Tyrol is probably the most traditional and untouched region of Austria. Friendly people with a strong dialect (which is challenging even for a fellow Austrian), lush green meadows or lots of snow and massive mountains – basically the all-American vision of Austria. Sound of Music, happy cows and all that. The little villages are idyllic and the alpine landscape is insanely beautiful.
Austria’s highest mountains, including the Großglockner and the Großvenediger, are situated in the Hohe Tauern National Park. This summer my Dad and me planned a hiking trip of about two days to climb the Großvenediger, the second-highest mountain with 3657 meters.
We spent a night in Virgen, Tyrol, at the bottom of what they call the roof of Austria. The weather forecast didn’t sound too promising but the sky cleared as the sun went down and got our hopes high for the upcoming big climb of 1500 m altitude difference the next day. We went to bed early to get a good night’s sleep and have an early start after a good breakfast. The clouds were hanging deep in the morning, but we even got to see some blue sky throughout the day.
This blog post is very picture heavy and it basically only consists of photos of my Dad’s backpack, but I hope you enjoy it anyway!
Rock faces so tall your brain can’t quite process the scale of it. Gewaltig, mächtig, massiv, urig are only few of the words that come to my mind when you see these powerful beasts.
I apologize to those of you who couldn’t care less about flowers – there’ll be quite a couple of them in this blog post. The endangered flora and fauna up there is incredible! It’s essentially what us little Austrian kids learn about in primary school and I was surprised (and slightly impressed) to see what I still remembered from back then. I couldn’t help but stop to take a photo.
Our first pitstop at Johannishütte @ 2121m. The all-American idea of a happy Sound of Music Austria definitely also includes the omnipresent red checkered tablecloths. The peak on the very left of the glacier is the Großvenediger. I couldn’t decide whether it was motivating or frustrating to see the end goal while you’re hiking – you are getting closer and closer to your goal but you also realize how much longer and how much fucking effort it will take to get you there.
This photo was clearly taken when my excitement started to fade. My thighs started to get tired after more than for hours of straight up, up, up. My Dad and me got lost at some point (don’t ask me how) and did a bit of “freestyle hiking”. Until we finally found back to the route and the basecamp appeared on the horizon. We checked into our tiny but cozy room (no heating at 0 degrees outdoors), changed our sweaty clothes, had lunch and relaxed in the sun. As much as I love Tyroleans for their friendliness, the lady at the hut was really one of a kind.
The base camp was just under 3000 meters, right at the brink of the glacier. Before dinner, my Dad and me walked up to the edge of the snow line to check out what would await us the next day. We were by ourselves in the middle of nowhere and the only time we saw people was at the basecamp. It felt amazing – hiking, the fresh air, the incredible scenery, knowing that you’re doing something really cool – it made me feel alive. And I was stoked for the final climb to the summit!
The next day didn’t start too well. I had a shit night and hardly any sleep, which is common at this altitude, but on top of that the weather was appalling and our mountain guide decided it was unsafe for us to go. We had gotten up at 5.30am but couldn’t leave until 8 when the weather conditions had improved slightly. Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, nur schlechte Kleidung richtig? It was snowing, it was foggy, it was stormy, it was almost subzero temperatures – but we were prepared for everything. We put on all our gear and headed out into the blizzard (kinda).
We couldn’t have hoped for a better mountain guide. He knew the glacier like the back of his hand and even though we couldn’t see shit, I trusted him fully. He said the weather was safe to go, so we all followed him like little ducklings into the unknown. It was white everywhere – top, bottom, left, right. There was no way of orientating yourself and you had to concentrate to place every step very carefully. The area is known for its dangerous crevasses, which is a terrifying thought when you slip away in the soggy snow. I was a bit scared, but as much as it was frightening it was also exhilarating at the same time. It was a real adventure! Which also means that there was no time to take stupid touristy photos and all I’m left with are crappy phone snaps.
I was fully equipped with glacier goggles and everything you can possibly own (most of it borrowed of course). Plus it was foggy. But the sun up there reflected by the glacier was still strong enough to give me a massive sunburn in my face, can you believe that? At least it made me feel professional… We all felt like we were on an expedition. Like scientists on a mission or something – bei schönem Wetter kann das ja jeder! This is what it must be like Beyond the Wall in Game of Thrones.
It’s a shame I didn’t get to see the spectacular views over the Alps from up there. But it was such an unforgettable & thrilling experience and I think the horrible conditions made it even more exciting. I had an amazing two days in the mountains, there’s no feeling quite like it and I hope I’ll be doing more hiking next summer.
Sorry for the longest blog post ever.