Main Alpine Divide. Section 06. Stubai Alps
February 9, 2022
Day 44. Steinach to Tribulaunhutte. 22 Km. 7.5 Hrs. 1710m up. 700m down. It was a slow start from the hotel. Firstly breakfast did not begin until 0730 and it took an hour to cram in 2000 calories and wash it down with small bucket of coffee. By the time I had paid, packed and said goodbye it was already 0930. The longer I left it the more the morning’s weather cleared and the mist withdrew to the tops. My preplanned route took me south through the town on the west side of the main street climbing slightly on the quiet tarmac road. As I neared the motorway the hiss of traffic got louder. Soon I reached an underpass where the lane went under the motorway to the west side of it. The lane then went parrallel to the motorway for about 300 meters goiing slightly above it. It was a busy throughfare between Southern Germany and Northern Italy and it was full of lorries. This industrial, logistical, stressful world was totally outwith my plodding, 3 km per hour, simple eat-walk-eat-sleep routine. The bustle on the adjacent motorway was a nasty reminder it still existed outside my peaceful cocoon. Luckily the lane and motorway soon diverged and I climbed above it on the lane into the woods and up to a large farm and hotel at Humlerhof. I think the hotel was built by the farm as it was all in the same vicinity and shared a very sweet minature chapel. Had I not gone to Steinach this would have been a convienient place to stay, but it looked a bit expensive as it had a “wellness” centre.
At the Humlerhof the lane split and I took the upper fork which took me past a few farms and into the woods. It had taken a good hour to get here but now I felt I was back on track again after a perfunctory urban diversion for the last 2 days. The track soon reached the Nosslachhutte, which I think was just a rustic rural resturant and did not do overnight accommodation. There was a multitude of tracks in the woods here but I had already worked out I wanted to go on one called the “Larchenweisenweg” which contoured the hillside on the northern side of the Obernbergtal valley for 5-6 kilometres. It was a beautiful track and I was vey pleased I was on it. It stayed at about 1650 metres for the whole duration undulating slightly through the beautiful larch forest. The trees were venerable old grandees, many well over 100 years old and beneath them was near continuous pasture with the occasional larger glade which was kept as a hay meadow. As I cruised along I passed numerous small hay lofts, all made out of logs and under a corrugated roof with huge eaves. Many of these haylofts were getting filled with dried grasses. The meadows were all small and looked like they belonged to a romantic homestead rather than a farm. However I knew they belonged to the large farms in the valley below which I could occasiuonally see from time to time through the trees. It seemed each farm had some meadow and also some forest up here because there were also neat stacks of seasoning firewood. I could hear motorized sythes cutting meadows hidden by trees and occasionally pass by one where a farmer was raking the dried grass for a final dry or to stack it in a loft. There were very few cows here as the farmers probably kept them off otherwise they would wreak havoc with the meadows. The small haylofts and the beautiful larch trees continued all the way to Kastnerbergalm.
Here there was a gate and good fence to keep the cows out of the larch forest and meadows. There were perhaps 40 cows here, mostly bullock calves and occasionally their mothers too. The track split here with the larger gravelled fork going past the alm and down to the Obernbergtal valley and the smaller grassed-over track heading up the hillside. I had to take the latter and climbed steadily through the upper trees of fir and larch until they petered out and the dwarf pine took over. As I climbed through the open meadows I came across lots of young bullocks who were put out to use this alpine pastures to fatten up. The views which had previously been hidden by the delightful larch forest now started to show themselves and it was getting more and more impressive with every metre I climbed. Especially impressive where the very sharp mountains around Tribulaun, 2946m. It and the lesser mountains around it were very impresive with huge walls and sharp shattered ridges. I could easily have been in the Dolomites and the rock looked the same type. Also impressive was the unfolding view down Obernbergtal valley which was much bigger and more populated than I suspected. Indeed they seemed to be two villages in it, both with the same red spired churches which I had seen in Ahrntal, and which must be typically Tyrolean. At the lower far end of the valley I could seen Valsertal valley, which I came down a few days ago, and beyond it the high peaks of the Tuxer and Zillertal Alps, both covered in a thin layer of new snow.
