Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.
The Stubaier Gletscher, as Deutsch speakers would call it, is one of Austria’s premier glaciers. For someone living in Munich, it’s ideal: just 2 hours 15 minutes away. That’s a few minutes farther than Hintertux, and almost an hour closer than Soelden. Early in the season (which is when I hit up the glaciers), it seems like there’s a LOT more open at Stubai than at the other glaciers. Hintertux has quite a few slopes, but early in the year a huge number are used for closed-off team racecourses (I counted 4 slopes last week, totaling ~40 racecourses). Another plus at Stubai: tons of chairlifts, and not many T-bars.
A lot of glaciers have mostly gondolas (where you have to take off your skis/board) and T-bars (which are less susceptible to wind). That’s another thing: I feel that Stubai generally has lower wind speeds than Hintertux. That’s super-important when your starting temperature is often –10C to –20C (-20C is –4F!), before wind chill.
Before you have too long to drool over the fresh tracks in a foot of new POW, here are my new goggles. The old ones lasted me a good 10 years before the foam started to disintegrate. Not a bad view in the background, eh? That’s the Stubaital, or Stubai Valley.
I ended up at a Pension (B&B) in the center of Neustift im Stubaital. My normal plan worked well – just go to the tourism bureau after a day of boarding and ask for a room. Took under 10 minutes to find one for €30, including breakfast and wifi.
Here’s an interesting twilight view. I love the transition from a few hanging autumn leaves to full on, snow-encrusted evergreens in the clouds just a few hundred feet higher up.
That’s all for my brief return to on-the-road blogging. Dinner is calling me, perhaps a venison schnitzel or a steak with potatoes! Mmm…
Posted 6 years, 4 months ago at 6:37 pm. 4 comments
I met Neil, a fellow Zugspitze enthusiast, via an English-speaking web forum. He was kind enough to write a great post about his love for Germany’s highest mountain, and a recent hike up one via ferrata section. Complete with fantastic Zugspitze photos! On to his story…
When I was 12 years old, I went, with my family, to the Tyrol for the first time. We’d always been on holiday a lot, but this was only my second trip abroad and my first trip to see “proper” mountains. Sure, Wales and Scotland have mountains, but it’s not quite the same! I found the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak at 2,962m, on the border with Austria, particularly awesome, and enjoyed the cable car trip to the summit immensely. The holiday to Ehrwald (Austria) made a huge impression on me and has remained one of my favourite destinations.
Fast forward 22 years and this (admittedly slightly weedy) 12-year-old is now 6 foot 2 and a keen hiker. This year, we repeated the holiday – parents, me (and my wife), as a 60th birthday present for my Mum. As our holiday commenced, my sister was drinking fermented mares’ milk in Mongolia on her honeymoon having not washed for 6 days, I was drinking European lagers in the mountains and swimming in crystal clear warm mountain lakes. Sometimes, the world has a wonderful unfairness about it!
If you’ve never been to the Tyrol, imagine for a moment a paradise of good rustic food, refreshing lagers and unusual Austrian wines, snow-capped mountains, beautiful sunshine, meadows of wild flowers, friendly people, mountain lakes, glacial fountains in town centres from which the water is clean enough to drink, pretty houses with flowers bursting from their window boxes. Oh, and Obstler: the local schnapps which is like drinking burning sandpaper, and which is used to toast almost everything.
When my wife and I go on holiday, we usually spend at least a couple of days apart. It’s not that we’ve been married so long that we can’t bear to be together, it’s just that we have different ideas of fun. I like walking, she doesn’t. Ten years ago, our “solo days” would involve my wife painting or relaxing and me going for a country walk. Over the years, “walk” has gradually yet steadily evolved into “fairly dangerous hike/climb”. So this year, against the advice of the man in the hiking shop, I decided to tackle the front of the Zugspitze, via the Wiener-Neustädte-hütte route. There are a number of routes up this mountain, ranging from relatively mild (but long) beautifully scenic routes round the back of the mountain, to this in-your-face, straight up, and slightly shorter trek. And it was fun!
Setting off just after 8am from the village centre, I began the lovely varied walk by making my way through the village, through the meadow, and into one of the larch woods which are so common in the area. Car-wide tracks lull you into a slightly false sense of security, and it took only 40 minutes to reach my breakfast stop, the Gamsalmhütte. Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked their opening times, and Tuesday is their closed day. Hungry walk for me then!
