Highlights from summer vacation in Austria, July 2007

 

 

Several years in a row we have had a great summer vacation in Austria around July. There is usually some great weather for hiking, bike riding, motorcycle trips and the like. So it was this year as well with lots of hiking in the Austrian Alps, and the one motorcycle ride down to the Dolomiten in Italy. Here is a collection of some nice pictures from these day hikes. Also, check out the various panorama pictures taken during this trip.

 

GriessKogel 1

Schneibstein. 7

BockhartSee. 13

Habachtal 17

Sausteigen. 17

 

GriessKogel

This mountain rises South of Kaprun, next to the well-known Kitzsteinhorn (which also features summer skiing on the glacier). Jill and I took a bus ride up to the dam of a large reservoir built for generating electricity several decades ago. This lake is called the Moserboden and is up at an elevation of 2000m. From there we hiked up to the GriessKogel.

First you ascend up to 2600m along a nice path well above the tree line to the “Kleiner Griesskogel”. Then the path gets a bit steeper and it becomes generally more alpine.

 

As you climb higher, you get a better view of the surrounding glaciers and peaks, including the Grossglockner, Austria’s highest peak, here seen from the NorthWest.

From the top you can see all the way down to the dam and the 2 reservoir lakes. The last part is quite steep; this was a good training tour for our planned Kilimanjaro trip in October!

The panorama from the top is pretty impressive on a day with this kind of visibility:

On the way down we slide down a long and steep snow-field, using the skipoles for balance and the boots almost like skis for our glissade. Very similar to the glissade on the various mountains in the Pacific Northwest during my Alaska trip back in August 1999. This is not only much more fun than hopping from boulder to boulder, it is also much faster and less stressful for our knees and legs J

On the way down we sit down and enjoy the view; however, we don’t have too much time as we need to catch the last bus at 6:00pm – it would be a looong way to walk down to the valley.

This was a great dayhike in the Alps near Zell am See. Most of these mountains I know well from years of hanggliding, hiking and mountainbike riding. Always good to come back here for summer vacation J

 

Schneibstein

One of the first hikes we did was to the summit of the Schneibstein in the South-East corner of Germany, near Berchtesgaden and Salzburg. After a good 2 hr hike we get to the Stahlhaus, a hut right on the border between Germany and Austria.

I had come here with my son Philip and daughter Sarvenaz already 3 years ago in July 2004. Back then we had a little snowball fight after bringing down some snow from the remaining snow field higher up on the mountain.

 

Back then Philip didn’t want to go all the way to the top, but this year he had no problems going all the way to the top, albeit with a few rest stops, as we all did. The mountain in the background is the “Watzmann”, Germany’s second highest mountain with its famous East face.

Once on the summit of the Schneibstein, you have a very nice view down to the East to Golling, and it’s a long way down!

The panorama view from the summit looked like this:

All good – you can hike for days in the backcountry of these mountains and not see too many people.

On the way down, again beautiful views down to the Stahlhaus and all the way down to the valley floor.

Walking out from the Stahlhaus brings us back to the gondola lift, which we take to get down more swiftly (and with less stress for our knees and feet).

What a beautiful landscape – makes me want to linger and stay a bit longer…

 

BockhartSee

We visited my family in Badgastein, a small town at the end of the Gasteinertal, a North-South valley in the heart of the Hohe Tauern mountains. In fact, there is a train tunnel through the mountains, which you can drive on with the car and thus cross the mountains to the South. (I did so with the bicycle on my 2004 mountainbike ride across the Grossglockner-Pass and back via the Gasteinertal.)

This year, my cousin Christa could take a half day off and joined Jill and myself for this nice hike. We decide to drive back to the end of the valley, and then hike up to the Bockhartsee-Hut.

After a day of rain yesterday, nice sunlight greets us today on the way up the steep slope. We chat about family, work and life in general. A wonderful way to meet relatives, talk about all the things you rarely have time for, get a nice workout and also enjoy the views.

Once on top of the hut, I take a few pictures and stitch them together for a 270º panorama picture:

A nice spot for some coffee and cake – the Austrian way to spend a break in the afternoon J

On the way down more opportunities to take pictures for that photo calendar for next year...

After just a few hours we’re back down at the car on the parking lot. The last rays of sun provide a warm light for a last picture of the day.

 

Habachtal

One of the many valleys leading up to the mountain massif of the Hohe Tauern is the Habachtal. It is not far from the Grossvenediger, which I climbed two years ago on a beautiful day in July 2005.

We take a bus to shorten the walk and commence further into the valley from a nice Alpine hut. The beginning of the day-hike looks like this:

Many of these valleys are “U”-shaped by the glaciers of the last ice-age – one can easily imagine the massive rivers of ice flowing down the valleys and “smoothing” out the ground floor with their enormous weight and grinding force. The path leads up a steep ramp to the left to gain the top of the first step in the “U”-shape.

Philip isn’t used to these paths yet, as he’s growing up in Florida, which is completely flat and doesn’t have anything comparable to offer L Nice waterfall in the back with all the melting water from the glaciers above.

Soon we’re on top of this steep slope and can see the hut which will be our goal for today.

Another view to the right shows my mom with the high mountains and glaciers surrounding this place.

 

After a nice lunch we need to get going back down, as the weather report had predicted intense frontal thunderstorms approaching from the West. Indeed, on the way down we soon witness dark thunderclouds engulfing the surrounding mountains – we are bracing for a finish to our hike in rain.

To our delight, the center of the storm cloud passes us to the North, and the sky is clearing again so we’re not getting wet after all. We have another ½ hr before the bus is leaving out the valley, so we get down to the Alm and order some nice coffee and cake again.

As we can see later this afternoon, the thunderstorm actually dumped quite a bit of hail in the valley and even in my aunt Rosi’s garden in her nearby home in Stuhlfelden. We were indeed lucky that the golfball-size hail-stones didn’t hit us up on the mountain!

 

Sausteigen

A final really nice day-trip was to a mountain called “Sausteigen” near Saalfelden / Zell am See. One particular attraction of this area is that it offers the longest toboggan slide in all of Austria. It’s also surrounded by wonderful mountains on all almost all sides, which makes it a spectacular scenery, especially on a day like this.

An additional bonus is the Biberg Alm, which offers great food and even better views for a reststop, here (from left) with my daughter Sarvenaz, son Philip, sister Eva and mom Ridi:

How about this view from the top:

Or turning to the South, one can see the range with the Kitzsteinhorn and the Griesskogel:

The Sausteigen is the highest point on the ridge behind the cross in the above picture. From there, a full 360º panorama looks like this:

After a nice hike through the forest on the top we get back to the Alm again, where Philip gets to play on the local trampoline.

Soon thereafter we descend to the top of the toboggan slide and get inline for the ride down to the parking lot. This is quite fun, despite the backup due to other riders along the slide.

The day ends with a fondue at my Aunt Rosi’s house. We’re all celebrating another nice day in the Austrian summer. I’m sure we’ll be back next year J