To start with, my legs are killing me. Not really my whole leg, but the calf area is a sore, sore, sore bundle of pain at the moment. We might have overdone it just a bit… but how?
As I’ve written before, I am a disaster in the exercise department. But I like hiking. When I was back home at my parent’s place, I used to go quite frequently in the Kettle Moraine. But with the exception of some small hills in our area, it’s pretty flat. Not to mention that was about four years ago. So really my experience with legit hiking in the mountains is pretty much nonexistent. Ex-Freund proposed going hiking a few times in Germany, but somehow it never really worked out. We did do some walks, but never anything longer than an hour, tops. Not really too strenuous. At all. In the slightest.
Last week I spent a few days in Freiburg, and also did a great hike around the Feldberg, the highest point in Baden-Württemberg. I’ll post about that later, but it was a really good day, despite the crappy weather. We did a hike of about 12 kilometers, and including a few side trips, and lunch in a Hütte, it took about 5 or 6 hours. It also had the side effect of giving the person I was with an oddly optimistic view of my capabilities. So when it was proposed that we try an overnight hike once more before the end of the season came, I was excited but had some slight fears. But the plan was made, so I was in. If you want to read about it and see the usual 82329 pictures that accompany my long posts, click on…
For this hike, we were trying to decide between two choices: one in the area around Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and one in the Berchtesgaden area. Since I have absolutely no idea about any of this, and have only gotten onto the mountains in these areas via cable car, I deferred to the expertise of my hiking partner. With that, we settled on the Berchtesgaden choice, and luckily for us, this was their last open weekend of the season.
Okay, side note regarding the hiking partner: I started dating someone. Hence all the extracurricular activities lately. That’s all I’ll say about that for the moment, but for the remainder of this post, I shall refer to him as HP. And I’ll try not to think ‘Harry Potter’ every time I type it. Should be fun. Anyway, back to the hike!
Saturday morning we were off bright and early for the first train to Berchtesgaden. Bright and early meant a 5:39 departure from Nürnberg, which also meant we got to share our train with some party people. I’ll tell you, nothing says “guten Morgen” quite like watching a bunch of guys try to ‘plank’ in the luggage racks of a train, and listening to them making fart noises for about an hour. Seriously. Oddly though, it did give us a steady enough noise level that both myself and HP got to take a little nap on that train. Score!
After train changes in Munich and Freilassing, we arrived in Berchtesgaden. We had about an hour before our bus was leaving, so we had a quick look around in hopes of finding some sunglasses (which I forgot), or Hausschuhe (which he forgot). We didn’t find either of those things, but we did find beer and Apfelstrudl for a little snack. I think that’s a fair trade. And happily, Berchtesgaden was as lovely as I remembered it, and we had the place to ourselves….
Then it was off to a bus for a 20-minute ride through the hills, alongside a crystal-clear river, and past cows and sheep grazing behind little Alpine houses. We hopped off the bus outside the village of Ramsau, where the trail up to the Blaueishütte, our destination, began. On the internet, the route says that the hike will take about 2.5 hours, but the signpost at the bottom said 3. No mention of distance, but honestly, that might be better.
With that, we were off. And up. And up. And up. The weather forecast for Saturday said sunny, but where we were, it was nothing but clouds and mist. The first half of the hike was all through forest, so there wasn’t really much to see anyway. In an effort to catch my breath at regular intervals, I made a lot of photo stops, and was really trying to capture the steepness of the trail. I don’t know if I was successful, and I’ll let y’all be the judge of that.
|About 5 minutes in, looking back down…|
|…and then looking up.|
Those people in the first picture? Yeah they totally passed us. Normally I hate that, but my focus was on breathing and not being competitive.
A bit later, we did get out of the trees and had a view of the Hintersee, as well as the valley below.
We reached the Land Rover at about 30 minutes into the hike, and decided that was a good time to stop, have a drink and a sandwich, and catch our breath. I was already cursing bringing anything with me in my backpack… why in the world would I need an extra pair of socks? And why was my small bottle of contact solution empty? That forced me to pack the big one and every damn ounce was unnecessary. Whew.
After our snack, we continued on. Spoiler: it was still uphill. Funny how that works.
Eventually we got to the half-way point.
