2 valleys run:

The weather app for the region on the phone seemed to have the same weather for every day of the walk: hot with thunder storms later. So in theory that meant get up early and get the walking done while it was cooler and dry. The getting up early wasn’t really a problem as depending on what other hut visitors were up to there was usually someone stirring from 6am and breakfast was either 6:30 or 7am. So it would usually be just after 8am that we’d be on our way.

After 2 relatively big days the plan for Day 3 felt lighter in more than one way. We would be staying at the Innsbrucker Hut for 2 nights which meant we could leave kit behind and also the planned day was shorter. I’d been in 2 minds about my own plans for that day. The general plan was to climb Habicht but the fact that we were staying at the same hut again also presented an opportunity for me to do a long training run. I opted for the latter as it would give me the training run I wanted and I still had reservations about going up Habicht which I had bailed off about 20 years ago with my sister – apparently because of one of the snow fields.

One of the joys of running in the mountains is when all the hill walkers have set off I can still hang around for an a leisurely start and still in my head get more done in the end. So after the others had set off to climb Habicht, I got my running stuff together (bumbag with a few essentials and my New Balance Minimus running shoes) to first descend from the Innsbrucker Hut to the South and then after reascending descend to the North and come back up – this being the ascent we had done the previous afternoon.

It was a glorious and hot morning again and I set off for the best part of a 1000m descent into the Gschnitz valley. There are actually 2 ascent routes to the Innsbrucker Hut from the Gschnitz Valley one from Gschnitz and one from the Feuerstein Hotel which is a couple of kms up the road from Gschnitz. This allowed me to make this into a round trip.

In contrast to yesterday’s 1000m descent this one was all on good trail with grass banks either side and half way down I’d descend into the forest for some forest trails. Nonetheless it did drop relentlessly with less than 5km in distance covered. As the day got hotter misty clouds started to developed and I was running through some light fluffy warm cloud. There were only a few walkers around on this trail. I’d passed a group early on and then a few more just before I bottomed out.

Walkers reactions to me bounding around the hills were interesting from respect and understanding as this group did, to comments regarding hurting knees and others muttering ‘hardcore’ under their breath. Although runners were a seldom sight I did spot the odd one over the course of the 10 days.

I really enjoyed the descent which had a bit of scree in places and I was trying to get used to my footing in a pair of trainers that weren’t really designed for trail running but they were giving me enough grip as long as I didn’t try running on wet rock. When I got to Gschnitz – a place I have done some cross country skiing in before – I had a couple of kms of road running before I could re-ascend. I got down in around 50 min (according to the signage it would be 2 hours walking). As it was a lovely day I took some time out and sat by the side of the path enjoying the sun and checking my latest messages.

There also seemed to be a lot of forestry work going on with helicopters moving wood and a temporary cable car bringing logs down from the hill side. Parts of the mountainside was shut off for this and as I continued I started to realise that I may not be able to reascend on my chosen route.

I headed past the Hotel Feuerstein to the bottom of the reascent route having passed through a ‘no entry’ sign. 3 walkers came towards who I had recognised from the hut, so I thought, if they managed to get down, I can get up. I just had to find the entry point. I did: A hidden battered sign, which seemed a bit unusual. I scrambled up for a few minutes into lots of forestry work debris and started to realise that this wasn’t going to happen. Back down and follow a track further west to see where this took me. After about 500m it took a sharp right and headed uphill. Promising. At its next turn I spotted a single track again which looked as if it had been cleared from debris and started to hike uphill. If the descent was steep then this ascent was steeper with no shade on a south facing slow. It was a bit of a slog to be honest. My recollection is that this is the climb I had done with my sister many years ago but maybe we had actually done the climb from Gschnitz. I was going from mountain stream to mountain stream for water to cool off. Finally I topped out onto a flatter section and good add a little bit of running before the final hike back up to the hut.

I took a short break at the col relishing in the fact that it was only midday and I’d already done 1000m up and down. I did have a fleeting thought that I could make it a really easy day and leave it there. The thought didn’t last and I started a speedy descent down to the Karalm where Graham and I had our beer yesterday. The wide path definitely helped for a quick descent as I didn’t have to watch my footing at all. I decided as it was past lunchtime now that I would stop and have a bit to eat and something to drink. Apfelstrudel was on order whilst watching a bunch of Spanish tourists cause chaos.