The track was never steep and it was an easy hike up it for a good hour after Kastnerbergalm. However, it got to a couple of very small alm houses and stopped. From here a faint path took over which dissapeared after a while and I had to follow my GPS and look out for the occasional painted stone. The terrain here was of tufa block and fertile turf, typical of limestone. My place slowed as I picked my way along it. In one place I lost the path and had to walk down a steep gully to regain the faint path which appeared below a line of crags below me. I now followed the path round on a large alpine shelf as it veered south. On my left hand side a huge ugly eroded wall descended to the bottom of the cirque far below. It was weeping sore in the mountain constantly shedding rocks as the rains washed away the limestone earth holding them in place. It was heavily fenced to stop the bullocks wandering onto its precarious face. I dont think chamois or Ibex would venture onto such fragile slopes. The path seemed to reform again as it veered furth south and climbed up to the crumbling arete which seperated Obernbergtal and Gschnitztal valleys. Very steep mountains, huge rock faces and large scree slopes were all around me as I reached the pass, called Gstreinjoch, 2540m.
I could now see the hut well below me down a steep slope of grass and scree. Beyond it was the most easterly mountains of the Stubai Alps which ended at Tribulaun, just beside me. Weaving through these mountains, peaks and glaciers would be my task for the next 4-5 days. The descent to Tribulaunhutte was steep. The path zigizagged down 40 degree grassy slopes. I dislodged a couple of small cobble size stones and they rolled down with nothing to stop them for a few hundred meters until they joined a scree field. I was glad there was no one above or below me on this seldom used route. After a good half hour the path reached the bottom of the cirque and I liesurely crossed the floor of it to reach the modern hut.
There was an old couple running the cabin and they spoke no English, but my German had suddenly climbed to a new plateau so I could have a simple conversation. I felt very welcome by this kind couple. I was the only one here which I found astounding after the busy huts of the Zillertal. I took the chepest place in the dormitory as I knew I would have the 20 bed room to myself. I started to write about 1800 and continued until 2100 pausing only for the excellant and huge cheese omelette the hostess made. As I wrote the mist which had lingered over the higher peaks all day started to lift but some stubborn patches remained under the clear blue evening sky.
Day 45. Tribulaunhutte to Bremerhutte. 11 Km. 5.5 Hrs. 1070m up. 740m down. The kind older couple who were running the Tribulaunhutte gave me a great breakfast at 0700, including 2 fried eggs and a thermos of coffee. I was ready to leave at 0800 but the mist hanging about in the valley and on the peaks was not lifting. The older couple at the hut warned me the path was in poor shape and slow to walk along. It was overcast when I left but at least the cirque I was walking up was clear. I walked down the track for 5 minutes and then branched off to the left where the footpath started its long rising traverse up the scree which covered the cirque.
I had barely gone 10 minutes up the path when I spotted a lone male Ibex at the base of the cliffs. I don’t know whether it had been ousted from the herd or just left of its own accord. It was quite an old male, and judging from the ridges on its horns perhaps 15 years old. It seemed to scratch itself with its horns or against the rock frequently and I wondered if parasites were thriving on it. I watched it for 10 minutes and then continued.
The path was good but occasionally a torrential downpour had ripped the path from the hillside and left a trickier passage in its wake for 10-15 metres. The terrain was not steep so it was easy to negotiate. After 45 minutes the path reached the far side of the cirque and started to climb more steeply in zig-zags up to the Sandesjochl pass, 2599m, which crossed over into Italy. I stopped just short of this and crossed the ridge which headed north from this path. I passed another lone Ibex here and it was also rubbing itself against the rocks and using its long horns to scratch its back also. The mist had lifted slightly now and the west ridge of Tribulaun was now clear. A party of 3 appeared at the Sandesjochl pass just above me and set off scrambling up this ridge, which looked very exposed higher up. They must have come from the Italian Tribulaunhutte as opposed to the Austrian Tribulaunhutte I stayed at. It is confusing to have 2 huts with the same name adjacent to each other.
Once I was over the ridge there was an easy saunter across a wide grassy ledge on the west side of it. There were more Ibex here, a group of 3 males, who were younger than the two loners I saw earlier. The age of an Ibex can be counted using the ridges in its horns. They were sitting down chewing cud and watching me with a confident look.
