Our third day of hiking in the northwest Stubai, the Sellrain Alps.
Today we hiked from the Winnebachsee Hütte up over the Winnebachjoch and down to the Westfalenhaus hut.
Tuesday 2 August – Westfalenhaus.
Went down to the dining room for breakfast at 7:30 as arranged last night (they asked us for select a time for breakfast), and ate with the four Dutch folks again. Since today was expected to be easier, we were not in any rush to get going. We finally departed the hut around 9am, took a few photos nearby, and then headed up the trail.
We followed yesterday’s route briefly to a junction where we turned onto the “black” trail toward Winnebachjoch and the Westfalenhaus hut.
The trail climbed gently into the Winnebachtal valley with some of the nearby glaciers coming into view.
The trail began to climb more steeply through talus and scree. We occasionally heard rockfall on the steep mountainside to our right, and saw large rocks tumbling down across a small glacier remnant, but this posed no threat to us up on the opposite side of the valley. The trail was mostly talus, increasingly steeper as we went up. My guidebook described this section as “laborious”.
After a couple of false summits, we eventually climbed up to the top of the Winnebachjoch. Beautiful views in both directions.
We sat for a while and snacked on chocolates, and I took a few photos.
We waited for a large party ahead of us to descend before we started down – we saw these people each evening in the huts, and shared a room with a couple of them on our first night at the Schweinfurter Hut. There were moving faster then I was, so they’d typically pass us along the trail somewhere, and we wouldn’t see them again until later in the afternoon at the next hut.
We immediately encountered a difficult section requiring downclimbing on a cable (the first cable we’d seen since the trail to the Nurnberger hut). From here the trail descended very steeply into the valley below the head wall.
The trail alternated between steep rocky descents and long stretches through talus fields where in some cases it appeared there had been no attempt to build a trail – we had to pick our own path across the rocks guided only by the Austrian red and white painted markers. My guidebook described this descent as “short, easy, and uncomplicated” – I found it to be none of these.
I was getting a little tired and Allan wanted to stop for a snack. But I knew the hut had to be nearby and insisted on getting to a point where we could see it. I would rather relax at the hut then catch a chill taking a break up here since I was sure we were getting close to the hut. Allan thought I was having another Snickers “you are not you when you are hungry” moments. After descending more grassy slopes and talus fields we saw a trail junction ahead, and shortly after we finally sighted the hut just below.
After an easy 15 minute descent we reached the Westfalenhaus.
We checked in and were told that 2 other people had already checked in to our 4-person shared room. They had taken the bunk beds on one side of the room, leaving the other two for us. We unpacked a little and then went outside onto the sun terrace to have something to eat. We split a frankfurter dish and a Kaiserschmarrn. They had thick wool blankets out there, and I wrapped one around my legs to warm up since I was in shorts – it was so nice to sit out in the cool breeze but feel warm and comfortable under that blanket!
Allan decided to go listen to some music and podcasts (to be “antisocial” was the running joke), so I showered and cleaned up. I went into the dining room to read for a while, but had a hard time staying awake. Allan decided to be social again, so we sat outside where I had a black tea to warm and wake me up.
Once it was time for dinner, we went inside and sat at our assigned table. A tall younger german guy joined us and spoke largely unaccented English. Turns out he lived in Kentucky for a year and a half on a student exchange. Now he is on active duty with the German army, deploying recently to Mali on a peacekeeping mission. He was hiking with a friend from the army who wasn’t feeling well after a big hiking day. The friend eventually joined the table, but not until after the first guy ate both of their dinners. Dinner was a jaeger schnitzel without the breading and butter-roasted potato’s. We had suppe first, noddles in broth, and desert afterward – a blueberry pastry with cream (delicious!). Another awesome hearty dinner after a day on the trail, in a warm and cozy hut way up in the mountains above tree-line.
After dinner we wandered outside again, but it was pretty cold out there so we came back the the table after picking up some cards to play the “schnauz” card game we learned a couple evenings ago in the Schweinfurter hut. I could barely stay awake though, nodding off during the game. We went to bed shortly after 9:30. As I did most nights, I woke up in the middle of the night and found a place to sit and read and/or write notes about the day, and then returned to bed for another hour or two of sleep.