Published: October 3rd 2009June 2nd 2009
Trekking in the Austrian Alps
"Hey, we should really make it happen this time", I said to Yaron. We were having a beer at the local Irish bar bringing up memories from our past trips when it suddenly occurred to us that we've never traveled together. Several years ago we almost made it in Bolivia - Yaron was on his way up to north America while I was on way down to Argentina, when our ways almost crossed, but he missed me by a week, and I couldn't miss the opportunity to catch a ride with a group of Israelis to the Salt Desert near Salar de Uyuni. Then he got married and took his wife to an adventurous honeymoon in China at the same time we were travelling in India. Again, we almost met in Nepal, but it was hard to synch somehow...
"So where will it be this time?" I asked. "Well, I'm going on a business trip to Munich this May", he said, "I can make the weekend after available if you care for a little traveling". On the next day I reserved the flight tickets. We only needed to find the best location. We
soon found out that this time of the year is not an ideal one. It was pre-season so it would be impossible to go above 2,000 meters, which seriously limited our options. We finally agreed on Tyrol, the alpine part of Austria, only few hours drive from Munich...
"Shall we cross then…?!" I asked Yaron hesitantly. We were standing on the hedge of a huge ice-fall, on the middle of the road between Pasterze Glacier and Glocknerhaus and it was already late afternoon. "I'm not sure it will hold our weight", Yaron replied apprehensively. We could see a straight line of mammal's footprints (we later found out it was a Marmot) which traversed not long ago, but this creature weighs so little so it didn't really mean the ice would hold us. We examined the situation for few more minutes, trying to assess the risk. It was obvious that in case the ice crashes we were doomed - we would slide several hundred meters and that would be it. However the ice somehow seemed stable enough. Returning to the glacier was not a desired option since we were already half-way to Glocknerhaus. Since we didn’t expect such a challenging
Few minutes after crossing the scary ice-fall
trek we had no rope with us, which could have made things much safer. Yaron finally took the initiative and crossed slighltly above the line of footprints , taking it step-by-step. I waited breathlessly till he reached the other side and crossed right after. Wow, that was scary! After we both crossed, we could see how steep the ice fall really was. Back in our room that night I shivered when I ran that day events in my mind, but I was also greatly satisfied. It was an exciting hike over glaciers and ice falls and we were the only travelers around which gave it even a better appeal. In an hindsight we understood that we were the first trekkers to take this route at that season (besides the Marmot).
In his book "Addicted to Danger", Jim Wickwire, an attorney from Seattle, most known for being the first American to reach the top of K2 (world's 2nd-highest mountain), describes his journeys to the world's most dangerous peaks. Although having a family of five kids, a steady job and a loving wife, he keeps challenging his destiny one time after the other, being drawn to danger like a butterfly to
the fire. Even after severely injured from a night-stay in a sleeping bag at 8000 meters, he didn’t quit and tried the Everest for several times (he failed all attempts eventually and had a close friend dying next to him). It is a strange phenomenon when you come to think about it, since our DNA should steer us to survival and reproduction - not to endangering ourselves for the sake of glory. So why are we so attracted to risks? One notable theory called "the handicap principle", studied by the Israeli researcher Amotz Zahavi, is taking its inspiration from zoology, where some animals, usually the herd's stronger ones, endanger themselves in front of severe risk and by that signal their superior capabilities and indirectly improve their breeding alternatives. For example deers were seen initially running slowly and jumping high when threatened by a lion, before escaping with the rest of the herd. I think might be a good explanation of why we crossed the ice fall eventually (although the only female around was the Marmot).
We stayed in Hubertus guest house in Zel em See, a quite town mainly serves as a ski resort during winter. Since it was
already the beginning of summer, there were very few tourists in town which gave it a ghost-town feel, but we didn’t mind. The area is packed with attractions such as the Eisriesenwelt ice-cave, the Krimml falls and many trails to simply walk and enjoy. We went up the falls one day just to arrive at a wonderful meadow above, as if taken from a surrealist painting. The ice-cave is another excellent place to visit, with its lights and shades games created by flashlight. We also made a day-trek above Zel em See, an 8-hour tranquil hike with beautiful Alpine views.
On the last day we did a 4-hour ascent to Kasselfall Dam only to find out that the artificial lake supposed to be there was dried for the sake of construction works. We decided to hitchhike down to the parking lot so when we saw a huge truck on the dusty road we asked the driver to jump in. The truck quickly entered a long tunnel quarried inside the mountain. We assumed it will take us back to the parking lot but it was difficult to understand it from the German speaking driver if he really gets there. After
an seemingly endless drive of 15 minutes inside the spooky tunnel we arrived at a junction! Inside the mountain! The driver stopped the truck and told us to go down and take the right path since he wanted to continue on the left. "Hmm…" I said to Yaron… "I hope they'll find our buddies eventually". But the driver looked quite determined so we didn’t want to argue too much. We started walking in the tunnel hoping not to be run over by another truck and hopefully see the light at the end of the tunnel… after 10 nervous minutes of walking we saw the light and outside it was - the parking lot! Somehow, things always fall on the right side in these trips. Trip Top 5:
1. Glocknerhaus hike - see above.
2. Pasterze Glacier - disappearing quickly so catch it before it's gone.
3. Eisriesenwelt Ice cave - amazing location and great light and shades games.
4. Krimml falls - very impressive size.
5. The Hubertus guest house - lovely owners and good value.
See also Yaron's blog entry
on this trip.
* The title is taken from the song "This
Zell em See
"Ha'Ayara Hatziurit" (picturesque town) Zell em See, as they say in Channel 2 :)
Is Not A Love Song" by PIL
There are more photos below