Last year in Ireland we proved that it was possible: a multi-day hiking tour with our children aged six and nine. Six days in a row we hiked across the Dingle Peninsula, walking from B&B to B&B, covering distances up to twenty kilometers a day. Yes, quite a bit of motivational speaking had to be done. And sometimes the tempo slowed down to a snail’s pace. But we had a lot of fun and made it to the finish line unharmed and full of pride.
That experience tasted like more. The sweat from Ireland hadn’t dried up yet or Ellen started planning our next hiking vacation, using maps, websites and multiple travel reports. Destination: the peaks of the Alps. Why not, hiking is hiking after all? Well, of course there are some distinctions. First of all, in Ireland we hiked in a gentle landscape with small hills. The only real mountain stage on the Dingle peninsula – Mount Brandon – we left out of the program because of the level of difficulty. And the other mountain climb that we had chosen earlier in the vacation to challenge our muscles – Mount Errigal – we had to abort prematurely because our son made a misjudgment and stood up to his waist in the mud.
This time, in the Alps, we obviously cannot escape steep ascents. Our master plan is to do a couple of multi-day hut hikes. Even if we choose our itinerary in such a way that the climbing is minimal, we will have to conquer at least a few hundred altimeters every day. And of course, the lengths of the daily legs will not be the same as in Ireland. We will not be hiking twenty kilometers a day in the Alps. When climbing, five kilometers sometimes is a lot.
Another difference is that in Ireland our luggage was transferred to the next accommodation by taxi. So, during the day we did not have much more in our backpack than a packed lunch, water and a raincoat. Very convenient. This form of doping we will lack in the Alps. Buses are scarce high up in the mountains, and Sherpas do not fit into our budget. We will have to carry our own luggage this time. But we can do that too, so we decided.
The planning of all the hikes was not an easy task for Ellen. She had a hard time finding information about the toughness and the technicality of the routes. But after many hours of googling and consulting travel blogs, she succeeded. Months in advance an itinerary of Ellen-like quality was finished. And then, in March, the virus arrived. For a long time, we were on the verge of calling the whole tour off, but a few weeks beforehand we made an executive decision. We added masks to our carefully balanced packing list… and drove into the mountains.
Mid-July we drive to the Räterichsbodensee, an artificial reservoir in Switzerland. This is the starting point of our first hike. Acclimatization is for sissies. This is the scenario: we will ascend to the Bächlitalhütte, spend the night, and descend again the next day. A little hike to warm up the muscles, Ellen had devised. Our backpacks contain sleeping bags. This is required because of corona, normally a liner bag is sufficient. Apart from that, we only carry what we need for these two hiking days. Rain gear, some sandwiches for lunch, and a small selection from the 488 muesli bars I bought for the trip. The rest of the bars are left in the car, in the parking lot near the reservoir.
All four of us carry a backpack. Ellen has the largest one, I’ve got the heaviest one. Teun carries some of his own stuff and Tessel a cuddly toy. Besides that, we all carry a Camelbak. The latter we bought especially for this trip. I always found it a bit unnecessary, a Camelbak. If you are too lazy to take a bottle out of your backpack every now and then, why would you spend hours walking up a mountain? But during our training weekend I got convinced. It’s not going to get much easier than this, in terms of hydration. It’s as if a water tap is walking along with you. There is only one difference: you will have to fill a Camelbak before the start of your trip. Duh. Logical. But that’s exactly what we forgot to do (as we observe while looking out over twenty-five billion liters of Räterichsbodenseewasser). Grumbling we buy half a dozen water bottles at a little stand along the road. “Up at the hut there will be drinking water,” the sales lady cheerfully tells us, while I mourn the loss of a slightly too large pile of Swiss banknotes.
I was talking about a training weekend. To avoid any misunderstandings: that was not in the Alps. At the end of June, the four of us walked from Weesp to Abcoude and back again. A beautiful hike, but of course with a distressing lack of altimeters, since these towns are located in the Netherlands. Someone from the Dutch Railways named the route “Gein en Vecht”, which translates into “Fun and Fight”. I couldn’t summarize it any better myself: on the one hand we had a lot of fun, but on the other hand our perseverance was put to the test. Two stretches of fifteen kilometers each – you don’t get a medal for it in our hometown Nijmegen, but it’s still a lot longer than our usual evening strolls during the intelligent lockdown. Of course, all this is peanuts compared to the ordeal that awaits us here in the Alps. We stand at the foot of our first mountain and realize that we skipped “a particular training phase”. According to Ellen it was because of the coronavirus. I think that’s too much honor for such a lousy piece of RNA. But the fact remains: this is going to hurt.
