By Karin Robertson
We recently decided to veer away from giving stuff for birthdays and Christmas in favour of new experiences. Staying in huts along half of the Stubai Höhenweg (High Trail) became one such experience.
Interesting fellow hikers (including a biscuit hawk)
The really nice thing about a multi-day hiking gig like the Stubai Höhenweg is that you end out going along with the same crowd of folks who started with you on the first day. You may not hike with them but every breakfast, dinner and the odd track break there’s a chance to catch up and share stories.
We met a pair of exceptionally happy Dutch women who seemed to bounce their way along the track at great pace. You couldn’t help but take in some of their joy at just being in the mountains. There were also quite a few Czech people about, including one family group with a teenage daughter whose feet barely seemed to touch the ground. She was fast, and always itching to get going. We dared to pass them once. After 10 minutes or so we had the definite feeling we were being “hunted” by this future trail running champ.
A group of three German guys, friends since university, were on the track too. They meet up once a year to go hiking. They were having fun even when they had to sleep in a hallway because they didn’t book for one of the huts. One of them had the best line of our trip. I don’t eat the little biscuits that come with tea or coffee. On my way to take my cup to the kitchen I was stopped in my tracks by a:
“Halt, what’s happening with the biscuit?” in German from across the room. Everyone concerned had to giggle, because all three guys had just conquered the most enormous chunks of cake I have ever seen served… And one hawk eye was on my biscuit!
Stubai Höhenweg = breathtaking moments
The thought of black rated tracks made for some nervousness. All information about the route states sure-footedness, a head for heights and good condition as prerequisites. This would be true advice. We had three days of drizzly weather and sun on the last. The clouded views worked out well for not seeing exactly how high up or close to very long drops we were. However, there was no hiding up to the highest point of the hike on the last day.
It was a great experience: challenging at times but really rewarding – a birthday to remember. I am quietly chuffed that I am pretty fit and could tackle things outside my comfort zone. I put all that mindfulness I’ve been trying to get on board with into practice – “in this moment I am okay, and this one, and this one!”
The Stubai Höhenweg is a trail of many breathtaking moments in more ways than one.
Day 1 – Schlick 2000 Bergstation (2136m) to Starkenburger Hütte (2237m)
A short afternoon hike from the mountain station of the Schlick 2000 cable car. Nothing scary to deal with other than your own puffing. Maps advise around 2 hours for this section but we took a little less – a bit of rain motivated a quicker pace! Always interesting to see how your ski field haunts look without the snow: stunning when the clouds cleared now and then.
Our room was just for us and very cosy. Power points outside in the hall for charging phones etc. No showers, but a shared washroom.
Day 2 – Starkenburger Hütte (2237m) to Franz Senn Hütte (2147m)
Allow 6 to 7 hours for this section, depending on which map you read. We took just over 6 hours moving time. The track was good with a couple of proper steep bits and a couple of wired sections but, again, nothing too scary. Although it was overcast we got a taste of the spectacular Stubai scenery.
A tea break at Seducker Hochalm is recommended. Independently run by a born and bred Stubai family, we found a super friendly host with a cosy warm kitchen.
Franz Senn Hütte has showers! This much bigger hut had a different atmosphere to the others – plus it was rammed with people. There was a big group on a climbing course and a group of doctors on an Alpine medicine course (I think?). This was our first time staying in the Lager (open area, basically two big rows of mattresses in the attic, sleeping up to 80 people). Although everyone was well behaved and quiet, it takes getting used to.
Much amusement to be known as Mr and Mrs Engines here. My other half’s email address caused some confusion! I am not even Ms Engines…
Day 3 – Franz Senn Hütte (2147m) to Neue Regensburger Hütte (2287m)
This was supposed to be the short day, with 4 hours the expected duration. Well, it’s a trap! Short doesn’t necessarily mean easy. Pretty much straight up from the hut for 2,5 hours on a rock staircase. Okay, so now we know we are fit. Then we edged our way around a kind of snow plug at the top of a narrow saddle (Schrimmennieder, 2714m) and beat our toes up for 2 hours of downhill to Neue Regensburger Hütte (NRH).
Very welcome showers at a cosy NRH. But beware, not to be used when there is lightning about! 1 Euro gets you 2 minutes of hot water. We had a room to ourselves with a bunk bed, power to charge gadgets and a view of the next day’s route.
Day 4 – Neue Regensburger Hütte (2287m) to Mutterbergalm, Stubai Glacier valley station (1725m) and… home (954m)!
Another longer day of 6 to 7 hours hiking. It took us 6 hours to come down to Mutterbergalm via the Wasserfallweg. It was challenging. This time we hit parts where climbing with wires and staples was necessary. No need to be attached but the help was needed to make it up to Grawagrubennieder at 2881m. This was after first negotiating a rock slope where the markers had moved in the snow melt and crossing some stubborn snow to catch the trail again. I was like a rat up a drain pipe. No looking down, not too much looking up – just focusing on the next track marker until I got to the top.
There were a couple more wire/staple sections but nothing as challenging as the Grawagrubennieder. Or maybe they just felt easier after doing this bit? The scenery was glorious as we slowly made our way down to the small lakes above the Wasserfallweg, which in turn took us back to Mutterbergalm. Quite a lot of up and down – 600m up and 1100 down to be precise.
Useful bits and bobs
- Reserve, reserve, reserve – then you have a chance to get your own room for your group. The Lager rooms are okay, but at Franz Senn Hütte (the biggest of the trail) you will be sharing with around 80 others up in the attic. The Lager is of course cheaper than individual rooms.
- No need to take sleeping bags, but sleeping bag inners/liners are required.
- If you’re a member of an alpine club, make this known for discounts and have your card handy.
- Although early and late season have their appeal (less folks about), you may have to contend with late/early snow and associated track conditions.
- Alternative diets (different to solid meat and cheese ?) take note you will see a lot of salad and potatoes in the huts. I hear beer has lots of vitamins… You must take your own lunches, so they should be substantial enough to make up for salad dinners. We are plant-eaters and by the last day we were eating into body fat reserves!
- We had a 1:25000 scale, weatherproof map with us: Mayr XL Edition – Wandern-, Rad- und MTB-Karte – Stubaital – 2-teiliges Kartenset. It is a useful 2-sheet map set.
- We used the bus to get back to Fulpmes and made the short hike to our car in the Schlick 2000 carpark.
- Read this for more information on the Stubai Höhenweg.
About the Author
Karin Robertson was born in Scotland, raised in New-Zealand, and has lived in England and Australia before moving to Tyrol in 2006. When she’s not hiking with hubby Ian or tackling a DIY project at home, she runs half marathons to raise money for OMS (Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis). In fact, she ran one half marathon in each of the eight countries bordering Austria in one year. Read the story here.
- For a similar experience in the Zillertal Alps, why don’t you hike to the Olpererhütte?
- Or have some fun in the Stubai Valley with these 4 top things to do in summer.