If you want to cross the Alps by foot there are plenty of possibilities. After some research I settled on two different crossings. First, in 500km from Salzburg to Triest, then back from Venice to Munich. Salzburg – Triest is a rather new hiking trip, but I was very happy to receive a lot of good guidance from the author Christof Hermann even before his guidebook was published this May. He is an example of minimalistic living.
Last Sunday I started in Salzburg. After thunderstorms and rain all night the weather gets a bit better when I start the trail at the Mirabell castle. The beginning is impressive with great views on the city.
Then along the Almkanal, all flat and easy to warm up.
After Gröding things get rough. Steep climb across ladders and stones. Walking into the clouds everything feels unreal and a bit frightening. The climb takes ages and I feel exhausted. I am worried about not being enough in shape for my planned trip. From little dripping the rain gets a bit heavier, without me even noticing it. Until I am wet.
A few people speed past myself. I learn later that most are trail runners as the Untersberg is the best exercise mountain for them. My backpack is heavy. Very heavy. I always talk about ultralight gear and carry a crazy heavy pack. I couldn’t weigh it at my hotel in Salzburg and before I just didn’t have the time to prepare. Also I am carrying not only new stuff like GPS and my personal locator beacon, but also the guidebook, four maps (not even the necessary 8!), food (wanting to safe money),…
Just before an intersection I meet my first trail angel. A trail runner interested in long distance hiking. We talk and as it is too cold to talk standing still he accompanies me to the mountain saddle. He talks about speed and pack weight and body weight and his own problems. Showing me that it doesn’t matter how hard I breath, in a few weeks with my pack I could run just like him. I still wonder how I met this guy out if nowhere in the fog, rain and clouds and he understands my thoughts and issues without me even telling them out loud!
I continue on my own but with the fog it feels a little scary. Initially I wanted to go further today but when I am at the Toni-Lenz-hut I feel exhausted and wet. When I am told that they don’t take reservations, I almost want to cry because I know I cannot make it to the next hut. But in the end I can of course stay because I am already here and it is too far to continue today to the next hut. What a relief! I change into dry clothes and learn that they have a small baby and only take a few people like me if necessary this year. The warm hut is wonderful and everyone else seems to know each other, sit together and laugh. I am reading and writing and enjoy being here. Finally another guy is showing up and also granted a stay. First time in the mountains I met someone I just cannot talk to and find really weird! We don’t talk but when I am writing he stares at me and I feel uncomfortable.
My second trail angel is the tenant of the hut. He is very kind (after the first frightening minutes he gave me) and we talk about the trail and that I have to be in Maria Alm one day earlier than the scheduled trail days. Given the bad weather he recommends that I sleep in, visit the ice cave and leave out one day, taking instead the boat across the beautiful Königssee. Stubborn me I would have forced myself otherwise to hike non stop otherwise. But I can accept his advice easily and sleep 11h like a baby.
Its still foggy in the morning but as I drink my tea, the guide of the ice cave joins and naturally takes me with him to the cave. I just love the mountains and how easy it is to talk with people on such a relaxed basis. I get a private tour as no one else showed up yet. The Schellenberger Eishöhle is impressive due to the thickness of the ice, the colour and patterns and the unique tour and stories of the nice guide.
Afterwards it’s again a steep climb up the Thomas Eder Steig, but not for too long.
Then it gets easier, slowly up and down in a beautiful landscape. I don’t meet many people on the trail but when I am at the summit Berchtesgadener Hochthron, I meet a nice couple and talk about the trail.
A bit further the Stoerhaus, but I just pass by and start my descent to Berchtesgaden. It takes a few hours through a forest, how nice to finally have some easy hiking downhill instead of being out of breath! Until my knee starts hurting again and I realised that I missed an intersection and am rather far of the trail. Going up again? No way. Luckily, all trails lead to Berchtesgaden, even this one is on asphalt.
Berchtesgaden is a beautiful, small, hilly town but I am tired and directly head towards my hostel I booked on the way down. It’s perfectly situated near the train station where my trail starts tomorrow and where I can find some supermarkets. The reception is weirdly at the burger king though! I have my own room and enjoy spreading out all my stuff. Time to loose some of my bag weight, finishing up or simply throwing away some stuff. Dinner from the supermarket, checking messages, writing my blog,… It is already time to sleep.