The path now started a long descent in the north facing bowl at the end of Gschnitztal valley. It was a small faint path and the going was quite slow, especially crossing the frequent boulder fields which were well marked with old red paint daubs. The rocks were not totally dry and I was not completely trusting of them which added to the slowness. Between the boulder fields were expanses of stones embedded in turf which did not warrant the same caution. The path skirted a very small tarn and then continued down to cross a couple of smaller ravines where streams flowed. The streams were easy to hop over in this drier weather, but in a downpour they would be a challenge. I had hoped the path would now start to climb but it traversed across the hillside through dwarf pine, which frequently encroached the small rugged path. There was a rich abundance of flowers here especially the Alpine blue sow thistle which was growing well now. There was a great view down the lower part of the bowl and then all the way down the Gschnitztal valley. I was surprised how populated it was and there seemed to be a couple of large villages in it. From the map I could see that Steinach was at the end of this valley just 18-20 kilometres away. If it had been foul weather it would have been easy to come up straight up this easy valley from Steinach, but not very sportif.
The path then came to a line of crags, perhaps 5-6 metres high, and the only way down was using a series of metal bars which were epoxy resined into the steep slab. There were about 15 steps in all with an adjacent cable just in case one wanted to clip into it. It was not a challenge in these conditions and the iron bars were well attached to the rock. At the bottom of the crags the path finally ceased its descent and started to climb. It was a much easier task as the path was a bit more pronounced and the terrain slightly easier with larger rocks which were more abrasive and drier so my boots adhered better. The path climbed this grass and rock slope for perhaps half an hour with the frequent shrill of marmots who thrived here.
The path then crossed a wooden footbridge over a clear stream which drained the whole of the valley Bremerhutte was located in called Hintersimming, and it looked very green. A couple of very sad glaciers, now no more than icy smears on the mountainside and covered in rock rubble, fed rivulets which watered the valley and drained into this clear stream. Above the bridge was a large flat meadow where it looked like there had once been a lake which was now filled in with cobbles and silt. It was extremely lush and fertile looking. Once over the bridge the path wove a route between the large smooth rounded outcrops polished by the glacier which once flowed here perhaps as little as 250 years ago. Between these outcrops were turf covered hollows where the path tended to go until it reached a small tarn. The lovely old Bremerhutte, covered in dark brown wooden shingles, was well sited at the edge of the lake.
I went in and got a bed. The couple running the hut were welcoming. The wife, who spoke good English, gave me a bed beside the window in a 6 bed room. I changed my shirt and went down for a bowl of lentils and then found somewhere peaceful to write in the empty dining room. It did not last long as the husband seemed to have a few of his friends up. He brought a bluetooth speaker into the dining room and then his friends’ children and his own children also came in and the place was soon heaving. I managed to ignore it all and was soon finished. The husband of the pair running the hut seemed a nice guy and was very jocular, but he encouraged noise with his demeanour.
Soon the table I was at filled up, firstly with 4 young Germans and then a Swedish/American family of 3 who were seated next to me. They were bright, interested and worldly and I spent most of the meal chatting to them as their English was perfect. It became quite raucous in the cramped dining room as more beer was drunk and people had to raise their voices to be heard by their neighbours. However it was a healthy lively enthusiastic evening of storytelling and one upmanship in a busy happy mountain hut. Much of that was due to the relaxed manner of the hosts and the beer.
Day 46. Bremerhutte to Dresdnerhutte. 15 Km. 7 Hrs. 1420m up. 1510m down. It was not the best forecast but it could have been a lot worse. Tomorrow’s forecast was good though and I wanted to be going up over the glaciers of the main ridge of the Stubai so decided to push on the Dresdnerhutte despite the misty prognosis today. I had an early breakfast and then set off at 0730. The mist was coming and going as I left the hut and went past the small tarn beside it. Across the valley were the remnants of the glacier which were a bit bigger than I thought yesterday with a larger chunk up on the main ridge on the Italian border, with its series of 3000m peaks. As I climbed the higher pastures of Am Hintersimming were spread out below me. They were not the lush meadows below the Bremerhutte but more moraine strewn bowl where earth was just accumulating. In perhaps 50 years this might also be a lush pasture, but the retreat of the glacier was too recent. I was surprised how quickly I approached the Simmingjochl pass, 2754m. It seemed only an hour from the Bremerhutte. The final slopes up to it were steep and rocky and there were a string of cables there to help clambour up the last 20 metres. At the pass itself was a small hut which was the old police customs post, now boarded up to preserve it.
