Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Clouds over the Defereggental

We had a splendid stay in the Gabershof farmhouse run by the Erlsbacher family. The family were very welcoming we enjoyed restful days with fresh milk and bread every morning. The weather was excellent for our first couple of days in the East Tyrol and the Hohe Tauern National Park. Quite suspiciously there was an incredible build up of cloud  later in the day. None the less we made the most this and travelled to Hellingblut which was the starting point for the first successful attempt of the Grossglockner, the highest mountain in Austria. We enjoyed our journey along the Grossglockner high alpine road and descended to the Pasterze glacier. Keisha and Louis quickly appreciated the power of the glacier as a force for change and for shaping the mountain. There were many points to stop and appreciate the splendour of the Hohe Tauern. At the end of the day we stopped at the end of Hellingblut near the chapel at Zlapp there was a fantastic via Ferrata which runs through the Moll canyon. With 5 cable bridges, I had to give this a go. The guidelines at the start are very helpful I completed the route in the 1 hour, indicated in the guidelines. It was great fun, on the harder second part of the route there was interesting, perhaps disturbing surprise.
 The Gabershof Farmhouse


 The Grossglockner and the Pasterze glacier

The Glacier Lakes and Ice Caves

After a couple of fun filled rainy days the weather appeared sufficiently settled to attempt a fairly long day and a good three thousand metre peak, a good peak achievable from Gabershof was the Lasorling. Although there was still a lot of cloud cover at least it wasn't raining. I started my route from St. Jakob in Defereggen, walked up to the collection of cottages known as Togisch and commenced a climb to the Gasser Horndle. My plan was to follow the path (numbered 315) to the Lasorling Hutte and from there attempt the south side of the Lasorling (path numbered 90 on the map). 

The route followed the track numbered 315 to the Lasorling hutte.


Although beautiful and peaceful, it was great to break out of the trees and head out onto the high alpine pasture it wasn't long before I started ascending the short ridge to the summit of the Gasser Horndle. This was a great warm up which I enjoyed so much. Given time I would have attempted a circuit of peaks including the Hohe Rast, Kastal, Hofspitze and Scheibe. This would connect to the col over which path 315 passes to go to the Lasorling Hutte.
Looking from the Gasser Horndle to the Hohe Rast and Kastal.

The lakes above the col (leading to the Lasorling Hutte)

The route followed the track 90 and then 82 leading to the south side of the Lasorling.  The return to St Jakob in D was via the Berger Torl and returned along track 314 by the Togischer Bachl.
A view from the Mullitztorl. (The lasorling hutte is visible in the distance)

The Lasorling and Lasorlinghutte

When I arrived at this point, I looked at the Lasorling and thought wow, I was quite excited to try this. It seemed to be clearing a little I hoped it might hold out.

I had lunch at the Lasorling hut.

The Lasorling

The tracks were very easy to follow. Posts have useful reference information for emergencies.

Some of the posts also displayed these rather interesting signs. There is a good explanation on wikipedia (South Tyrolean Freedom).

I steadily made my way up the south side of the Lasorling.

A short but fun scramble lead to the Summit cross on the Lasorling

A view back down my ascent ridge.

Although the cloud had bubbled up there were still some good views along the ridges. It was tempting to ascend via the west ridge via the Niedere Hohe and Pragrater Torl. I was sensible and retraced my steps back along the path and returned down the south side to the track which leads up to the Pragrater Torl. The weather had worsened as I made the descent, I had full waterproofs on anyway so not a problem. It had cleared sufficiently so as to enable me to have some appreciation of the summit with the views down the ridges.

At last the valley to return me to St Jakob in D.

It was nice that the weather cleared up a little when I dropped back down the valley.

A Dwelling for a Hobbit

For this route I used the GPS tracking service MapMyRun, which reported that the route was 11.6 miles and had a 9110.9ft height gain. Note the phone battery went flat! So the tracker missed the last 6 miles of the walk to return along the river valley to Gabershof. Also the height of the Lasorling is 3098m above Sea level (the Adriatic) i.e. 10164 feet. MapMyRun appears to indicate the maximum elevation is 9613 feet, a curious discrepancy.

The day was thoroughly enjoyable, this exploration was excellent fuel for further exploits. One such possibility is the Klettersteig on the north ridge which is best attempted from the Lasnitzenhutte.

