We are relaxing in the lovely Bavarian town of Oberstdorf in southern Germany after having trekked for the last 7 days through the Allgäuer Alps, a fantastic mountain range which runs along the border of Germany and Austria.
Allgäuer Alps, Germany - July 2013
Here we are, so stoked to finally be in the Alps after nearly six months of anticipation! And what an awesome place to spend our first night – at the Rappensee Hut, situated near an idyllic alpine lake surrounded by wildflower-filled green meadows and a trio of rugged peaks. Life is good!!!
Our main reason for choosing the Allgäuer Alps as our first trekking destination was to visit Claudia’s good friend Susanne who is working at one of the huts here for the summer. Claudia and I had planned to trek for two days before arriving at her hut, so we were surprised and thrilled to randomly see Susanne and her friend Dominik here at the Rappenseehütte! We immediately changed our plans to join them on their tour in the other direction from our planned route.
One of the great things about trekking in the Allgäuer Alps is the nearly constant vistas that surround while hiking. The photo above looks north towards the town of Oberstdorf which is located in the valley at the upper right, nearly 1600m (5,250 ft.) below.
The Allgäuer Alps are known for their wildflowers and did not disappoint! The basin near the Kemptner Hut, our second hut of the trek, was verdant green and filled with wildflowers. This basin reminded me of Fravert or Wetterhorn Basins back home in Colorado, only more vertically oriented!
A hike down from the mountains, a couple bus rides, and a hike up the other side of the valley brought us to the Fiderapasshütte, where Susanne is working for the summer. We stayed there for two nights to visit more with her and relax for a full day.
The classic trek through the Allgäuer Alps (of which we did an odd variation), is often referred to as the “Steinbock Tour” because of all the wild steinbock (aka ibex) that live in these mountains. These are young ones above, be we saw many of them with their large majestic curving horns.
From the Fiderapasshütte, the route becomes a klettersteig (aka via ferrata) – a high ridge route with fixed cables and ladder rungs where needed. Using a climbing harness with two short ropes with locking carabiners, it’s possible to safely climb fairly burly routes without technical climbing skills.
Here Claudia is about to descend a big vertical rock face via a long series of ladder rungs embedded into the rock. The Mindelheimer Klettersteig route continues all the way up the ridge seen in the photo.
Now climbing up that ridge, looking back at the ridge from the previous photo.
Heading towards the Mindelheimer Hut. Alpine huts are a deeply engrained part of the culture here in the Alps, where people have been living up high in the mountains for many generations. Unlike the relatively wild mountains of North America where it’s necessary to bring all your camping gear and food, here in the Alps you can carry a light pack and sleep in the huts where they also cook delicious meals and even provide beer and wine!
Every hut has a different character and feel; some are small and cozy while other large ones can be a somewhat commercial affair. But so far they’ve all been friendly and welcoming. The huts can sleep a surprising number of hikers – the Mindelheimer Hut above can accommodate something like 200 people! Usually everyone sleeps side by side on sleeping pads in long dormitory rooms, but sometimes it’s possible to get a smaller room with less people (and less snoring). If there’s an overflow of people, like over the weekends, they have extra emergency pads so people can sleep in the dining room or hallways. Fortunately we haven’t had to do this yet!
After the Mindelheim Hut we headed to the Widderstein Hut and climbed up the Widderstein – at 2533m, another prominent peak of the range.
Although the Allgäuer Alps are not nearly as famous as other mountains in the Alps, I couldn’t be more impressed so far!