From the Kemptner Hut to the Memminger Hut! Day 2 of the E5 Alpine crossing!
It is 07:30am in the morning and my alarm rings on this Friday the second of September and I'm still lying in the nicely warmed sleeping bag. I still feel a little tired and exhausted from the previous day and decide to lie still half an hour in the warmth and to doze before me.
Outside in front of the tent I hear already, as a little below my tent sleeping place the first hikers of the Kemptner hut up the Scharte come. We are up here, by the way, directly on the green border between Germany and Austria. I hear the steps and the conversations and can hear on the basis of the conversations that a few look up and notice my absolutely brilliant campsite. "Ah there the guy with the giant backpack has pitched his tent tonight!". After half an hour in the comforting warmth, I finally decide to crawl out of my sleeping bag and get dressed. I unzip the inner tent and the awning and greet the wonderful new morning.
A clearblue sky welcomes me at this morning and the bright sun, which has just ascended over the rock face in the east, shines into my sleepy face.
Nothing left of the fog that had covered the saddle the night before.
Now the view down into the Lech valley is free. Some hikers passing by spot me above the saddle and greet me with a warm "Good morning"! I eat a snack, take my B12+K2+D3+B2 vitamins and begin to dismantle my tent, while I pack my equipment this time a little more cleverly, so that I find the parts and necessary items faster next time and the following tent setups go faster. It takes me a little longer than expected, but maybe that's just at the beginning until the routine kicks in.
Almost ready to go, I brush my teeth in the increasingly warm sunlight and start descending from up here, down to the next valley in Austria to get to a little village called Holzgau. Since I am a little bit late compared to everyone else on the treck, it is now quiet again on the way down and I really get used to my backpack and the use of the treckingpoles, which I normally never use on "normal mountain climbs", only when ascending trough deep snow or when walking on glaciers. At this point I should probably express my gratitude to my strong knees, ankles and ligaments, which have never let me down, "knock on wood" or caused me problems.
After a while, I realize that my phone has signal again. "Oh yeah sure" I think to myself, "I'm now in Austria and no longer in Germany" I joke to myself and use the opportunity to contact my loved ones, who have not heard from me since yesterday noon and continue to descend. Suddenly I notice that I no longer have my Sony Alpha 6300 camera, which I always carry around my neck or shoulder with mek, so I must have left it somewhere. I already thought about it the day before, when I put the camera down again and again, that it must be only a question of time, until I leave you once. I quickly put down my backpack and rush back up the path with great leaps, when after a short distance a hiker comes down towards me and asks me if I had forgotten a camera on the way. He hands me my Sony Alpha, which I have left a bit further up and I thank the honest sould totally relieved. We started a little conversation and descend together for a bit.
The path down to Holzgau is beautiful. The clear blue sky touches the jagged gray rock faces, which in some places merge into grassy light green slopes in other places it is the combination of dark green forests that create an intense and contrasting colorcombination.
One hour in, I am now wandering through a slightly shady forest and the trees protect me a little bit from the hot sun, sending down its strong sunbeams on me and into the valley.
I enjoy this descent so much, since it is extraordinarily beautiful, has a lot of variety and the the weather is perfect, the backpack pushes me down virtually without effort and I feel great. On the way down I pass by several small huts and some of the serve fresh beverages and a tasty meal for the way. I bit further down now, I meet more and more elderly people and hikers enjoying the beautiful weather to the maximum while taking a relaxed hike in the mountains or walk with their dogs.
The path leads along the "Roßgumpenbach", this water stream then merges into the "Höhenbach" after passing through the "Simmswasserfall". I cross the river a few times while watching the cows chewing on fresh and tasty gras. You can hear cowbells from everyhwere while further descending through the valley.
Further down the river I meet Nicklas and Hannah for the first time, while they are just taking a short break and enjoy a little refreshment at the cold mountain river. We will meet many, many times over the next few days!
The final path to Holzgau now splits into two different paths and I have the choice. Either over the suspension bridge in about 1h 15 minutes or descend along the waterfall in about 1h. I decide on the latter and move in the direction of the waterfall along the gorge.
I see a via ferrata was installed along the rocks and across the waterfall. In retrospect, I learn that this waterfall was probably created artificially.
The path next to the waterfall down into the gorge is pretty steep and made of solid rock. I continue to descend and slowly notice that I'm getting a little hungry. So I grab two cereal bars out of my sidepocket and start chewing away at them one at a time. The first one was cranberry flavored and the second one had a blueberry flavor. The descent is now quite fast until the path gradually turns to gravel and slowly flattens out until the terrain is almost level.
I keep on walking along an extended, left curve and notice the long suspension bridge above me that spans across the wide water-bearing gorge. This would have been the second option, which you can also cross on the way to Holzgau.
I keep on walking and reach the first houses of the small village named Holzgau.
There is almost complete silence in the valley. The only thing I can hear is a sporadic metallic hammering noise echoing through the village. It sounds as if someone is working in a quarry or a stonemason was working on a large block of stone, shaping it. Somehow this sound conveys to me as if I had been transported decades into the past. As I get closer to the sound, I see an aging burly man driving a metal wedge through a sawed-off log in full sweat in the blazing sun. Yes... the next winter comes certainly! A little further down, I finally arrive in the center of the small village of Holzgau and already see several people sitting in front of the "Gasthof zum Bären", eating a snack, drinking something for the dry throats and strained bodies and some of them are just waiting for the bus to get to the next seqction to continue their path up to the Memminger Hut.
