Sunday Snapshots: Mountains, What Else?

Berchtesgaden, 2013

August is my birthday month, and for the last few years that has involved hiking. There were a handful of other August trips in the last 8+ years abroad, but since no photos from them are jumping out at me, expect a whole lot of mountain on Sundays this month.

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31-Day Challenge: Day 20

Yesterday we walked through seemingly endless fields of grapevines. The sun was hot and the wind barely blew.

Today we hiked up 800 meters to a shelter. While we stopped for beer and a snack, I stepped outside to take a few pictures of the ever-changing skies. As I turned to go back into the house, something soft and cold hit my hand. It was snowing.

We’d been watching rain showers pass over the valley and peaks across from us, so of course we didn’t expect to escape it totally. There was something special about it; watching out the window as the soft drops fell, chatting to the Wirtin on the first day open of the season. That was as unplanned as the snow, and felt as lovely.

When people think of Italy, they think of the Mediterranean, brightly colored houses spilling down to the sea. They think of Rome, of Vespas and ruins. They think of Tuscany, of golden sunsets and dusty hills, vineyards and villas.

But this place?

I had never really heard of South Tyrol before coming here, and my theory is that the Germans are keeping it secret. It’s got all the charm and the same language as South Bavaria, with a slightly different accent and better food.

The area we’re staying in has one of the most striking landscapes I’ve ever seen. The views in the valley are lovely, all pastoral with a mountainous background. But when you go up?

You have to work for it, but the result is worth so much more than I can express.

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge: Day 17 

Peeking over the green top of the mountain in front of me are a few jagged, stony spikes. From the altitude of our little hamlet, they don’t look like much. A steep, serpentine climb up the grassy hillside behind the village starts to reveal more. 

Running into a thin road, we continue along, passing farmhouses where cats sun themselves and cows munch grass. Coming past a chapel perched high up, we wonder who visits. Turning around, we realize that after the short and steep climb, a whole new world has emerged. 

Clouds wisp around high peaks still coated in snow. The light changes constantly, making one photo unimaginable. 

Leaving the road and turning towards the forest we decide against going higher now, instead aiming towards the grassy fields and scattered chalets surrounding the valley far ahead. 

A long shady walk through the forest brings decision time again. The first farm is just ahead but we’ve lost height. Seeking the sun and a less-populated place, we turn left up a gradually sloping forestry road. 

Small animals dart across the road and birds chatter their voices. The sound of a chainsaw behind us gets fainter and fainter as we climb. In the deep, shady places, snow still lingers. More moss hangs from the tree branches and blows across the path, proving the quality of the air up here. It sways in the breeze; the wind is picking up. 

The trees to our left are thinning as the path evens out. Ahead of us the view opens up as the trail gently curves off to the right around the mountain. 

A long valley twists ahead far below us, a road winding down its center, towns dotted along the way. 

We choose to turn left again through the forest, the trail markers promising a meadow. Finally after a few more twists and turns, a fence appears in the distance. Between the trees a grassy expanse is dotted with wild flowers. It won’t be too long before the cows are driven up but for today it was only us, our backpacks filled with bread, cheese, sausage, and wine, and one running deer, to enjoy the view we’d been looking for. 

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

Sunday Snapshots: Snowshoes and Solitude

Bavarian Alps, 2016

Bavarian Alps, 2016

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The downside of picking a major winter sports destination for your snowshoeing weekend is that the village is chock-full of people. The upside? During both of the days that we spent five or six hours tromping around on the mountains in said snowshoes, we saw two other people doing the same. Everyone else was on the ski slopes, or doing rounds on the cross country ski trails that ran through the valley below. We were 100% on our own.

Was that slightly alarming when it started snowing like crazy a few hours into a hike? (That would be blowing snow in the picture above… not smoke.) Yeah… it was. But we lived to tell the tale. Plus, there were plenty of restaurants in town open for dinner when we came back to civilization, thank goodness! A couple of hours trekking through fresh snow really works up the ol’ appetite. 🙂

Sunday Snapshots: Gray Mornings

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Hochrieshütte, April 2014

Spring of 2014 was unseasonably warm around here. So much so that we were able to head to the mountains for our first hike of the year in the middle of April, something that is almost unheard of! Many of the mountain shelters, especially those at higher altitudes, don’t even open until May, typically around the Pfingsten (Pentecost) holidays.