The sun shines exuberantly and in good spirits we start the ascend. Small steps. We do not want to go too fast. Every few minutes we stop. To look around us. To take in how much we have already ascended. To sense how beautiful it is. And on we go. It does not take long before the first complaints start to emerge. “It’s pretty tough.” “I want to sit down.” “Are we at the hut yet?” Gradually I realize that I did secretly undergo some specific training. Last winter we bought a ‘half bike’, an impulse buy – copied from our geeky friend Sander. A half bike is a bike without a saddle. And without handlebars by the way, the cornering is done with your body. A step with pedals might be a better description. When the sun as well as the corona virus appeared in March, the half bike became my daily escape. It mainly trains your thighs and your core stability. And that seems to have given me a small lead over my wife and children.
After two hours of climbing, we arrive at a stream. Shoes go off; the cold water has to be felt. According to some people this is a bad idea if you still have walking to do. But those people think with their feet and not with their heart. After another short ascend we see our mountain hut in the distance, dramatically situated on top of a steep slope at the end of a wide valley. Our goal for today is finally visible. Tessel is completely surprised. The word hut made her think of a cozy construction of sheets and clothespins. Or at least something you must build yourself. A large building of stone and wood is the last thing she expected. Between meltwater and snow, we navigate towards the last steep ascent. And then, more than four hours after we left the car behind us, we check in at the Bächlitalhütte. Stage one is in the pocket.
We spend the night at an altitude of 2328 meters, about 550 meters above our departure point. Next to the hut we find a beautiful sun terrace, overlooking the Bächli glacier. The terrace ends at a steep abyss without fence or warning . For safety’s sake we drink Rivella. This hut is not much different than a youth hostel. The biggest difference with a mainstream youth hostel is that only fitgirls and fitboys roam around here, of all ages by the way. And then there is us. We are proud of our accomplishments, but we do realize that for most people, this place is just a base camp for something much bigger. Bending over their maps and pointing towards steep cliffs they plan their next challenge. It’s usually something to do with ropes and helmets. The stuff of my nightmares… more about that later.
Because of corona, the number of guests is limited to about half the capacity. We share a 12-bed dormitory with one other couple. They sleep downstairs, we sleep upstairs. You can call it a bunk bed, but it is actually a wall-to-wall mezzanine where the four of us sleep next to each other. At dinner strict rules apply: every group has its own fixed table, and the staff pass by to serve soup, spaghetti, and carrot cake. It feels safe this way. We also don’t have to be afraid of getting infected in the shower room, because taking a shower will cost you five Swiss francs. Hygiene is an awfully expensive luxury. “And highly overrated,” Ellen says – a remarkable statement for an occupational hygienist, but I know she’s given it some thought.
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep and a breakfast of bircher’s muesli – a gray porridge of muesli, apple, and honey – we hike back the same way. Descending is always faster than ascending, of course, although you should never underestimate going downhill. We will certainly feel this in our legs. Not today though. Today pride is the overriding emotion.
Bettmeralp and the Aletsch glacier
In about an hour we drive to from the Räterichsbodensee to Betten, where we leave our car once again in a parking lot. Packed with our luggage we get into the cable car to Bettmeralp at an altitude of 2000 meters. We have rented an apartment that will be our base for the next five days. Bettmeralp is a typical winter sports resort in summertime. It is full of little chalets and the village is car-free. But do not expect there to be only mooing Milka cows. It is a lively village, a huge contrast to the relative solitude in the Bächlital. The lack of cars is compensated by luggage taxis. And many people make the daily ride to the bakery on an electric mountain bike. I myself associate mountain bikes more with sports than with shopping. This makes a mountain bike with a power plug feel like a ‘contradictio in terminis’, not to say fraud or high treason. But apparently, I must adjust my frame of mind. There are just too many electric mountain bikes in this town to resist.
The next day more hiking is scheduled for us – a guided glacier tour, that is. According to the information on the internet, this expedition is suitable for children from the age of seven. To get to the glacier we will first have to cross a mountain. Next, we will hike for two hours across the Aletsch glacier, the main attraction. And then we will return to the village over the same mountain. Ellen booked this trip a long time ago. Yes, there was some doubt if it would be too hard, but there was also a lot of enthusiasm. And: YOLO! You only live once. But now, after our two-day overture in the Bächilital, the world looks a bit different. Ellen has severe muscle aches and can hardly put one foot in front of the other. For Tessel it will certainly be too hard, we realize now. So Teun and I check in at the starting point early in the morning, with the message that the ladies will stay at home.
