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…..

Seven More Sleeps to Go!

Please forgive the less than riveting title to this post, but it has just dawned upon me that it is in fact a true statement, so it has to be as good as any that I can come up with at this moment in time, given the fact that I am feeling hopelessly and outrageously underprepared for this trip.

The unpreparedness comes now from a lack of training. I know, I know – I have said myself so many times that I must not make the mistake of not being fit, but the fact is I haven’t got it at the moment, and that is such a shame. I have been away too many times in the last two months, and have been lacking in the discipline that I should have had to make the most out of things. Going to the gym when you are in hotels is just not enough, and sometimes just doesn’t even happen.

In the last two months I have had trips to Cannes, Paris, Dallas (twice), San Francisco, and Munich. I think I have been away from home for 16 of the last 22 days, which is ridiculous. I now am home from a week long trip and all of a sudden the Himalayas are therefore almost upon me.

But prepared I must get in every other way that I can, so at least I turn up with the right equipment. There are probably three areas of most concern, apart from the fitness aspect. They are kit, medical supplies, and clothes. All of these stem mainly from the weight allowance of 15kg which I have been told is set in stone.

As far as the kit itself is concerned, I think I am mainly there. I have for example about four jackets, one hooded permatex, one fleece, one goretex waterproof, and one down. I have my sleeping bag (borrowed from a friend Anna – thanks Anna :)), my Thermarest, down mits, balaclava etc etc. I will do another post on this – there is so much of it. I will be able to rent the majority of my technical climbing equipment when in Kathmandu.

I have a lot of the medical stuff yet to get – painkillers, diarrhoea medicine, water purification tablets, blister plasters, wet wipes etc etc., and will do this at the weekend before I go. All of these things add up in weight of course, and so I have to be careful. I also have the not small matter of contact lenses to sort out – I use dailies when I go away, and so for 22 days I need at least (allowing for ones I drop or spoil etc) about 60 contact lenses.

As far as clothes are concerned, well I have to see what I can put in after I get everythimg else in. I have a feeling though that I am going to end up one stinky guy at the end of 22 days!

Finally for now, I came upon a great quote online when doing a bit of trawling last evening – which I wanted to share, and it goes as follows:

What is so compelling about trekking through an unknown country is the immediacy of existence. Life is instantaneous. There is no past or future, only the present; and that consists of simply putting one foot in front of the other. That simple act can be achieved without conscious thought (if all is going well), or it can be the most difficult or painful exercise imaginable if the way is rough and you’re dogged by illness or injury. On the trail when things go well, the days expand and every moment is cause for celebration; the journey itself becomes intoxicating, life enhancing. It is the ultimate great escape. Not an escape from reality (as some might suggest), but an escape into reality – an opportunity to divest oneself of the restraints and clutter of ‘normal’ existence, and to be cleansed by an awareness of what little it takes to survive and live well – if only for a few short weeks in a year.

Live the moment. Live it well. Live now.

I think the above is attributed to a guy called Kev Reynolds, an author of a number of books on Nepal and other adventures. I love the quote – I may have to read more of his stuff. It is getting a bit late for me to order any more books, and I certainly don’t have room for any more that’s for sure.

Until the next time – when I will put some pictures up of my war room – it’s getting a bit busy in there 🙂

Oktoberfest Tomorrow!

So tomorrow is the Oktoberfest!

I have been wanting to go to the Oktoberfest since like forever, and so tomorrow is my chance – it is going to be just great. The festival is now into its second week, and there is a webcam where you can watch the entrance to the site. It kept me amused today anyway:)

http://www.oktoberfest.de/en/webcam/live/

When all of the drinking is said and done (although that could be a while as I might enjoy it too much), then there will be the mountain, the Zugspitze. The journey will take us by train from Munich, complete with hangover, to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and then it is a walk to the mountain from there.

The mountain itself straddles the Austrian border, but is Germany’s highest mountain. I found this great set of three videos on Youtube which have great pictures, and so am posting them here and hope that it doesn’t infringe anything.

So here is the first:

And the second:

And the third:

How exciting are they? I guess we need to hire a harness and ‘stuff’ before we go up there – I cannot wait, and will post my own pictures and video in due course.

So for now – to Oktoberfest, and beyond!