The descent down the otherside was quite steep in places. Initially it was across bare rocks and boulders, which was reasonably easy, but then the path went down 20 metres of steep bare shattered rock and there were cables to hold onto for added security. I had come this way 8 years ago and was surprised how little snow there was in the gully below these cables. Last time I could glissade down the gully for hundreds of metres but after the small snowfall of the last winter the gully was virtually snow free and I had to follow the stony path down zig-zags to a flat area which a filled in tarn and was now covered in bog cotton. There was the clink of bells here and I saw a herd of goats in the boulder field above. Some of the goats looked very much like Ibex but I can’t imagine there was any cross breeding.
Below the bog cotton the path descended to a couple of shallow tarns fringed with grass. I imagine this was also once a small deep glacial lake which is now filled with rocks and silt. There should have been great views here up the valley to Wilder Freiger, 3418m one of the bigger glaciated Stubai peaks, but it was all lost in the mist. Below these tarns the path now became a bit more challenging as it routed down the steep outcrops into the upper reaches of Langantal. In about 5 places the path dropped across a 10 metre high outcrop where there were cables for security and in most of these places there was probably a need for them, especially if it was wet and slippery. After the final outcrop the path crossed the main stream on a bridge. There was a herd of sheep here who were hoping one of the many hikes might have something for them, and when I arrived many sheep approached me. There was another scramble with cables to get up the otherside of the stream bed and gain flatter glacier polished slabs which were easy to walk across. They continued all the way to Numbergerhutte which I reached after 2.5 hours from Bremerhutte. I stopped here for a quick drink and went in to savour the characterful old lodge which was just having its daily clean now all the overnight guests had departed. I had stayed here before and remember it as a welcoming homely place full of charm.
For the second of the three passes today the entire 300 metre ascent was in the mist all the way from Numbergerhutte to the pass at Niederl, 2629m. The path was quite steep and often across boulders. Rarely there was a small passage which had cables but generally it was a slow ascent picking one’s steps up the boulders. I passed a few people coming down and they all seemed to be Dutch. Just before the top there was a narrow shelf for 20 metres and it was protected as it was a small drop down to the boulders below. At the pass I saw there was no mist on the west side. The breeze must have been bringing moist air up the east face which was condensing but there was no airflow on the west side.
The drop down the west side was initially very steep and I met another Dutch group coming up and they were in no doubt the cables were essential. It was only for a short distance, perhaps 100 metres, until the steepest slope eased off a bit and the path could zig-zag on the grassy incline at the bottom of the crags. There was a shallow tarn here with another Dutch group having their lunch and I chatted to them before beginning the long easy descent. Unfortunately the mist had now appeared on this side too and enveloped me in a bubble of 50 metres. I heard a clucking sound just off the path and went to have a look. I saw a female ptarmigan, now in all grey/brown plumage, who was herding her 8 well camouflaged chicks through the short vegetation. A couple seemed to get stuck in a prostrate juniper bush which caused the mother some concern. I was curious that she never feigned injury to herself to distract me away from her chicks. At one point they were only 4-5 metres away.
