So I hear that North America is getting a huge amount of snow at the minute, however sadly this is not the case here in Europe. Winter teased us back in November and as ever the snow canons were blasting 24 hours a day, a few meagre pistes were opened and skiers hit the slopes in their droves. But since then we have had literally no precipitation, just bright blue skies, sunshine and well below freezing temperatures. So I can’t complain, this weather is gorgeous, and we have been determined to make the most of what we’ve got.
Those in charge of the ski areas have done a superb job of getting resorts open, and the cold temperatures have helped the manufactured snow stick brilliantly, so with zero off-piste or back-country touring potential, why not make the most of the magnificent sunshine and the spectacular ‘half Autumn half Winter’ scenery and hit the pistes?!
Yes it’s here, I clung on to autumn for as long as I could, but I have finally given in and embraced winter! Although at this time of year the nights are closing in, the temperature plummets, and the sun retreats into hibernation, the wonderful thing about a place like Innsbruck is that with winter comes SNOW! Last weekend we dusted off the skis and had a fun blast round the busy pistes followed by a superb (and considerably quieter!) ski tour.
A great star to the winter and exciting to be back on the skis. Watch this space…
Me! Traditionally I have always associated November with grim, rainy, grey weather (growing up in England didn’t help!) The sun has gone into hibernation, the rain arrives, it’s cold. But this November in the alps has proved me wrong. With a few exceptions (!) we have had perfect cold, crisp sunny days, and the beautiful autumn leaves have really held their colour. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed still being able to run on the forest trails around Innsbruck, and couldn’t resist taking my camera out this week to capture nature at its best.
The snow is creeping closer, and skiing is not far away, but for now I want to hold on to autumn for as long as possible.
Despite Autumn faithfully and predictably arriving every year at the same time, it still never ceases to surprise me how beautiful it is, possibly because each year it seems to sneak up and blow you away with its seemingly impossible colours. The summer months are always wonderful, and living in a place which has the 4 distinct seasons makes the transition from hot, carefree summer days to dark, short winter days so much more bearable by easing us in to it slowly. Now I must admit a winter with snow and skiing is a great deal more tempting than a rainy, grey one, but it’s still always a challenge to let go of the summer regardless of what’s around the corner!
Every year I cherish the Autumn and make sure I stop to appreciate just how unique and stunning it is, even on a grey day…!
I teach English a couple of mornings a week in a kindergarten here in Innsbruck, which just happens to be at the top of quite a high building, meaning that I get the chance to see the sun come up over the mountains early in the morning. With this stunning Autumn/Winter we’ve been having so far, I can’t fail to appreciate that this has to be among the top 10 best views of any kindergarten in the world??!
Shame the 4 year olds probably don’t have quite the appreciation I do!
So last weekend we decided it would be fun to try and climb the Großglockner, the highest peak in Austria at 3798m. The weather was still warm, autumn colours still beautiful, the weather forecast good, and surely the route or hut wouldn’t be busy in the second week of November…?
How wrong we were.
After a 3 hour drive from Innsbruck, we parked up and set off on the 2 hour hike up to the Stüdlhütte at 2801m. We hiked the last section in the dark via head torch and arrived around 6pm to find to our delight that the winter room was empty. Fantastic, maybe Saturday it would be busy we thought, but clearly people were at work on a Friday so didn’t have time to get up there, lucky us. The hut’s winter room even had electric lighting and a long drop toilet, what luxury!
We melted snow, cooked our dinner, and generally enjoyed the peace and solitude of being alone at almost 3000m metres, then intending to get up around 5am to head for the summit, we settled down in the 14 bed dorm on our own around 9pm. However this signalled the end of the peace and solitude.
At 10.30pm we woke to heavy boots and loud voices. We scrabbled up confused, to meet 2 Slovenian climbers arriving, and telling us ‘there were more coming’. And so it began, from then until 3am, more and more climbers arrived; thumping up and down the stairs, slamming doors, unpacking their bags in the middle of the dorm, shuffling around in noisy goretex, waving torches around, and communicating at the top of their voices. One group even cracked open cans of beer and started having a party at 1am. There was no chance of sleep, yet worse than that was the utter confusion as to where these people were coming from. The walk from the car park was only 2 hours, so these people must have left well after midnight. Why?
Added to this, the wind was picking up outside to the point where it could only be described as howling; indeed the small winter room building had started to violently shake. By 5am we had had enough, it was time to get out of there. Looking around as we left, every bed in the dorm was full with people attempting to sleep, and every spare patch of floor and bench was covered in bodies, there must have been 25 people in the tiny wooden hut. And of course the group of Slovenians banging around shouting and laughing at the top of their voices. Where had they come from and why so late? There’s a question which will continue to baffle me for evermore…!
We battled our way down by head torch through the howling wind, finding it difficult to drag our thoughts away from sleeping. It was such a shame we couldn’t climb the peak, but all we could think about was getting away from those people! It really did make me question what goes through people’s minds when surrounded by sleeping bodies in the middle of the night. If I arrive somewhere late at night I creep around and do everything I can to avoid disturbing anyone. I am aware that 2am is an unsociable time and I try my best to not annoy or bother people. I foolishly thought this was fairly logical, yet I’m starting to think I may be in the minority.
