Day 2 started as day one did with a cloudless sky and wall to wall sunshine (Day 1 is here). The sun was streaming into the dorm room well before breakfast time. Downside of the dorms was definitely a lack of curtains as I’d always be awake when day broke.
We had a fine Austrian breakfast – although the black bread was a bit dry for my liking – before setting and were supplied with a lunch packet too. The Padasterjoch Haus was one of the smaller huts we stayed in and definitely the quietest.
After filling up our water bottles in the stream just below the hut with ice cold water we were on our way. Legs felt fine after day one. Probably better as I hadn’t done a 28 km run the day before but just a 10k hike.
Today’s task was to ascend up to the Silbersattel at 2650m just below the Kirchdach at 2840m. From there we had a 1000m descent over 2km to the valley which the guidebook didn’t make very appealing at all. Once we reached the valley we would have 700-800m of re-ascent to the Innsbrucker Hütte. With the harsh description of the descent we had been seeking out alternative routes the evening before as we weren’t sure when the thunder storms would come in. The hut warden made it all sound much more straightforward though so off we went. According to him it would take us 2 hours for the descent, according to the guidebook it would take three. So we’ll just have to see.
The start from the hut was very pleasant along alpine meadows in the morning sun. Gradually climbing to above 2500m. Only after that did it start getting rocky, and steep. This was also where we encountered the first bits of fixed wire and the first scramblier sections. This did start to make me wonder what the descent would look like. To take our minds off this we got distracted by a Steinbock which stood right in the path.
The steepness was very much telling as we’d slowed down a lot approaching the col with Kirchdach just above us. That said the weather and the views were amazing and well worth it. 2 hours after leaving the hut we reached Silbersattel and stopped to refuel before the descent of all descents.
There was a bit of chat if we should do Kirchdach but in the end 3 of us decided to descend and Graham who is known for bagging hills went to the top leaving his pack at the col. Just as we had arrived at Silbersattel another walker had reached it from the side we were going to descend and he went up Kirchdach with Graham while Iain, Fiona and myself started the descent. Graham would catch us somewhere on the way down.
The other walker commented that there is a lot of loose gravel so to watch out as it could be slippy. He definitely was right about that especially over the first 2-300m of descent. Iain descended first but always making sure that we were never too far behind. The descent effectively nearly continuously angled at around 45 degrees on a mix of slippery gravel and rock. Early on there were a few smaller ridges to walk out onto and then drop away from but once we ascended more into a gully it started to feel overall safer even with some more technical sections still thrown in.
Fiona and I in particular descended quite cautiously for the most part. Once we were about half way down the path became more normal and we could pick up the speed a bit. Annoyingly every time we thought we had seem he last of the technical stuff another section turned up. It just seemed to be one after another after another and as that went on the descent never seemed to end. All the technical sections were secured by fixed wires or staples though so it never felt dangerous. Getting closer to the bottom we also got closer to a scree run which I was determined to use, even though it turned out not to be very good. Just below the end of that we finally made it to the bottom of the descent which ended at a river crossing.
Relief as we could rest, refuel and enjoy sitting by a mountain stream in the midday sun. One funny thing about the descent was that there were 3 benches at various precarious locations on the way down. Picture below with Iain sitting on one of them. They had obviously concluded that the descent was so tough that a bit of rest would be needed. Or was it for the ascent? It did nearly take us 3 hours to get down in the end so the book was righter than the warden. This would be a one off though. Graham caught us about half way down and his report of the final ascent to Kirchdach was that it was pretty easy and the reported ladder was to get the summit – so right at the top.
Ascent time: Just 800m and about 4km on a very well defined track but there was one thing in the way. An Alm – the Karalm – with beer, which Graham and I couldn’t pass buy. So while Fiona and Iain power walked – well Iain did and Fiona went more leisurely – up to the Innsbrucker Hütte, Graham and I had what we felt was a well deserved post descent beer, and in Grahams case omelette too. We knew we were taking a bit of a risk as the clouds above the Habicht (3277m; tomorrow’s target) – which was just above us and on the same route as the Innsbrucker Hütte were looking threatening. We might end up ascending in a thunder storm.
The ascent to Innsbrucker Hut is nothing exciting and apart from having Habicht to the right it was basically a hill walkers motorway which had recently been upgraded. I could see Fiona up ahead so tried to close the gap as best as I could. Somewhere between 3-4 pm we reached the hut. Iain had already checked in (he was very proud of his 61 minute ascent), Fiona got to the hut just before I did and we checked in too. Graham had a bit of a faff on the way up so arrived a bit later. Iain’s speed ascent saw him overtake a number of walkers who were on their first day of the Stubaier hut to hut tour and unbeknown to us at the time one of the groups was from Cumbernauld in Scotland and we’d spent the next 7 days trading places with them.
The Innsbrucker Hut (2370m) is notably bigger than the Padasterjoch Haus and sits on a col (Pinnisjoch) between the Gschnitz valley and the Stubai valley 1000m above the valley bottom. Anything that was needed at the hut could only get there by goods cable car. There was no vehicular access. This would be the norm at most hut we stayed in. The hut was also much busier as we had now joined the main hut to hut route. Much busier meaning, it was booked out with around 150 places.
As you might have guessed we didn’t get rained on on the way up and it stayed dry a fair bit beyond our arrival but by dinner time the rain, thunder and lightning had well had well and truly started and would not abate well into the night.
Iain and Graham a lovely Austrian Gröstl for dinner and I think I had Austrian dumplings while Fiona had Spaghetti Bolognese which was the climber’s dinner. We spent the evening discussing the next day and went to bed between 9 and 10. Even if the hut was big the beds were some of the narrowest we seemed to experience. Nonetheless 2nd full day done with a very exciting descent and a total of ‘only 10 km’ and 1400m of ascent. We have now joined the main Stubai Hut to Hut route. I mentioned previously that we had set off from an alternative start point.
Day 3 would see us go separate ways for the day but more on that in the next post.