I didn’t even see Grunausee when I passed by it. I remember it being very scenic with a fantastic view up to Wilder Frieger, 3418m. I managed to find my photo taken at the time 8 years ago and include it here. After Grunausee the path dropped down the crest of a lateral moraine until it found a place to descend to the valley floor. There were many sheep here too, most just standing about and bunched together. The valley floor was quite flat with smaller stones, gravel and turf on it. There was one meandering pile of gravel and stones about 10 metres high and I think this was an “esker”, or deposits formed along the valley floor under a static or melting glacier where the steam draining the glacier once flowed. It was a short steep climb out of the river bed across moraine debris to gain a flat area of more old small moraine which led all the way to Sulzenauhutte, 2191 m, to complete the second of the three similar sections today, which also took 2.5 hours
Sulzenauhutte was busy. There were many people milling about outside, often in family groups with young children and inside all the tables were full of large groups. I wondered if people just walk the 600 metres up here from the parking place below, take in the view, gorge themselves and then trundle back down the road again. There were a few hikers or climbers here but they were in the minority with the well dressed day trippers in outdoor fashion and seldom used colourful boots the majority. I resented their presence especially as they had taken over the dining room. The staff were geared up for them with the well dressed hostess holding court and her team of dirndl clad waitresses running around serving everyone. The host was a gentle man who kept a distance from the cut and thrust of the dining room and lurked in the shadows hoping he would not get roped in. I managed to find the corner of a table and had macaroni cheese. I had half thought about staying here, but it was full of people I had little affinity with and decided to go on to Dresdnerhutte, which I knew was the same.
The climb up to the last of today’s 3 passes was fantastic. My legs were up to the task and never complained so I could enjoy the views. Initially the path went up the valley on the north side of the glacial stream tumbling down it. The mist was largely absent now although pillows of it were still coming up the valley from time to time enveloping everything. At the head of the valley were two large glaciers of which both ended in a glacial lake. As I climbed up the moraine on the north side of the valley I got a better and better view of the glaciers. To my south across the valley was a turquoise lake formed by the dam of a moraine wall, whose colour contrasted beautifully with the golden green grass which the sun was illuminating. The path climbed up the stones and gravel to gain on a crag which I remembered clearly. A row of gratings were bolted onto the crag to make a narrow metal ledge to follow for about 20 metres. There was a cable here too and it I would say was essential. After this lofty walkway there were more natural rock ledges, all with cables until the path gained the moraine ridge again. It followed this up above the glacial lake with a few icebergs, where the two glaciers calved into it. Even in the 8 years since I was last here the glacier has retreated significantly. The highest mountain in the Stubai, Zuckerhutl, 3507m, was at the head of these glaciers. Once above the dirty, light brown, glacial lake the path climbed up the mountainside in a series of zig-zags for 15 minutes to gain the Peiljoch pass, 2672m, festooned with cairns left by hikers.
The descent was long and steep and often protected by cables as it crossed and recrossed a sharp ridge. However the overwhelming view was down to an industrial ski complex with large cable car stations and restaurants. It was probably the worst development I had come across yet and it made Obertauern, which I slated, look quaint. Much of the skiing here is on the glaciers which did allow it to be a year round resort. It is ironic and deserved that its success is thwarted by global warming, which it must have contributed to, as the glaciers are just bare ice this year and the skiing is over. It was leisure vandalism on an industrial scale and it tainted the whole upper valley. I could see gondolas running at the moment taking motorists from their cars to the restaurants on the mountain too fatten up with a view. The comunity of Stubaital have prostituted their valley to get rich on the back of tourism. It was planned for the Zillertal also but the authorities stepped in and created a National Park to thwart it. It took nearly an hour to come down this slow path to the heart of the ski lifts and the Dresdnerhutte. An enormous edifice which must have also benefited financially from the commercialization of the area. The founding fathers of the Dresden Sektion who built the hut must be turning in their graves. This last pass had just taken 2 hours.
The Dresdnerhutte was essentially a large 1 star hotel-come-youth hostel. The dining rooms were nice but everything else was perfunctory. The toilets and showers were like army barracks and the rooms were designed to be easily managed. Mine had 6 beds in it and was basci. The restaurant was full of trays to pile up food canteen style, like the lunch in a large factory. I had to stay here as I was going over the glacier to the south of the Main Alpine Divide tomorrow but if I was doing the Stubai circuit again I would give this place a miss. Luckily I had a lot to do on the keyboard because there were very few here I had an affinity with as most had come up the skylift for some easy adventure and expensive beer.
