Trip Reports: Hut Trekking Through The Karwendel, Austria - July 2017

Over the course of 5 days in early July, we hiked from west to east below the jagged spine of the Karwendel range just north of Innsbruck, Austria - from the villages of Scharnitz to Pertisau, via the Karwendelhaus, Falkenhütte, Eng Alm, and Lamsenjochhaus. With reasonably short hiking days and not very steep trails, this was a perfect warm up trek to acclimate us to mountain trekking again for the first time this summer.

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A rainbow over the Bavarian town of Mittenwald, with the Karwendel mountains rising behind.

After two weeks in Germany visiting Claudia’s family and friends, I was excited to go down to the Alps for some mountain time! Six hours of train rides brought us from Freiburg to Mittenwald, the uber-quaint Bavarian village where we had stayed back in 2013 prior to climbing the Zugspitze. So in a way it felt like picking up where we had left off before — on that previous trip we had trekked through the Allgau and Lechtal ranges west of there, and now we would be trekking eastward.

The next day we started walking from the nearby village of Scharnitz, just over the border in Austria. A long but gentle forest road led to the Karwendhaus, spectacularly situated on the edge of a dramatic cliff overlooking the Karwendaltal valley. Coincidentally, shortly after arriving at the hut Claudia ran into four of her former classmates from her university days in Freiburg!

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The Karwendelhaus hut overlooks the Karwendeltal as clouds clear after a rainy night in early July.

It started raining just as we arrived at the hut, but later in the evening everybody was thrilled to see the sunset light burst through the clouds in this spectacular display of light!

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The setting sun beams over the Karwendeltal valley through a gap in the clouds.

The next day we hiked further along the range to the Falkenhütte, located at another spectacular site underneath the massive vertical north face walls of the Karwendel.

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A shepherd's cabin in the Karwendel mountains.

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Curious cows pose for the camera in the Karwendel mountains of Austria. Part of the charming atmosphere of hiking in the Alps is the nearly ever-present sound of cowbells jangling through the valleys.

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Clouds swirl around the vertical walls of the Laliderer Spitze (2588m) above the Falkenhütte.

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The Falkenhütte patio offers a jaw dropping view of the vertical mountain walls of the Karwendel range. Unfortunately rainy weather forced all the beer drinkers into the hut!

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Wildflowers near the Falkenhütte.

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A panoramic view of Laliderer Spitze and the Karwendel mountains above the Falkenhütte at sunset.

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A typical scene inside an Alpine hut at dinnertime, with lots of beer and laughter!

If you haven’t noticed by now, the “huts” in the Alps are more like mountain hotels rather than simple cabins — with sleeping quarters, kitchens and dining rooms with menus to order from, beer (of course), washrooms, and sometimes even showers!

The rain moved in for good on our third day, and we decided to add an extra day to our itinerary to wait out the rain in the Eng Alm valley. This turned out to be a good decision as it did indeed rain all day and night long, and anyways the Eng Alm valley is a supremely beautiful and a worthy destination in its own right. Also, I had the best spaetzle (a Bavarian/Tyrolean speciality flour noodle dish) of my life so far there! Not just the normal kasespaetzle [cheese spaetzle] but with speck [ham] and mushrooms too. Delicious!

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Engalm is a little village at the head of the Engtal, a gorgeous fjord-like valley in the Karwendel mountains. The meadows of the valley floor are dotted with thousands of picturesque maple trees, some over 700 years old. Here the clouds swirl off the Spritzkarspitze (2806m) after several days of rain.

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A stately maple tree in the Engtal.

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The obligatory photo of flowers in a window of a Tyrolean cabin.

On day four, trusting the weather forecast we waited out the rain all morning in Eng Alm, and sure enough in the afternoon it cleared up a bit and then we hiked up to the Lamsenjochhaus, the final hut of our Karwendel tour.

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The friendly goats at Binsalm really enjoyed a good scratching of their head and necks!

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Sunset behind the Lamsenjochhütte.

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Lamsenspitze (2508m) towers above the Lamsenjochhütte in the late evening light.

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Early in the morning I hiked up a nearby peak for this view of Lamsenspitze (2508m). You can see the Lamsenjochhütte down below.

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A view of Lamsenspitze (2508m) along with the ever present Austrian trail marker.

I woke up early on the last morning and hiked up a nearby little peak to watch the sunrise, then we walked down the valley to the little touristy lakeside town of Pertisau, on the shores of Achinsee, where we rented a room and and rested a bit before catching the bus and train to our next trek the next day.