Who? What? Where?

Temporarily Closed due to Vacation

I hear my mobile phone ring and quickly reach for my backpack. Unzipping the top compartment to the bag, I fumble around with my phone trying to swipe the display and answer it without removing my gloves.

I don’t recognize the number on the display. The country code is Austrian.

A man with a thick, Austrian accent says something when I answer. Like the teacher’s voice in a Peanuts animated cartoon, I recognize the sounds he makes, but I don’t have the slightest ideas what he says.

“Franzl?” I reply thinking my buddy is teasing me. I assumes he wants to know if I arrived safely after I left him at the train station near his house two hours earlier.

Tischlerhäusl Train Station of the Pinzgauer Lokalbahn

Tischlerhäusl Train Station of the Pinzgauer Lokalbahn

“Na, Thomas, der Bergführer. Wo bist da?” The mountain guide I was waiting to meet answers. He wants to know where I am.

“I’m at the meeting point,” I reply in my best Hochdeutsch. “I’ve been here for a half hour. No one is here yet.”

“We are at the meeting point. Where are you?”

“At the meeting point,” I say a second time. I reach into my backpack and open the folded piece of paper with the name and address of the restaurant where we are to meet. I read the address out loud, “Gasthof Venedigerblick in Neukirchen am Großvenediger, Venedigersiedlung …”

“Na,” replies Thomas curtly. “We are …” He continues to speak, but I only understand a few words, very few.

“I’m sorry,” I apologize tactfully. “I was wondering why no one was here. I’ve been waiting outside for a half hour. The restaurant is closed.”

“Just come and meet us,” Thomas says.

“How do I get there? I came by train and I don’t have a car. I can walk to Neukirchen, but that might take a while.”

“Stay where you are,” commands Thomas politely. “I’ll come and pick you up.”

On the Obersulzbach Trail

On the Obersulzbach Trail

An hour after Thomas picks me up at the wrong meeting point, his team finally assembles at the side of a dirt road. A sign in the road announces an avalanche (mud slide) ahead. The road to the designated parking lot is closed. We leave our cars on the side of the road, hike two kilometers to the parking lot, and finally start our planned journey at the trailhead. Our goal is the Postalm, a privately owned alpine hut halfway up the trail to the Kürsingerhütte, a Deutscher Alpenverein (DAV) hut that would serve as our base camp.

An Austrian Stone Roof

An Austrian Stone Roof

Our hike begins on a flat gravel road. We follow the Obersulzbach River as the altitude gently increases in the rolling, forested hills. The path is smooth and free of any ice or snow. We enjoy the sounds of the valley: the running river, a few birds, and heavy construction equipment excavating a site near the road.

Along the way, we encounter several Almen, alpine huts that serve traditional diary products, schnapps, and regional food specialities in the summer. The huts are boarded up for the winter, and the farm animals are not yet out to pasture.

The Alm is Closed

The Alm is Closed

Our three hour hike gives us a chance to stretch our legs and introduce ourselves to each other. Uwe is from Saarbrücken; Christine, Mike, and Markus are from Munich.

We reach the Postalm in good spirits despite our heavy loads. My feet are tired and my shoulders ache at the end of the 10.6 km trip. I wore the wrong boots for the surface we travelled on. I also packed too much as if I was preparing for another trip to Rainier.

Our hike completes with our first unobscured view of the Großer Geiger (3360 meters), a peak that will accompany us during the rest of our trip.

Großer Geiger in the Distance

Großer Geiger in the Distance

The hut’s owner gives us a warm and friendly welcome. She shows us where we can store our equipment—trecking poles, snowshoes, ice axe, and so on.

We remove our boots in the dry room, and she shows us our lodging. I share a room with Uwe and Markus. Thomas has his own room, and Christine and Mike, who are married, splurge on their own room for an extra 10 euros.

We freshen up and meet downstairs for our first briefing. Our hostess, the owner, takes our order. She shares gossip and details about the hut while serving us our drinks.

Refreshed, we meet outside and practice tying knots until dinner is ready. Thomas shows us the basics including a figure eight, prusik, and overhand knot. The crisp, cold mountain air is a welcome change, but we head back inside as our hands becomes cold.

Our hostess serves us a three course dinner that includes an incredibly fresh salad, spaghetti Bolognese, and a scrumptious desert. While we delight over the meal, I share a story about the Franz Senn hut. We complete our first day by sharing a few more stories. Like content, little hobbits, we are ready for our next adventure to begin.

 

Waypoints Time Distance Altitude
Obersulzbach near Parkplatz Hopffeldboden to Postalm 2:56 hours 10.6 km + 745 m to 1699 m

 

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