Berchtesgadener Alps……the final day

So here we were, sitting in the Riemannhaus hut in the middle of a very bleak looking Stony Sea in the Berchtesgadener Alps, with rain lashing against the windows. We had a choice now of going out to trek for three to four hours up a snowy gully to reach another hut (the Ingolstaedterhaus), or staying put, getting warm and dry, and staying the night where we were.

After debating for a while, we decided that going on was really the only choice. We were there after all, and you have to make the most of it, come what may! After donning some rather damp waterproofs and braving the teeth of the wind, we started out on our way. I am not sure if there was anyone else out there at all, but we perservered, and were so glad that we did.

Shortly into the walk it began to snow, which was not quite what we had expected for July, but we were up at about 2,400m, and the clouds were very low. We decided that we would just have fun on the way instead – we were not going to be able to climb anything, it would have been too dangerous.

Having a bit of a lark around as the snows came down….

And Anna putting on a very brave and happy face as we headed off up on one of so many snowfields.

After a couple of hours of walking, the clouds began to suddenly lift, which was as unexpected as it was welcome. The temperature began to rise and we could actually see ahead of us for a change. It made a big difference to the progress we were able to make.

The mood lifts along with the clouds…..

One of the surprising things about this whole trek was just how much snow there was still around. Most of our walking was at between 2,000 and 2,400m, and the snow looked to be a good two metres deep in places.

Another snowfield to cross…..the landscape of the Stony Sea finally visible in the background.

Eventually the waterproofs came off altogether, and we were able to walk at a much better pace.

And finally the Ingolstaedterhaus (centre of picture) comes into view in the distance.

The Ingolstaedterhaus seemed to take forever to reach, but was a very welcome sight at what had been along days walking. Had the weather been kinder I would have loved to have climbed up the peak behind the hut, but even though the clouds had lifted by now it was probably a bit of a gamble still, so we got booked into the hut and got our wet stuff off finally.

The Ingolstaedterhaus looms ever closer…..

…and finally we are there ūüôā

The views from the hut were quite stunning now that there was some visibility, and we even managed a beer on the terrace outside – well it would have been rude not to really!

Westerly view over Austria from the terrace at the Ingolstaedterhaus

After some very suitable Austrian food (Schnitzel followed by Kaiserschmarm, what else?) and a few beers and a glass of wine or three, the end of the evening came rather quickly. The Ingolstaedterhaus was pretty full, and a great place to stop and stay if you are ever in the vicinity.

The next morning we had an early start, as we had a lot of miles to cover. It was our final day in the mountains and had to get back to Munich that night for an early flight back to the UK the day after. The trek back to the Funtensee was around three hours, and then another three back down to the K√∂nigsee in what was one of the heaviest downpours you will ever see. It was a great walk though, and the rain didn’t bother us in the slightest, it was just great to be there.
All in all, this (despite the mostly shocking weather) was just a great trip. The Bertchesgadener Alps are a stunning location, with a great deal to offer from a trekking and also a climbing perspective, and the Stony Sea is almost like no place I have ever been to. Many of the routes that we passed were graded black and required technical via ferrata equipment, so there is something to offer everyone. With great huts and fine Austrian hospitality, I’d thoroughly recommend the area, and would love to go back there sometime.

Berchtesgadener Alps, continued…

So Thursday night of the 12th July saw Anna and I making a rapid ascent up from the Königsee towards the Funtensee, a lake perched at about 1,700m in the Berchtesgadener Alps, right on the border of Germany and Austria. Our planned destination was the Karlingerhaus, a mountain hut where we had planned to spend the night.

Having set out late at almost 5pm for what was signposted as a 5hr journey, we wondered whether we would make it, especially at it was raining hard. This made conditions underfoot, on what was a very steep ascent, harder going, and also meant the light was fading quickly.

In the end we needn’t have worried, as we made the climb to the hut in exactly three hours, arriving a little before 8pm. The hut was a very welcome sight nonetheless, and it was nice to hang up wet waterproofs, get the boots off, and step into what proved to be a very cosy and welcoming hut.

