I hate to say it in April, but winter in the Alps is well and truly over, and has been for a while. The last few weeks in Innsbruck have seen temperatures as high as 25 degrees C, the cows and horses are back in the meadows, and rock climbing, via ferratas, hiking and running are very much back on the agenda.
Despite the fact that it feels like summer, this is my first Spring in Austria and I love the feel of the city as the seasons start to change. Being a university city, it’s no surprise to see the students out in force as the weather becomes warmer, but the sight of the neverending line of people sitting along the banks on the river Inn next to the university still made me stop, get off my bike and marvel at the power of the sunshine.
The mere presence of the sun means that everyone is happy and relaxed. Stress is forgotten, people suddenly have more free time and want to be outside; having barbecues, playing frisbee, or simply socialising out in the sun.
Here’s to a long summer of enjoying the outdoors x
I’m not a big zoo visitor, in fact the last time I went to a zoo was probably when I was a child, however having visitors is a great opportunity to go and see some of your local tourist attractions; often places that you would never ordinarily choose to visit.
The Innsbruck Alpenzoo is one such place. It’s walking distance from the city centre and boasts quite a wide variety of animals for such a small place, including lynx, wolves, bison, chamois and even a brown bear! It most certainly raises questions about the humanity of keeping such magnificent animals in captivity, but whatever your opinion, it’s an interesting place and fascinating to be so close to a bear!
Moving somewhere completely new can be terrifying, but exploring it can be so much fun! What better way to meet people and explore your new home than through sport? It really does bring people together, makes finding friends so much easier, and instantly gives you so much to talk about and share. Skiing has really been the key for us here in Innsbruck, it’s something we already love, and has provided us with some great friends after such a short time here. Once you’ve shared a powder day, sat and had lunch up a mountain in front of a beautiful view, and laughed your way down a gully that didn’t quite lead where you’d hoped it would, it’s time to sit back and be pretty happy with your decision to take a risk.
This week we’ve been exploring the Nordkette; a huge, south facing ‘freeride’ mountain range separating Innsbruck from the Karwendel National Park. There are 2 cable cars and 2 chair lifts, allowing it to pose as a small ski area, but in reality it is simply there for the off piste, and my oh my is there a lot of it! Fantastic snow, hardly any people and above all, simply breathtaking views all combine to make this a very special place to ski. I think we’ll be spending a lot of time up here!
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!
I continue to marvel about how the good weather just keeps on coming in Innsbruck, and there are still no signs of it letting up in the near future. Despite starting to get a little concerned about whether winter will ever arrive, we’re thoroughly making the most of this unprecedented sunshine and, having discovered a superb little climbing area just 20 minutes drive from Innsbruck, have now been 3 times over the last 1o days! With a 5 minute walk in, enough sectors to keep you occupied for weeks, and grades from super easy to far too difficult (!), Arzbergklamm near Telfs has proved to be a brilliant find. Even now in mid-December it still holds the sun until after 1pm, and we have yet to see another person there. Stunning views, fun climbing and even a picturesque river running down the middle of the gorge. What more can you ask for?!
When choosing somewhere to live what do you consider? Location, price, size, the view, outdoor space, access to public transport? Does it ever occur to anyone that they might be woken up at the crack of dawn by the outrageously loud bells from the neighbouring idyllic rural church?
No, sadly it didn’t occur to us either, and luckily when the windows are closed, it’s just quiet enough to avoid a rude awakening, but when we make the mistake of opening the door to let some air in during the night, like we did last night, at 6.30am on the dot we are jerked awake to the most deafening peal of bells. Now bells which tell you the time I can just about cope with, but these bells have no rhyme nor reason, they are random, disjointed and go on and on for far too long.
Who decided that 6.30am was an appropriate time to start the dawn chorus? What percentage of the general population is up at 6.30? Who wants to be woken up to a noise that loud? And not just weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays too.
Honestly, I’ll think very carefully next time I move house, and be extremely wary of those idyllic, rural, picture-postcard village churches…
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…!
How does the saying go? Make hay while the sun shines? Well at the moment I’m very happy to keep climbing while the sun shines, and shining is exactly what it’s doing in Innsbruck right now, day after day. Traditionally November in Europe should be a pretty dreary, fairly miserable month; arguably the worst month of the year. But this year seems to be an exception (well certainly in Innsbruck!) and I am absolutely loving it. With a perfect forecast for the weekend we made the bold decision to head up in to the Karwendel National Park, just outside of Innsbruck, take on a 2 day via feratta, and bivvy (yes, sleep outside!) up in the mountains – on 31st October! Bags packed we headed off in the sunshine, excited about yet another new place to explore, and it didn’t disappoint.
Waking up outside at 2000m, watching the sun creep over the mountains on 1st November was certainly a first, and felt pretty cool. The views were spectacular, the sunrise and sunset stunning, and over 2 full days we saw perhaps only 15 other people. There is nothing like being out in the mountains, especially when it’s wild and virtually empty. It’s a perfect escape from daily life, somewhere you can feel completely free and happy. Plus, a full day out leaves you tired, content and fully ready for a big feed in the evening; very satisfying!
This week brought yet more Autumn sunshine, and a bank holiday! We used it wisely and headed across to Achensee, a beautiful lake around 30minutes drive from Innsbruck. A ride up the Rofan-seilbahn cable car rewarded us with these views, and one of the best and most spectacular via ferrata routes we’ve done yet. Covering 5 peaks and traversing a truly stunning ridge line, it’s a day I would thoroughly recommend and will most certainly be back to do again!