Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Trekking in the Austrian Alps

When the invitation came some months ago to join a group of old friends on a trekking holiday to Austria, only one of the reasons for saying yes, but an important one, was the fact that I have all the gear.  The promise of sunshine, the lure of the mountains, the treat of having a couple of weeks off home duties - all these were important (and a big thank you is due to Liz and other family members for providing home cover), but I definitely have a sense that I should be using all the mountain-walking kit I have accumulated over the last 40 years.  After all, having all the equipment must make the trip into a cheap holiday?

I had some doubts about being fit enough, and managed too few practice outings.  I did get far enough one day to find my heavier walking boots rather uncomfortable, so opted to take a lighter pair.

This was not a particularly good decision, as in the event we crossed a lot of snowfields and the soles had little bite.  The flexing also left me with a sore foot halfway through trek which needed to be blasted with anti-inflammatories.

I had greater confidence in my trusty, 30-years-old karrimor rucksack.  It has seen good service, with me mainly in Scotland, with my children in Iceland, America and India.

 It still bears the badge of the Mountain Bothies Association, a great group which co-ordinates simple shelters in the British wild places which can be, or feel like, life-saving refuges at the end of a long day's walk.

Fully loaded, the rucksack weighed in at Manchester Airport at 16.5Kg, so the early days of our expedition as (I hoped) I built my fitness up were never going to be easy. You will realise by now that I was not going to win any prizes for being the best turned out trekker with the smartest kit.  Even my friends found it hard not to comment on my non-matching walking poles.

They have stories to tell.  The green one is the survivor of a tricky day/night in Fisherfield which ended in a plunging, tumbling crossing of a bad-tempered bog as we sought out Shenavall bothy - its mate bent under my weight in a half-fall and was irreparable.  The one on the left was a crafty Ebay purchase to make up a 'pair' - its wooden knob unscrews to reveal a camera mounting thread

which allows you to take great group photos like this:

This was our group in the Oetztal, on an excursion day from one of the many Alpine Club mountain huts we stayed and ate in.  We all managed the high paths, but not all of us bagged the peaks.  After all, someone has to take the spectacular photos:

We had a great time, and now the kit is back in the cupboard.  Both walking poles came back slightly bent after snowfield tumbles but straightened up nicely with a 15mm plumber's bending spring.  Maybe it shouldn't be too long before the kit is given another outing.


  1. All that blog without a single mention of the beard you brought home?

  2. You two are funny. It gives me hope.

  3. I love hill and mountain walking, but it's a long time since I walked in the alps, so I enjoyed reading about your trip. I love all the stories behind your walking kit, too - a bit like my camping kit. The scenery in your photos is stunning.

    1. I remember discovering Scottish hills in the mid-1980s, and they made my previous hill-walking in N Wales and the Lake District seem very small scale. Then in the late 80s I went to the Dolomites, and the Alps did the same thing all over again. I love to get up high enough to see the folds of the ranges stretching away to the horizon. And of course the snow is a bonus.