On this hiking trip we climbed up to the Hochrieshütte, which is located in the Chiemgauer Alps. It’s not too far south of Munich, and offers a beautiful view on clear days to the Chiemsee and the higher Alps to the south. Though the shelter was open for the season, as you can see from the photo, there was definitely still some snow at the top. Going up was relatively okay, but the chilly morning and  icy/misty weather that we woke up to made the decision to take the cable car back down an easy one. It’s nice to be able to take advantage of that, considering that at most mountain shelters it’s not an option!

Gone Hiking: A Trip Over Reit in Winkl

Today felt almost as though the Great Spaghetti Monster in the Sky had flipped a switch. We had been enjoying the most gorgeous golden autumn weather, but this morning the sky was gray, the wind whipped clouds across the sky, and leaves flew past our windows. A week ago, we were staying and hiking in the Alps, and the contrast could not have been more striking.

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Greetings from Reit im Winkl!

As with most of my ‘Gone Hiking’ posts… this one is photo-heavy so click away…

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Gone Hiking: The Mittenwalder Hütte

It has been entirely too long since I wrote a hiking post, despite the fact that we had some good hiking days this year! But luckily, I spent this gorgeous fall day holed up in the house, sucking down liquids to head off an impending cold, and sorting through photos just to write this post. Since it was such a beautiful day, I thought it would be appropriate to look back to a few other beautiful days that we spent hiking to and from the Mittenwalder Hütte at the end of August. As per usual, this is a photo-heavy post, so I’m sending it off after the jump. Click away for mountain-y goodness!

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Silly Questions, Mountain Answers

On more than one occasion, friends have incredulously questioned the fact that I enjoy hiking in the mountains. Usually the conversation goes something like this:

Friend: So you like this hiking thing, huh?

Me: Ummm…. yes? If I didn’t like it, I probably wouldn’t do it… it’s kind of a lot of work.

Friend: Yeah,  I wouldn’t do that.

This confuses me to no end. Perhaps I don’t look like the type of person that hauls themselves up and down large expanses of rock (see: This Guy), or perhaps they just don’t get why anyone would do that for fun. But I do, and I love it.

Ages and ages ago, I wrote this post about why I love the German mountains, and every word of it is still true.  After this weekend’s trip, I thought I’d share two more reasons why this question baffles me.

I give you: Sunday’s sunset…

hochries sunsetAnd if that doesn’t convince you, how about Monday’s sunrise…

hochries sunriseYes, that is a very poorly placed flagpole, at least from our room’s window.

Flagpole or not though, those views aren’t happening at sea level.

So. Does that clear it up for anyone?

 

*Ironically, this Wednesday post is brought to you because I’m home sick from a cold that came on after sweating my way up and down this mountain.

So. Worth. It.

Gone Hiking: Untersberg, Austria

Like last year, I opted to spend my birthday in the mountains hiking. You may remember that last year we went down to Berchtesgaden, for a semi-ambitious three-day hike to and from the Watzmann house. This year we didn’t have as much time, so we decided to do a day on the Untersberg. Ever since my first visit to Salzburg, I’ve wanted to go hiking on this gorgeous mountain just south of the city. We booked ourselves into a small guesthouse just below the mountain, and set off for a drive that took longer than planned. Welcome to August on the Autobahn, kids.

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View from the hotel parking lot.

Information wasn’t tremendously plentiful online, and we set off with the plan to more or less wing it. There are several peaks on the mountain, the first of which can be reached by hike or by the cable car that leaves from the village of Grödig at the foot of the mountain. Since we only had one day and the hike up to the Geiereck peak was four hours on foot (with a gain of about 1400 meters), we opted to take the 10-minute cable car ride, and hike up at the top. Our loose plan was to hike from Geiereck to the Salzburg Hochthron (about 45 minutes), then hike across the German border to the Berchtesgaden Hochthron (maybe 2.5-3 hours?), and return, coming down the mountain back to Grödig.

In retrospect, this was perhaps overly ambitious. If everything went as planned, that would’ve involved a minimum of 7 hours hiking in a summer when we’ve been about as active as your average sloth. Luckily we got to chatting with the lovely owner of our guesthouse at breakfast, and she put the kibosh on our plans. She eyed up my flip flops (hey! I was only wearing them to the dining room and back) while telling us that the hike down was possible, but it may not be a good idea unless we were fairly experienced hikers. There were some parts where you need to hold yourself, but she wasn’t sure if ropes or any other equipment was necessary. BV is an extremely experienced hiker, but unless I have a good idea of what I’m in for, I’d rather play it safe. He also wasn’t comfortable trying it unless he had some of his gear with him, so we modified the plan to include taking the cable car up and down. That also modified the plan, as we had purchased the 24-hour Salzburg card the day before, and thus needed to ascend and descend the mountain before our 24 hours were up.

