Expeditions, Navigation, Guided Walks and Trekking
Crossing the Brenner Pass from Italy into Austria was just as congested as the way south a week earlier. Time was critical, we had to get Dick to the airport. So we dived off the motorway and dropped him off at the nice modern lovely Stubai tram-line. By diving off the motorway I meant taking an early exit, not like the bungee jumpers jumping off the 200 metre high autobahn bridge above us. Dick was soon checking-in and enjoying a decent coffee as we drove up the Stubai valley for a weekend mountain climb.
A delightful lunch in a sunny Neustift village set us up for the afternoon walk. before we drove up the side valley . At the end of the narrow side valley, Oberbergtal, was a busy pay and display car park for the Discovery and a cafe for a drink on the way back. So we were happy to wander up the busy track to the Franz-Senn Hutte.
Soon enough the large hut was visible on the lip of the valley above us. Compared to the small Italian huts we had been staying in this looked a big place. Our banter had it that we were doomed to be in the top floor, not the place to be with our aching legs. But what I hadn’t realised when I made the booking was that we had reserved matratzenlager. So we were actually on a communal mattress for 5 of us in Box 10 high up in the attic. Six flights of stairs for each trip, blast. Despite the mattresses this hut was luxury; free all-day showers; plenty of hot water; cosy tables in the day room and a super efficient drying/boot room. The place was full including a large youth group of 80. They had to be served dinner before us so we relaxed over a beer as the sun set before a filling 3-course meal.
It was a fun night sharing the attic with around 50 other alpinists, many even stayed in bed until 5:30. Very thoughtful. Breakfast was delightful with unlimited cereal and continental meats, guests were even encouraged to take some away in a paper bag for lunch, Good value.
Outside the hut the Guides were setting up for a days climbing and glacier crossing instruction. Passing them by as we set off along the well signposted Stubaier Hohenweg heading of to climb the 3,000m Rinnenspitz. This is one of the famous seven Stubai summits, easily done in a day, without any technical rock or glacier. From the hutte it was still an 850m climb, through spectacular mountain scenery. The alpine views around us took our minds off the hard work. Putting Nas at the front of the group was a good move. Our hero walks much faster when he is leading, no opportunities to stop for a breather or toilet break with the rest of us behind threatening to crash into him.
As the climb got steeper the path became more of a scramble. The last 200m had wires and stemples to help us up. We crossed over the ridge to look down a long drop to the glacier. Here the path became filled with snow, compacted into ice in places, making it tricky and technical. We hung onto the wires up to the top with its obligatory cross. Here we were right in the middle of a line of rocky spires breaking through long glaciers – a truly spectacular place to be. Most climbers from the hut had been up and left by the time we got there, so we were able to have a quiet sit down on the small summit, sharing it with just one other couple.
After lunch, not surprisingly very similar to breakfast, we set of down. The cautious members of our group put on their VF gear, clipping into the wire across the icy descent. It wasn’t long before we were down the summit rock and relaxing down the return path. The day had started nice and sunny, clear skies, a slight frost. As we sat on the summit the clouds started to roll in from the south, and as we got back to the hut it started to drizzle. The big question was, “Time for a Beer?”, but Nas was off down the hill. We worked out that he wanted to get down before it rained, avoiding the need to get his “waterproofs” out. I may be wrong, but there again it was the fastest we had seen him walk all week.
Soon back at the car park and time for a Strudel and tea before we set off home.
When planning this I had originally thought to have night in Neustift before starting the long drive back, but we decided to spend what was left of the afternoon driving into Germany. This upset the pension manager when I had told him a couple of days before, so a public apology.
Steve had also set his heart on visiting Spa in Belgium on the way home for a relaxing massage and soak so the early start was not a bad plan. Our route back over the Alps was very slow, slowing to a stop over the Fernsee pass. It was late when we finally got into Ulm, luckily finding a Thai restaurant still open where had the best meal of our trip.
Anyway, we made it to Spa and had a couple of hours in the large pool followed by a large Belgian steak and chips. Next day was again subject to delays; congestion; sat-nav mis-navigation and bad weather in the Channel all added to the stress of the journey. So the end of a great weeks mountaineering and fun with friends. Plans for our next trip were started on the long drive back, is it going to be Kilimanjaro or the High Atlas again? Time will tell!