Walking up through seemingly endless pine forest one thing was pretty apparent – it was too hot. I’ve complained about our recent cold UK summers, but hot weather is horrible to hike in, particularly if you are going uphill with a big backpack.
The valley temperature in Gesause, Austria was around 30 Celsius for our entire weeklong stay and still 20 degrees on the 2000m+ summits. Combine that with unrelenting sunshine and windless conditions and you get through rather a lot if water!
Our hike up to Ennstallerhutte was long, hot and tiring but beautiful. Breaks in the trees revealed towering rock faces and sections of pasture temporarily revealed grand views. Although the trees obscured the landscape they did provide welcome shade and it was a happy 1000m ascent to the hut where I quickly polished off a pint of German beer.
Clouds had built during the day and a thunderstorm seemingly appeared out of nowhere producing the first photographic opportunity of the trip.
Rested we headed back down a little to find a suitable camping spot. I often choose where to pitch based on how ‘epic’ the camping spot is vs how level/comfortable it is. On this occasion I chose comfort. Once the tent was up we had our dinner sat on the ridge looking over the forested hills to the east.
For sunset I took a short hike above the hut to gain an excellent view over the valley and surrounding peaks. The summit 500m above was just too big an ask given my plans for the following day. It was hazy, but that took little away from the atmosphere as clouds drifted over the ridge as the sun came down.
I slept well that night, it was so warm we didn’t need our sleeping bags.
The alarm went off at 4am and looking towards the east there were some nice high altitude clouds in the air. Being so close to my planned shots I lazed around a little and when the light finally came I set about reshooting compositions I had tried the previous evening.
We had flapjack for breakfast, like we did on most days. The walk down to the valley floor was pleasant and appreciably cooler than the way up!
Down at Gstatterboden in the full heat of the sun we decided to have an ice-cream at the information center/cafe. There we met Maria, a lovely lady who discussed our plans with us and offered us some advise. We told her that we were just about to hike up to Hesshutte via Wasserfallweg. She seemed a little concerned to say the least and suggested coming via the much longer route from Johnsbach. Now being the confident hiker that I am I explained that we’d done some dodgy sections of path before in Lofoten and Scotland – little did I know what I was in for!
The hike up was straightforward initially. I took every opportunity to douse our clothing in water, such was the heat, and I was drinking half a liter for every 100m ascent for a while but the route itself was easy. The map showed an incredibly steep dotted section up a cliff face part way into the route. The conifers meant that we couldn’t see the way until we were walking it.
The route got increasingly steep and challenging although there was the odd staircase on the steepest sections. The wires on the ‘climbing’ parts of the route were of little help and seeing a couple descend with climbing hats and harnesses had us a little worried. There were several sections where a false step would have been very costly but we did eventually get to the top of the cliff relieved and in full agreement that we would not take the same route down. It also vindicated our earlier decision to cache most of our gear in the trees at the trailhead – a 20kg pack would have made the route totally impossible.
The rest of the hike was great but it took up most of what was left of my energy. Up at Hesshutte I mad the easy decision to call it a day and have a beer and goulash. I had neither the energy or inclination to head up a peak for sunset!