The Berliner Höhenweg is a famous Trial in the Zillertaler Alps, taking you across a few awesome 3000m summits on a normal 7 day hike. For some Trail-Runners, an accomplish in 48 hours is not a problem. Most Sports climbers are actually lazy hikers. Boulderers are not much better either. The mass is definitely more comfortable with shorter hikes and easy access to these spots. Nobody is a friend of heavy backpacks and when the first symptoms of Herniated Disks appear, you’ll stop carrying a backpack altogether and Bingo! Short access is the new magical word. So either you climb, you boulder or you hike. And we took the chance this summer to take a closer look at one of the higher Boulder areas in Zillertal at 2042m and chose just to hike.
I wanted to see something different. Do something different. Hiking high up summits at 3000m altitude is a welcome change and Schönbichlerhorn in the Zillertaler Alps was an easy summit to tick off my list . The first reservations was soon cancelled by heavy rain and snow falls, but we had better luck the second time round and made a spontaneous decision to hit the trials in the middle of August. I had 9 kg on my back as I locked the car door and headed for the bus station.
You can’t always run away from High Season
Hiking in summer here can be an ordeal. You share your summit with 200 other people, your bedroom with 30 other strangers. You decide not to use the toilet in the huts. You came in late and missed your dinner. You hardly find a place to sit. You sit in the midst of 150 drunken, merry, unshowered civilians not wearing any “no stink” garments inviting you to join in their sway to go with the “Hüttenmusi” music. You decide to return to your bed, only to find another 10 kids giggling away and playing hide and seek between the mattresses. Sigh. Panic rushes through your blood. Did you forget to bring your earplugs? 10 o’clock and the light goes out. Silence at last, you think. The silence broke 10 minutes later when the first person started snoring, followed by the second… I suddenly began to understand why so many prefer sleeping directly under the stars instead.
Gears light and heavy
It didn’t turn out to be such a nightmare but 3 sleepless nights followed. We hardly met anyone on the way as we made sure we were the last to leave the breakfast table and the huts each day. The trial was tiring and trying for me. Not because it was so difficult, but wrong gear can be very frustrating. With every step I made, I cursed my old leather mountain boots that was much too heavy and stiff for this trial. My Approach Shoes would have been sufficient with all the laid out slabs on the path. I couldn’t believe how much work was done to make the trials as comfortable as possible for the rich and glorious then to reach the summits. I imagined them having each their own personal sherpa to carry their backpacks or them up the summit. Carrying a backpack one forth of your own weight is a burden. But the DSLR had to come along. There would’ve been no forgiveness leaving without it. Happy with the few light weight garments that keeps you dry and warm, in a “no stink” state for a couple of days, I knew that at least I wouldn’t have to shy off at the dining table, even though nobody cares.
We had rain in the beginning, snow the night before and blazing heat the days after. And I was glad that everything that I packed in was correct. A few new products that came into my post box lately accompanied me on this trip and proved themselves well. The indestructible waterproof bag from aLoksak protected my Iphone from the rain, the tiny solar flashlight Rubytec Kao came in handy at night when you start searching your way in the dark to the toilets in the mountain hut. The luminous glow made it real easy to find it in the dark. A normal headlamp would’ve been ~400g heavier. It was perfect for overnight stays in mountain huts or after climbing sessions in the evening as the day turn to night. If power runs low, you can produce more energy by cranking the little integrated handle. The Tonga Cleverbag came in handy when you discover that are no garbage bins in the mountain huts in Austria, coz they want you to bring your own garbage back to the valley. These bags are tear resistant, so you wont have to worry about leakage into your clean clothing. 7 m is what you get from this lightweight 35 g , 3×4 cm dispenser with an integrated cutter. The bag is biodegradable which gives it a plus point. These things didn’t weigh much and it was easy to stuff them in any corner of your backpack.
On Top of the World
We reached Schönbichlerhorn (3134m) at midday. The big crowds were gone and we had the summit cross “almost” to ourselves. (Just 15 alpine tourists!!) The view was magnificent to the neighbouring Große Möseler (3480m) and Hochfeiler (3509m) in the far distant. Most of the snow that fell the night before has melted off the peak, and the rest of the trial was flattened by the rushing crowds to the Berliner Hütte. After a small snack and rest, we started our descend down the easy (for us!) Via Feratta and reached the normal path a short while later. 4 long, miniscus killing, descending hours followed before reaching the Berliner Hütte. The path takes you through different landscapes, a few passages of paved slabby paths with always with a view to the Waxeckkees Glacier until you reach a favourite sunbathing spot at the foot of the glacier. A fat and lazy Marmot laid his carcass out in the scorching sun, not interested in the many alpine tourists that passed by. Little streams flowed through the plateau and flowed later steeply down to the valleys of the huts. We reached a junction where a left turn brings you to the visible Alpenrose Hütte, and the right brings you across the roaring river with another 200m ascend(!) in 45 mins to the Berliner Hütte. Arriving there, we were welcomed with a crowded hut filled with sun joyed mountain tourists and rewarded ourselves with a refreshing cool Zillertaler Schwarzbeer.
I was glad I didn’t leave home without my Goal Zero battery Pack and was even happier with my decision when I found all electrical sockets occupied by other hungry empty smartphones in the evening. Staying overnight in the Berliner Hütte was an utter experience. Situated at 2042m, you can only reach this place by foot. No bus or jeep would drive you there. It was set up in a wonderful landscape surrounded by numerous trials to other peaks and glacier. Built in 1879 and still maintaining most of its original material and style, you could almost feel the spooky souls of the people who once seeked refuge here. Judging on the furniture, you knew that the rich and famous came here to stay. There was even a service bell in the room for room service! (deactivated today) You can choose to dine in one of the 3 huge dining halls, each with a different name and decorated with huge chandeliers. The large wooden terrace outside is a wonderful place to dine while the sun shines. That night, the moon shone with all its might and reflected its shine on the glaciers. It’s blinding rays fell indirectly on my bed. I felt like The Princess and the Pea on my high bed. But finally, I had a night with a room to call my own. No snore, no stink, it was quiet.
But I stayed wide awake.
Full moon and another sleepless night. Don’t ask me why. The view to the glacier at twilight was magical and I tried snapping a few pictures that turned out awful without my tripod. The dinner we had in one of the 3 huge Halls in the Berliner Hütte stood in my stomach. Too much… heavy dinners before sleeping is torture for me. I tried making a walk through the hut, but changed my mind half way when I realized how loud each wooden plank queeked with each step. I returned to my bed and started counting marmots.
The next morning started off with a hearty breakfast, as we set off to the boulder area, which was just 10 minutes away. We passed by 2 domestic pigs, not too sure of their fate in this altitude. Or have you seen pigs giving milk yet?
The Boulder Blocks has a wonderful setting below the eroded Glacier with some 50++ routes between 6 – 8a FB. This was perhaps the moment when I thought that it was so worth the sweat and blisters I have collected along the way to be just in a place with so much serenity and beauty. Beautiful lines in Gneis covered the area, and I start forgetting the pain in my back and the burning blisters. 3 hours later, after fingering most of the routes and solving some of the high ball problems visually, we made our way down back to our car, where I could finally place my heavy backpack down and free my toes from all the blisters on each little toe as I slip willingly into my flip-flops. More than happy to have made this trip possible in such an awesome weather and ambience, we knew we will be back someday, with a crash pad on our backs, taking the shorter access the next time, of course. ;-) and sleeping the night out under the stars.
More pictures of the little trip: