No snow, which made the Winter Walking in the Austrian Tyrol rather tame. A lovely group though, and an excellent Exodus leader.
Photos are in my Austria, December 2016 album on Flickr, and here’s what we did:
Saturday 17 December 2016 (photos)
Innsbruck Airport is tiny and Bus F was waiting outside to take me from the Flughafen to the Hauptbahnhof where I boarded the 14:19 to Steinach in Tirol (only slightly unnerved by the change of name – the OEBB, Wikipedia and the Tyrol Tourism website for Wipptal all call it Steinach am Brenner).
An hour to wait for the bus to Trins, perfect timing for cold pizza and a couple of chapters of Benedict Jacka’s Hidden – plus my first experience of Austria’s absence of a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces.
Exodus leader Bob Mason was waiting at the Hotel Wienerhof‘s bus stop, and the other lady who got off the bus turned out to be Marion who was also on the trip.
Rooms sorted (and photos taken of the valley and mountain views), time for tea and chat in the cosy dining room.
The group flight was delayed (due to fog which lingered in London all day), so Marion and I started dinner à deux but the rest of the group arrived around 8pm and caught up with us for dessert.
No snow, but feeling very festive.
Sunday 18 December 2016 (photos)
Gschnitztal day walk – 15km at c.1280m altitude
On the bus for the short hop up the Gschnitztal valley to the outskirts of Gschnitz, the next village along the valley, then an easy walk following the partially frozen river Gschnitzbach and crossing frosty meadows to the roadhead at the forest edge.
Wonderful frost crystals on the trees and plants, and frosty white fields.
Coffee in a lovely gasthof and a mooch around the recreated riverside mill village below the Sandes waterfall before retracing our steps to Gschnitz village for lunch at Gasthof Alpenrose.
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking back to Trins through the Gschnitztal valley, returning to the Hotel Wienerhof in time for tea and cake then a couple of hours spare before dinner.
Monday 19 December 2016 (photos)
Obernbergtal day walk – 13km with 400m ascent, 250m descent, 1600m max altitude
Lots of icy sections to navigate, but short enough not to need spikeys aka “yak trax”.
A beautiful stroll around the lake and a look inside the Maria am See chapel then back to and through Obernberg village glimpsing a couple of red squirrels at the end of the forest track and passing water mills and farms en route to St. Nikolaus church.
Lunch at Almi’s Berghotel – the “Bob Special” proving an excellent choice for the meat eaters – with a great view of the church and back up the Obernbergtal valley.
Bus back along the Wipptal to Steinach station, walking the 4km back to Trins along the quiet riverside roads that form Trins Wiesenweg 49.
Back in Trins, Marion, Annie and I paid a quick visit to St George’s Church just before the light went before adjourning to the Hotel Wienerhof for what became our regular late afternoon/early evening pattern: tea and cake, free time, dinner.
This evening our meal coincided with the local Ladies Choir’s AGM and Christmas Dinner – and we were treated to six short festive songs after another very fine meal.
I forgot: we had glühwein in the hotel’s cellar-cum-shop after tea and cake – super!
Tuesday 20 December 2016 (photos)
Schmirntal day walk – 13km with 300m ascent, 500m descent, 1650m max altitude
An easy walk along forest tracks with glimpses out to the mountains and avalanche protection fences above the village of Schmirn, and on through the forest to Toldern via another chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
In Toldern we visited a tiny farm, buying cheese, sausage and elderberry liqueur and seeing the six Tyrolean Grey cows snug in their winter stalls before heading to Gasthof Olpererblick for an early lunch. My choice of apricot cake proved a good one.
A short hop on the bus took us up to the hamlet of Madern for a stroll up towards Kasern before returning along the road and through the avalanche protection tunnel to Toldern where we took the minibus back to Trins for tea, cake and dinner – and planning for tomorrow’s free day.
Wednesday 21 December 2016 (photos)
Blaser ascent – 16km (approx) with 1000m ascent, 1000m descent, 2241m max altitude
The trip’s free day provided my personal highlight – Marion and I walked up to the top of the Blasergipfel (2241m), the mountain overlooking Trins, on easy tracks through the forest and footpaths across open moorland to the cross and panorama that mark the peak, all under clear blue skies and warm sunshine.
Superb views from the peak and after our picnic lunch sat at the picnic table by the Blaser Hütte (2176m) and some silly photos in the snow it was back down to the Hotel Wienerhof to catch up with the rest of the group over the afternoon’s tea and cake and to hear what they’d got up to.
We took Radweg 523 up and Radweg 524 down – pretty much as described (in German) here.
Thursday 22 December 2016 (photos)
Noßlachhütte day walk – 15.5km with 300m ascent, 650m descent, 1760m max altitude
Leaving the Hotel Wienerhof on foot, we walked along the Trins Wiesenweg 49 to the Bergeralm-Bahnen ski lift and took a gondola up to the Bergeralm at 1600m. After soaking up the sun, and admiring the skiers, snow and scenery, we set off along forest tracks towards the Noßlachhütte.
Even with a few stops for see-saws, frozen waterfalls and other scenery, we reached the Noßlachhütte a little after 12 noon and spent a leisurely lunch hour (plus) enjoying the sunshine and mountain views.
Retracing our steps we left the main track just before it reached Bergeralm and continued down to Hotel Humlerhof where we indulged in a warming mug of glühwein and general silliness with the table decorations.
After dinner, an excellent talk from one of the Steinach/Gschnitztal Mountain Rescue team.
Friday 23 December 2016 (photos)
Maria Waldrast day walk – 11km with 500m ascent, 500m descent, 1878m max altitude
Two 4 wheel cars took us to the very fine monastery buildings at Maria Waldrast from whence we walked along forest tracks to the Cafe Koppeneck by the Serlesbahnen ski lift, with fantastic views out over the Stubaital and the Stubai Alps.
Back to Maria Waldrast for lunch in the Klostergasthof, then up to the larch chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary and on up through the forest to Waldraster Jöchl. Super views of Serles and Blaser from the north on our descent.
For our final afternoon tea at the Hotel Wienerhof, Bob and Roswitha treated us to port, warm mince pies and home made viennese biscuits in the cellar. Lovely.
Packing then our final meal and thank yous all round.
Saturday 24 December 2016 (photos)
Early breakfast then all aboard the excellent Four Seasons transfer to Innsbruck Airport for me, Marion and Annie.
Another good flight courtesy of Monarch Airlines, but a bit of a wait for the first Thameslink train back to Farringdon – where Phil was waiting.
Christmas Eve featured family followed by cheese, port and Alan Bennett.