The Karlingerhaus, by the Funtensee, Bavaria

The lake by the Karlingerhaus, the Funtensee, has a particular record attached to it. It has recorded Germany’s lowest ever temperature, at a staggering -46.9 degrees C, just ten years ago. Caused by its North Easterly position in the mountains, it gets practically no sun for six months of the year, and it also sits in a depression. Due then to the fact that cold air is heavier than warm, when the cold air comes down from the mountains above, it has nowhere to go, and just sits there.

There was however no cold to be seen this night, despite the rain, as the hut was packed with people, and each of the dining rooms (three rooms in total) was full of revelry. In fact it was so loud you could hardly hear yourself think! I have never been in a hut and seen so much alcohol consumed! Having eaten some delicious potato soup with sausages, and had a couple of very welcome German beers, we ended up sat in the middle of what became a schnapps-fuelled signing contest between German and Dutch climbers. We ended up having two choices – which was to sit in a corner and watch, or to join in, so we chose the latter. It was about as raucous a night as you will see or hear in a typical rugby club on a Saturday night post-match – awesome entertainment is all I’ll say!
Waking the next morning with a fuzzy head was soon eclipsed by the feeling of waking up in the mountains. There is something so absolutely wonderful about it for me. It is the antithesis of any time you wake up on a normal Monday morning and think “oh bugger I have to go to work today”, and such a tonic. Even when I stay in the highest alpine huts and have to get up at 5am it is still that same “let me get at it” sort of feeling.

So today’s trek would take us from the Karlingerhaus into Austria (the border is within a mile of the Karlingerhaus) across the so called Steinernes Meer, which translates as ‘stony sea’. It is a vast expanse of ‘karst’ type geology – here is a link to it for more information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steinernes_Meer

The bleak landscape of the stony sea was exacerbated even more by the weather that faced us. It started with rain, and then just basically got wetter.

Setting out from the Karlingerhaus before the weather got bad….

but entering the Stony Sea it sooned turned cold and wet.

The Stony Sea was hard work in the weather. The rain lashed down, visibility was low, and the wind blew hard. I hadn’t expected to be decked out in full waterproofs, including gloves, and still be cold, in July, but that’s the mountains for you, and shows you that you always need to be prepared.

Some of the paths were still covered in deep snow, and with the cold and wet air it made some of the conditions underfoot a bit heart in mouth at times.

Heading up a snowy gully in the Steinernes Meer

We had originally hoped that once in the Snowy Sea area that we would be able to do a couple of the peaks that are around there. There are around 50 peaks with a prominence (i.e. above the base of the area, which all sits at over 2,000m) of over 50 metres within the area, and a total of around 20 above 2,500m. Two of the best known are the Breithorn and the Sch√∂nfeldspitze, both around 2,600m. Sadly we couldn’t even see them due to the conditions, and so we ended up just heads down and heading for some cover at the next destination, the Reimannhaus hut.

The walk up to the Riemannhaus (2,177m) ultimately took about three hours from the Funtensee, and we were very glad to just arrive. Here is a picture of it in sunnier times below:

The Riemannhaus in sunnier times, not quite the view that we got.

I did not even get my camera out so hard was the wind and rain as we approached. I also ended up with the contents of my rucksack soaked through, as the wind had (unbeknown to me at the time) ripped off my rucksack raincover somewhere on the way there. I have almost never been so glad to get inside a building as at that time.

The hospitality in the hut, once we had squeezed the water out of gloves and my rucksack contents, was wonderful. We also had what I can only describe as the best Goulash that I have ever had. It was absolutely delicious, and washed down with a steaming mug of black tea it made for one of the most memorable meals I have ever had.

We sat in the Riemannhaus for probably an hour and a half, dried out, drank more black tea, and contemplated next steps. Our proposed destination that night was another hut called the Ingolstaedterhaus, which would involve another three or four hour climb through the wet and wind, and on snowy ground. Alternatively we could stay where we were, in the warm, and be safe. It was not an easy decision…………

Berchtesgadener Alps – Day one, or part of it….

Having been back from the Karwendel Alps for about four days, I was already missing the mountains. The Karwendel having been my first trip of the year, and my big trip in December (Aconcagua) being seemingly so far away still, it was nice to carry on thinking about them and plotting potential new adventures too. And so I found myself talking to my good friend Anna, with whom I regularly cycle, over dinner, and telling her about my most recent adventures.

It became clear about half way through dinner (or maybe it was after about 20 seconds, my memory fails me :)), that Anna was not just interested in hearing about the mountains, but that she (can I use the word desperately?) wanted to go too. To cut a long story short, before the main course was over, we had not only decided to go together, but it also clear that the only weekend available to both of us was the very next one, and so, with my trekking gear not even unpacked from my previous trip, I found myself back on the way to Heathrow to fly back to the Alps. Oh well, go on then, twist my arm!!

The trip 10 days before had initially involved a choice of destinations, and one of the potential options then had been the Berchtesgadener Alps. We instead went to the Karwendel, but having been to the town of Berchestgaden some 20 or so years before, I was very keen to go back, the area being outstandingly beautiful, and steeped in somewhat notorious history.

Berchtesgaden with the Watzmann in the background

The Berchestgadener Alps are in the Northern Limestone Alps, and straddle the south eastern corner of Germany and part of northern Austria close to Salzburg. The mountains lay host to a number of notable peaks, the H√∂chk√∂nig, at 2,941m (9,650ft) being the highest, and the Watzmann, (2,713m, 8,901ft) Germany’s third highest, being the most famous. The notoriety in the area comes from the area the other side of Berchtesgaden itself, known as the Obersalzburg. It was here during WW2 that Hitler had his mountain retreat, known as the Eagle’s Nest, reportedly also the last place to be liberated in the war, and then home to caches of Nazi Party stolen art and other treasure hordes.

Our trip would see us drive from Munich to Berchtesgaden, and the Königsee, a beautiful lake just south of the town. We would then trek up to a place called the Funtensee, and stay the night in a hut called the Karlingerhaus, before heading further into the mountains.

The Karlingerhaus, by the Funtensee

The Königsee is one of the deepest in Germany and certainly one of the most beautiful. It is flanked by the Watzmann mountain and is like a fjord, having precipitous cliffs on all sides. It is also reputedly the cleanest lake in the country (and that is clean, believe me), and so only electric boats are allowed to travel upon it.

Arriving at the Königsee at about 4pm, having hurriedly armed ourselves with a sandwich, a map, and some water for our Camelbacks from nearby Berchtesgaden, we trekked down to the lake for our departure by boat. I had found out literally only that morning from Verena (who I had been with to the Karwendel) that we must cross the lake by boat to begin our trek. How exciting! Verena was fantastically helpful in terms of getting me last minute information for this trip and so I must thank her publically here for all she did.

Our boat arrives on the Konigsee to take us to St Bartholoma

The lake really is stunningly beautiful, with water a beautiful aqua green, and yet crystal clear with it. The electric boat would take us to a settlement called St. Bartholema, from where we would begin the climb up to the Funtensee. Stepping off the boat after about 45 minutes we got our rucksacks adjusted and ready for the off. The boat had stopped half way along the lake on the way so that the driver could play a flugelhorn at the cliffs and the passengers could listen to the echoes (reputedly up to seven!). This might have been quite nice if we had been tourists, but we just wanted to get up the mountains behind.

On our way down the lake on the boat, St Bartholoma in the distance.

As we started our trek, I looked at the first signpost, which said “Karlingerhaus 5 hrs”. This was immediately quite daunting, and I wondered if we should start walking at all. It would be dark by 9, and by then we would be high in the mountains, and it may well be dangerous to do the walk finishing in the dark. I therefore rang ahead to the hut, and told them that we were just leaving the lake. The helpful man who answered (him talking in German, me in English) managed to let me know that we could get there in 3 and a half to four hours, and so we decided to go for it.

Having walked no more than about five minutes, we came across a German guy coming down. He asked us if we were headed up to the Karlingerhaus, to which we said yes. The guy stopped and just said “Kompliment!”. He looked more than surprised, looked at his watch, said a few things in German which I half understood (i.e. I half didn’t) and was on his way. This made us a bit nervous, as clearly he was intimating that people who started up a five hour walk at 5pm were a bit nuts.

This only though served to spur us on. We knew that the hut was at about 1700m, and my watch showed that we were starting from about 630m, so we had a fair bit of ascent to do. It was basically therefore heads down from that point on.

Looking back down at our initial path up into the mountains

As the path began to steepen up between a series of rock faces, it began to rain fairly heavily, and it would not stop again that night. We were in for a tough ascent, and I began to have doubts as to whether we were doing the right thing going up so late onto a path we had not seen before. Time would tell whether we would get up there or not, and I made a note to have a cut off time whereby we would have to turn back……
{to be continued……….}

Karwendel Alps Final Day

The final day in the mountains saw us waking up in the Pfeishutte in Austria, which is almost due north of Innsbruck. The Pfieshutte sits at about 2,000m, and was very busy. We were in the uppermost dormitory, in a room meant for (I think) 10, and I reckon there were probably 14 in there, which made it a little cosy. Thankfully I had what approximates to a single bed, the only one I have ever seen in any mountain hut, and since I was waking up with my leg strapped up from yesterday’s fall, I was very grateful to be in it.

The Pfeishutte, on the morning of our final day

We set out after a very nice breakfast of the usual mountain fare, and headed for a pass which would ultimately take us down a steep scree path, from about 2,250m to the valley floor just outside Innsbruck at around 700m or so.

The top of the pass on the Goetheweg trail.

Reaching the top of the pass was pretty easy going, despite the heat. We had heard that the weather forecast for Innsbruck was 37C (99F), which is much hotter than I think they ever get in that part of the world. Although we were considerably higher than Innsbruck itself, the temperature was still brutally warm to be doing any kind of physical exercise.

At the top of the pass immediately before the descent to Innsbruck.

We then came to the start of the descent. The path was essentially just scree, and very steep. It was hard not to slide on almost every step, which made the heat seem even worse. It was also hard not to look at the view of Innsbruck and the Alps south of there, which totally dominated every view.

The beginning of the descent, Innsbruck in the valley far below

After a while of sort of stumbling down the hill and wondering how long it would take, we were passed at great speed by a couple who were scree-skiing. The penny then dropped that this was really about the only way to get down, and certainly quicker, and probably just as safe, so we went for it.

Scree-skiing down the mountain….

…..which brought Innsbruck ever closer…….

….even if I sometimes ended up……

…….sitting on my backside!

When we got down to about 1,200m or so, there was a very welcome hut called the Rumer Alm, where we stopped for lunch and a drink. the temperature by now was really hot, even in the shade, but the break was very welcome nonethless.

The walk down from the hut to Rum itself (a suburb of northern Innsbruck) was about a further hour, and was basically a beautiful walk through a stunning pine forest.

The walk down to Rum from Rumer Alm

By the time we reached the very bottom, where we would get a bus back to Absam (where we had parked the car three days before), we could see back up the mountain to the top of where we had descended from:

The view back up to the Goetheweg (far distance) from Rum, Innsbruck

From here after the bus we returned to Achensee on the way back (and the World Cup final in an Italian Bar full of very miserable Italians by the end of the night!) before returning to Munich for the flight back to the UK.

The Karwendel Alps had been great. Considering I had never even heard of the region itself only a week before going, it had been a real surprise in terms of what it had to offer, including the diversity (and difficulty) of terrain, the beauty of the mountains themselves, and the hospitality and friendliness of the Austrian people. Blessed also with wonderful weather, great company, fine food, and some very fine mountain huts, it made the trip hugely enjoyable. I resolved that it should not be long before I returned to the region, something that as it turned out would be a lot more prophetic, and indeed imminent, than it first appeared……..

