Zillertal Alps

Saturday 7th July 2018  Edel Hut and Ahornspitze After some shopping in Innsbruck we had a pleasant ride on two trains up to the ski resort of Mayrhofen, past lush green valleys and steep hills rising all around. We sat around with fresh bread and cheese for lunch in the busy village centre  before starting with the helping hand of the Ahorn cable car to 2000m and then strike off on trail!

We climbed on a good trail for about 1.5 hours up to the Edel hut and checked in quickly before heading for an afternoon ascent of Ahornspitze- a nearby mountain with a good trail leading to a scramble at the top. With lots of cloud around we had the occasional view of jaggy peaks and enjoyed some nice steep scrabbling up to the sharp summit at just under 3000m.

Sunday 8th July 2018 Kasseler Hut We were off at 7.45 for the hike to the Kasseler Hut traversing the west side of a mountain ridge and crossing over 7 passes on the way. Much of the time the way wound its way through boulder fields of granites and platey schists making for slow but interesting going including some cool scrambling and via ferrata over the sharp ridges.We hear marmots, see some ravens and meet a flock of large black sheep that take an uncanny interest in us. Martina pats one and they follow us for about 20 minutes showing a stealthy ability to navigate the boulders!

It’s cloudy and chilly all day and we had a welcome brew up at a ‘bivvy hut’ as marked on the map but actually a rather wonderful wooden cabin with 4 bunks and 5 euro overnight charge. We reached the Kasseler hut mid afternoon before some rain set in. A good day over rough trails!

Monday 9th July 2018 To the Berlinner Hut via the Greizer Hut After finishing early-ish yesterday we decided to stretch out a bit and cover two guide book days to the Berlinner Hut.

From the Kasseler Hut we contoured round a steep valley generally westward crossing numerous glacial rivers and snowfields. The sun came out mid morning to brighten up the atmospheric scene around us. There was one exciting crossing of a steep gully filled with a snow tongue which involved hanging down the edge of the snow with our ice axe to reach the other side.

After meeting more friendly sheep we climbed steeply up about 700m to the Lapen Scharte pass at 2701m to great views with puffy clouds, peaks and glaciers. A steady descent took us down to the Greizer Hut around lunchtime. Being well ahead of our guidebook times we decided to stop for lunch then continue the plan to head to the next hut in the afternoon.

Snow slopes in the morning

We sat outside the hut admiring the beautiful glacier views with two hut horses for company. To be honest, everyone was friendly here and the hut terrace was a great place to hang out so this would have made a good overnight stop.

But..fuelled by some Apfelkuchen and 2 cokes we descended steeply to the valley bottom crossing a deafening loud glacial river with a tricky loose gravelly slope. Then it was up 1200m to the next pass- Moerchen Scharte, firstly by some cool ladders and via ferrata to assist the way through an initial rock band, then steep zig-zags up a ridge. We were both ‘firing on all cylinders’ so made light work of the climb with a final snow covered push to the col. More great views!

The descent was stunning over snow patches then past some lakes including the Schwarzersee to the huge gothic Berlinner Hut at 2000m. What a atmospheric hut both inside and out and a fab day!

Tuesday 10th July 2018 Berlinner Hut to Dominikus Hut After a pleasant breakfast on the hut veranda in the sun we set off steeply uphill with more great views of peaks and snowfields. We were following a busier trail here as hikers use it to climb from the hut to the nearby peak ‘Schoenbichler Horn 3133m’. Higher up there was some steep scrambling with cables to the top of the peak with spectacular alpine views.

Leaving the other hikers we descended down steep rock, then onto a snowfield before hitting easier trails to the Furtschagel Haus. Another grandly positioned hut where we enjoyed lunch with ‘knudel spinach’ dough balls. More steep zig-zags in the afternoon took us down to a low wide valley and past the Schlegeisspeicher Reservoir and the now unusual experience of walking along flat trails! The rain came on heavy though and we dashed for cover to a cafe when we reached a road. After a chat with the cafe owner who had lived in the UK for 20 years we headed out into the torrential rain and decided to stay in a bunk room at the nearby roadside Dominik Hut.