People notice me again because of my oversized backpack as I approach the inn. It is a big E5 hiking group called "50+", led by two experienced old guys who know the several ways across the E5 inside out. We all get to talk to each other and I share with the group my plans to travel eastwards around the world in order to climb as many mountains as I possibly can within the next two years. The group with obviously a lot of life experience is very enthusiastic about the idea and assures me that I am doing exactly the right thing and in their opinion at the perfect time or at a perfect age. I will think about what they said a lot afterwards, as I sometimes question myself that maybe I should have started this journey earlier in life and not at 34 almost 35. At this age I may enjoy and experience the journey quite differently than I would have done, say, in my mid-20s, because my outlook and expectations might have been quite different, possibly driven by some stupid reasons. After the long and funny conversation with the "50+ E5 alpine crossers" group, we laugh a lot and decide take a photo together!
We exchange contacts afterwards and I say goodbye to the warm group that wishes me the best for my journey and the future.
To get to the next starting point for the further ascent up to the Memminger Hut, it is about 20km on the tarred road along the valley. Marked yellow on the map. Like most E5 hikers, I decide to cover this unspectacular part by bus, or shuttle, to save some resources and strength in order to arrive at the hut before nightfall and also because I am a little late at this day. I meet Nicklas and Hannah again on the ride and we drive together to the starting point in the direction of Memminger Hut.
The ascent will again take 2 ½ hours climbing 6 km from about 1470 hm to 2250 hm. Ok, so here we go! I fight my way up the steep path and start sweating like crazy again.
I mention it a lot ... I know, but the backpack is just so heavy and I think about whether that was really necessary. The weight of every single piece of equipment I mean of course.
Steeper and steeper, continously going up through high grass, trees and bushes. After a while of gaining a lot of altitude again the terrain becomes very open and now trees are to be found up here. It is also a bit more flat now and a large wide waterfall cascades down from a rock formation into this vast area.
At the side of the path, I see a girl sitting with her companions crying and sobbing to herself. I ask her companions if everything is all right. They nod and confirm that nothing is wrong with her. Maybe she feels not strong enough to continue, has to admit defeat or thinks about giving up. I don't ask for the reason why she is crying I just wish the group the best and keep on going. We cross the river via a metal bridge and then, to the left of the waterfall, make our way up several steep turns. As you climb along those turns, you get closer and closer to the waterfall until you can barely hear anything but the water cascading down and you can feel the cool air being drawn down into the valley. Finally above the waterfall, the path leads up again, long and steadily for the very last time until you reach a last small hilltop. Suddenly after this last climb, a huge, extremely extensive and flat plain or cauldron suddenly opens up to me and in the midst of this plain I spot the Memminger Hütte slightly elevated! Finally done!
I am speechless witnessing this wonderful sight and feel lucky to be walking on this path. I continue and head straight up the long path to the hut.
In front of the hut are two bearded guys named Tommy and Steffen and watch me as I climb the last meters up to the terrace. They smile at me and say: "respect for climbing up here with your huge backpack and heavy luggage". Tommy and I talk briefly and are surprised to find that he and my mom both come from Zwickau, a town in east Germany. I immediately fool around a little and give my Saxon dialect to the best. We are giggling all the time and exchange a few stories. After about 10 minutes, however, I move on, because I have heard that behind the hut there is a lake where I could possibly find a nice suitable place with a great view across the lake. So I move on to get to the lake in order to set up my tent for the night. I have got no time to lose and start walking! Not even five minutes of walking and I see the lake already. Oh how beautiful it looks! This will be a great place to spend the night and a beautiful view to wake up to in the morning.
I am super excited and immediately start to assemble all parts and put up my tent, because slight rain is setting in and I want to avoid my eqipment to get wet. The build up is very smooth quite fast, because I had disassembled and sorted everything in the right order this morning, knowing that I would benefit from these actions when setting up the tent again. After the work is done, I put on my red rain jacket and happily jump over to the lake to shoot a few great pictures.
The gentle light blue of the water, yes the almost turquoise shimmering lake makes me dream and my thoughts wander away over the surface of this body of water. While my absent-minded look glides across the blue, towards the other side of the bank I spot a large herd of ibex of approximately 20 animals running around the lake.
I watch the spectacle and notice further to the left, in the now increasing rain another group with large majestic horns sitting on a hill. I approach carefully so as not to scare them off and shoot a few great pictures of these fascinating creatures.
I also notice a few marmots running from burrow to burrow minding their own business. After a few snapshots I put the camera away and jump back to my tent. I say jump, because I feel light as a feather without my backpack, as if I Muten Roshi trained me for a few months. It is about 7pm and I am sitting in the comfortable dry tent preparing my dinner. I feel extremely tired after a while, so I decide to call it a day very early and crawl into my super soft sleeping bag on my air-filled sleeping mat. The rain outside is now getting stronger hitting the top of my tent with loud noise. I hope to stay dry for the night because I don't want to wake up in a puddle at some point. However, I think I have set up my tent in the right location so that this can not happen. I slowly but surely close my eyes while the noisy rain keeps falling and hear a dull clash of horns in the distance. This must be the ibexes in duel with their big horns. My breath gets quiete and slow and I start falling into a deep and long sleep and am curious how this beautiful path over the Alps continues!