We woke up to blue skies, to everyone’s relief. Breakfast was quite something: tasty muesli, fresh fruit (including strawberries) and yoghurt. How am I ever going to go back to “uncivilised” hiking in Australia?
After saying goodbye to all the nice people at the hut it was just Frode and I again; heading first east and then north. I didn’t feel very comfortable walking with him anymore but I made sure to not let it show. I needed to get my stuff back.
Our first milestone was the Hochgschirr saddle at 1949 m. On the way we saw some deer and some people that we crossed mentioned they’d seen ibex but we didn’t see any ourselves.
We were walking through snow well before we hit the saddle, and would continue to do so for hours, until the final descent to the Stahlhaus – where we intended to sleep that night.
The vistas were magical, especially the Seeleinsee with ice still on it. What a treat.
It was surprising the number of groups we crossed who asked us if there was a hut on the way to the Wasseralm for beer and lunch. Had all these people seriously not looked at a map??
We stopped below the Windschartenkopf summit for lunch. I was now watching the clouds forming in the south like a hawk. I didn’t want to be caught up here in a white out like the groups the day before. Sometimes it was hard enough to see where to go through the snow even though we had full visibility.
On top of the Schneibstein I was delighted by the view before me of the Steinernes Meer. Gosh, I’ll have to come back here when there’s less snow and the alpine traverses are open!
We descended the 500 vertical metres to the Stahlhaus. This was my least favourite part of the day. The rocks were well worn and hence quite slippery and there was mud in between them from all the melted snow. High concentration was needed and the steep descent was really getting on my knees.
We hit the hut at 3pm or so and checked in. I noticed that the clouds off the Hohes Brett had lifted – a mountain that I longed to climb! Who wouldn’t want to stand on top of something called the High Breadboard? I was experienced enough to know a storm would come, but I was certain it was still an hour or two off. I took my chances since I could turn around at any point and started ascending the other side of the Stahlhaus towards my goal (500 vertical metres above me ). I was on my own so upped the tempo to the max.
I could hear the odd storm grumble to the east and I was still watching the clouds from the south coming in. I took note of the path I was walking on and promised myself to turn around at any point where the path could not easily be traversed in the opposite direction if it was raining or storming. Thankfully I never encountered such patches. I was making excellent progress (the sign at the bottom claimed it was 2 h to the top – but I was convinced it was only half this since I’d seen the route from the Schneibstein before arriving at the hut earlier on). I noticed there was another guy coming up behind me, whom I had briefly met at the bottom. He was clearly hesitating to ascend and I hoped he wasn’t ascending simply because I was, but that he had sufficient experience as well.
I made it to the peak in under an hour and the view was amazing. Huzzah. And here I was standing above Mt Kosci once more today ;) A few quick pics and a moment to appreciate Mt Göll and then it was time to descend again.
I did so at lightening speed since I could see the storm getting closer. On the way down I “picked up” the other guy who lost his confidence when I was not above him anymore. He confessed he was only up there because I was! We descended together and only got rained and hailed on (just tiny hail this time) during the last 10 minutes. Win :)
The rain and storm didn’t last long and we saw an amazing sunset. This sunset got almost everyone out of the hut, onto the terrace and exchanging words. What followed was a fun evening of playing cards together until “quiet time” descended :)
At the very end, one of the guys I’d met assisted me in asking the hut staff about places to store my belongings the next day when Frode left. Thankfully one of them knew that the cable car up to Jenner has ski lockers available year round. I would learn the next morning that Frode had looked up a fancy place to stay in Austria with running tracks and that was where he was headed the next day. He obviously had planned not to hike with me the whole week before we’d headed into the mountains and had not shared this decision with me. I certainly learnt another valuable lesson on this trip for sure.