Comments and route descriptions are available at:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Polish Tatra Mountains and Orla perc

We decided to take a holiday with a difference by travelling across Europe and visiting the Polish Tatra mountains. At the recommendation from a friend we based ourselves for three days in an apartment in Zakopane. We arrived late in the evening, before our Polish speaking friends. It was quite a challenge to locate the apartment, especially in the dark. But after a combination of map reading and limited confused conversation with locals we arrived in the dark. A lady in a neighbouring apartment spoke good English and she provided the correct phone number which we used to call the appartment owner.  Eventually we got settled into our new apartment with its fine Polish wood craft. It was necessary to take care, with the apartment at the top of the building the odd angles meant that it was very easy to bump your head. I felt like Gandalf in Bilbo’s house in Lord of the rings. No matter how hard he tried he always bumped his head!

At our Polish friends suggestion our first trip in the morning was up the Funicular railway to Gublowka which is on the ridge leading to Butorokwski Wierch. This was great fun for the youngsters and they especially enjoyed multiple toboggan rides. It was so busy up here and this spoils the enjoyment somewhat, it was busier than Skegness on a hot bank holiday. This hilltop was so busy and packed with stalls selling a lot of holiday tat!

Read splotches on the maps show the route followed.

At last another sunny day arrived and it was decided that different groups would attempt different walking objectives in the Tatra. Armed with a 1:5000 scale map of the Orla Perc (purchased in Zakopane) and timings provided by a Cicerone guide to the High Tatras I’d decided to walk a section of the Eagle Ridge. The guide book times had indicated that starting from the base of the cable car at Kuznice the full route would take 14 hours! Apparently there would be big queues at the cable car so taking a lift to the summit of Kasprowy Werc was not really a practical option. I opted to walk a section between Zawrat and Buczynowa Straznica as these provided suitable access points for escaping the ridge. Guidebook time is 8 hours traversing the ridge from SW to NE. Another useful tip I’d picked up was that, although there are lots of chained sections on the route  I would not need any via Ferrata equipment.

I was given a lift to the base of the cable car lift early in the morning around 7.30 we were able to drive beyond rondo Jana Paul as it was very quiet. Note, private cars are prohibited beyond this point. Because of the early start, on this occasion I avoided the National park tax as the toll booth was unmanned. I started my ascent by walking along the Dolina Jaworzynka a pleasant wooded track. At this time, quite a few people had already started out. I continued on to Gasienicowa Hala. Having made good progress up here I decided to do the full ridge between Swinicka and Kryzine.

In the hot morning sunshine I made quick progress to the saddle Swinicka Przelecz I had this path to myself, but by the time I arrived at the saddle quite a few people started on the route, I suspect these had started from the cable car. The first scrambling starts towards the top of Swinicka with some helpful chains and some queues at this point there are a few route options (with great care).

The first morning view of the Orla Perc Ridge

The Ascent to the Col below Swinica

The View of the final Ascent Ridge on Swinica

There were some rather tricky sections, the chains were excellent. Full via ferrata kit was not essential.

Czarny Staw Gasienicowy

The route is extremely well marked it feels as though there are many dips  in the ridge with lots of height losses and subsequent gains. Kozia Prezelecz is the lowest point at 2137m from which we ascended to the summit of Kozi Wierch at 2291m. The Kozi Wierch section after the saddle at Zawrat is the section offering the greatest section in terms of exposure and difficulty. All of these difficulties are provisioned with secure and well maintained chains and in a couple of sections ladders were climbed. The route was very busy and there were some waits. Quite often families with children would make sure there children were provisioned and using correctly the Via Ferrata equipment.

The route was very enjoyable and I completed it in 12 hours, this is a strenuous day I just about had enough water.  I descended from the col below Krzne and returned to the path which goes to Czarny Staw Gasienicowy. Whilst returning from the tarn to the hut at Schronisko Marowaniec I had Polish lessons from a friendly Polish family one of the youngsters enjoyed practising her English. After arriving at Kuznice I caught one of the numerous minibuses to the Zakobane bus station which was very near to our apartment. All in all a fantastic taster of the Polish Tatra.

For this outing I used the 1:25000, Tourist Map published by Cartomedia of the Tatra National Park (purchased from Stanfords ). In Zakopane I also managed to purchase a 1:5000 hiking map of the Orla Perc ridge also published by Cartomedia.