Kris, Rowan, Elijah and I headed to the mountains at 8 am Saturday morning. We had no traffic and got to the little town of Köfles on a mountainside in the Ötztal in 3 hours. The boys had packs this time, and as usual felt a bit tired in the first few hundred meters. In fact, Elijah said “Daddy, I’m tired” less than 10 seconds after we set out with great fanfare!

But it’s almost always just a problem with boredom for these fellas. We came into a forest with boulders to hop on and he forgot he was tired. There was a monotonous ski slope that gave them some trouble, but as I’ve seen before, they got onto the steeper switchbacking trail above and had no problem maintaining motivation. Well, as long as the parents are creative! “No pooping on my red hat,” said mommy. “No pooping under my blanket!” chuckled Rowan. “No p—” you get the idea. That was a joke that lasted for hours. Plus it got the boys some exercise on prepositions.

I’m a huge Jethro Tull fan…Rowan brought the flute!

Elijah points to the car, and Rowan to the hut

After a long time we reached a high pass called Schartle, then began a magical mostly traversing journey along an cute little irrigation canal, bringing glacial blue water down to some cows in the valley below. We stopped for lunch along the water, and looked to our hut, the Frischmannhütte, on the other side of the valley. We made a long traverse to the head of the valley, crossed a raging stream, then continued to the hut, getting there at about 5:30. Wow, that was a pretty big hike!

We would sleep in a common room with about 8 other people. That was a first for the boys, but they did great. Dinner was served early, like 6 or 6:30, and was very good. I had “Rahmschnitzel,” fried pork with cream sauce and rice. The boys had spaghetti which always works.

Later, we put the boys to bed and went down into the “Stube” so I could get a beer and Kris some wine. I saw a guitar on the wall and decided to be sociable and join in the music-making. A whole group from northern Bavaria were there with a father and son with their own accordians. They happily accepted my strumming and we spent a couple of hours going through dozens of songs. They have amazing memories. I just played along by ear…some songs had two chords, some three…rarely four. Kris loved it, and we kept drinking, though we could never keep up with this group! We got some good German practice, and finally, after a encore rendition of “Kleine Harmonica Spieler” we went to bed. I was bragging I’d get up real early and climb the Blockkogel before anyone else finished breakfast. No one believed me, least of all me!

But I managed it. For some reason I was awake at 6:00, kissed Kris goodbye and stumbled out. I didn’t feel I had time to even drink water, put on contact lenses or snatch my iPod. Normally those are the three essentials for a morning hike!

I scurried away, hiking to the back of the valley then steeply up a long scree cone, past some startled sheep, then onto a scenic ridge to meet the sun. Another 30 minutes and I was heading due south on the north ridge of the Blockkogel, really loving the variety of the route and the views. On the summit I looked down into the Pitztal, and across and out to many snowy peaks. The air was exceptionally clear. This was great, because it can sometimes be very hazy in good weather. It felt like summer was turning, and must be enjoyed before it slips away.

Goodbye hut…

The Blockkogel

Views to the west…

Back at the hut, Elijah was keen to explore some rocks across a stream. He led us further and further to my weak protests that mom was ready to go. The boys loved finding spider webs and destroying them with rocks. Rowan climbed down into a little cave once it had been sufficiently cleared of spider webs.

Fighting spider webs…

Sporting my injury from the Langkofeleck two weeks before…

The hike back was made interesting because cows were coming from the lower and upper pastures to the hut. We had to wait on the side of the trail for them to pass. After a while, this got annoying, but finally at the raging creek we were done with that. It seemed a long way down, especially in the steep rock and forest slope above Köfles. Kris and I were tired! But finally we made it, and had a nice drive home, fortified by McDonalds near Munich.

Traffic jam…

The Blockkogel and our hut on the right.

Beautiful mom and kids!

Bye Austria!

More photos here.