Dear Christine, would like to say 'wish you were here' but if you had been you would
been like a bear with a sore head. I'm in Arnoldstein, it's Monday morning, and I've had a night disturbed by young people in the street playing music until 4 in the morning, not the sort of thing you expect when walking in the mountains.
|Low clouds across the valley
|Trenches on the way to Zollnerseehütte
After Gasthof Valentinalm I walked to the Zollnerseehütte. This was an excellent
walk although it rained a little first thing. The best part was a long stretch of contour walking around an open green valley to a ridge and then another stretch of contour walking, once over the ridge to the Zollnerseehütte on the other side. These paths are wonderfully graded, constructed I think by the military to take supplies up to the trenches.
|Contoured military road on the way to Zollenerseehütte
Before getting onto the upland path I followed a route
through trees. A signed warned me of risk of death unless I followed a diversion. I discovered later that the death risk, caused by forestry work, had expired at the end of August, but this was only explained in a subsequent notice which of course I didn't see (too busy trying to avoid death).
There were 7 of us staying at the Zollnerseehütte. I had asked for a quiet room and was given the whole of the dormitory to myself with 4 of the others in squashed into one small room. Very nice solution as far as I was concerned.
A late joiner was a guy from Slovenia who was walking the Via Alpina from Monaco to Trieste. Very interesting man and we walked and talked together on the way to the next destination Nassfeld (although he carried on further). Incidentally, he has lost 15kg since the start of his walk which makes my weight loss on the E4 look marginal.
|Italian border post, one of thousands
Not sure if you remember the walk to Nassfeld but it's another one which
utilises old military trails and despite crossing a mountainous terrain is remarkably flat. To the SE the Julian Alps are clearly visible with their dolomite style profile. With the sun generally behind it's hard to work out the detail and what you see is more like a series of one dimensional blue grey profiles layered one in front of the other.
Stayed in a hotel in Nassfeld (there is a hotel there that offers a discount to Alpine Club members) and was able to clean up. The merino socks and T-shirt however, as advertised, don't smell, at least not as far as I'm concerned.
|Last of the summer grazing
Next day's walk (now on my own again) was along a mix of forest roads and around Eggeralm, through upland pastures. The cattle are currently in the process of being rounded up and taken down the mountain to much more confined winter quarters. There is cheese to buy everywhere but a man of habit I stuck to apple strudel and cream for my midday snack. I'm not sure if you
remember but last time we were here we were told that a tourist had seen a bear, believed to be an immigrant from Slovenia. Well since then sightings have clearly increased and signs now warn you to be careful as you are entering bear country.
I stayed at the Gasthof Starland where we stopped for a beer last time. There were just three of us there, me and an elderly Austrian couple with whom I have formed an attachment despite the fact that we can't communicate. It was suggested that we share a
room but I declined and instead went for the otherwise empty but very primitive dormitory. I was in bed by 7-30 which is a bit early even by your standards.
I'm not sure if you
remember but last time we crossed the border (just beyond the Gasthof) and went looking for a Italian hut which was supposed to be just down the hill. We couldn't find it and apparently it had been destroyed in a flood. There is now a new one, and it's even closer, and although the Gasthof was charming I think the new hut could have been a better solution.
Last day on the main route and a surprisingly tough one. Mentally you're geared up for a huge descent from the ridge down to the pass and just not prepared for a climb of 500m or so in the middle. First of
all you climb up to the summer grazing settlement of Osternig (scene of last time's encounter with a drunken herdsman - remember the discussion about the pronunciation of Höhenweg) and then a steady descent down to a pass. The route then starts what feels like an endless climb (90 mins) through eerily quiet trees (the occasional rustling from a bear) to the final ridge of the walk. It's a massive relief when at last you start to descend and then continue remorselessly descending for around 1000m. By the time I reached Thörl-Maglern, technically the end point for the walk, my feet were humming and knees aching.
|A long climb through trees
The woman at the Gasthof had given me the bus times to Villach and it took some time for me to
realise that these only applied in the week. It's about 50mins to walk to Arnoldstein and once in the Bahnhof it was clear that going to Villach was a waste of time as the train I needed to take me back along the route went through Arnoldstein. The hotel in the middle of the little town was surprisingly cheap, I now know why.