Day 47. Dresdner Hutte to Solden. 18 Km. 7 Hrs. 880m up. 1820m down. I was delighted when I looked out of the window to see it was clear above the hut, but just below the valley was an ocean of mist. At least Dresdnerhutte did an early buffet breakfast so I went down at 0630 and an hour later I had the requisite 2000 calories of muesli, fruit salad and yoghurt on board for the day. When I set off there was a cold wind coming from the SW over the main Stubai ridge and down the glaciers so it was one of those rare occasions I had to put my soft shell over my thin shirt. I said goodbye to a couple of people I had been chatting with and 2 young Germans who had also come from Bremer Hutte yesterday and set off on the track which led up to the Gamsgarten ski area. Gamsgarten means Chamois garden so I was expecting something tranquil when I ended the short half hour climb.
When I reached the “Chamois garden” I was shocked and horrified. There was a major development being built here. The whole cirque was full of excavators, cranes and enormous 6 wheel dump trucks. The sound of excavator tracks crunching over stones and the reversing beeps of the dump trucks rung out across the landscape. From what I could work out there was a 25 million Euro scheme to build another large water reservoir here to make more artificial snow by blasting a mist of water into the air in November and March to prolong the skiing season which was being cut short by global warming. Calling this place the “Chamois garden” was a bit like calling a giant pillaging gold mine in Papua the “Serene orchid” or a hideous copper mine in Bolivia the “Alpaca meadow”. The company which ran the whole resort, called Stubaier Gletscher, had polluted this pristine place with some 30 lifts and gondolas and 60km of piste runs. It once boasted summer skiing on the glacier but now the glaciers were bare ice with huge piles of snow bulldozed into piles and covered in fleece blankets bigger than football pitches. In October I assume it will be spread out on the ice again waiting for the hordes of middle class mass tourism to descend on the place again. Eventually I climbed out of the destroyed Gamsgarten area and reached the top of the middle section of the main lift, which was still working. Here largely empty gondolas were arriving every minute. Those that did have people had ferried them up from the floor of the Stubaital valley to the station by the Dresdnerhutte where they transferred to the section ending here. From here the punters could get ferried up to the end of the top station, at about 3200 metres. There was a gourmet restaurant at the top station with a poor reputation, and the chance to go outside to a viewing platform to get a profile picture for Facebook or Instagram. I consoled myself with the thought that at the next ice age this entire development would be ground to a paste and ski lifts, restaurants and all machinery here would eventually emerge as silt. The disdain I had shown for the Obertauern and Kals resorts was nothing to what I felt for the Stubai Gletscher. It was the cruiseship of resorts designed to extract money from punters, who mistakenly thought it was the pinnacle of glamour, at whatever expense to the environment it takes.
At the top of the middle section there was another large development happening with more dump trucks and excavators which I had to walk past to get onto the Schaufelferner Glacier. I had thought about putting crampons on here to go up the bare ice but there were enough streaks of gravel and rock debris on the glacier to get a grip. There were dormant 2 ski lifts and the working gondola, transporting people to the gourmet top restaurant, on the east side of the glacier so I went up the west side away from the visual pollution. It took just half an hour to walk up the glacier to the Bildstockljoch pass, 3116m at the top. There were no crevasses on the glacier but there was a large drift off to the west at the top which looked like it was concealing a small bergschrund, where the glacier had pulled away from the steep rock face leaving a deep gap. A few steps further and I was onto a gravel saddle and looking across to a new mountain range, the Otztal Alps about 20 km away. A little further on was an exceptional view of Zuckerhutl, 3507m, the highest in the Stubai Alps.
Unfortunately the tentacles of the Stubai-Gletscher company extended over the main ridge of the Stubai Alps and there were two small ski lifts on the other side on small glaciers. The one on Gaiskarferner glacier was especially hideous as all the snow had been scrapped up and put under huge fleece mats and there was a large pile of jumps, ramps and sloping curves sitting on the ice. This eyesore of clutter was all part of the Stubai Zoo, an area for freestyle snowboarders and skiers. I had to go down this glacier beside all the massive piles of snow, past the clutter and across to the north side. Here I clambered over large sharp clean boulders, recently exposed by the melting glaciers to reach the crest of a small ridge with a long slope to the south into Windachtal valley some 1000 metres below. With some relief I could now descend to Hildesheimerhutte in unblemished surroundings with wonderful views across the cirque to Zuckerhutl. The descent to the hut was down the rocky ridge, almost thin enough to be classed as an arete. Occasionally there were cables attached to the rock for some of the steeper more exposed sections.
