The Alps were made for exploring, and Austria’s Wilder Kaiser mountains are a treat for anyone with an adventurous spirit.
The Tirol region, on the border with Bavarian Germany, is a beautiful part of the world. The landscape is like a scene from The Sound of Music with dramatic mountains, rolling green hills and pretty houses. In the winter, skiers and snowboarders flock to ritzy Kitzbühel for winter sports, après ski and the famous Hahnenkamm downhill race. And in the summer, it’s all about hiking, mountain climbing, alpine huts and biking.
After recently relocating to beautiful Austria, I’m making themost of having the Alps on my doorstep. I love the crisp, fresh air in the morning and the coolness of the evening after a hot afternoon. The early mornings are a photographers dream as mountains peek out from low lying fog. And at night fall, sunsets cast a red glow all around. The views genuinely blow me away on a daily basis. After all, I’m a British girl, and we don’t have mountains like that in England.
The Wilder Kaiser Mountains are also known as the Wild Emperor and they are mighty. The steep, jagged peaks rise up from a landscape of dairy farmland and sleepy villages to create a dramatic skyline. In recent weeks, storm systems have been moving through the alpine region, adding an imposing edge to the Kaiser. The peaks alternate between being wrapped in thick cloud and basking in the sunlight.
The crazy weather calls for careful planning before setting off for a hike and my most recent trip was during a week of mixed forecasts. Thankfully, we stumbled across a good morning, allowing us to hike a bit higher than previous excursions.
We began our hike at the Wochenbrunne Alm and took the path along the gradual incline towards Gaudeamushütte. The Alps are dotted with mountain huts offering food, drink and overnight refuge in traditional accommodation. Most hikes in the Kaiser start or end at a hut, which makes sense considering Austrians love drinking beer and exploring their mountains. It’s a perfect combination and a great way to sample a slice of traditional Austrian culture, while adventuring in the great outdoors.
The Gaudeamushütte sits at an elevation of 1,270m and the walk from Wochenbrunne is a nice warm up before venturing further. The views at Gaudeamushütte are stunning and it’s a perfect spot for a refreshing Radler (otherwise known as a Shandy to you fellow Brits – beer mixed with lemonade). From Gaudeamushütte, there are several routes to take with varying difficulty ratings (for more information visit the Tirol Tourism Board). We took the Hüttenweg (Hut Trail) to Gruttenhütte, a 116-year-old hut that stands on the edge of the Kaiser at 1,620m.
The Hüttenweg is a medium ability hike and quickly climbs up to the base of the Ellmauer Halt, the highest peak in the Wilder Kaiser Mountains. The trail is gravel and stone so good footwear with strong grip is essential. On our way up we spotted two Gämse mountain goats perched on an overhang, watching us as we hiked the path. We ventured across a patch of soft snow, melting in the sunshine. Then we climbed ladders on the other side to reach a set of steps winding up to the base of the peak.
As we reached the top, the wind picked up and clouds started rolling in. We made good use of the hand rails attached to the side of the mountain and wondered in awe at the brave people that take the climbing route. I felt the scale of the elevation as we passed a weather station and looked down on the other side of the mountain. The Wilder Kaiser Mountains are not the largest or highest range in Austria, but at that moment they felt giant and I gained a new appreciation for nature.
After taking a few moments to view the vastness of the range, the trail continued for another 10 minutes until we hit Gruttenhütte. The clouds were still rolling in and looked set to drop rain on us at any moment, so we took a couple of quick photographs and carried on along the path to lead us back down the mountain.
The trail lead us through forest to Ellmauer Steinkreis, a giant stone mandala in a clearing that is believed to be a natural force field of energy. By this point, the rain had started so we carried on back to Wochenbrunne Alm and the sanctuary of the car. For others visiting on a clear day, it’s recommended to spend some time meditating on one of the rocks that are believed to radiate a positive energy. I will definitely be venturing back to that spot for some meditation in the sunshine.
Hiking in the mountains is an amazing experience, but preparation is important.
For day hikes, a small day pack is all that is needed for carrying essential items. For multiple day hikes, a larger pack may be better but remember, carrying additional weight makes hiking at higher elevations harder. So pack wisely.
Here are some essential items for day hikes in the Alps:
- Waterproof footwear with strong grip (hiking boots are great for protecting ankles)
- A lightweight rain jacket for unexpected downpours
- Water and Isotonic drinks for hydration
- Snacks (dried fruit and nuts, cereal bars, sandwiches)
- Head torch (just in case)
- Phone and camera
Before setting out, always check the weather forecast. And if exploring a new region, visiting the local tourism branch is a good place for hiking tips.
Feel free to comment below with any other hiking tips or personal experiences of hiking in the Alps.
This post has also been published on pretravels.com