hut, which hovers on the hill side over looking the majestic Hochfeiler mountains and the Schlegeisspeicher reservoir.

Day 3: Ascent of the Olperer
Distance: 2 miles
Ascent: 3,608 feet (1100 meters)

Although the entire trip has been fun, this was my favorite day. Both Becky and I got to do what we love. I climbed a mountain and she stayed at the hut and did some photography.

The Olperer was one of the hardest mountains I have ever climbed. Although it is not that high, I had to hike on a steep snow bank and had to scramble up a very challenging section with a fixed rope to help you get to the summit. There were about 10 people on the mountain that day and only myself and one other guy made it to the top. It was a little foggy on top, but the views were still amazing. On the back side of the mountain was a small ski slope with enough snow for people to still be skiing. The view from the front side was of the majestic mountains with the beautiful reservoir at the base. The views were so exquisite I could have sat up there all day, but I had a long challenging descent still to get down.

When I returned to the hut we found a perfect hill for Becky to fulfill her life long dream of singing in the hills and had fun taking random pictures. After our day of fun we sat on the deck and enjoyed the view and a beer. This is where we met Bernard and Martin, two Austrians from a small town outside of Vienna. I had passed them on the mountain earlier that day and after talking for a little while they informed me that I hiked too fast and would have trouble getting a boyfriend because of it. We played UNO with them that night and learned a few new rules for the game (see things we learned at the bottom of the page). They also introduced us to schnaps, an extremely strong post dinner shot.

Day 4: Furtschagl Hut
Distance: 5 miles
Ascent: 1,980 feet

This was the easiest hiking day we had, but this hut was my least favorite of all the huts. It had a beautiful view of the glaciers, but was not very hospitable. The best part of the day was jumping into the reservoir. In order to get to the hut we had to hike around the Schlegeisspeicher reservoir. It was a pretty hot day, the water was crystal clear and we hadn't had a shower in 5 days, so we decided to jump in the water. Due to the fact that the reservoir is filled with run off from the glaciers above, it was a little cold.

Day 5: Berliner Hut with the ascent of the Schonbichlerhorn
Distance: 4.3 miles
Ascent: 2,585 feet

This was my favorite hut as far as accommodations. It was the largest hut we stayed at, actually it looked more like a resort than a hut and it had the best rooms. However, this was the longest and most challenging day of hiking. We ended up hiking for about 9.5 hours. To get to the Berliner from the Furtschagl we had to hike over a 10,000 foot pass with some scrambling near the top. Once we were on the pass we dropped our packs and made the short climb to the top of the Schonbichlerhorn. The easy part was getting to the top of the pass. The beginning of the descent was so steep they put in fixed ropes that were essential for getting down. Once we finally got off of that part we had an extremely long descent down into a valley and then back up to the hut.

Day 6: The hike out

After 6 days of hiking and no shower we decided to hike out and take the train down to Venice. The next blog will be about our adventures in Italy.

Things we learned while backpacking in Austria
1. Goats wag their tail when happy
2. Austrians think Americans drink hot chocolate with swimming mushrooms
3. Jumping in a glacial lake may give you brain freeze
4. Beer is the best post hiking beverage
5. A traditional Austrian dessert is like mashed pancakes
6. There are no kangaroos in Austria
7. Schnapps is a VERY strong after dinner drink
8. Flashing is also a term used in the game UNO
9. The term mashed is used to describe anything that is mixed
10. While napping in the mountains, a fluffy dog sniffing your face may be mistaken for a bear
11. Good friends help carry each others packs up difficult sections
12. Huts may be farther away then they appear
13. Glacier streams can be a good spot to shave your legs
14. Blisters can look like tumors
15. Asking cute boys for help is a good way to start a conversation
16. Being a fast hiker may be the reason for not having a boyfriend
17. It is possible to be in Italy and Austria at the same time
18. People are amazed when you tell them you are from Alaska

1 comment:

  1. May be you enjoy allot there. Because that place is perfect for trekking and for adventure. Nice post. Thanks for sharing.