Nationalpark Gesause: Days 1-2

In Trip Reports On Sunday, June 30, 2013

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.

Emma on the start of our hike

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!

A welcome woodland drinks station! It certainly helped not having to carry all of our water all the way up. We would have needed 4 litres each – 8kg.

One of the breaks in the trees. I would love to return here to shoot this properly, but if I do return it won’t be for a long time!

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.

The thunderstorm arrives!

After the rain had passed there was some outstanding light

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.

I’ve had my dinner in some pretty great places but this was hard to beat

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.

Waiting for some lighting magic

Into action as the sun started to appear

A little later looking over the full expanse of the view. Perhaps the composition is a little unbalanced but I still like it

I slept well that night, it was so warm we didn’t need our sleeping bags.

 

Day 2

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.

 

Our camp spot at sunrise. Emma is of course still sleeping inside!

A very similar view, but a few minutes later when the sky had warmed further

As the sun came up, without the light coming from the clouds above the landscape ‘cooled down’ again. The opposite of what you would usually expect to happen at sunrise!

Looking over the endless alpine forest

About half an hour after sunrise the light had become strong enough to shine through much of the mist. I would have liked some clouds, but it was a fantastic morning.

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!

The walk down was much easier than the walk 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!

SNAAAAKKKKKEEEE!!!!! (I have never seen a snake in the UK)

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 rather ominous view of the cliffs we were about to head up. Although it looks cloudy here, it was only passing

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.

A few sections of Wasserfallweg. I have to say the photos don’t look nearly as steep as it was.

I let Emma carry the pack for the last easy bit of the route. It was nice to walk without any weight on my back for once!

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!

You can imagine the dorm rooms being a bit crowded in high season but Emma and I had it to ourselves. I was asleep before it was dark.

3 Comments

  1. Mark Mc Mullan 19th July 2013

    Looked like a bit of an adventure ALex a tough and somewhat grueling hike but that clearing storm image sure makes it all worthwhile .

  2. Great write up! Love the photos, especially the two from the storm… So dramatic

  3. Hi Alex, great post !
    We are planning our trip to Gesäuse at the moment, looking forward to it!
    Kind regards, Glenn (Belgium).

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