Spring here in Germany has been truly glorious. So glorious in fact, that we decided that the time was ripe to take the first hike of the year. April is a bit early to go into the mountains; a lot of my students are still going skiing on the weekends, but last weekend we thought we could give it a try. There is still quite a bit of snow in Austria and in the higher parts of the Alps, but we chose a lower mountain and hoped to avoid any major weather issues.
The Hochries is the lowest mountain and shelter we’ve hiked to so far, but it was my first “summit.” I’m putting quotations there because it wasn’t particularly challenging. But, I touched the cross so I guess my summit quota is now filled, no climbing required! It was also the first overnight shelter trip for BV’s little brother, who we took on the trip for his birthday.
We drove down Saturday morning and we could not have picked a more beautiful day. A short two-hour drive from Nürnberg got us to the village of Grainbach/Samerberg, at the base of the mountain. Grainbach was a typically adorable Bavarian village, chock-full of Alpine-style houses with wooden shutters and cats wandering about the streets. We grabbed a quick beer and Brotzeit plate (bread, ham, and cheese), before parking the car at the base of the trail. The scene at the base was a bit less typically Bavarian, as the parking lot was full of kids in BMX gear doing tricks on their bikes and listening to techno at their cars. A Sesselbahn (chairlift) from the base of the mountain carried them partway up the hill, where they hopped back on the bikes and rode through the sport bike park back down to the bottom. The road we walked up ran through the bike part and we enjoyed watching the bikers doing tricks as they flew back down the hill.
Where the Sesselbahn ended, a Kabinenbahn (gondola) began. The gondola went straight up the mountain, almost directly to the Hochrieshütte. That was not our route though, instead we continued up the road through the forest. The forest gave way to a valley, with an Alm (dairy) where hikers could stop for a drink and a snack. Since we had just eaten, we just enjoyed our stroll through the fields that were full of tiny wildflowers in yellow, blue, purple, and white. The trail went back into the forest and we climbed up a fairly rocky path along a ravine. Everything was covered with leaves from last fall, so between the leaves and the unevenness of the path, it was slower going for a few minutes. We came back out of the forest again and found an empty pasture with a beautiful view over the countryside below that looked like a perfect stop for a break and a little snack.
After our break, the path curved around the side of the mountain and climbed further up. The higher Alm on the way didn’t seem to be open yet, but we had a great view of people paragliding around the hills and valley.
This part of the trail curved around the back side of the mountain, and it got a lot rockier. That was manageable, but as we climbed higher, there started to be snow on some parts of the trail. There was not a lot of snow, but enough to make me extremely happy that I had opted to bring the Nordic walking sticks this time. No snow in this picture, but you get the idea of what it might be like when they’re covered with it.
Finally we stopped going up, and got to walk on even ground. We were at the top of the mountain, but we had to follow the ridge about another ten minutes to the shelter. We stopped for some more pictures and to add some stones onto one of the cairns along the way.
We reached the shelter around 6 o’clock, which put our hike time at about 3:45, including the breaks. It was a bit longer than the estimated times from the Alpine club, signs, etc., but for the first trip of the year I think it was okay. And the best part of any hike is of course, the beer at the top. Even better when it’s a Maß.
The terrace at the house was about half-full as everyone basked in the sun enjoying their food and drink. We ordered dinner, which included delicious wild garlic dumplings for me. I’ll be needing to go back to get some more of those at some point. The sun was warm at the top, but the wind was cold and soon it was too chilly to stay outside. We moved into the dining area and settled ourselves at our table for the night. Then it was time to trade in the hiking boots for house shoes, and the jeans for comfy pants. The rest of the night was spent chatting, drinking more beers (and a few too many Enzian and peach shots), and teaching BV’s brother the joys of Egyptian Rat Screw, aka our old Prague standby card game.
Normally in the mountain shelters, quiet time starts at 10 o’clock, and everyone heads to bed. There was a big group of 20-somethings that had different plans though. They were having a very lively birthday party including an assortment of games, and so the shelter staff kept serving a bit later than they probably would have liked to. A few tables of people stuck around in addition to the partiers, until the waitress kicked us all out at almost midnight. Given that she had to get up for the breakfast shift which starts at about 5am, I couldn’t blame her too much.
In the morning we woke to find ourselves in a cloud. Everyone in the house got going pretty late after making the all-night party. While we ate breakfast we watched the sky spit rain and snow mix down on the hills around us. Very wet people and dogs started trickling in to the shelter for the Sunday morning Stammtisch, but no one looked like they were in a hurry to trek back down. We took our time getting ready, and taking some pictures from the upper windows of the shelter.
We decided that the weather didn’t look like it was getting better anytime soon, and that it was better not to risk those steep places when they were extra slippery and cold. Instead, we slowly wandered over to the cable car. Since it’s still the off-season, it was only running once an hour and we got to wait for it for a while. There was no one at the top end, and a guy had to come up from the bottom to retrieve us, which we learned when he called us on a phone in the building after he saw us on the camera wandering around trying to figure out what to do. Our extra time at the top meant more photo ops though, so here are some more pictures…
The ride down the cable car brought us out of the cloud and below us it was a pretty nice day in the valley. A bit more gray than Saturday, but we still had a pleasant walk from the middle station back down to the car. Tons of families were out and about on their Sunday strolls, and we all dodged the bikers around the sport park. We decided to grab a pizza on the way home, and luckily found a delicious one just a few villages away. After that it was back in the car, and back to Nürnberg.
Overall, this was a great first hike of the year. It was difficult in places, but it was quite a bit easier than some of the others we’ve done. We were also really excited that we were able to get such an early jump on the season. Hopefully the weather holds and we can explore more shelters as spring turns into summer.
However, if you’re not really wanting to climb all the way up there (totally understandable), you can take the cable car up the difficult part. A round-trip ticket will cost you 16€ if you just want to hop up, grab some lunch, and come back down. The views over the Bavarian countryside to the Chiemsee, and the added entertainment of watching the para-gliders launching right next to the shelter all make the trip well worth it, at least in my opinion.