We invited Clive along on his years annual adventure with the old lags – Seb, Nick, Andy and myself – our objective being the Tirol High Level Route. For the uninitiated, this is an Austrian version of the Haute Route – on steroids – ie 1500-2000m skinning days and the final day climbing the highest mountain in Austria – ie quite a challenge.
Day one we drove over from Innsbruck and headed up to the Essener Rostocker Hut, then Seb, Nick and me snook off for a quick pre dinner sortie up Rostocker Eck. Reaching the top just 25 mins before dinner was due to be served mean’t a quick descent was in order – so we linked together several great long powder pitches in order to get back in time for tea.
Day two’s objective was the Grosser Geiger, en route to the Johanisshutte – a long steady skin before a final climb in crampons carrying skis to the summit in order to ski off the top. We spent a while on top as the views were excellent, before taking the steep drop down onto the glacier and a long traverse across to a col which gave access to the next valley east. The hut wasn’t far away, but a long way down – down a big couloir in fact, on lovely spring snow. The beer was good too, relaxing in the sunshine and the evening meal excellent..
Day three and another big summit, the Grossvenediger which is the 4th highest peak in Austria. Despite the continuing clear weather, this was a very windy day, but in eased off enough by the top of the climb to comfortably reach the summit and enjoy one of the best views in the whole of the Alps – followed by one of the best ski descents in Austria right down to the Matreier Tauernhaus.
Day four is the really big day, starting with a 1300m climb followed by a good steep descent then another 600m climb which turned out to be very hot now the wind had dropped to zero again. Having booked into the quieter Lucknerhaus rather than the somewhat busy Rudolfshutte, we till had a long way to go – first down a great big descent, followed by a long flat (ie endless) valley, then a gorge, a then tunnel and finally a taxi ride before we arrived glad of a good meal and a comfortable hotel room for the night.
Day five, with the Grossglockner in sight, the weather changed – bringing rising winds and lowering clouds as we skinned up to the Studlhutte for the night – like all Austrian huts this is a comfortable affair, but the food was truly excellent.
Day six – after a night being constantly awoken by the hut vibrating, it didn’t look too good outside – with 130km winds up on the summit and not much less outside the hut – so we bailed to valley, which was quite a deal in itself. Oh well, it’s still there for next time… Thanks to Toni from the local Kals Bergfuhrers Buro and Hans the owner of the Kucknerhaus for the lift down to town – both super nice guys and worth looking up if you’re ever in the area.