Again, not sure if this was encouraging or discouraging. But shortly after this, we got above the treelines for a bit and had a great view out over the valley. We also reached the Schärtenalm, where I was tooooold, that we could get a beer. LIES. Okay, okay, slight exaggeration. It wasn’t HP’s fault that they were already closed for the season.
|Draining water down the mountain.|
|Pictures of pictures.|
|Loggers and hikers.|
Since the Schärtenalm was closed, we had no choice but to continue on. As I said though, if you get there in the high season, you can score at least a beer, and maybe even something small to go with it. But not for us. Onwards and of course, upwards.
Finally we reached this sign, which marked the last stage of the hike…
Forty minutes to go, and you can just see those two steps in the picture. But guess what? That last forty minutes? All steps. Ooooh yes. We’re going into all that mist, and we are going straight up. After about 30 seconds, I determined that I couldn‘t be distracted by my camera swinging around anymore, so I packed it away. Therefore the following pictures of the epic stairs are all courtesy of HP…
|What the hell was I thinking when I agreed to this?|
|The mist was super cool though.|
|Our first sight of the peaks in the mist.|
I can’t even tell you how excited I was to finally reach the Hütte. So happy. So very, very, happy.
That was, unequivocally, the best. beer. ever. Oh my God. Glorious.
The bus dropped us off somewhere around 600 or 700 meters, and the Blaueishütte is at 1680 meters. You can do the math and the conversions to feet yourselves if necessary, but let me tell you, it is a loooong way. We made it in right about 2.5 hours, so the internet estimate was pretty accurate, and that did include our snack break, as well as innumerable photo breaks (or Heather-get-her-breath-breaks, but whatever). So we felt pretty good about our time.
As I understand it, there is some variety as far as the Hütten go, and what amenities they have. If you’re planning a trip and want to stay in one, you can search here…
...and hopefully you’ll find something that works for you. The one that we stayed in had both a large room with just mattresses (for those looking for an authentic experience), and smaller rooms with bunk beds (for those not looking to sleep with some guys sweaty sock 8 inches from my face). Our room slept six, but there were only four of us in it, which was pretty okay with me. I was warned that there was no heat in the room at night, but I was quite comfortable with the provided comforter.
They did have a shower at this place, but it was .50 cents for 30 seconds, and despite my excess of change in my wallet, I didn‘t really want to pump a bunch of change into a machine to get some semblance of a shower. So we went without for a day, and it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I think for the night stay plus breakfast, we each paid about 25 Euros, but I‘m not positive about that.
After a beer, a rest, and a wash-up, we noticed that the sky was clearing up a bit and decided to go back out. Above the Blaueishütte are a few different peaks, plus the glacier that gives the house it’s name. At first we thought we had spoke too soon, as there was definite mist, but then…
|The awkward post was due to trying to cover a red route marker on the rock.|
It was absolutely gorgeous. I can’t even tell you. HP wanted to climb right up to the glacier, but that was too much for me. Instead we compromised and climbed a bit further up to some very large boulders where we had some more great views, and even spotted some wildlife.
See that big boulder under the glacier? That’s where we went.
|View from the boulder.|
|Aaaaand our house is gone.|
|Goats! Or something like goats, anyway. They were fun to watch.|
|Remains of old shelters.|
|Whew, it’s still there.|
|Great views of the valley.|
We got back to the Hütte a bit before the sun really went down, mostly because I’m chicken shit and was afraid of busting my ass on the rocky path back down. HP was all for staying on a rock with the hardcore people to watch the sun set, but as I said, I’m a chicken. Plus we were on the wrong side of the mountain for that anyway, so really we would only have seen the light change. Instead, we went in to change, and then settled ourselves in the dining area for the evening.
Supplies reach the house via a small cable car, so if you are looking for a 7-course meal, this is not your place. But if you like simple, hearty food and a cold beer, you’ll be just fine. I had fried eggs, roasted potatoes, and a vinegar-type salad, and it was delicious. Might have had something to do with all the work to get that far, but who cares.
We stayed in the dining room until “quiet time” at 10pm, enjoyed the warmth of the Ofen, a few beers, some Schnäpse, and some games of cards. I believe the German word is Gemütlichkeit, and I have to say, it was lovely.
I have a ton more pictures from the next day and the way down, but I think this is enough for now. Those I‘ll save for another day…