I’d like to interrupt my hike story for a second to tell you a little more about hüttes. Basically, these mountain huts, located anywhere from the busy top of a cable car, to the middle of nowhere on a desolate ridge behind a huge mountain. They provide mattresses on which weary travellers can spend the night, as well as a varying range of food and drink items, ranging from a large and diverse menu at the busier huts, to a more limited range of home-made produce at some of the more remote ones. Beer is a staple, although I wonder how they manage to deliver to some of the higher ones!
Back to the Zugspitze, and I proceeded from the Gamsalmhütte up what would be, in winter, a busy ski slope. It was steep yet enjoyable, and looking back there were fabulous views across the valley. From here, already fairly high, the vegetation began to thin out and the hike continued across, at various times, grassland, scree slopes, rocks, unsafe-looking wooden platforms, and snow. The route passed under the cable car, from which the lazy people waved to me, and past some derelict buildings until eventually, after what felt like about 3 days to my stomach, but was nearer 2 hours, I reached the Wiener-Neustädte-hütte, probably the most remote hut in the region.
Deliveries to the hut are obviously difficult, and the chap inside informed me that I could choose between sausage and bread or soup, nothing else. I had a kasknödelsuppe – a clear soup of beef stock with a cheese dumpling in the middle, which was delicious (although to be fair, fermented mare’s milk would probably have tasted good by this point!). The hut itself was built in the late 1800s and was a beautiful cross between refuge, café and museum. For people staying overnight, there was no television, but an “entertainment corner” consisting of board games, a few books, and a guitar. The interior was of dark mellow wood with little natural light, and a number of antique hiking and objects hanging from the walls. There was also a guest book to sign, the first entry having been made in the 1960s. There are various hikes from this hut, but the most popular is obviously upwards. As I left, I looked at the photograph in the porch showing the route up from the hut – basically a wiggly red line up from the rock face!
The last bit is by far the most fun. This is the start of the via ferrata: metal rungs in the rock with a cable to attach safety ropes (which I didn’t have – oops!). The first part after the hut is across scree to the bottom of the rock, and at this point the via ferrata begins, firstly up the side of the mountain, and then for a while through a cave. The views behind and down are truly breathtaking and as the path, marked by red paint (blood?), winds its way up, the ascent is quite rapid.
About half way between the scree and the summit, the via ferrata comes to an end, and what remains is of equal steepness but without the mechanical aids. At times the path is indistinct and you just have to follow the person in front, at other times it’s quite clear. Eventually you reach the ridge, where you join with the Gatterl and Reintal routes for the final ascent, which is a little easier.
The last few yards to the tourist platform are, disappointingly, via a metal staircase, after which you have to get through the crowds of day-trippers (who’d ascended via the cable car) and queue for the final few yards to the summit. When I was there, those queuing for the summit were a mixture of elderly tourists and children wearing plimsolls, and over-cautious 30-somethings with full climbing gear, who looked a little out of place! From the summit, you can see the various routs up in each direction, after which it’s a queue back down to the platform and a celebratory schnapps and germknödel (sweet dumpling) in the café! Remember to take lots of cash with you, as they don’t take cards for the cable car down and it’s a long walk back!
Thanks again, Neil! If readers enjoyed this article, please check out Neil’s Hiking Site for more.
Posted 6 years, 6 months ago at 12:06 pm. 1 comment
This winter (or spring, rather?) I went to my first hardboot snowboard carver meetup. Carving Masters in Soelden was fantastic fun! The weather was good for 3 of 4 days. I demoed snowboards from Virus, Apex, F2, Goltes, and Oxess.
Most of the time I talked in German, so I really improved my skillz. We stayed in a great Pension (Bed & Breakfast) that was quite cheap, and right in the town center.
Here are a couple of choice still photos:
And, a gallery with the best few photos of each person that passed by:
Action photos were taken with a Nikon D90 and the 18-200mm VR lens. Should anyone want a full-res photo of themselves, just leave a comment here and tell me which rider you are! Videos may have to wait a few months until I’m back from my round-the-world trip.
Thanks to all the organizers at Frozen Backside, and to the vendors who made such a great effort and let us try their boards free of charge!
About Carving Masters
- See the official Carving Masters website here, though it will be a while before any information about CM 2011 is available.
- You can also find information about Carving Masters on the Frozen Backside hardboot forum.
- I can highly recommend staying at Pension Andre Arnold in Soelden. Clean and modern rooms, an excellent location, and a reasonable price. It’s run by a 4-time pro world ski champion! Imagine winning the world championships 4 years in a row from 1978-1981. Impressive.
- Try “Die Alm” at your own risk – we had the most rude service ever from the bartender there. Literally, I’ve never seen such bad service in my entire life, except perhaps once in Blacksburg, VA when a waitress told us (when our food was VERY slow coming) “It’ll come when it comes. I don’t run the kitchen.”
Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 12:05 pm. 1 comment
In case you didn’t see Part 1 and Part 2, that’s because they were published quite a while ago. I’ve been busy with snowboarding, and decided that this final post & video about a summer hike would anyway fit better once spring arrived.
After crossing the Höllentalferner glacier, we continued climbing up the wall for a long time.
As we neared the top this beautiful view greeted us:
Here’s the Eibsee, which we could also see briefly from the train on the way down.
Now, for the final video. High-def views over the Höllental and everything beyond!
Watch “Climbing Zugspitze: Part 3” in HD on YouTube. A big thanks to Danny Galixy for letting me use some of his fantastic instrumental music for these three videos!
We made one slight error, in that we planned to hike back down. But the ascent went slower than expected with our acrophobic friend, so we took the train down instead. That would have been no problem, except that we’d left some sleeping bags and shoes at the hut, planning to pick them up on the way down.
So… after arriving back to the car in Hammersbach, Scott and I did a lightning-fast hike up the bottom section of the mountain. This time we chose to go via the Höllentalklamm, a gorge with a river, instead of the longer (but fee-free) Stangensteig. When I say lightning-fast, I mean the signpost said 2 1/2 hours, and we did it in 1:15. Our Smartwool shirts were soaked with sweat!
In the end I’m glad we did this bottom section twice, because the Höllentalklamm was gorgeous! You walk up narrow staircases cut into the rock, with splashing waterfalls and scenic views everywhere. I’d recommend if you are hiking up and down, to go up Höllentalklamm and down Stangensteig to take in both scenic routes.
For the full details about the hike, where to stay, where to rent gear, and all that – check out Part 1 of this series. The end of that post has all the hard facts listed in English for your Babelfish-free understanding. Part 2 of the Zugspitze series is all about the via ferrata sections (where you’re clipped to the steel cables on the cliffside) and the glacier.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and seeing what Zugspitze is like. Let me know if you have any questions I can answer about the hike or the mountain! I’m happy to help fellow English speakers figure this baby out, because almost all the information out there is in German (grin).
Posted 6 years, 11 months ago at 6:34 pm. 9 comments
While a volcano melts the glacier in Iceland, carvers are cutting up the Austrian glaciers on raceboards! Here’s Lowcarver this past weekend, riding his Virus snowboard at Hintertux…
Below is a gallery of the best carving photos from Hintertux (and a couple of a friend who skis). I can’t wait for Carving Masters in just one week at Soelden! Hopefully I’ll get great shots and video of lots of carvers there.
For more on Hintertux, please see this earlier post with info of how to get there.
Photos were taken with a Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR lens, and a circular polarizing filter.
Posted 6 years, 11 months ago at 11:27 am. Add a comment
As my regular readers may remember, I’m doing a trip around the world this summer! Here’s an update of the itinerary:
|May 08-May 17
|May 18-June 02
|June 04-June 18
|June 07-June 11
||Side trip, NZ to Sydney
|June 19-July 04
|July 04-July 27
|July ??-July ??
||Side trip, Thai to Malay/Vietnam?
||Return to Munich
If you’re in any of these spots at the same time, let me know, perhaps we can meet!
So, what’s left on my to-do list? A LOT, believe me! I need malaria tablets, zip ties, luggage locks, DEET bug repellant, a few more vaccinations… and I have to learn a bit of Spanish and Japanese.
What can you expect from the blog while I’m on this trip? I’m not 100% sure yet, but here are some of the ideas I’ve been kicking around:
- Short post with a photo-a-day (delayed slightly due to spotty internet access)
- Tales about a bottle of Blair’s Death Sauce I’ll bring with me (haven’t decided what flavor)
- Mini-reviews of the places where I stay: mostly hostels
- Descriptions of hikes and other sights I see (maybe after I return from the trip)
- Anything else you’d like to see or hear? Leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do!
I’m also interested to get any special tips you might have about the countries I’ll visit. To give you some ideas, I’ll start with a few of my own hot tips from the last year:
- Hong Kong: Sushi One has half-price sushi after 10pm. And it’s some of the best sushi I’ve ever had, with a huge selection of a la carte items I’d never seen before!
- Taiwan: In the town of Hualien, near Taroko Gorge, there’s a huge restaurant with fantastic (and cheap) food. It’s full of locals, and it was super-tasty. Probably a taxi driver could find this full-city-block restaurant:
- Austrian Alps: Fantastic skiing can be had during the pre- and post-season at Hintertux Glacier. For the non-skiers they have a very cool limestone cave at the Spannagelhaus, and an Ice Palace cave at the very top of the mountain. The limestone cave (and probably ice palace as well) are open all year round, in case you’re a summer visitor.
