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Up in the Alps

Published Mon 15 October 2007 23:26 (+1300)
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The view from Patsch, bright & early
The view from Patsch, bright & early

I jumped out of my bed in Patsch at a sprightly 7am, but despite racing through the morning formalities and arriving at the bus stop on time I still managed to miss my bus – must have been early.

Looking over Innsbruck from the bottom of the Nordpark
Looking over Innsbruck from the bottom of the Nordpark

Stand around for a bit feeling annoyed (the services are pretty infrequent in the weekend), rubbing my cold hands together etc, before giving up and starting walking. I make a half-hearted attempt to hitch-hike but no-one's interested, so I just keep walking down the main road.

There's a field full of cows halfway down, more cowbell – lots more actually, these guys don’t just have one bell on the leader, they’ve all got one. The alternate cowbell theory is that they're to help the owners find them if they wander off on the hills.

Stand about in the crisp morning sunshine listing to the pleasant melodic tones for a bit, but I’ve got a mountain to get to so head on.

I get slightly lucky when I reach one of the lower towns, before the next bus down the rest of the hill comes another bus I didn't know about which turns out to go straight to my destination, skipping Innsbruck central itself, yay.

Jump on that one and have a chat to a friendly local IT professional and later a visiting South African couple on the way, and 30-40 mins later I’m at the foot of the Nordpark cable car up the Hungerburg.

Innsbruck and beyond from Hafelekar
Innsbruck and beyond from Hafelekar
Looking down the Alps, from Hafelekar
Looking down the Alps, from Hafelekar
Valleys and mountains, from Hafelekar
Valleys and mountains, from Hafelekar

The journey up is in two segments, the first takes you to Seegrube at 1905m, and then the second up to Hafelekar – 2330m!

I'm a mountain noob but they say that this mountain has the steepest ski route in Europe. All I can tell is, it's damn high, it's really cold, and it's got the best deep fluffy snow.

I had thought that maybe then, at the end of summer, it might have thawed down enough that I could go for a walk along one of the trails around the high bit of the mountain, but nope – it's very definitely still a job for full mountaineering gear, and it would be quite suicidal to head onto those trails with anything less.

So I settle for zipping about nearish the terminal hut to look at the fantastic vistas from either side of the ridge.

The views are pretty spectacular; one one side, to the South, you look over the Innsbruck city with the Wipptal river cutting a gleaming path through the middle; past that there's verdant pastures up the valleys through the next mountain range, giving way to dark forests on the steeper slopes which in turn give way to snowy peaks.

Going back from the other side of the building, there's the craggy top cliffs of the mountain I'm on, and past them, from most points you can see just more and more mountains in the range. Great scenery. The dark clouds flowing around just above us really complete the effect.

I go up a little further to take some more photos, thinking I could do a really great big panaroma from there. I quickly realise that actually, I really don't want to spend too long doing that – on the exposed ridge and mountainside the wind is blasting it's way past, and my fingers are starting to give me warning signals about maybe, you know, freezing up, going black, falling off (as you do) if I spend any more time messing about with cameras and nice cold metal tripods, so I take my snaps and zoom back in to the terminal building.

Then, something weird happens, why am I feeling all sick and nervy all of a sudden? A few minutes later, I've figured it out (well, this is my guess, anyway, correct me if I’m wrong) – there's noticeably less oxygen up there, and for someone with absolutely no acclimatisation to mountains like me, that makes me feel like I’m not getting enough oxygen in and causes that panicky “running out of breath!” sensation. Doesn't feel good!

This is only at 2330m, which for comparison is a full 1400m less than say our Mt Cook – I would make a terrible mountaineer!

So I jump on the next cable car down, and soon after arriving back down at a more reasonable altitude my breathing's back to normal, and after some food & drink I'm feeling human again.

Back to base

Fir trees & mountains, from near Patsch
Fir trees & mountains, from near Patsch
Corn drying on the side of a house
Corn drying on the side of a house

It's already mid-afternoon by the time I get back from the mountain, so I just go for a wander around the villages near where I'm staying, and write up a bunch of postcards (which apparently have taken till now, about 2 weeks, to get to ppl!).

Does anyone know why they're hanging out corn to dry on the side of the house?

Yummy ravioli with steinpilzen (ceps/porcini)
Yummy ravioli with steinpilzen (ceps/porcini)
Sorbet (with candied ginger stem?) rules
Sorbet (with candied ginger stem?) rules

Dinner is really good – ravioli with fresh ceps (porcini mushrooms), wish we had those at home! Decided I'd done enough to earn dessert too, so had the sorbet, really yummy – I think it was little pieces of preserved ginger in it, but soft, so maybe candied ginger stem?

Collapsed into bed nice and early. The next morning I head back into Germany!