Karwendel Alps Day 3

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.

We should head up there somewhere…….

A beautiful day awaited us as we set out.

Our path back up to where we had descended from the previous evening

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:

Happy Birthday Verena!

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.

About to set off along the Wilde Bande Steig – our path would take us up the snowy col in the distance eventually.

A closer view of the Wilde Bande Steig path on the right of the picture

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!

Making our way along a tricky section of the Wilde Bande Steig

Crossing a snowfield

Close up of the path on the other side of the valley, it looked a bit precarious to me…

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.

The final path up to the Stempeljoch from the Wilde Bande Steig

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.

I bled a lot for this photograph ūüôā The view behind shows part of the path that we used to ascend.

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.

The path down to the Pfeishutte, shown in the middle of the picture.

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:

Kaiserschmarm – food of the gods!

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 Рit sounded great.

Karwendel Alps – Day Two

Waking up in strange surroundings I should get used to, but somehow I never do. Today was certainly no exception. We (Verena, Susanne and I) were in the Klingler Hotel in Maurach, Austria, and I woke to find rain and wind and also feeling quite disorientated.

We had expected the weather to be outstanding this morning. In fact the forecast for Innsbruck, the nearest place to where we were headed, was for cloudless skies and 33 C. The rain (and it was tanking it down) therefore was rather unwelcome to say the least. It was also distinctly chilly.

Breakfast was however wonderful, and afterwards we set out with rather mixed feelings about what the day would bring. We needn’t have worried however, and within about 10 minutes of setting off for our destination (only 30 minutes away), we were in bright and beautiful sunshine.

Then however after arriving in Absam, just east of Innsbruck, we hit our first snag. We were looking to park, nicely mapped out by Verena, at a place called St Magdalena, at about 1,300m. This would let us get to our planned destination (and accommodation for the night) the Bettelwurfhutte. The Bettelwurfhutte was at about 2,100m, and would allow us hopefully to a scale a peak or two after lunch.

However, upon coming to a dead end half way to St Magdalena and enquiring of a very helpful local lady (in fact everyone in Austria throughout was just so friendly and helpful) she told us that this was the furthest we could go. This was not good, as we were barely at 700m, leaving us with the thought of 1,400m of ascent before lunch, which was a tall order at best.

The Karwandel Alps – the trail would start here

We then thought we should ring the Bettelwurfhutte to tell them of our arrival and to book our accommodation in case things were busy. Susanne looked somewhat shocked to be told that there was nothing at all to be had. The place was literally crammed full.

Ringing ahead to hopefully get us some beds for the night.

We then spent a further 30 minutes or so (rightfully) trying to contact other huts to see if we could get other accommodation. The long and short of it was that everywhere seemed to be either full or on an answer machine.

In the end we just decided to go for it. There was another hut apparently a further two hours or so from where we planned to head, although we couldn’t reach that one by phone either, but to delay the trip further (it was already 10.30am with perhaps six or more hours walking ahead of us) would have wasted too much time.

Within probably 20 minutes or so of walking up a steep road, just to reach the start of the trail, the heat was really taking its toll. The forecast temperatures for the day would prove to be correct and the sun beat down relentlessly from here on.

The trek started up a steep road at first…

After an hour or so, we reached a path which would lead us to the original destination (the Bettelwurfhutte). There were three paths in total. One of them was labelled ‘Klettersteig’, which was out for us as we did not have harnesses or via ferrata equipment with us. The other two paths looked long, and as we did not think we could get accommodation at this hut anyway, and after Verena and Susanne took the advice of a very helpful local passing shepherd, we decided not to take this route.

The climb up towards the Bettelwurfhutte

We duly marched on headed for the other hut, the Hallerangerhaus., which from our our current position was apparently a further 3 and a half hours. That may have been true for a fit Austrian (for whom the signboards must have been made) on a coolish summers day. This however was sweltering, and I couldn’t walk for more than about 50 paces uphill without stopping to wipe sweat from my brow and catch my breath. It was simply draining.

