To cross the Alps on the E5 long distance path: an undertaking that excites many passionate long distance hikers – such as me. For about a week I will be on the way from Germany across Austria to Italy, facing all the challenges that the Alps have to offer.
Leg 1 – When tracks turn into streams
Our tour does not start under very good meteorological conditions: The weather forecast predicts sudden drops in temperature, thunderstorms, snowfalls and landslides – in July. But the muscles are trained and the huts booked – and so we start our ascent to the Kempten hut highly motivated.
What an experience: We don’t walk alongside the creaks, but through them as the water forcefully roars next to our feet. Bridges across the flooded paths are rare, which is why our feet aren’t dry for long.
When we finally reach the hut, we immediately make our way to the drying room. But the room does not really deserve that name considering that it rather resembles a “swimming pool”.
The next day is more multi-faceted – but not necessarily drier. We trudge through mud and the mush of snow up to the Mädelejoch and realize that even the Gore-Text sometimes reaches its limits.
The persistent rainfall has at least one positive effect: On the way through the Höhenbachtal, we pass the Simms waterfall, which thunder down the mountains – what a sight!
During our lunch break in Holzgau, we try our best to dry our socks and clothes with the hairdryer of the inn and fill our bellies with warm soup and hot chocolate. Then it’s back into the rain gear for the muddy way up to the Memminger hut (2242 m).
The scenery on the third day provides a completely different view: The sky is blue and cloudless, the lake at the hut reflects the surrounding mountain peaks. We made our way up to the Seescharte (2664 m) – and enjoy the breathtaking view over the Silberspitze to the Ötztal Alps.
View of the Silberspitze
Photo: Julia Gebauer, Outdooractive Editors
And even better: We can finally put on shorts and t-shirts instead of the rain gear of the last days. We no longer need coats and hats, put them into our backpacks and happily set out for the longest descent of the week that takes us 2000 m down to Zams in the Inn valley.
It gets warmer and more summery. After we have crossed the “Zammer Loch” with its steep gorges and mountain creaks, we can enjoy the tours fastest ascent: A mountain railway takes us up to the Krahberg (2208 m). From here, a beautiful mountain path takes us past gentian, alpine rose and a marvelous landscape until we reach the Larcheralm.
Leg 4 – Hiking with company
For the first bit of this leg we descent from the Lacheralm to Wenns and take the bus through the Pitztal valley. We reach the Mittelberg after the bumpy one hour drive that includes a free of charge lesson in Tyrolean German. By the time that we almost get used to the fast pace of the bus ride, our backpacks unloaded and we begin our way up to the Braunschweiger hut.
Like a convoy of ants, we meander up the hill in the searing heat. Once we arrive at the top, we are – to put it politely – not exactly by ourselves. There are many tourists on the hut’s sun terrace, who probably – despite their sinfully expensive equipment – took the railway and hiked on the panorama hiking trail.
Nevertheless: Delicious beers and a gigantic view of the Mittelbergferner glacier make the time until dinner fly by.
Leg 5 – Tired legs, many rocks and no view
Behind the Braunschweiger hut, the most demanding part of our tour awaits us. The weather is more or less stable and we make our way to dare crossing the Rettenbachferner that is can get extremely dangerous when there is fog or fresh snow. But we are lucky and finally, reach the highest point of our tour at the top station of the Seitenkar railway at 3051 m.
After traversing the ridge, we find ourselves in one of the most popular ski resorts of the Alps – Sölden. During summer, however, it displays a rather sad sight. We have to cross a few bigger fields of snow and are introduced into the art of “going downhill without skies”. And in doing so, we overcome 500 meters of altitude in just a couple of minutes.
During the continuing descent to Vent in the Ötztal, we once again encounter heavy fog and we have to make the experience that even a panorama trail can be ,. And while I look at the lunar landscape, I cannot help but remember thinking of a sentence Heinrich Heine wrote into the summit register of the Brocken, the highest peak of the Harz: “Tired legs, many rocks, no view, Heinrich Heine.”
Leg 6 – Reaching limits
The last day of hiking tour begins. The trail takes us from Vent across the Niederjochferner and once again we have to walk on ice. We pass the border between Italy and Austria and reach the Similaunjoch and the hut with the same name.
We continue after a ,, but the weather suddenly changes. It’s cold and we see – nothing. Once again we put on gloves, hats and coats and make your way down to the water reservoir of Vernagt in the Schnalstal in South Tyrol.
The transalpine track of the E5 long distance track is considered to be one of the most beautiful and popular long distance trails in German-speaking countries. Rain, snow, fog and mud aside, we had a wonderful week.
We discovered ibexes, groundhogs and eagles, experienced the weather conditions of four seasons within just a few hours and can rightfully refer to ourselves as masters of logistics: getting dressed, getting undressed, pack, unpack, rain cover out, rain pants on, coat off, change of shirt,...
We could hardly get enough of the landscape’s scenery. Almost every hour our surroundings change from lush green to stony grey, from softly wooded to icy white. And because the Alps seem to be quite well-disposed towards us, we now leave sunny Meran in high spirits.
On the E5 from Oberstdorf to Meran, we hike through the Allgaeu as well as the Lechtaler and Ötztaler Alps. There are many places that offer a place to stay overnight: huts, guest houses or hotels. However, you need to make a reservation – all summer long many guided groups are out and about here.