KARWENDEL, AUSTRIA Stage 2 – We won’t die wandering

A little mountain mist adds magic and mystery.

We have few regrets about the decision to abandon our hike over the high Karwendel cols. It was simply too hard and too dangerous for most of us, and the weather was looking threatening.

We can choose another route, though the fear when we leave the peaks and cols is that we’ll spend a few dull days walking through the valleys, sharing tame, flat roads with the cars.

This is Austria, however. There are far more interesting hiking trails than tame roads. The route from the village of Scharnitz to the tourist town Pertisau is not life-threatening but still spectacular and challenging – an excellent five day trek, in other words.

The scenery gives little cause for complaint, and by climbing 900 vertical metres to get here we can tick the ‘effort’ box.

The white notice warns, ‘Alpine experience, sure-footedness and a good head for heights required.’ We’ll take another route, thanks!


Austrians are known for their prowess on the ski slopes, but they’re also very keen walkers.

The hiking trails around Innsbruck are generally well maintained and signposted, with red spots for the easier routes and black spots showing us the ones we’re going to avoid in future.

Our adjusted route takes us across farmland and through forests, but also includes some stiff climbs, often towards the end of each day, up to one of the huts perched on vantage points by the German Alpenverein (Alps Association).

Yes, okay, I said we were in Austria, but we’re near the border, and the Germans have a habit of organising things for the rest of Europe these days.

They do it well, with warm bunk-rooms, large beers and large meals available at reasonable prices. It’s a bit communal and there are usually no hot showers, but we’re all smelly friends together.

The Germans have put huts in all the best spots…

…and supplied them with beer.

The walking is generally not hard, and it is always beautiful.

At lower levels the track condition is usually better.

If we’d climbed over the cols, we’d have missed the forest…

…and the lower you are, the more water there is in the waterfalls.

For those of us who need a little more adrenalin pumping through their veins, there are side trips they can make.

Our mate Kees is the guy up above. I would have gone with him, but someone needed to volunteer to stay below and take the photos.

It takes us five days, including a couple of 10-hour epics, to get to Pertisau, on the lake called the Achensee.

And by the Achensee we can relax.

Here’s a rough guide to the route we took, marked in red. Note the lack of roads in the area. Warning: Don’t rely on this map – you’ll need a better one!

3 Comments

Filed under Hiking

3 responses to “KARWENDEL, AUSTRIA Stage 2 – We won’t die wandering

  1. It looks like a magnificent adventure – with all the elements of a walking holiday (and opportunity for those who want to play spiderman) in those fabulous mountains. It’s not what I would choose, for a holiday, but I know that once I was walking along those trails, aromatic with the scent of fallen needles, moss and lichen, the quiet forests dappled in that gorgeous greeny light, I’d be in heaven. Yes, I did it once, almost 40 years ago, just a week or so before the games began in Munich. Thanks for the memories, Richard!

    • Lovely comment, Wanderlust (and it’s a particularly appropriate German blogging name you have, by the way)!

      The forests and mountains look the same however you get there, but the main advantage of doing it by walking into remote areas is that you’re not surrounded by other people. I find that a huge plus.

      • I didn’t realise how recently it had been Anglicised. The Shorter Oxford says E20 – I wonder whether it came over to us from those halcyon days of Hesse and co?

        I couldn’t agree with you more about having wilderness areas to oneself – and such a rarity in Europe.

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