Stubai Alps, Austria
William Mackesy’s account of this walk
We leave the Nürnberger Hut at a leisurely 9.15 - we aren't on the trail all day - after a filling breakfast of muesli with yoghurt and honey.
We are climbing to the minor peak of Mairspitze on the high ridge 500m above the hut, and we have a steep slog ahead. Our path heads off with purpose, straight up the hillside. The route to the Niederl col straight above - lower, but an apparently direct flight up a sheer boulder almost-cliff - continues ahead, but we turn off right (north), climbing steadily up the hillside.
It is a gorgeous morning, with cloud over the peaks across the valley so that we are in shade, but beams slant across the high valley behind us, (mediating the black rock and glaciers of the high border ridge on the southern horizon.
After a rough clamber round a corner, we cross a boulder field, then climb delightfully up a long grassy hillside, with a steep series of zig-zags half way. We gain a rocky lateral ridge, and turn up it for the real slog of the day, up to the wildly broken Maierspitze ridge high above.
We teeter up the above a cliff, cable-assisted for a longish stretch. I am neurotic about boy safety, regularly instructing care, but we make steady progress. Geordie tires, not unreasonably as we are now at 8,000 ft, so we stop regularly for snacks and water. We shift across onto a sheer boulder field, our path well constructed, with quite a lot of steps.
We gain the high ridge, and find a small and very broken bowl, rather peculiar; if we weren't on top of a 9,000 ft ridge, I would think it was a sink hole.
Across the bowl, we meet the view we have been waiting for, across the vast bowl at the head of the Stubaital. We turn right up the ridge and are atop our peak (as far as trekkers can go) 5 minutes later. 3 hours.
This must be one of Austria's finest views. To our south, our ridge sinks a bit towards the Niederl, then begins its long climb to join the 3,413m Wilder Freiger on the high border ridge, which is all rocky drama nestling a series of glaciers. Below us to the west Sulzenau Hut beside a wild glacial river which falls into a magnificent cascade down the cliffs just below. Above it is a wide ex-glacial bottom, which climbs between high broken ridges to the foot of the Wilder-Freiger-Ferner glacier. A series of low cliffs and cataracts punctuate the valley. Below the glacier is a dirty lake, which doesn't appear on my map - which shows that this was glacier not that long ago. We fall to sad musings on the fate of the Stubai's famously beautiful glaciers. Immediately below us are a blue mineral lake and a cloud-reflecting tarn.
To the west, the biggest mass of the Stubai Alps is tipped with whirls of cloud. To our east, we can trace the retreat of the glaciers in our valley.
An hour passes delightfully, lunch is munched.
We could have dropped down a thrilling series of cabled ledges to the tarn below, the re-crossed the ridge back to the hut via the Nielderl, but the boys are tired, so we retrace our steps.
The return descent is uneventful, and only takes 1.5 hrs. We flop onto a bench on the hut's sundeck. A wonderful walk, if a slog in places...