The great thing about place to place hiking is that stuff happens. Tonight we expected to be staying in a dormitory but although we are on top of a mountain we have our own room, own shower and own space. After another really tough day in the snow and the rain, getting cold with wet feet, you can't imagine how our mood has been transformed by some genuine comfort.
For reasons too complicated to repeat this was always going to be a tough day. I had turned two short days into one massive one and we were facing a 10 hour walk with rain forecast in the afternoon. There was also a big pass to cross early in the day, the Friesenbergscharte (2904m) which, given recent weather, had a lot of snow on it.
We started from Tuxer Joch Hütte in the middle of ski heaven. The Hintertux glacier provides year round skiing and there were diggers everywhere preparing the piste for next winter. Ski heaven is summer walkers hell, an ugly scared mountain side, but we decided to sup with the devil and take a cable car up to just above Spannegelhaus and slice 300m of climb off the schedule.
Catching the lift meant that we were on our own. Two other couples had decided to avoid the walk across the valley but they were many cable cars behind us and there were no foot prints to guide us up across a snow covered boulder field to the pass. We had to make our own way up, stepping gingerly on snow and rock as we climbed up the steep mountainside.
On the other side it was another world. In the distance partially covered by cloud were the huge Zillertal mountains, in the middle ground a lake and a hut, and immediately ahead was a sheer drop.
Our experience of fixed ropes has grown enormously on this trip and Christine now regards a 200m rope assisted descent as a thing of joy, even when you are descending through fresh snow.
|Tentative first steps from the Frisenbergscharte|
|Getting a grip and enjoying the Frisenbergscharte descents|
|Heading down toward the Freisenberg Haus|
|And yet more ropes|
Having dropped down we started a long long contour walk up to the border with Italy. We stopped for lunch at the Olpererhütte (where most people stop for the night) and carried on along what was a tough but frankly amazing path with huge horizontal rock slabs for much of the surface. A highlight was a herd of goats which smelt so bad that I think I have been put off goats cheese for life.
The weather forecast we picked up this morning turned out to be painfully accurate. True to form for the Alps this summer, the clouds dropped and the rain fell. Frustrating, because the views disappeared but also a bit scary as the signs were warning us that the path was graded black. It felt too late to turn back and so we pressed on, getting colder and wetter and seeing very little through the swirling cloud. Three and a half hours later we were crossing the border and climbing up to the hut and Italian alpine heaven.
|Goat's cheese anyone|
|And into Italy|