With a backpack full of food, Teun and I shuffle up the mountain. We follow a simple path over green slopes. Simple – but uphill. Our guide, a friendly sixty-year-old man, regularly stops to give us some explanations. First in German, then in French. Well, he starts in German each time and then apologizes after three sentences that he accidentally speaks regular German. After which he quickly switches to Swiss German. I consider myself fortunate that I at least understand a little bit of French. Teun uses the explanations to catch his breath. He’s having a tough time. After only twenty minutes he doesn’t want to continue. His legs hurt from the days before. It makes me pessimistic; we still have about six or seven hours to go. On the way back we can choose our own pace but for now we will have to stay with the group and the guide. And they continue at a good pace. Teun is struggling; now and then I literally push and pull him up the mountain. After about an hour we reach flatter terrain, which helps. We see our first marmot. And not much later the glacier shows itself in its full glory. That, and the prospect of descending, improves Teun’s mood. Halfway down the slope to the glacier our guide dives into the bushes. He returns with a bag filled with crampons. A little later, at the edge of the glacier, we are allowed to slide them over our shoes. “They have to go the other way around, pointing downwards”, he corrects me. “Of course,” I say. Just testing whether he is doing his job properly.
The Aletsch glacier is the longest glacier in the Alps, spanning twenty-three kilometers. Every year, three to four meters disappear, or rather, three to four meters less ice is added at the top than melts away at the bottom. With his stick, the guide points to the line where the glacier surface ended when he started this work forty-five years ago. He teaches us that today’s meltwater fell out of the sky around the year 1300-1400 – in other words, it’s medieval water. All that melting does not alter the fact that there is one hundred meters of ice under our feet. A little further up the glacier, the ice is seven hundred meters thick!
It’s surprisingly easy to walk with those irons attached to your shoes; it’s even easy to walk straight up a steep slope. Teun immediately forgets all the pain and fatigue. He jumps over the ice like a young dog and looks for pieces of slate to throw through small holes and cracks in the surface. Occasionally there are cracks and potholes in the ice, but it doesn’t really get scary anywhere. The guide is carrying a long rope, but we are allowed to walk free. It is insanely beautiful. For two hours we stroll around on the immense glacial surface.
Then it’s time to return. Unlike on the way there, we now exactly see the ascent that’s in front of us. We climb up slowly. Teun struggles. “Does he have asthma?” asks a fellow hiker with a curious sense of empathy. A French family lends Teun a pair of hiking poles. That turns out to be a great success; his walking improves by a mile. Almost eight hours and eight hundred and fifty altimeters after the start we are back in Bettmeralp. We did it! With our tired legs up on a chair, we hear that Ellen has been to Bettmerhorn with Tessel today, with the cable car. Limping, because of her severe muscle pains. So they have also seen the Aletsch glacier. From the top, that is.
The next few days we take it easy. The concept of ‘rösti day’ is born: a rest day when we eat grated potato. We buy two pairs of extendable hiking poles. These will make our mountain life a lot more bearable. And we take a swim in the Bettmersee, a small lake at the top of the village. The water is freezing, but that doesn’t bother our children. They spend hours and hours at the water’s edge trying to catch tadpoles.
We pick up the car and drive to Latschau in the Montafon, just across the border in Austria. We’re going to do a hut hike here, this time with not one but four overnight stays. We park our car at the Kraftwerk near Lake Latschau and take the cable car to the middle station. There, on a large mountain terrace, we feast on Kasespätzle, Pfifferlingragout and Semmelknodel. If you eat avocados and oatmeal in your daily life, you completely forget that this is also possible. This is Austria! After Switzerland it’s striking how many calories you will get on your plate here, both per euro and in absolute terms. Now we really must walk, otherwise our vessels will clog up. Also striking is that the people here look a lot more like real people. Swiss people all look a bit like the Federer family, top sports families in flawless outdoor clothing with a bottle of Rivella in their hand and a phlegmatic smile on their face. Austrians, on the other hand, have beer bellies, greasy hair, big beer mugs in their hands and they make a lot more noise. (They also seem to generalize a lot, but I will gladly leave that kind of unfounded judgement to others.)
