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Zell Am Zee, Austria Holiday - September 2017

Going to Austria in the off-season (between summer and skiing) has much to commend it, especially when the late September weather was dry, sunny and mild. The location was beautiful and the walking excellent, with good paths and superb panoramic views. Many of us enjoyed single occupancy at the Zell am See hostel overlooking the lake. The buses and sufficient cable cars were working so we could enjoy more high altitude ridge walking. Entertainment for tourists was still available. I particularly enjoyed the classical music water/laser display in Elisabeth Park, and on our day off, hiring bikes to explore the nature reserve and flatter areas of the region, and rowing on the lake.

Whilst spending hours rushing (or, in my case, slogging) up mountains, sampling Austrian food and drink in mountain huts in stunning locations, or unintentionally extending the day’s walking, a friendly banter appeared on 'A' party walks. We devised a code of conduct for walkers to ensure respect to the leader, and coined a number of new phrases such as 'to do a Heather' - to redecorate your trousers by sitting down to descend muddy slopes. Others were developed as the holiday progressed.

Details of routes

Sunday - We set off as one group and walked round the Zell am See lake. After testing out a raft on a rope, the group divided at Thumersbach. 'A' party followed route 80/81 up the valley and had lunch in a meadow. Anthea 'conversed' with an Austrian family in national dress. At Waldheimhof we took trail 85 to Enzianhutte near Ronachkg peak, then followed route 84 before joining route 89 to Erlhofplatte. We worked our way back down, Colin put in the first of his unexpected appearances ahead of us, and we walked at speed back to the hostel from north of Bruck via the nature reserve and the southern side of the lake.

Monday - We walked into Zell and up to the 2k cable car station where we caught the cable car part way up Schrambachkoft. We climbed to the summit (1856m) then walked along the ridge to Schmittenhohe (1965m). We tested skiing games provided along the ridge, visited the 1904/5 church dedicated to Empress Elisabeth, and 'admired' the EU funded art and sculpture. 'Fluid & motion' was a particular favourite of William! Later some of us thought Hamida had pressed the button to start the ski lift as it briefly juddered into action. There followed a 3½ hour descent from the mountain top, interspersed with coffee at a hut with OomPah music and a dog which insistently led us the wrong way. The last path through the woods warned of a risk of rock falls but we arrived back at the hostel unscathed (and on time).

Tuesday - A long climb, the equivalent of scaling Ben Nevis, was planned. We caught the bus to Maishofen, and started climbing, but the planned route was closed for forest works. We backtracked via a castle cum farm (Schloss Kammer), then climbed up, up and up to Schlelbenwand. A beautiful traditional mountain hut at Kammeregal provided a welcome break, and some amusement with the 'William' and 'Anthea' incidents. During the beautiful ridge walk from the cross at Schwalbenwand to Schonwieskg, bilberries and wild cranberries were sampled. We took route 81 via Zenzalm to Waldheimfhof at the top of valley and back to Thumersbach. We were served in a local restaurant by a waiter who thought he was a comedian, before walking back round the lake to the hostel.

Wednesday - day off.

Thursday - The 'B' party visited Kitzsteinhorn (3029) via cable car, walked in the snow, saw alpine choughs and travelled back via Kaprun. The 'A' party took a bus to Kaprun, and climbed steeply up Maiskogel. We sampled an Austrian type of cheesecake cake in a hut with fabulous views. Anthea and Eva then meandered down to Piesendorf and caught a bus back to the hostel. William, Claire, Jonathan and Rob walked the famous ridge route, and played in the snow, via Schoppachhohe to the cable car at Landwied.

Friday - Our ridge walk started on summit of Schmittenhohe (1965 - reached via bus and cable car) and took in the summits of Kettingkopf (1865) and Kesselsharte (1844), before the group split to take the Pinzgauer Spazierpang (or summits above this route) to Rohrertorl (1918) then on to Klingertorl (2059). We tried to take a route down south from Klingertorl but the markings fizzled out and despite extensive searching the path could not be found. We therefore climbed back up and backtracked to Steinbachriedel and took a good (numbered) path that led down to Niedernsill via Steindorf. After a very long second descent, we were grateful for a lift in large estate car (which accommodated us all with two in the boot). Despite a hint for a lift back to Zell am See we were dropped off in Niedernsill and were very late back despite promising to be on time………(sorry again).

Thank you to all walk leaders. We’d also like to extend massive thanks to Aline and Ian for selecting an excellent location and hostel, for meticulous planning and a huge amount of organisation (both before and during the break), and for inviting us all to come along too!

Heather and Gail