The walk was however beautiful:

An alpine meadow looking in the direction of the Stempeljoch, which would be tomorrow’s destination.

From alpine meadows with beautiful tiny flowers, to hillsides scattered with Edelweiss, to towering peaks around 2,000m above the valley floor, the Karwandel Alps were certainly proving to be everything I hoped they’d be and more.

Looking south from the approach to the Hallerangerhaus

The walk ultimately took us around 6 and a half hours. This meant that there was no time for other peaks along the way, but this in no way detracted from the day. Ultimately it was too hot anyway for serious hill climbing. Even when we reached our resting place for the day, the Hallerangerhaus hut, the temperature was 28 degrees C, and this at 1800m.

From the top of our ascent for the day, at about 2,200m, looking down towards the Hallerangerhaus in the distance in the valley

And a closer look at the Hallerangerhaus, our destination for the night.

Dinner was a perfectly cooked Vienna Schnitzel (well we were in Austria after all) washed down with a few glasses of Austrian beer. From the terrace of the mountain hut (we literally sat outside all evening it was so warm) we saw an amazingly beautiful sunset, and were entertained by the local hutkeeper and his wife. The hut was completely full, and we were ultimately lucky to get a place for the night at all.

Sunset over the Karwendel

In the morning we would climb back up the hill we had just descended and head to the Pfeishutte. We had seen glimpses of the path we would go on on the way today, and it looked great. This trip was already going too quickly!

Karwendel Alps Day One

Today is a landmark day. I write that immediately after the end of the day itself, particularly as it has been so wonderful. It is the first day of a five day trip to the Karwendel Alps in the Austrian Tyrol. (As I post this online however it is six days later – the date was the 28th June 2012). It is my first trip to the region, and I have been looking forward to it for so long.

It started so early, with a 5am alarm call, and then a car ride to Heathrow airport which got me there before 7am. But despite tiredness early on, the day just got better and better.

A plane ride to Munich got me into Germany before lunchtime, where I met up with Verena and her friend Susanne, whom I was meeting for the first time. We had only loosely planned the day beforehand, and so upon arrival they suggested that we go and drive to a place called Achensee, where we would stay the night, before heading into the higher mountains the next morning. This was totally fine with me, and so off we went.

The car journey took us almost due South into Austria, and within about an hour and a half we were at a place called Maurach on the edge of the Achensee. I can only describe it as outstandingly beautiful.

Above the Achensee, Austria.

After finding ourselves a place to stay for the evening we then duly plotted the following three days’ events. Verena had been really thorough and bought local maps and pinpointed all of the places we would go to in the mountains. ¬†We planned to head the following morning to Absam (on the outskirts of Innsbruck), then hike up to the Bettelwurfehutte, and then summit the Grosser Bettelwurf (2,726m) the same afternoon. This sounded fantastic, and with everything sorted, we just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Verena and Susanne in front of our hotel in Maurach,

Maurach is at 931m and is characterised by a beautiful lake (the Achensee) which is a stunning shade of green. The temperature being so warm (around 27 degrees C or so) it just seemed entirely appropriate to go and join the locals and swim in the lake, so we did just that. It was wonderful, and the water was actually not as cold as I had expected it to be.

In the evening we went in search of both food and also football! It was the evening of the Euro 2012 football finals, and Germany were playing Italy (who had just conquered England four days before on penalties in the quarter final). After straying into a very fancy looking hotel where I am not sure if they have ever even heard of Euro 2012, we found (of all things) an Italian Bar!

The hospitality (especially considering Verena was fervently and excitedly shouting for Germany) was wonderful. Susanne is not as much of a football fan, but still obviously wanted them to win. After a great meal and a few Aperol Spritzers we settled down to the game, which unfortunately Germany lost 2-1. It made still for an exciting first night in the mountains, and Achensee made for a great base. We resolved at the end of the night to return on our way back on Sunday night.

So with the build up complete, and a long day over, in the morning we would head out to the Karwandel Alps, only about 30 minutes or so away. It was going to be fantastic. Sleep would come so ridiculously easily…..