It is a few hours walk to the Lindauerhütte, a little appetizer hike. We catch the first raindrops of the vacation. We change into our rain gear a few times, more to justify that we took it with us than to stay dry. Earlier I compared the Bächlitalhütte to a youth hostel. The Lindauerhütte however is more like a very successful restaurant on a market square. In the mountains, that is. Part of the popularity can be explained by the fact that you can reach the hut by car. It’s crowded, but the corona rules are properly observed, and the staff serves with a Teutonic zest for work. We have the luxury of our own four-person bedroom with an electrical socket next to each bed. After Wi-Fi, a private socket to charge your phone is the biggest wish of our children. Everything else is less important. We drink a glass of wine and some beer, play a game of Uno, admire the botanical garden, and go to sleep. We have a good reason to be fully rested for tomorrow.
The next morning an epic trip to the Tilisunahütte awaits us. This means an ascent of more than eight hundred meters. In addition, at the end of the climb, we can look forward to some difficult parts, “with chains and such”. My wife prepared me for this months ago. She more or less asked me for my permission. “Pien did it too,” she said. Now Pien, a ten-year-old friend of Teun and Tessel, has already made quite a few mountain hikes in her early life. Her name obviously is an abbreviation of ‘Alpine’. Anyway, she’s a circus artist in the making; if you’ve lost her, she might be hidden away in an IKEA TV cabinet, all curled up. So, the question is whether Pien is a good benchmark for a stiff near-fifty man with vertigo. But anyway, those chains are there for a reason. You can just hold on to them, so you don’t fall. And because I didn’t want to be a party pooper, I said yes to my wife. And today I will have to face the consequences of that decision.
It is cloudy, but more or less dry. The tension is slightly increased because of the thunderstorms that are predicted for later in the day. We really must be in the hut before the thunder starts. We take our packed lunches and leave at a quarter to nine. After descending a few hundred meters, a long climb ensues. First sheltered, followed by a path that becomes more and more exposed and ‘hairpinnery’. After a few hours of climbing, we reach the Birkengrat, the dreaded passage. It doesn’t seem too bad at first, those chains indeed give me something to hold on to. However, after about ten meters the chains stop, while that steep slope on my left hand is still there. This is scary! Luckily, there is an altruistic Swiss person present who lends me his hiking pole – I put mine in my backpack five minutes ago, and I don’t have the mental flexibility to take them out again. He mindfully coaches me through the passage keeping a distance of one and a half meters. “Now put that foot there, and then that hand here and the pole back there…” It is purely coincidental that a meter and a half has something to do with social distancing. Corona is the last thing on my mind right now, that slope to my left is a much more acute threat to public health. No, in this case a meter and a half are my self-imposed horizon. As long as I don’t look beyond the heels of my ‘Mentalführer’ I’ll get through this, step by step. “Just walk as if you are going from the living room to the kitchen,” he says. I repeat everything he says out loud, even if it doesn’t make sense, because I rarely use hands and poles when walking around the house. But today it’s not about the content, it’s about my brain not having time to think about helicopters and broken legs and worse. All in all, the whole passage only takes a few minutes, but the relief is immense when I get through it. Wife and children didn’t have any problems whatsoever, apparently they have something else between their ears. After another modest descent we arrive at the Tilisunahütte.
From the Tilisunahütte we have a view down to a mountain lake. We conceive a plan to take a dip in this lake before dinner. A bit of relaxation after the stressful circumstances of this afternoon. We ask the boys behind the bar how cold the water is. They don’t seem to understand us. Ha! We might not be mountain goats, but we Dutch are excellent cold-water swimmers, just look at our fellow Dutchmen Maarten van der Weijden and Iceman Wim Hof. On a mountain slope we might pant and stumble, but put us near a bowl of icy water and we spontaneously swim fifty lanes. Reality turns out to be a little more challenging though. There is a large flock of cows between us and the lake, which we tentatively circumnavigate. Subsequently, it’s quite a hassle getting into the water. Our children always have to defecate at that very moment, and the rain clouds seem to approach a lot faster than we expected.
Back in the comfort of the hut we feast on Aperol Spritz and Weizen. Once again we notice how ridiculously reasonable the prices are in Austria. Especially considering the fact that they have to carry the booze up the mountain on a donkey, bottle by bottle. This is not the case of course – because there is a cableway leading to the hut – but this cableway is not much more than a big shopping crate on a line. Anyway, it makes everything taste better.