Wednesday 11th July 2018 Domikus Hut to Brenner Pass and Steinach It was ‘socked in’ grey and misty in the morning with heavy rain. We decided to set off anyway and cross a slightly lower than intended first pass (the Pfitscherjoch) into Italy then climb higher from there in the hope that the weather would clear!

We headed south, gradually ascending a valley- and lo! – the cloud lifted to reveal some views and the rain stopped at least. It was rather pleasant, relaxed hiking up to the pass into Italy. We then took a balcony trail winding its way grandly round the side of mountains high above the Italian valleys heading towards the Landshutte at 2700m. Here we stopped for a drink and to escape the damp cloud that had now set in again. Another fine hut both inside and potential views outside (when clear!).

A long steep descent now followed to the main road crossing the alps at Brenner Pass – 1350m. The trail was good and the weather cleared as we dropped way down into tree lined hillside and eventually to fields in the valley floor. We had completed our traverse of the first range, the Zillertal Alps, and to save us some road walking to start our next stage, we took transport to the town of Steinach for the night. A superb 5 day hike!

Next- Stubai Alps

Hiking in the Austrian Alps

We had a two week holiday in the Austrian Alps in July 2018. Our aim was to hike on trails as high up in the mountains as we could without climbing and thus avoiding the need for technical climbing or glacier kit (we did carry lightweight ice axes though). We chose to not bring the tent along as well and to overnight using the alpine hut network across Austria. This was a big change for us as we like the freedom and solitude of camping, but the huts allowed us to go light and are a cultural experience in themselves.

So we flew from Scotland to Munich, then trains to Innsbruck in Austria. From there trains to our startpoint at the winter ski resort of Mayrhofen. Then… hike roughly westwards! The three ranges we crossed through were the Zillertal, Stubai and Otztal Alps and you can read our story in the links below…..

Overview map

Zillertal Aps

Stubai Alps

Ötztal Alps

Photo gallery

Thoughts on the hike We followed marked trails all the way on this trip but they took us through some incredible alpine scenery. Many times the trail looked improbable but wound its way through boulder fields, snow slopes, high passes and scrambles aided by ‘via ferrata’. The addition of an extra scramble to the summit of Inner Wetterspitze (3050m) was a great bonus.

The hiking included lots of ascent and descent and many trails were bouldery or over rocks so the going was slow. But the scenery was almost continually dazzling

We hiked from July 7th – 20th which is quite early season for the Alps and there were a few snow patches covering the trails but nothing that caused a problem. We did carry lightweight ice axes and were glad to have them at times for security crossing and descending icy snow patches.

The huts were a positive experience. I have to say I still prefer wild camping with its freedom to lay down where you like and not be confined indoors in bunks or to fixed eating times. But the food was mostly pretty great, the wardens friendly, it was good to chat to other hikers and each hut had great character and sited with splendid views.

In comparison to the classic US trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide, Austria provided more spectacular true alpine scenery with many glaciers and scrambling in exposed positions. There are more people though and much less wilderness with huts, the odd ski resort, occasional pylons dotted around. Trails are universally excellent and well marked but often include scrambling or via ferrata.

The lower valleys and villages are scenic and make resupplying easy. That plus the superb public transport network makes organising getting to and from trailheads simple.

We really enjoyed our visit and would easily head back out to Austria for another hike!

Resources

Walking in Austria Cicerone Solid overview. Check out the rest of the Cicerone website for various other Austrian guidebooks.

Walking Austria’s Alps hut to hut Cordee  Out of print 1999 guide but still available and an excellent book with lots of hiking ideas.

Trekking in the Zillertal Alps Cicerone Definitive guide to doing the Zillertal Rucksack Route (Hoehenweg) which is a classic 7-8 day loop in the area. We followed most of this then cut west from the Olperer Hut. Also good info on additional peak ascents along the way.

Trekking in the Stubai Alps Cicerone Another excellent detailed guide to the Stubai Alps this time.

Electronic maps on Viewranger android app I loaded Compass maps onto the Viewranger app on my mobile phone. Not absolutely necessary but I found these maps useful.

Paper maps from Compass

Austrian Alpine Club (UK branch) By joining you get discount rates at the huts as well as rescue insurance and many other benefits. Definitely worthwhile.

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