We would still like to climb the Großglockner, but I think next time we’ll avoid the hut…!
Innsbruck is a wonderful place. Where else in the world do you have stunning mountains and all the nature you could wish for, within spitting distance of a city with all the amenities a person could ever need?
The seasons are changing fast here, the bright orange and yellows are out in force and the colder weather is creeping in, which means Winter is coming…! But not quite yet. Last week we managed both a via ferratta (climbing rock faces using fixed metal railings) and a ski tour within a couple of days. Perfect!
I wrote a few weeks ago heralding the coming of Winter, the colder days, the darkness creeping in earlier and earlier, the imminent arrival of the snow… But I feel the need now to perhaps delay that slightly and cling on to the beautiful, and highly underrated, season that is Autumn. I find myself thinking the same thing every year and once again reminding myself that Autumn is one of the most stunning times of the year. In the Alps it is all about winter and summer, the periods bridging the gaps are simply referred to as ‘Interseason’ and I believe are totally forgotten and glossed over.
I feel so strongly that we must embrace these ‘in between’ periods and not just see them as time to kill before the ‘proper’ seasons arrive. There is so much to do in the mountains right now, with the added benefit of it not being too hot, so you can often actually do far more than in the sumer. There is also no-one around. Summer peak season is so overrun with holiday-makers, yet no-one seems to come in the Autumn. It’s like a secret, our own personal paradise, deserted and beautiful. On a walk last week I found myself becoming quite the nature lover and flora photographer! Everywhere I looked I saw stunning colours in the trees, the leaves and the heather. I’ll include some of my amateur snaps, no photoshop, no colour enhancement, just the pure beauty of nature at its best.
It’s a sentence most people dread. September in England signalled the end of summer and back to school which inevitably brought with it short, dark days characterised by cold and rain. September meant Winter was coming which generally led to negative grumbling and griping about the weather and how hard done by everyone was! Winter and positivity were two words not often associated with each other! I think it’s safe to say that England doesn’t really get much of a seasonal weather pattern, it can get slightly warmer in the summer and marginally colder in the winter, but in general the weather pretty much stays the same, so although I was aware of ‘seasons’, I’d never really experienced them.
You grow up dreading winter and desperately waiting for summer, so how I ended up living in a mighty cold ski resort and itching for winter is anybody’s guess! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the summer, especially in the Alps. It’s by far the most convenient season and I am genuinely sad that it’s pretty much over for this year, but the wonderful thing about living in the mountains is that you get four distinct seasons and you know exactly when it changes. This year the summer here has been pretty dismal, as I believe it has been across most of Europe, but almost as a special treat to make up for it, September has been absolutely glorious. Up until last week the sun has been shining and it has been genuinely warm; shorts and flip-flops weather still. We’ve been climbing, hiking, running and even swimming in the lakes, not what you’d expect from an often ‘dreary’ month. But this week we have clearly felt it ‘turn’. It has suddenly gotten very cold in the mornings and evenings, the trees are all turning fiery red and golden and the darkness is rolling in earlier and earlier. It’s such a snap change, Summer becomes Autumn almost overnight, not Winter, Autumn.
This is why I love it here so much. Everyone enjoys the summer but as soon as it cools down and the trees start to change, the thoughts inevitably turn to winter and the chat turns to skis, lift passes and winter plans. But before all that excitement begins we get a grace period where we get to ease out of summer mode, eek out the sunshine as much as possible, but gradually start to get our warm clothes down from the loft and think about when the snow will come.
In the vein of enjoying every last drop of that sunshine, last week I went for a wonderful long run along the Chamonix valley, starting and finishing at 2 different points which resulted in a reasonably long wait for a bus at the other end. Again sitting and waiting for a bus is a prospect that conjures up images of miserable commuters huddled under a rainy bus stop. It’s a strange place to count your blessings, but I couldn’t help but smile as I sat on a bench in the sunshine facing a spectacular mountain range bisected by a stunning glacier, and to top it off, the trees in the foreground were at that perfect autumnal point where they can’t quite decide whether they want to be red or green.
It’s the little things that make the difference… I love autumn!
Even on a rainy, grey day such as today, I often think it’s important to try and make the most of it, and get outside. The beauty of a less than perfect day is that when you’re out there, you often have it all to yourself, so you can enjoy the peace and quiet that you will rarely find when the sun is shining. Despite the grey skies and drizzle, and keen for some exercise this afternoon, I went for a run in the mountains, and in the 2 and a half hours I was out, I saw 3 people. The view was less than spectacular, and underfoot occasionally slippery, but as clichéd as it sounds, it gave me a couple of hours out on my own, to think and enjoy the solitude and the beauty around me. Autumn is on its way out here, and it’s now dark by 5.30pm! The snow is coming, but I’m holding on to the remnants of the incredible colours that Autumn provides, before it all turns to white. However I will certainly not be complaining when this arrives, as winter in the mountains provides a whole new level of beauty, and brings with it so many enjoyable ways to fill a cold day!