Hildesheimerhutte was like nothing on the Stubai circuit. It was only 1030 and the hut was empty, but I got the impression it was always quieter than anything on the Stubai circuit. It was not primarily a restaurant and secondarily a mountain hut like Sulzenauerhutte with its luxury menu. But primarily a mountain hut with a menu which would appeal to hikers and mountaineers and horrify foodies, as it contained courses like a big bowl of lentils with a dumpling buried in it, and other dishes which would make you burp with contentment. The staff here were all German and seemed a very easy going happy bunch. In retrospect it would have been far better to go from Tribulaunhutte to Numbergerhutte, and then from there to Hildesheimerhutte. The hut had an exceptional view to Zuckerhutl and over to a small deep tarn below the arete it sat on. It was also old fashioned and cosy inside with lots of characterful wood. I felt I had escaped the Stubai and was back in the world I was used to again.
The descent from Hildesheimerhutte down to Windachtal valley was quite steep and the path surprisingly small. After 20 minutes the path forked and I think I took the smaller more direct option slightly to the south of the alternative, but both looked similar. My route descended a grassy shelf beneath and above crags and I thought it might run out at one stage as it got narrower. However after this shelf across the buttress it opened out again and dropped smoothly to the valley floor just where the arial hoist to supply the hut came down also. It was just above the treeline at around 2200, but there were some smaller Arolla pines here. As I walked on a little I came to the grassed over track which I could now see going down the valley which got more and more wooded as it fell. It was a beautiful valley with rusty red rocky peaks on each side, with reddish buttresses and gullies descending from these heights into the green valley. At the end of the valley was the large Otztal valley with the glaciated peaks of the Otzal Alps on the other side. The Otztal valley was too deep for me to see into it from here as it lay below the lip of this hanging valley, which was a bit of a Shangri-La, or hidden paradise.
I followed the track all the way down into the larch forest where there were some meadows. Cows and their bullock calves, now already half grown, were grazing in the meadows with their tails swishing and ears twitching to deter the flies. The grassed over track soon became more of a gravel track and I started to pass a few cyclists. Usually it was 90% electric bikes, but there seemed to be a more serious breed of bikepacker here on mountain bikes with lightweight panniers and no battery. They also looked fit. After 3-4 km the track rose a bit to get to the picturesque hamlet of Windachalm where there were a few summer houses and a lovely looking tourist hut called Fiegls hutte. I don’t think there was any accommodation here. The track now became a rough road as it dropped further down the valley passing well above Lochlealm. This looked like a beautiful summer farm with 3 old buildings surrounded by a larger meadow. Half the meadow had been cut and the family were out in it now, turning the grass over to dry it thoroughly before storing it, probably in the wooden barn next to the house.
Not long after Lochlealm the valley narrowed and the stream disappeared into a gorge with the same red rocks on each side and the milky silt laden stream crashing over boulders far below in a V shaped slot. My route kept to the rustic road, which was closed to traffic, and then branched off to go down a small path in the woods slightly below the road. After half an hour in the woods above the gorge the path met the road again just above Solden. There were more and more cyclists on the path and the road and lots of signs with bike routes put up by the Bike Republic of Solden. The last km into town was all on a quiet tarmac road that led me to the large Tyrol style church with its steep red spire.
Solden seemed to be a very drawn out town, stretching for a good km along the valley floor but the area around the church looked like the heart of it. There were cyclists everywhere, many in serious helmets and with back, knee and elbow protection so I assumed there was a well known downhill track here using the ski lifts. They were much more modest than the carnage over a Stubaier-Gletcher I endured this morning. I searched for somewhere to stay but many of the hotels here looked closed having never reopened after covid or were 4 star, which would be wasted on me. I found a 2 star apartment after a while which was 50 euros a night and took it out of laziness for not having to continue to search. I spent the next hour in the shower with the jets ripping the grime off my back and scrubbing my hiking clothes and then hanging them to dry on the geranium lined balcony. That evening I had a pizza in a cafe run by some Kurdish immigrants and chatted to them for a while before crashing out at about 2030. The last 2 days had been reasonably demanding and I was too tired to write and had a day off here tomorrow anyway.