A New Plan was formed over a second cup of coffee: cable car up, hike around, hike back, cable car down, and maybe plan a little bit more for the next trip. To the pictures!

The photos above are both from previous trips… Unfortunately this time the car was packed and there was zero chance of getting a good shot. Trust me when I say it’s a great view though. I also particularly enjoy the King’s beard on the side of the ground station.

Directly above the mountain cable car station is the Geiereck peak at 1805 meters. There is also a mountain shelter there, but I believe it’s only a restaurant and not an overnight shelter. Obviously this was the most crowded point on the mountain, but it’s still beautiful.

The first time I came up this mountain it was completely enshrouded in cloud. But on this trip we got the perfect mix day. I mean…. c’mon….

untersberg5Looking ahead here, the highest point you can see is our next destination, the Salzburg Hochthron. All signs pointed to a 45-minute walk to get there, so we joined the others and set off. There were all manner of people attempting it, and it’s fairly easy. We made it in about 30 minutes, and while I will say that I was very happy to be wearing hiking shoes, there were Asian tourists in skirts with slip-on sneakers tripping up and down the stairs. Oh, and a nun.

I mostly had a problem with the stairs on some of the up/down parts. They were wooden stairs, but like many in the mountains, the wood at the front of the step is rounded (think a split log, curved side up). I get the premise, the rounded and raised top keeps stones from falling as easily, but I usually have to go down with my foot sideways, because I don’t feel comfortable balancing on the curved top when there isn’t anything to hold onto. BV trips right down them, but he has giant feet and anchors himself much better. Next time we go I have to try and get a picture of these damn stairs, because they suck. But at that time, I was more concerned about not falling in front of the children and random tourists. An older lady in front of us did fall a bit, but it was going up rather than going down. Step carefully, even in the tourist zones.

When we arrived at the Salzburg Hochthon (1853 meters), we didn’t take much of a break. Since we were now short on time, we wanted to see how far we could get. Just a quick break for photos, and then onward and downward.

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Spot the nun…

At this point, we figured we only had about 2.5 hours left before we had to catch our cable car down. We resolved to hike about an hour or so forward, then turn back and grab something to eat before the descent. There were a few different paths, so we chose the one we thought went to the Berchtesgaden Hochthron, with the thought that maybe we could at least see it, as we were definitely not going to get there that day.

 

BV found a nice-looking and meadow-filled detour for us to take when it was time for a snack and my birthday present. At this point we had left the majority of people behind, but it was still busier than a lot of the trails we’ve done so far and we thought it was best to get out of the narrow path for a break. Going into the meadow we were totally on our own, except for one girl down at the bottom of a dip, who appeared to be sketching mountain flowers.

As for the gift, feast your eyes upon this magnificence…

untersberg39Damn right that’s a deer purse. It’s amazing, and I love it so hard.

We had a little more time, so we pressed on, and were rewarded with a pretty sick view before the trail dipped down into the saddle. Some parts here were getting tricky, and we thought it best to stop there. It’s always better to stop before you have to go down and climb back up again. But before we go, pictures!

Our hike to the start of the saddle had taken us a bit more than an hour, but of course the trip back was only about 30 minutes. We took a shortcut, bypassing the Salzburg Hochthron and instead following a (way steeper than it looked) ski trail that intersected with the main path. The good part about being early to the cable car meant we had time for lunch instead of just a beer and a snack. We grabbed the last available table at the shelter, flagged down one of the incredibly busy waiters, and ordered ourselves beers and some Käsespätzle. It was delicious, but rather than taking pictures of that (boring), I give you….

I do have a love for the slightly stereotypical and sometimes cheesy Bavarian-style decor, but that toilet lid really takes it to a whole new level.

Since I can’t close this post with a picture of toilet lid (I have some standards. Not many, but some.), I’ll leave you instead with some mountain flora and fauna. Because flowers are always a good idea.

untersberg18Mmmmm. That’s more like it.

And Untersberg? Don’t you worry… we will regroup, maybe plan slightly better, and we shall be back. Rumor has it that you’re magical, and we didn’t see nearly enough.

 

Have you been to the Untersberg?