Holiday report in 12 posts – Stubaier Höhenweg: Preamble
Most of the content I put on this blog has been race reports of the events I have taken part in. Admittedly even our holidays over the last few years involved an event of one kind or another. The plan for this year’s holiday actually didn’t include an event but instead we opted for the plan that my partner had been hatching for the last year and a bit. She fancied a multiday hut to hut walk in the Austrian Alps. During our trip I thought it would be nice to actually reflect on the walk in a series of blog posts.
From Christmas onwards we got serious about this obtaining guide books and maps and asking around the Jacobites Mountaineering Club (which we are members of) to see who might want to join us. Eventually are group of 4 formed, flights were booked, kit discussed and hut places reserved – well once they opened for summer business.
As I had 2 major European races planned we also needed to coordinate when would be best to go. The original plan was to combine it with the Zugspitz Ultra Trail trip but this in the end didn’t seem feasible and considering the weather I had at the time may not have turned out to be the best move anyway. Later in the year would have clashed with the trip to Chamonix for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. So we settle on 2 weeks bang in the middle of these 2 events – the last 2 weeks in July.
Being hillwalkers we did have most of our kit already but we invested in a pair of light weight ice axes for any glacier traverses we would do and I invested in a pair of hill walking shoes (as opposed to my heavy duty hill walking boots). This being the middle of summer we did try and pack light and as I owned tons of lightweight hill running kit a lot of that was going instead of the heavier hill walking kit I have. Upon the first kit weight comparison this did mean that I had the lightest pack and that still felt heavy.
The 4 members of the party thus were: Iain Kinnell – very avid and knowledgeable hill walker who has been to the Alps many a time and has many a story to tell about huts in the Swiss Alps. Graham Pearson – Has probably been walking abroad equally as much as Iain but less in the Swiss Alps. He is meanwhile well into his 2nd Munro round and will bag any peak he can find. Fiona Milligan – my partner – who has done 2 trips to the Pyrenees and has roughly 100 munros left on her list. And myself – who has apparently done lots of walking in Austrian mountains at a very young age and has forgotten most of that.
Fiona and I both seemed to have a bit of a fear of exposed places so we went to the mountaineering club’s Skye meet to do exposed stuff and get our head round it. The meet didn’t have the best weather and we didn’t get quite as much head sorting done as we would have liked. Oh well, the experience of Iain and Graham should see us through the 10 days of hut to hut walking at between 2000m and 3000m above sea level.
The route we chose to do was the Stubaier Höhenweg or as the guide book describes it the Stubai Rucksack Route – as opposed to the Glacier route. This route takes in 8 huts on the main route with one additional one if you pick the alternative start. We opted for the alternative start.
The route basically starts at Southern foot of the Stubai valley South of Innsbruck and then circumnavigates the entire valley until you return to the foot of the valley from the North side again. Start and end point if done like that is Fulpmes im Stubaital. We had chosen a different end point and with that a different final hut too. My parents live just outside Innsbruck and I fancied finishing the walk outside their doorstep which we eventually did.
Over the course of the weekend of 18/19 July the team gradually descended on Innsbruck. Fiona and I were staying at my parents place for the first few days and I wanted to get some hill runs done ahead of us starting the walk. We met up with Graham and Iain for a pre start dinner on the Sunday evening. They would head to a place called Maria Waldrast from Fulpmes the next day and we would rendez vous with them there on the Tuesday morning (July 21). Iain and Graham were contemplating heading up Serles too which is a very prominent mountain on the Innsbruck Skyline.
When we arrived in Innsbruck temperatures were in the 30s C which made for some very hot running on the 2 days pre walk. It also made for some hot walking in the first few days. We were treated to typical hot Alpine weather with it being oppressingly hot until the thunderstorms came.
I did 2 runs before we set off, one on the Sunday up to the Birgitzer Alm which is 6.4km in distance and 900m of ascent above my parents’ house and has become my go to run whenever I am at home. I have to date mostly done this in winter or semi winter conditions so was looking forward to a summer run up there without any snow to be found. I was also curious as to how close to the hour mark I could get to reach the top. 66 minutes it was in the end. Target now is do go sub 60 at some point. It is a good run to do as you are easily up and down within 2 hours so can fit it in before lunch or dinner.
Run to the Birgitzer Alm and back:
On the Monday – the day before the walk started – I’d sought out a route that would take me round the Nockspitze mountain ticking off a number of Alms on the way on what is known as the Innsbrucker Almenweg. I’d earmarked around 3 hours – maybe 3.5 – for this run, so let Fiona and my dad know that I’d be back for a late lunch around 2pm. The route went up to the Birgitzer Alm again but then I continued to climb up to the Birgitzkoepflhaus which is just above 2000m. This is also the top of one of the chairlifts coming out of the Axamer Lizum. I continued to head south in the midday heat, the path rising more gently now. When I reached the junction to the top of the Nockspitze there were only another 250m of ascent left to the summit. So although I hadn’t planned to go up, it felt like an opportunity I couldn’t really miss. So I summited that quickly then returned to the original path dropping down to the Pfarrach Alm and thus picking up the Almenweg. Over the course of the next couple of hours I was contouring around the side of the Marchreisenspitze and the Nockspitze at roughly 1600-1800m ticking off Alm after Alm – Reither Alm, Raitisser Alm, Mutterer Alm. Most of this was on lovely single track. On my final descent I made the mistake of choosing to head for Götzens instead of the Götzner Alm which seemed to prolong my descent. Even before I got to the Mutterer Alm I was well aware that I had both underestimated time and distance and lunch would be rather later than 2pm. Oops. 28.8km and around 4.5 hours on some berries, some jelly babies and lots of alpine water. I always sported a lovely sun burn on my shoulders because I kept my top off for too long. Made for some sore backpack carrying over the following week. I think Graham was pleased to note that I had trashed my legs a bit pre walk start.
Nockspitze and Almenweg run:
Most of the following week would be walking with a heavy pack but I had earmarked a few potential days were I would include a run. These would be valuable ahead of the Mont Blanc race as none of them would start below 2000m.
Tune in over the next days for text and photo blog posts documenting the 10 days of walking we did and the bit of running I did. Day 1 is here.