Before dinner is served we get an extensive speech by the hut keeper. He tells us what’s on the menu, the weather forecast, the current state of the hiking trails (open) and the showers (closed). He concludes his speech with a long and slightly desperate lamentation about the impact of the virus on mountain hut life. Once a week he has to evacuate the entire building to disinfect all the rooms with a very expensive atomizer. And he speaks about the general plague of the hospitality industry; that it is not possible to make a profit at the moment. But it has to be said: despite the complaining, he takes the virus very seriously. Just like in the other hut keepers. Social distancing measures are emphasized throughout, masks are worn in public transport including the gondolas. And in just about every public space pumps with disinfectant are placed. (Which by the way contain Schnapps. Think about it: it smells like alcohol and it smells like fruit, and of course the Austrians have a huge overproduction of fruit liqueur because of all those lockdown measures this year… where would it go? No problem, just leave those conspiracy theories to me.)
Thursday is a rösti day. The plan is to give body and mind a day without mountain hiking. But we can’t resist the call of the mountains. We decide to hike to the top of the Sulzfluh. It is quite a climb. First there is grass, then a beautiful lunar landscape of rocks with deep holes. We see Murmeltiere – mountain marmots. In the distance thunderclouds are looming, but the cloud cover breaks, and we are able to carry on until we reach the snow line. We carefully put our feet on the snowfield right before the top but leave the summit for what it is. 650 meters of climbing is more than enough for today. Time to descend and relax in the hut.
The next day a hike to the Carschinahütte in on our schedule, the third and last hut in this tour. At around five o’clock in the morning a heavy thunderstorm wakes us up. That morning for the first time we depart wearing our rain gear. However, the thunderstorm has already made way for an insignificant drizzle that soon after stops all together.
The Carschinahütte is in Switzerland. Shortly after our departure from the Tilisunahütte we cross the border, and a sign indicates that we are leaving the EU. It’s as easy as that. The route takes us downhill first, and then follows a path that leads us up along a valley. Along the way we encounter numerous mountain salamanders, a few times even in a state of copulation – them, not us. The hike is a bit longer than we expected and – although it’s in no proportion to the day before yesterday – the altitude keeps me just a little bit outside my comfort zone. But it’s all worth it. We now see the Sulzfluh from the other side. Yesterday we were standing at the top, today we look up from the bottom.
Once we arrive at the hut we indulge in hot chocolate and rösti – no less than seven varieties are on the menu. The Carschinahütte is a hut of the youth hostel variety. It is managed as well as inhabited by youthful people. The latter also manifests itself in the evening; for a long time it is very boisterous in the room above us, due to salamander-like behavior.
It’s time for the last stage of the trip. The hike starts with a mild climb to the Drusentor on which Teun slips and hurts his thumb. Fortunately, things improve quickly. We walk back into the EU, and after a steep and slippery descent we break for lunch at the Lindauerhütte, the one from the first night. After a few days up in the highlands we suddenly find ourselves among people again. Lunch is followed by a descent through the forest, towards the middle station of the cable car. This stretch is not very exciting, and it seems endless. The hiking times as posted on the signs are not exactly accurate for ordinary mortals. For us, a correction factor of one and a half to two is needed. It is also the first time that we have some doubts about the route. We are very relieved to see the middle station at the end of the afternoon and take the cable car down to the parking lot.
We drive to Gaschurn where we stay in a comfortable apartment. We promise our children that we will have a few rösti days. They deserve it! Besides that, Pien – I already mentioned her – is in the neighborhood with her parents and sister. Since we get along very well with them, we agree to eat delicious Italian food together, drink Schiwasser, go to the open-air swimming pool and – sorry guys – climb another mountain. We also buy hiking gear at the sports store located directly underneath our apartment. You can justifiably call it ”retail therapy”. The owner, a very sporty young lad, turns out to be the only Austrian with vertigo. That makes me feel a lot better. And that is not superfluous, because we are heading back into the mountains.
Stubaital – Dresdnerhütte and Sulzenauhütte
On Tuesday morning we drive through the fourteen-kilometers-long Arlberg Tunnel and the Ötz Valley to the Stubai Valley. We leave the car at the Gamsgarten bottom station, take the gondola halfway up the mountain where we check in at the Dresdnerhütte. If I have to give this hut a place within the hospitality spectrum I end up at ‘chain hotel’. Solid, not necessarily bad, but a bit large scale, and a bit apple saucey. Our intention to make a trip to a nearby hut after lunch is cancelled due to lack of time. Instead, we take the gondola to the top of the mountain, to the ‘Top of Tyrol’. We enjoy the spectacular view and make a short stroll in the snow, part of which is covered like an incubator child with blankets to prevent melting.
