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Bad Gastein, Austria Holiday - September 2018

The Alps, Apple Strudel and Gluhwein. Yes, we returned to Austria for some high altitude walking.

Saturday: As soon as we arrived in Bad Gastein we were faced with the prospect of an arduous steep trek, to find the tourist office. I stayed with the luggage, while everyone else went to gather information. After arriving at our hostel we went in search of refreshments and found a pub where we enjoyed a late afternoon snack of cakes and pizza. We were entertained by the locals playing a game resembling curling, without the ice.

We checked in at the hostel and we were greeted by George, who turned out to be quite a character. To most of our questions, his answer was ‘why, of course’, with a big grin. He was very helpful, if not always accurate with his information.

In the evening we ate more pizza.

Sunday: We took the cable car to Stubnerkogel (2228 m). We ascended along the Reichert Way to Tischkogel (2409 m), and Zitqterauer (2464m). We had lunch at Miesbichlsharte followed by a descent to Unterer Bochartsee (1872 m). We had tea at the Bochartseehutte, descended to Sports Gastein, and then back to Bad Gastein along valley via Bochstein. It was a vigorous first day’s walking.

Some stats: 22 km, 235 m ascent, 1,318 m descent.

In the evening we ate at the International youth hostel - named ‘Krone’. Heather and later Jonathan joined us so we had our full party.

Monday: We set off, almost as one party, forgetting Catriona, who soon called us wondering where we were. We climbed to Graukogelalm where we had early morning coffee. Then an ascent to Palfner See (2074 m) for lunch. We divided into two parties. Party A+ led by William, considered an ascent to Huttenkogel but after reaching the ridge we decided it was too late to safely go further. We descended to Kotschachtal (via Reedsee). Meanwhile, the other party led by Anthea and Catriona, had a 'pleasant amble round the western slope of Graukogel, stopping to admire the view from various benches and an enjoyable swinging seat, before walking back down the hill (a mere 1000m descent) to the base of the Graukogel cable car.’

Stats for A+ party: 20 km, 1,260 m ascent = descent.

The A+ party dined at the Stubernof.

Tuesday: We took the cable car to Stubnerkogel (2228 m). We descended to Stubneralm for coffee. We had a balcony walk to near Zitteraueralm for lunch. We descended to Bochstein where he had tea and then returned to base.

At some point during the day we stopped to watch some workmen in a precarious position repairing power lines.

Stats: 12 km, 1,155 m descent.

In the evening we were taken to a pub for dinner and traditional Austrian entertainment. Participation was required. William was the first to be picked on but declined. Jonathan volunteered for a dance, which involved lots of jumping up and down on a bench, and thigh slapping. Sonia was next. Claire S then pulled me up to dance, joined by Jonathan and Hamida. It was quite athletic and involved us lifting each other. Finally there was a game of ‘hammering the nail’, which myself, William and Gaye took part in but were soundly beaten by the locals. We were given some schnapps though.

Wednesday: Our so called ‘day off’. Four experienced cyclists - both Claire L and S, William and Heather, plus us two rookies, Hamida and myself, went cycling for the day. Hamida wondered why she was struggling to get anywhere but as was later discovered, her gears were arranged in reverse. I had not ridden a bike since I was fifteen so struggled at first. We had a great day though. The last return uphill stretch was a killer! Even the experienced cyclists finally had to dismount.

Here is an account of what Anthea and Catriona got up to: 'Anthea and I completed the planned walk from Monday using the cable car !! This allowed us to reach Palfnersee with plenty of time to enjoy the view before walking down to Reedsee; a beautiful tranquil lake with stunning reflections. On the way down the hill, we were passed by "glide man" climbing up quickly and effortlessly, and on the road to Kotschachtal we were over taken by two girls on mountain bikes we think had run up and down the 800m to Reedsee. I felt very old !

Sonia, Gaye and Jonathan did a little sight seeing.

In the evening we split up, some dining out; some picnicking in the hostel, and Jonathan trying out the hostel food. Later we had a quiz, prepared by myself, with questions on Austria; weather forecasting; the Shipping forecast, and questions set by GCHQ staff. I think it was mostly enjoyed! William’s team won, having better meteorological knowledge, although the other team almost caught up knowing all the names off the Von Trapp family.

Thursday (AKA ‘Epic day’.) This is what we came for, to climb to a high summit, or two. We set off as two parties. Team A1 led by William, took chair lifts to Graukogelam top station. We then ascended to Huttenkogel (2231) and then to Graukogel (2492) along Andrea’s Way, which has a sheer drop on one side and is not much better on the other. On Graukogel we talked to a cheerful Austrian local, sipping a can of beer! Hamida suggested he have his photo taken to promote the beer. After lunch part 1, we descended to Palfner see for lunch part II, where three of us (myself, Sonia and Claire L) went swimming. Leaving Claire S to walk from the top station, we descended to Graukogel mid-station where William and Claire L got the last apple strudel, and Sonia and myself enjoyed hot chocolate with rum and cream. We then walked from the middle station back to base.

Team A2 also had a dramatic day. This account by Catriona, and Heather: From middle station on the Gipfelexpress we climbed 350m to the saddle at Arltorl via a nature trail, then headed on up to the top of Fulseck, for the most scenic picnic bench ever. We watched the paragliders before heading up to Kreuzkogel and descending along refreshingly quiet paths to Schokalm. 1.5 Km from the planned end of the walk in Laderding, Anthea and I were being praised for the best walk of the week, however, this was BC (before cows); not sure how the walk ranked, AD, (after disaster).

Heather: 'Hearing the jangle of cow bells conjured up the pastoral beauty of Austria until we met a cow with attitude who interrupted her grass consumption to engage with 5 intrepid GOG walkers. Three of us reacted by dropping off the mountain path and the two with maps retraced their steps with the cows in hot pursuit. Not knowing the fate of the map-readers, three of us skirted round the steep slope determined to reunite the group. Our first attempt was thwarted as the cows were still ahead of us when we scrambled back up to the path to check their whereabouts. We therefore quietly slid back down, crossed a minor waterfall, then hauled ourselves up another steep slope and under a barbed wire fence before getting back on track, and in due course, joining our unharmed fellow walkers. All of this whilst the more adventurous were tackling an ambitious ridge without incident!'

In the evening we went to a place recommended by George, Klapotets, run by a woman who had lived in Guernsey 30 years ago. We did not mention the wartime occupation! We enjoyed some complimentary pine schnapps.

We bade “so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen” to Claire S who was leaving us early next morning.

Friday: We took the bus to Sports Gastein. We ascended Knappenbaudlsee (2238) for lunch and a swim, via Naturschauweg and Pete-Sika way. We then went to Bockstein for tea.

Some stats: 20 km, 650 m ascent, 1,150 m descent.

In the evening some off us went back to the Krone while others picnicked again in the hostel. Later we summoned George, gave him a present, and thanked him.

So ended our enjoyable and challenging holiday!

Thank you to William for organising it, and to everyone for making it a such a fun experience.

Chris R (with contributions from William, Anthea, Catriona, Sonia, and Heather)