16 Sep 2012

Ellmauer Halt hike

My former neighbor Riki had been trying to climb up the Elmauer Halt for more than a year, enduring bad weather, trips with folks who were scared of heights and other woes. She enlisted me to go earlier in the summer and finally a day arose when we could juggle busy schedules and meet up. She drove her family’s beautiful new black Nissan and we got to the trailhead with no traffic at all. I always forget what a fast hiker Riki is, and within 40 minutes, we were at the Gruttenhütte, advertised by trail signs to take an hour and a half! I’d made her promise not to worry too much about timing, but just to enjoy ourselves. (Riki and I used to only do “dawn patrols” together, racing back to town before 10 am after hiking or skiing). But nobody told her legs that :D.

So it wasn’t much longer and we were above the hut, hiking through a boulderfield on fresh snow, and talking about the usual parent topics of kids, kids allowances, toys, and all that stuff only fascinating to the be-kidded like us! It’s always nice to get another perspective on the whole perplexing thing. I told some stories about Rowan and Elijah and how different they can be from each other.

Meanwhile, we found the trail again (I’d led us off into a wilderness of snow and rock), then climbed more steeply to the beautiful trail that traverses above and below cliffs almost magically to the Rote-Rinne Scharte (“Red Gully Pass,” imaginatively named). We continued on steeper ground, now following an iron cable to mark the way on good rock. Fresh snow had made things a bit slippery however. We were constantly surprised by how greasy the rock felt with our wet shoes. I would take two (hilarious!) pratfalls on the descent because of this. Below the Scharte, we climbed on loose rock rather than follow the “contrived” ladder of iron steps hammered into the rock a few feet above the general slope. This was a fun diversion, however, my be-velcroed camera decided to let go from my pack in here, and say goodbye after 6 wonderful years into the red maul of the Rote-Rinne Scharte! Goodbye camera! I…loved you!

It’s time had come. I was thinking about buying a new one for a while, and maybe now was the time. Any advice? It was a Panasonic Lumix, circa 2006 vintage.

We continued on enjoyable scrambling terrain, eventually reaching a fun ladder. Above this, we scrambled further to the summit and enjoyed great views in all directions. The recent snow was melting, but the great alpine chain to the south presented a stunning sight: a broad snowline extending along the chain showing that the mid-week snow had been quite extensive. Would it fully melt? After all, it was only mid-September.

I tried to smoke my pipe on top, but after 5 matches in a weak wind I gave up! Oh well. We had nice sandwiches, identified Riki’s parents house (approximately), and talked about Greece. After a good long time, we headed down, running into dozens of people climbing up. It truly is the most popular hike in the Wilder Kaiser. We were glad to have the mountains to ourselves on the way up, especially because we saw herds of gämse, grazing near the boulderfields.

After my pratfall-laced descent, we went to the Gruttenhütte, having drinks, soup and pie. It was so crowded we had to go sit on a grassy ledge away from the hut, bedeviled only by children running around behind us. The whole trip had a feeling of a year “summing up,” and this good extra rest on the descent reinforced that. Now we talked about jobs and all their foibles.

Within 30 minutes we were back at the car, stopping only to buy a pumpkin for Frederik and Heidi. I figured I’d wait until closer to Halloween to get one.

Thanks Riki for a great hike, ca-ching, another Kaiser trip in the bank!! (Fleischbank, that is! (this is an insider Wilder Kaiser joke (no it’s not (okay, fine)))).

A last look at the Elmauer Halt

Purchase of Pumpkin (one)