The next morning, we have planned a serious hike from the Dresdnerhütte to the Sulzenauhütte. However, at breakfast we find out we have a problem: we forgot to withdraw money in the valley. And the Sulzenauhütte is cash only. We only have enough euros in our wallet for dinner, bed and breakfast, but not for drinks, packed lunches and unforeseen circumstances. It’s an option to start hiking anyway – maybe we’ll manage with Swiss francs and six bank cards – but that doesn’t feel completely in control. Another option is to cancel the whole trip. Just to be sure, the Dresdner boss calls his Sulzenau colleague: indeed, they only accept cash. “But”, he says: “for a tenner you can go up and down to the valley and there is an ATM at the bottom station”. He calls to the bottom station to verify that the ATM is actually switched on. We decide that is the right way to go. I take the cable car down the mountain. The tenner turns out to be fifteen euros, and can only be paid for in cash. Which means now we are definitely under water. Withdrawing cash really must succeed now. You can already feel what is coming. “Yesterday it was still working, but today it’s not” says a cashier. “The nearest ATM is in the village.” That village is ten kilometers further up the road. By bus that is, because my car key is up the mountain in Ellen’s pocket. Ellen calls me from above that there should be another ATM at a nearby station, only a few hundred meters from where I’m standing. “Oh yes, you are right” says the cashier lady. But that ATM also appears to be malfunctioning. In the end she lets me withdraw a hundred euros at the cash register. It’s a good thing there’s Plexiglas between us, otherwise I would have hugged her, against all the corona rules. The moral of the story is clear: make sure you have plenty of cash with you. People here are generally very helpful, and if there is a real problem, there will always a way. They won’t refuse you a bed in a mountain hut, for example. But still: cash is king.
We finally get going. The trail goes straight up, which is always tricky with cold muscles. Teun seems to have a bad day, we are going at a snail’s pace. It gets more rocky, and chains and cables appear. I had already heard something about a ‘secured passage’, but I must have repressed this information. Whereas my previous nightmare – the Birgengrat – was mainly a footpath with a slightly too deep slope on one side, this feels more like real rock climbing to me. It forces me to focus for two hundred percent. I don’t want to call it flow – that word smells like effortlessness and relaxation, both not applicable – but hyperfocus is present. When the infamous passage is completed, we eat our sandwiches, enjoy the immensely beautiful view and shuffle down towards the Sulzenauferner – a magnificent glacier lake. Poor weather was predicted, but now the morning fog has cleared we are walking on in radiant sunshine. From the glacier lake it is only a long but easy descent to the Sulzenauhütte.
The Sulzenauhütte meets all our expectations. Except that everything turns out to be a little bit cheaper than what we expected, which raises questions about the necessity of our ATM adventures this morning. But that’s all in retrospect. In nearly all huts, ‘Bergsteigeressen’ is an option, an inexpensive daily meal. When staying overnight, you can also opt for ‘Halbpension’: breakfast and dinner at a fixed price. You will eat a fixed menu, maybe this is not suitable for choosy types, but we have never regretted it. You will always get ‘deftiges Essen’ – hearty food, usually consisting of three and sometimes even four courses. In this hut besides ‘Halbpension-Halbpension’ they also offer ‘Bergsteigerhalbpension’ and ‘Kinderbergsteigerhalbpension’. We make our choice without knowing exactly what we order, but it is a lot of food and all very tasty. And the atmosphere is excellent, we certainly have a winner in that aspect. Thursday morning, we return to the valley, a long descent in two stages. It’s not heavy, though my knees are struggling a bit. But we did it again!
This marks the end of my vacation. The next morning, I am dropped in Innsbruck to take the train towards Nijmegen. On my own, since both my self-employed spouse as my school-age children have a little too many days off. Or I don’t have enough. They will continue their vacations for another two weeks and will make another multi-day hut hike on the Italian side of the Alps, near the Drei Zinnen. They will also hike to the Carl-von-Stahl-Haus high above the Königssee in Germany, and visit the Rudolfshütte, a monstrosity of a hut 2300 meters high up in the mountains, next to the beautiful Weißsee in Austria.
I am going to miss it, the snoring of the children next to me in the hut, the suckling on my Camelbak when theirs is empty – a late and emancipated form of breastfeeding – and of course the pleasure of being on the mountain together. I comfort myself with the prospect that my premature homecoming will be accompanied by privileges such as the right to endlessly play guitar in the living room. For two whole weeks. Yeah!