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 – 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……….}