- Vienna: You must see the Iron Man near Vienna’s Rathaus (city hall). There are hundreds of thousands of nails pounded into this wooden statue and pedestal.
Happy traveling on your own vacations, and hope to see some of you along the way!
Posted 6 years, 11 months ago at 2:24 pm. 4 comments
Alright, you’ve probably seen a few videos like my latest craziness from February. For March I decided to put up some D-SLR snowboard carving photos taken with the Nikon D90 and 70-300mm VR lens. For all those riding hardboots, check these out! Raceboards are one major step faster than freeride boards, and provide superior stability and grip to carve serious trenches in the snow at high speed.
Here Peter shows off some really amazing turns on his Oxess snowboard… first the frontside,
And now the backside turn (I swear it’s not a mirror image of the frontside photo!),
I think my body doesn’t turn far enough to be able to kiss the snow on the backside… heh. Here are a few shots of the author; you can see I’m not as practiced as Peter (and I wasn’t as confident on the bumpy/slushy snow we had later in the day when Bernd took these shots of me).
My Virus Xtremecarver snowboard grips like mad. I think I just need to learn to ride it better. The frontside turn, as always, is easier than the backside:
If any carvers out there have some advice how I can improve my technique, please do leave a comment here! I have a feeling my stance may need adjustment, and I need to turn my upper body more on the backside turns.
Lastly, here’s Bernd on his trusty (~15-year-old) F2 Speedster SL. I’m curious how he’d do on a Silberpfeil, one of the most known factory-standard carving boards.
And the tricky backside turn:
Below you’ll find a whole album with many more photos from all three of us. Enjoy, and leave a comment if you have some helpful advice about technique! (I’m the second rider).
Posted 7 years ago at 2:29 pm. 11 comments
The snow this winter isn’t that bountiful, so I’ve been quite often to nearby glacier ski resorts. I’ll give a few details later about the charming town of Lanersbach in the Zillertal valley. But first you have to see the temperature at the top of Hintertux Glacier on our first day:
“Heiter” usually means fair, clear, or bright. But in this case the sign was WRONG. Outdoors it was cloudy, snowing lightly, and the wind was blowing at 40-50km/h (up to 30mph). –22C equates to –8F… and the wind chill, well, that was around –38C (–37F). Keep in mind that’s before accounting for the speed we were moving downhill (directly into the wind). I got a bit of frostnip on my ears, so I wore a liner cap under my helmet on the following days. “Gefrorene Wand” was quite accurate on this trip: Frozen Face!
It wasn’t all snow and frostbite. One evening we went to Kleine Tenne in Lanersbach, and found that Captain Morgan Austria was there with the Captain Morgan Twins and their bikinis! Paul was kind enough to pose for a photo with the twins.
Good music, a kicker (foosball) table, and Zillertal Pils made it a great night, although we were a bit too tired from the cold to party like rock stars. We made it back to the Kleine Tenne one more night, when the Bavarian party band Chari Vari was there… although none of our group was a big fan of the folky-rock style with double accordions.
The rest of the trip was all about skiing and snowboarding. Here is a choice view from the quad chairlift above Sommerberg, where you can see the neighboring T-bar:
And, on the last day, this beautiful view of Hintertux greeted us upon arrival. You can just see the moon over the peaks toward the left side of the picture.
Getting to Lanersbach:
- Here’s a Google map of Lanersbach. I highly recommend Lanersbach if you’re going to Hintertux for an extended trip. It’s about 10-15min drive to the mountain base by car or ski bus, and you have a much wider selection of nightlife and restaurants than in Hintertux itself. The town is about 2h drive from Munich, and a little less from Innsbruck.
- There is a Spar grocery store in Lanersbach, but beware, in Austria the stores close very early (6:00pm I believe).
- Restaurants are plentiful, and we went to several on the one-way street (north of the main street). Hermanns Klause restaurant (associated with a bed & breakfast) had tasty food, but was smoky. The restaurant at Hotel Jaeger had a non-smoking area, salad bar, and excellent food. As one of our party was sick at home, they even made a “to-go” entree and gave us a real plate & silverware with it. Of course, one night we went up the hill to Madseit to our favorite: Alte Huette at Hotel Berghaus. I had a fantastic lamb schnitzel, a dish I’d never seen before.
- Kleine Tenne had a good number of people on both Friday and Saturday nights. We were lucky that it wasn’t too smoky, but don’t expect a non-smoking nightclub in Austria. There was another nightclub next door that we didn’t try out, so clearly there is some party potential in Lanersbach if you’re there on the right week/weekend.
