Thursday, July 16, 2015

Peak III

I've been up even more mountains lately.

Hoher Freschen, take 3. This time, in contrast to last time, it was a lovely, sunny day (less snow than expected for once) and we showed Maddie, Isabella, Thibaut & Isa the impressive ridge line and could enjoy the view that we didn't get to see last time. Both Maddie and Isabella wrote lovely accounts of this hike too, see them here and here.

My brother visited a few weeks ago and one morning we walked up Bocksberg. It was overcast in town but we had blue skies above the low-hanging clouds. It was really nice to spend time with my brother and show him my life here.

About a month ago I went on the craziest hike I've ever done, Zitterklapfen. Even though it isn't particularly high for this part of the world (around 2400m), it's know as the hardest mountain to hike up in the Bregenzerwald (fitting for such a scary-sounding name). The hike started quite tame but after a few hours (and steep sections) we came across a 65+, very experienced-looking Austrian who told us (in thick dialect) to turn back before anything happens. We told him we'd turn back if it gets too bad, he shrugged, mumbled something along the lines of "your funeral" and kept going down. True, we didn't have ropes or poles or spikes and Stefan was in running shoes and jeans, but how bad could it be if some old Austrian man had already been up there that day?
...more snow than expected. Once we scrambled up a long stretch of steep, loose stones we had to cross a very long and steep snow field. Once finally on the other side, there was a lot of (unsecured) climbing, the kind of thing I thought you might need climbing equipment for, but in the end we made it to the top. The tricky bit was descending the way we came, and we (half) jokingly considered calling a rescue helicopter. The rock climbing down was okay, but once we made it back to the snowfield the snow had become considerably slipperier in the sun. Not knowing much about avalanches, we decided to go one at a time to be safe. As I was walking across, last in line, I suddenly slipped and slid few metres down on my stomach. Luckily I could dig my boot in the snow enough to eventually stop falling and, very shaken, made my way back to the stones.

My dear housemate, (the German) Anna, left 2 weeks ago. On her last week here she had the day off so we drove with Maddie and Thibaut into Brandertal to conquer Schesaplana. First we hiked up to the amazingly blue Lünersee, then further up to Totalphütte for a drink, and onwards through the snow to the 2965m high peak sitting on the border of Switzerland and Austria. Apart from a risky climb through vertical snow just before the peak, it was a really lovely, stress-free hike with even lovelier people. I'm already missing Anna a lot, it was so nice to live with someone who I had so much in common with.

Sometimes I think I’ve gotten better at saying goodbye and then there are weeks like the past few where I get knots in my stomach before even meeting with the person to be farewelled. People whose smell you’ve gotten used to, who you know when to talk to and when to have silence, whose mood you can sense before they say a word. All my exchange friends have now left town and it'll be pretty quiet until the next group come mid-August. This time I’m the one who’s staying and I've gotten a taste of what it feels like for the people back home when I leave. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015


I've been in Austria for 4 months now (more like 3 if you minus my South Africa holiday). Time has gone really fast but at the same time it feels like so much has been fit into these few weeks. My housemate told me I'm the most active person she knows –  I think I'm bad at being bored.
I'm sad that my exchange student friends are leaving soon, I can't believe they're going already. When I was on exchange here two years ago I remember how bad the thought of leaving was.

Here are a few miscellaneous things I haven't written about on here:

In May my two housemates and I had a lovely long weekend in Anger, a small town in Bavaria near Salzburg. We stayed at German Anna's family home, explored the area (Bechtesgaden, Bad Reichenhall, the beautiful Königssee), saw the Maibaum being set up by men in lederhosen and ate and drank extremely well. On the very cold and drizzly Sunday morning Anna and I got up early, ate a lot (me at least) and set off to run in the Salzburg half marathon. I wasn't quite as trained as when I ran it two years ago and I had somehow hurt my foot running the week prior, so I wasn't even sure that I'd be able to complete the distance. Luckily a few Nurofen and some Voltaren cream did the trick and it ended up being a really nice (and wet) run and I finished in 1:44, a minute slower than last time but totally okay with me.

A few weeks ago Matthias and I cycled Bielerhöhe Pass. I went on a pretty intense hike the day before and probably psyched myself up too much for the ride - the big climb ended up being much more doable than expected. When we got there the road was still closed for winter but we decided to try it anyway, and ended up having the whole pass to ourselves. So good. It was crazy to be cycling so high up (2032m above sea level) with so much snow and such vivid turquoise blue dams.

My brother visited last week. We went swimming in Lake Constance, went hiking in the clouds, ate Käsespatzle, cycled to Friedrichshafen, went to the markets and had an indoor picnic with some of my exchange friends.

I feel very lucky that I get to spend another year in this beautiful part of the world.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mountain days

Hochkünzelspitze, 2397m

Love letter to Vorarlberg.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Peak II

I've been up a few mountains lately. (Part 1)

The weekend after I got back from South Africa  we woke up at 3am on a Sunday morning (!) to walk up Mörzelspitze to watch the sunrise, something I haven't done since living in Vorarlberg. It was very cold, very dark and there was a lot more snow than expected (this has somewhat become a catch phrase in my first 3 months here). Probably because of these things we missed the right path to Mörzelspitze and ended up on another slightly smaller peak. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful morning watching the sun rise over the mountains behind us and Lake Constance in front of us. Shoutout to the friends we saw walking between clubs, beer in hand, who we picked up on the way and ended up walking all the way to the top with us.

When everybody seems to be busy I can count on my procrastinating gym-junkie Slovakian friends to join me for a sunny mid-week afternoon hike. We had planned to just go up an old favourite waterfall hike but can't say no to a challenge and afterwards decided to also include Staufen peak.

This was my second time up there this year, last time it looked like this:

It was lovely weather two weeks ago (it seems like winter again now) and a local suggested Winterstaude to be a nice day hike. We started from Bezau in the Bregenzerwald, went up Niedere and from there along the ridge to Winterstaude peak. Coming back, we thought we'd take the shorter, more challenging way down. Again, there was more snow than expected and we couldn't see any trace of a path (or tracks for that matter) and we ended up scrambling down the steepest face of the mountain down to Schetteregg ski area, with a lot of sun burn as a souvenir.

On Sunday I thought I'd give Mörzelspitze another go as I've since aquired a hiking map of the area. ...I ended up guiding our group of 6 in the wrong direction from the start but quickly decided that we'd go up Hoher Freschen instead, as Stefan was keen as always to go up a peak over 2000m . I'd been up there two years ago, what could go wrong?  Answer: More Snow Than Expected. It's a really amazing hike, unfortunately there was a lot of fog on Sunday which blocked the view but also looked really beautiful. For this hike we finally went above the tree line and had to climb/ balance along some tricky ridges, made even harder by a lot of fresh snow. In hindsight it was probably a little dangerous to do considering the conditions, but morale was high throughout the day and no one got into any trouble. Once on the peak, we decided to skip the risky ridge climb down and hike through the snow to skiing area Laterns instead.

I love being here and having such beautiful places so easily accessible. I'm thankful for the wonderful friends who follow my 'routes' despite serious doubts and whose company make hiking that much more enjoyable. I've also done a few trips and amazing bike rides recently, will write about those soon. (or not... it always seems to be so long between blog posts despite good intentions. I also upload photos quite regularly on Instagram)