...our first view into the deep valley we had hiked parallel to the entire previous day on our way to the Kesseler Hutte. Wow.
We began hiking around 8 AM and quickly came to our first of several stream and snow crossings- sometimes we had bridges to help us cross, but other times we had to gingerly cross, looking down into the valley several thousand feet below.
After a couple of hours we got to a fixed-rope section, glued to the rocks above a deep gully...
...and then we began working our way up to our first pass, crossing several lengthy (and scary) snow fields- see my brave hiking buddy working her way across one of the snowfields here:
Eventually we made up to the top of the pass, around 9,000 feet where we got our first view of a huge glacier as well as our next hutte, the Greizer Hut (in the bottom right of the second photo).
Around 2 PM we arrived at what was our favorite hutte, where settled in with a Radler (a tasty mix of Sprite and beer) and some kaiserschmarrn, a funnel cake served with apple sauce- yum. After a nap we relaxed with our fellow travelers, who were generally European and older than us (and were quite interested in us young Californians). After a delicious dinner and some accordion music, we headed to bed early in preparation for our longest day.
This hut had a nifty little lift to bring employees and supplies deep from the valley below, where our hike for the day first took us. Here's my intrepid hiking buddy just before we left:
An hour later we were at the bottom of the valley where we began our 3000 foot ascent with a ladder and the first of the 160+ switchbacks to the top!!!
Looking back at our ascent for the day:
After crossing the most substantial snow fields of the trip, we made it the top of the pass, around 10,000 feet, where a stiff wind and snow flurries chased us down the other side, to perhaps the scariest part of the trip:
After coaxing Jenny down the other side, we were soon back down below the snow line, looking past a beautiful alpine lake (unusually, the only one we encountered) to the massive, castle-like Berliner Hutte, the first hutte in the Zillertal Alps.
The Berliner Hutte, built in the 1880's by the Berlin Alpine Club for it's prime access to glaciers (less than 100 feet from the back door!), was now more than two miles from the base of the glaciers, the most shocking reminder of climate change we encountered on our trip- a story sadly related to travelers by old photos in the lobby showing the glaciers in their former glory.
Since this was our last night in the Alps we did a quick day hike to take in a last spectacular view...
...had dinner in the bustling dining room of the huge hut...
...and then hiked out in the rain the next day, past this (somewhat surprising) monument to the SS brigade that trained at the Berliner Hut in 1940, a reminder of the region's sordid history.
After five days and four nights, we hiked out in the pouring rain surprisingly clean (Yay for showers!) and well fed (Yay for sausage and beer!)! We caught the bus back to Mayrhofen and then onto Munich, the subject of my next post.... Stay tuned!
And thank you Alps (and hiking buddy!)