- Skiing possibilities abound: you can ski Eggalm right in Lanersbach, try Rastkogel or Finkenburg a few km down the valley, go up the valley to Hintertux, or even drive 20min down to Mayrhofen for a larger-town experience (and Austria’s steepest prepared ski slope “Harakiri” with 78% grade!).
If you give Lanersbach a try, I hope you enjoy the trip, and come back here to tell us about it!
Posted 7 years ago at 1:09 pm. Add a comment
When you think of a glacier, you probably already think “cold.” But of the many days I’ve spent at glacier ski areas this year, none were colder than this past Sunday and Monday at Stubai. The temperature was about –15 to –20C (that’s 5F to –4F) on Sunday, and in the evening the winds picked up. Monday the wind chill must have been way below –20C, even though the temps warmed up a few degrees. Check out the snow being blown from the peaks:
Now, don’t get the impression it wasn’t FUN! This was one of the best ski weekends I’ve had this year (from 18 days snowboarding so far). The snow was perfect for carving, and off-piste there was about a foot of powder.
For those wishing to travel to Stubai, don’t expect huge nightlife. The nearest big town is Neustift im Stubaital, and it’s nothing like Mayrhofen, St. Anton, or Sölden for nightlife. We stayed in a small Pension in Milders, near Neustift. “The Farm,” the big apres-ski place in Milders, had a total of 3 people at 9:30pm (and they were all smoking). However, BIG PROPS to Restaurant Steinadler, which we found was non-smoking. That’s very rare for Austria. Besides that, the food was fantastic. Here was my Cordon Bleu (which also came with a salad plate and a side of cranberry sauce):
I had a surreal experience there. I dropped my fork, and as I looked around for our server (maybe 7 seconds later), there she came – with a new fork. Apparently she had heard it from the other room, and recognized the difference between fork and knife hitting the ground. Amazing!
Pensions (= Bed & Breakfasts) vary quite a bit throughout Germany and Austria, but in my experience you’re guaranteed a decent bed and a simple breakfast for a bargain price. Our pick in Milders was okay, but a few features might turn off some travelers. Ask yourself: what percentage of today’s Americans would physically be able to sit down on this toilet!?
The next morning we went back out for more adventure on the slopes. It was a windy day, but once we were on the slopes (wind at our backs) it was great. I figured out the settings on my bindings and boots to let me carve like crazy on my Virus Xtremecarver, leaning all the way over so my nose was almost touching the snow on every turn. And the views were fantastic!
Check out this distant mountain formation which looks like a bowl full of clouds:
Getting to Stubai
- See this Google Map for the location of Stubai; you’ll find Neustift im Stubaital along the road leading to it. Note that it’s 16km or so from Neustift (the nearest large town) to Stubai.
- Pensions (= Bed & Breakfasts) are a great place to stay. Usually the proprietors are very friendly and helpful. Often the room is fantastic for the price; although sometimes it’s a bit lacking in one area or another. Occasionally you find “WC im Flur” which means a shared bathroom in the hall, but you’ll often save €5-10 a night for such a room.
- I highly recommend the restaurant Steinadler in Milders. Non-smoking, fantastic food, friendly service, and psychic at bringing replacement forks. From the card I picked up there, I found they also have a Pension with a quite reasonable room rate (€24 per person for double room with breakfast; even cheaper in the summer at €20). Google map here. Milders is a cheap taxi ride from Neustift central, in case you’re there on a weekend and want to try for bigger nightlife than “The Farm” apres-ski in Milders.
Posted 7 years ago at 5:12 pm. 4 comments
If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably saw my post about Hintertux just as this winter began. In past years, I’ve only gone there when the other areas didn’t have enough snow. But this year I went back mid-season and found piles of the stuff, way deeper POW than the other resorts at lower altitudes.
Here are a few scenic shots:
The clouds were quite amazing at times on Sunday, as a storm cleared off.
In my last Hintertux post I mentioned extreme weather. Well, here’s the result when it’s –15C with snow in the air. Oh, let’s not forget, the whole top of the mountain was in a cloud.
After I melted all this ice out of my beard, I gave up and put on my neoprene facemask. Heh.
Pictures are all from my trusty Canon SD1000. That little camera has gone more vertical miles in my pocket than any other piece of electronics I own. And despite my taking the occasional hard spill on an icy slope, it’s still unscathed!
Since I love these shots, and don’t have any particular “favorite photo” (how would one choose?), the frozen beard goes out to Wendy from down under!
Posted 7 years, 1 month ago at 11:00 am. 4 comments