I decided to head a bit further North first heading for Elferhaus before heading back. This was mostly to let the strudel digest before starting my speed ascent back to the Innsbrucker Hut. I was keen to see by how much I would beat Iain’s 61 minutes from the day before when he speed hiked up. I felt he had put in a very solid effort. I went up with a mixture of power hiking and running where it didn’t flatten out enough and topped out in 47 minutes. It was just after 3pm after I returned to the hut.

The others had returned from Habicht not long before and had a grand day getting to the top before the cloud started covering it. Fiona felt that I wouldn’t have had a problem with the mountain myself. Maybe another day I will get to the top of Habicht after all. See below for Fiona’s account and pictures of the Habicht walk.

As the sun was still out we had a nice afternoon on the hut patio drinking beer and reading our books. But similar to the previous evening as darkness started to fall the thunder storm made its appearance. This one definitely was very close and kept us awake for a bit of the night. Interestingly either this thunder storm or the one the previous night had taken out the huts phone link so we observed one of the hut staff hanging over the side of the patio trying to get a reception one morning.

So day 3 with a bit of a difference where we technically stayed put but had a rewarding and challenging day nonetheless.

For my part I’d done 20.7 km with 2100m of ascent while the others had gone up to the highest point so far at 3277m. Tomorrow we would move on, closer to the glaciers.

 Morning views, looking south over the Gschnitz valley from the Innsbrucker Hut.

Morning views, looking south over the Gschnitz valley from the Innsbrucker Hut.

A misty early descent

Then the sun started coming through.

View from the valley bottom (Gschnitz)

Looking down to the Hotel Feuerstein from the steep ascent.

Looking across to Tribulaun.

The Innsbrucker Hut from the Pinnis Joch.

Looking across the the track leading up to the Pinnis Joch and the Innsbrucker Hut from above the Karalm.

Habicht – probably the highest point on the walk for those that did it, but that was to change (3277m): (by Fiona Milligan)

“It was a nice sunny morning and we were happy to walk with light packs. We looked up at the mountain and worked out that given our starting height and the summit height the ascent we had to do was equivalent to climbing a Munro. That made it sound a bit easier! We climbed up over lots of rocks and blocks for a while. There was a section over some slabs that was protected by wires to hold on to. Spectacular views over the Gschnitz valley which was filling up with cloud, and there was a big cloud sheet over Innsbruck as well. After the slabs there was a long straightforward climb over yet more blocks. Eventually we got up to the glacier – really just a snow patch these days. The red and white marks didn’t actually take you across the snow but around the top, but there was a line of footprints you could follow across the snow too. From there we could see the summit cross ahead of us. It didn’t look very technical, so on we went. Eventually the paint marks took us to a set of fixed wires that led us along the summit ridge. The wires were useful, but the drop from there was only down to an area of snow and it didn’t feel very exposed. The wires led us right up to the summit with its big cross. The cross has a box with a book in it – Iain filled out the book and we all took plenty of photos of the views which were getting slightly obscured by the cloud which had continued to bubble up. We had some lunch and then headed down. The cloud did come in, but there were plenty of red and white marks to follow. We got back down to the bottom of the slab section and hit a problem. Graham had left his walking poles there, concluding that they were going to be a nuisance if there was a lot of technical ground to cross. Iain had got down first, and I wasn’t far behind him. Clear of the technical section we stopped to wait for Graham to catch up.

“OK, very funny, I’ll have my poles back now,” he said.

“Poles? We don’t have your poles,” was the reply.

Well, they were not where Graham had left them. This was really quite a problem because they were not actually Graham’s poles but a pair he had borrowed from Karl’s parents when his own started to break off at the tip on the first day of the walk. There was nothing we could do, so we went back down to the hut – and there were the poles, propped up outside the door. So all was well that ended well. Habicht was a nice straightforward hill with not much that was technical and nothing too exposed. I’m sure we’ll get Karl up it one day!”


Look back at the Preamble

or the walk over the Kesselspitze

or the walk over the Silbersattel.

View back down to the hut from the ascent route up Habicht and across to Kirchdach. (photo: Fiona M.)

The snowfield (formerly glacier). Photo: Fiona M.

Iain filling in the ‘Gipfelbuch’. Photo: Fiona M.

Looking up the Gschnitz Valley from the summit of Habicht (Photo: Fiona M.)

Fiona and Iain with part of the summit cross (photo: Graham P.)