Waking up in a 10 foot by 10 foot room in a mountain hut with 10 people in it, all laid out like sardines in a tin, is never the best recipe for a good night’s sleep. And so at 5.48am I woke up for the sixth and final time this morning in the Hallerangerhaus hut in the Austrian Karwendel Alps. The area is nothing short of outstandingly beautiful, with some soaring and scary cliffs around us (graded 9+ in the German scale, which I think is 5.13c or so on the US rankings ).
Breakfast was at a very civilised 7am, and we were able to enjoy some muesli,
and bread with honey and jam to get us back up the mountain from where we had descended the day before.
The path up to the top at about 2,200m was steep, but thankfully was north facing, and so the sun had not yet reached this part (we left at 8am) and so it kept it cool enough to be bearable. We also stopped en route to make a small ‘birthday’ cairn and for Verena as it was her birthday:
Once over the top, that path was a beautiful traverse, called the Wilde Bande Steig. It was a scramble in parts, and sometimes was secured by small sections of via ferrata, but no clipping in was required.
A couple of snowfields had to be crossed, but the snow was firm but yielding and so did not require crampons, which was a relief as I had left mine at the bottom of the mountain!
After crossing a final precariously perched snowfield, we began the climb up to the col, the Stempeljoch. The path was very steep and it was by now extremely hot, and virtually windless, but otherwise wasn’t too bad.
Once over the top of the Stempeljoch we climbed up to get a view back over the ridge back down the valley. It was a beautiful view. When I took the photo below however I then stupidly stepped backwards into thin air and fell, landing onto my shin. Although it was only a short fall, my shin bled profusely (high pulse/blood pressure at the top of the climb no doubt contributing to this) and it looked a lot worse than it ultimately was.
From here we thankfully had only a shortish walk to the next hut, the Pfeishutte. We went down straight away so that I could get my lep patched and cleaned up. The people at the hut (and I should most certainly say the same for both Susanne and Verena too) were fantastic, and I’m very grateful to them. Although my cuts weren’t ultimately too bad, they were very all very diligent, and it made me realise that if things had been worse (I could, and probably should, have fallen further than I did) then I was in safe hands.
Duly bandaged up, the staff at the hut told me that I should put my feet up for the afternoon, and never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I did :). I did then feel rather sorry for Verena and Susanne, as had it not been for my fall (or stupidity, or both) then we would and should have gone on to do a summit that afternoon, but instead they looked after me and took me down.
The rest of the day I therefore recuperated. I did so with some of the very best Kaiserschmarm I have ever eaten. If you haven’t had Kaiserchmarm before then it is basically a sort of mishmash of caremalised pancakes, with some raisins and sultanas added, and covered in powdered sugar, served with a fruit compote. I love this stuff so much, that it deserves a picture of it’s own, so here we go:
The Pfeishutte was packed to the rafters, but thankfully we had places to sleep having rang ahead the day before. In the morning we would start our descent from the mountains in the direction of Innsbruck, on what sounded a potentially steep section of scree – it sounded great.