Trip Reports: Wilder Kaiser, Austria - July 2017

After our trek in the Karwendel we took a bus and train to the town of Kufstein, stocked up on some snacks, and started hiking into the Kaisergebirge, a small but incredibly rugged mountain range that rivals just about anything in the Dolomites as far as sheer jaggedness goes. This would be a shorter two-night trek but would prove to be much more strenuous than our previous one! We spent the first night at the Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte, the second at the Stripsenjochhaus, then climbed over the Wilder Kaiser range via the famous Eggersteig route and down to the village of Ellmau.

Austria, Kufstein, photo

An often-photographed cobblestone alleyway in Kufstein, Austria. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Festung Kufstein, Kaisergebirge, Kufstein, Kufstein Fortress, castle, photo

The Festung Kufstein (Kufstein Fortress), which towers over the town of Kufstein, dates back to at least 1205. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Kaisergebirge, Wilder Kaiser, photo

A view of the rugged limestone peaks of the Wilder Kaiser. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Kaisergebirge, Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte, hut, Kufstein, photo

The Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte offers a stunning view over Kufstein and the Inn river valley. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Kaisergebirge, Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte, beer, hut, photo

After a grueling 1000-vertical-meter walk up from Kufstein on a relentlessly steep forest trail in blazing heat and swarming horse flies, our spirits were quickly lifted at the Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte, sitting in the shade of an umbrella with a cool breeze and dunkel hefeweizen in hand. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Kaisergebirge, Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte, hut, photo

The Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte is one of my favorite alpine huts I've stayed in; here's the dining room surrounded by windows with amazing views of the valley and mountains beyond. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Kaisergebirge, Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte, hut, photo

We actually scored a shower and a private bedroom at the Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte! Alpine luxury... Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Kaisergebirge, Naunspitze, sunset, Inn River, Kufstein, photo

Sunset from Naunspitze, above the Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte. The river Inn flows north (to the right) out of the Alps on its way to the Danube and eventually to the Black Sea. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Kaisergebirge, Naunspitze, cross, photo

Crosses adorn nearly every prominent summit in Austria (and most of the Alps). Here's one atop Naunspitze after sunset. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Kaisergebirge, Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte, hut, photo

The Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte overlooks the lights of Kufstein and the Inn Valley 1000 meters below. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Kaisergebirge, Kufstein, Peterskopfl, panorama, photo

A panoramic view west of Kufstein and the river Inn from the summit of Peterskopfl - early July. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Kaisergebirge, Stripsenjochhaus, Stripsenkopf, Wilder Kaiser, hut, photo

The Stripsenjochhaus hut sits on a saddle directly below the spectacular vertical limestone peaks of the Wilder Kaiser. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Kaisergebirge, Stripsenjochhaus, Stripsenkopf, Wilder Kaiser, sunset, panorama, photo

Sunset light illuminates the rugged limestone peaks of the Wilder Kaiser, the main and tallest mountains of the Kaisergebirge. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Eggersteig, Wilder Kaiser, Kaisergebirge, Austria, Stripsenjochhaus, photo

The blue line marks the Eggersteig route which crosses over the Wilder Kaiser via an improbable route between two vertical limestone walls. Looking at this route the evening before, I had my doubts about whether or not it would be a good idea for us to attempt this! It looks impossible without climbing gear, but there's actually a cabled trail that ascends the steep couloir! Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Kaisergebirge, Stripsenjochhaus, Wilder Kaiser, hut, photo

The terrace of the Stripsenjochhaus offers a jaw-dropping view of the jagged Wilder Kaiser towering overhead. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Eggersteig, Kaisergebirge, Wilder Kaiser, klettersteig, photo

After a night at the Stripsenjochhaus we scrambled over the rugged Wilder Kaiser via the famous Eggersteig route. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Eggersteig, Kaisergebirge, Wilder Kaiser, klettersteig, photo

The Eggersteig takes an improbable route up between two immense vertical limestone faces of the Wilder Kaiser. Though this route involves narrow ledges, climbing ladders and cables, and massive exposure, it’s actually possible to do it without a klettersteig (aka, via ferrata) kit. I have been on numerous via ferrata routes in the famous Dolomites of Italy, and I can say that the Wilder Kaiser peaks are definitely on par! Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Eggersteig, Kaisergebirge, Wilder Kaiser, klettersteig, photo

Looking straight up at the imposing vertical walls of the Wilder Kaiser. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Eggersteig, Kaisergebirge, Wilder Kaiser, klettersteig, photo

Scrambling up the intimidating Eggersteig route. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Eggersteig, Kaisergebirge, Wilder Kaiser, klettersteig, photo

Hiking the upper reaches of the Eggersteig. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Austria, Kaisergebirge, Wilder Kaiser, photo

After passing the Eggersteig and crossing over the pass we made the long descent down the south side of the mountains and eventually walked into Ellmau, a picturesque village surrounded by green meadows with the rugged Kaisergebirge towering above — quintessential Austria! Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Ellmau, Kaisergebirge, Wilder Kaiser, sunset, panorama, photo

Evening light in the village of Ellmau, below the Kaisergebirge mountains - July. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Ellmau, Kaisergebirge, Wilder Kaiser, sunset, photo

Sunset light in the village of Ellmau, Austria. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Austria, Ellmau, Kaisergebirge, Söll, rainbow, photo

A rainbow shines over the village of Söll during a break in rainstorms. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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