Friday, February 8, 2013

Thursday Adventure: Eggersteig route up Ellmauer Tor, Austrian Alps

For today's adventure, I'm heading back to the lovely Austrian Alps.  A little while ago I shared pics from an ascent of Pyramidenspitze, which is part of the Zahmer ("tame") Kaiser.  There is also a Wilder Kaiser.  As you can imagine, my husband Robert and I were quite keen to explore those peaks.  Unfortunately the weather was too iffy for an actual peak ascent: cloudy/rainy with possibility of  thunderstorms.  So instead we set out one misty morning to climb the Eggersteig route up the Ellmauer Tor, which is a pass in the midst of some nicely rugged peaks.  The Eggersteig route has some steep 3rd-class portions and snowfield crossings, but like most popular routes in the Alps, any tricky sections have cables bolted along them.  We figured if the weather got truly bad, we could make a quick and easy retreat.

The Wilder Kaiser
Heading up to the Stripsenjoch saddle to reach the start of the Eggersteig route
Before you start the Eggersteig route itself, you first climb up a nice easy trail to the Stripsenjoch saddle, where a full-service alpine hut offers coffee, apfelstrudel, and other delicious pastries.  (My husband LOVES being able to get hot coffee and strudel in the middle of a hike.  I have more ambivalent feelings - I mean, so much for the wilderness experience! - but on the other hand, the germknödel with vanilla sauce I had on this hike was pretty damn tasty.)

A happy Robert at the Stripsenjoch hut.  There are so many of these huts in the Alps that most Austrian hikers don't bother carrying food, they just assume they'll stop at a hut and buy a meal.  When we did Pyramidenspitze, Robert's relatives were all, "Oh no, you can't do that route!  The huts all closed a few years back!  What would you eat?"  Coming from Colorado, where not only do we have to carry all food needed for a hike, but I was taught in mountaineering school to always, ALWAYS bring twice the amount you expect to need (in case you get stranded by weather or injury & need to survive an unexpected bivouac,), I had to laugh.  

Mist fills the great saddle of the Ellmauer Tor.  The Eggersteig route climbs the cliffs below the saddle.

Me ascending a ledge in the mist.  At last I understood why Austrian routes have trail markers every five feet.  It's for days like this one!  You would NOT want to wander off route here.  

Robert taking a break and enjoying the view down into the valley.

The cliffs were amazing.

Helmets on!  More to protect against the danger of rockfall than anything else.  (Always higher on wet days, plus the route is popular enough we had to worry about rocks getting accidentally kicked down by those above us.)  The climbing is not at all difficult.

Robert near a snowfield crossing.  I had to admit I was glad of the cables.  At this time of year (mid-summer),  the "snow" was bulletproof ice, and a slip would mean a very long fall.

Hikers crossing a snowfield in the upper section of the Tor.

Negotiating the rocks
Me near the highest point.  The route continues over to the other side of the mountains, but then you need either a car shuttle or an overnight stay.


  1. I think I might've stopped and fell victim to the apfelstrudel. :)

  2. Someone needs to film a fantasy movie there. Those cliffs have so much character.

    And another vote for apfelstrudel. :-)

  3. Nooo, Paul, then you'd miss out on all the awesome photo ops! Must...resist...strudel!

    Maine - so true. Guess New Zealand's a lot cheaper for location shooting, though! Also, less apfelstrudel to tempt the film crew to eat instead of work. :P