I had not really enjoyed the Stubai as much as I thought I would. The Zillertal section was a very hard section to follow but I thought the Stubai would be up to the task. Interestingly enough the bits of it I enjoyed the most were the first 2 days and the second half of the last day. The bit from Bremerhutte to Dresdnerhutte was plagued by mist and this took the shine of the views, which I knew were spectacular and as good as the Zillertal but it was also plagued by people. Specifically a different type of person to me. Bremerhutte was crammed full of eager hikers doing the 7-9 day Stubai Round and many of them were in groups and families and I felt at home here. But the Sulzenau Hutte with its emphasis on providing an expensive, quality menu to day trippers who hiked up from the valley, and the Dresderhutte with its emphasis on making money from the punters and school groups who came up on the chairlift, were not so nice, especially the latter. The culture of greed from the surrounding Stubai Gletscher company profiteering from destructive mass tourism has infiltrated the Dresdnerhutte.
Solden. Rest Day. 0 Km. 0 Hrs. 0m up. 0m down. The last two days had been reasonably long so I had fallen behind in the paperwork. I had set today aside to catch up, and give my ankle, knee and hip joints a rest. As there was no breakfast at the apartment I went out to the nextdoor Spar shop and got all the ingredients there in the form of rolls, jams and yoghurts. It pained me to do so, as it was a perfect day outside, but I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon catching up. I was cooped up in my perfunctory room while the sun shone. By 1600 I was done and emerged, blinking into the sunlight, to have a look around Solden.
To my dismay the pizza place run by the Kurds, Pizzeria Milano, was closed today. I had earmarked it for this evening so needed to find somewhere else. I ambled up through the town getting a coffee and a single scoop of ice cream as I window shopped. There were a lot of upmarket shops here. I didn’t see any of the luxury brands which you might find in St Moritz, or Verbier, or Cauterets in the Pyrenees, but Solden was certainly trying. There were perhaps 10 outdoor shops but they favoured the purely fashionable names line Superdry or Peak Performance. Here and there were some Patagonia or Arcteryx but there must have been very little mark up on them as they were tucked away at the back behind displays of branded “drink bottles for life”. The only thing I would consider was a new pair of boots as the Lowa Renegades have a problem with the rubber rand peeling away from the leather at the toe area. However, the glue I have is superb and I should be able to nurse another month out of them, when I have a pair of boots in a supply box near Zermatt.
The restaurants were all belonging to the 4 star hotels and were very expensive and completely superfluous to my needs. I saw a couple of grills where the more grungy mountain bikers were eating poor quality burgers and fries. The whole vicinity of them smelt of evaporating lard. After much walking I finally settled on Gusto. It was expensive but had a veggie pizza. When it eventually arrived it was a bit soggy but the size made up for it. It was not a patch on the Kurdish pizzas though. In a moment of unguarded ostentation I order a tiramisu for dessert. It was 14 euros, twice the price I have paid for the most expensive tiramisu previously. When it arrived I was shocked at A. how small it was and B. It was “deconstructed”. I tasted the two ball of brown ganache separated by a cheap finger biscuit. There was no flavour to it and I am sure no egg or amaretto or massala wine. It was just brown cream. I did not eat more and pushed it to the side. The waiter thought I was so full I could not finish it, until I asked for the bill and saw he included it. He said I should pay for it because I ordered it. I told him I ordered Tiramisu and I did not get Tiramisu, but some pretentious interpretation of it. He deducted it from the bill to avoid a scene.
However this summed up Solden for me. It was a culturally bankrupt town and far from honest, like the simple Steinach 5 days ago. Of the 300 odd buildings in the town I would say 80% are devoted to getting money off tourists. The original farms have all been converted to apartments or chalets and the farmers now milk tourists rather than cows. It did not leave a bitter taste but I can’t understand why non-skiers or non-mountain bikers would consider it a destination.
Section 06. 66 km. 27 Hours. 5080m up. 4770m down.
Section 06. Stubai. 07 July to 12 July 2022.