Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Austrian Skinnyhike Report

"I drove from Munich to Warth, Vorarlberg in Austria, on the Sunday afternoon with Polly . . . The day dawned blue and we set off from the Hochkrumbachpass at 10:00 towards the Widdersteinhuette. I quickly stripped off my t-shirt + shorts and we were heading steadily up the slope towards the hut above when two middle-aged women came trundling down and passed us with a minimal exchange of good cheer. Another walker, and more uphill, and after an hour or so, Polly and I reached the traversing trail from the hut which goes along the base of the soaring cliffs of the Widderstein above us. Here we had a stupendous view of the Salopaner ski region, a remote lake and mild forests tucked away on the other side of the valley.

We met our first "Gormley", a metal man built and installed by the British Artist Anthony Gormley who specialises in placing these "installations" in interesting positions around the globe. He has a naked man on Waterloo bridge, and several in the Vorarlberg region. We were going to "pick up" a few on our way around the high traversing trail which snuck under the steep cliffs above, and wended it's way to the end of the ridge, a Gormley half-way along the flat path below, and another on the shoulder of the ridge ahead of us.

Two more walkers, one descending from the Widderstein itself. We saw a number of mountain gophers, or Murmel-Tier to the locals, or heard their high pitched peep-peeping, as we approached their dry holes in the ground.

Polly went tear-arsing after them, and of course they nipped under ground just before she got too close. I managed to stop her a couple of times with a well-timed "Frisbee" distraction call. I managed to get quite close to one particular gopher for the camera.

We strode on, with Polly taking a dip in a snow lake and the opportunity for a refreshing drink. Another couple, and a small family, and an exchange of pleasantries, before I headed across the valley to the ridge on the opposite side.

One more Gormley, right on the shoulder again, where I broke my camera trying to get a clever shot of us, Polly, the Gormley and I, by precariously balancing my camera on top of my rucksack, on a loose and rocky slope... with predictable consequences.

Walking along the ridge was simply gorgeous, a view down to Schroecken on one side and across to the Braunarlspitze massife, the Widderstein behind us, and all around huge rocks pushing their way up through the mountainous turf, a gentle breeze to accompany the bright warm sunshine at 2000m.

We kept along the narrow ridge, passing two male walkers, another couple, and finally a man and two fairly mature ladies. The first lady exclaimed with a smile when she saw me: "my goodness, a naked man - what are we two 'jungfrauen', (young girls, implying maidens/virgins), to do - we have never seen such a thing!" I had to laugh, and they passed with otherwise good grace, but who knows what they made of the equally naked metal Gormley they were about to encounter on the cusp of the ridge we were all walking along.

I reached the top of the Hoeferspitze (2131m) at approx 13:00 and time for a short lunch break. At the actual summit was the customary cross and sign-in book, and an appallingly high number of what appeared to be bloated flying ants, so we tucked down on the windy side for a bite.

The views were glorious, the position serene, but when one's walking, one has to keep moving. Polly and I set off to retrace our steps along the ridge back to the last Gormley (which the maidens would have passed quite recently), and then followed the brow of the hill more or less back to where I'd parked the car, just off-road (to avoid paying the fees for the vast ski-car-park at the pass. Returning to the B&B for an early shower I stayed the night as I was a tad dehydrated from the high sunshine, and exertions of the day." - Rich

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