Friday, June 16, 2017

Massif high Styria

Day 4, The day started as it always does in Austria at  -- oh bloody bells!
Caught the bus to Eisachalm to do the gentle stroll through the woods to Neualm, before continuing on the mountain path to the Keinprechte hut, before going back to Neualm to pick up the level path to a lake beginning with D, which I'll put in in the edit ( yes I do, difficult to believe huh? ).
The bus was the easy part, twenty metres down the path it split into two, I consulted the guide, " The path follows the river most of the way...", I plumped, indeed it did follow the river, about 60 metres above it. The forest is hot and humid, and prone to throwing bits of road across the path. After 90 minutes there is a break in the crepuscularity, another road? No, it is Neualm,  "a welcome relief from the forest" this bit is true. Neualm is a small flat shelf with a river dropping in on one end and separating to form small islets, " while you relax on the terrace the kids will find something to do by the river " mayhem or torturing small animals probably. This river terrace sports two different sorts of gentian, and "eek" frogs, the "eek" is me narrowly missing one of the frogs, it stared at me reproachfully, and deliberately refused to come into focus for the camera. I continued up the road past the fall, and was then directed off piste, onto one of those paths that are a delight, gentle ascent, either big stones or nice flat ground, lots to look at, well if you like big stones and flat ground. These are my major points of focus (frogs apart) these days, as my ankle tendons now roam unfettered by their capsules occasionally deciding to work for someone other than the necessary proprioceptors. What I'm trying to say is that they sometimes allow my ankle to roll indiscriminately, painfully, bone-chippingly and stuck at the top of a mountain - ly, consequently my gaze is normally directed downward to look for lurking twigs that may cause me to dial 140 and exercise meine Deutch, or at least exercise the operator. This is why I know that the Austrian alps are full of frogs, and devoid of birds, quite a few ants too, "Crikey look at the size of that one!".
The path continues up and, suddenly, we have left namby-pamby alm, for proper mountain. The air temperature drops due to the presence of a lot of snow, the flag flutters from the hut, up, and in the distance, and Marmots begin to whistle provocatively. "Why provocatively, Captain?" I'll explain:  The Marmot lives in the high mountain in burrows, when a marmot sees something it doesn't like, in this case me (which is why I've demoted it to lower case), it whistles to tell its friends to come and look at the bright red thing and hide the children. I, of course want to see the marmot, and am therefore forced to search the mountainside for something I can't find, prey species very rarely sound off with "I'm over here!", so the marmots whistle comes from erm somewhere over there, or maybe over there. I search, nothing, provoking me to offer the  corrie "bloody marmots!"

The Keinprechtehutte sits on the lip of the corrie, I sit, don my fleece for the first time this hols, and order peppermint tea, while watching elderly men order pints of beer, a couple, for elevenses, are there no prostate problems in Austria? I consult the map, I could go up that, which looks fine except that it's twice the height I think it is, this is not Snowdonia, well actually that ascent might be about half of it! I return back the way I have come, via frogs and froglets, until at Neualm I divert to the path  leading to the lake beginning with D, Duisitzkarsee..
The path " is level with no major ascents or descents, but care must be taken because of the numerous stones and roots.", there are indeed numerous stones and roots, and the path does not have any major ascents or descents, what it does have are innumerable small ascents and descents, amounting to several major ascents and descents, in fact an indecent amount. After 90 minutes I sense a change, light filters through the trees, the forest opens, my knees hurt marginally less. Over a rise we find Lake Duisitzkar, in front of me there is a dog standing up to its haunches in the lake, it seems to be doing nothing, a bemused gaze passes between us, the same sort of gaze that passes between the litterer and the outraged mild-mannered witness.
"What?" plangent.
"WHAT!" demi-interrogative.
I move on, moving being a relative term after the lack of major ascents or descents, I'd love to stop at one of the cafes but have no idea of the time of descent (AKA can I get the bus?), however, the number of people milling about might point in a positive direction if I didn't know that I had already failed to catch up the 80 year olds who passed me 5 minutes before I'd finished lunch (incidentally the two pint elevenses person and spouse, perhaps he had a pressing need). I persevered, starting off on the forest trail (descending a cliff in a series of zig-zags surrounded by trees) and moving to the forest road ( descending a steep hill in a series of zig-zags) after most of my lower body had forgiven me - briefly.
I arrived an hour before the bus, had a sit (potentially bad) before getting the bus and getting a seat ( good, but potentially bad ), forty five minutes later I had to get off my seat and the bus (very bad - such potential!) and tin soldier my way to the hotel for prophylactic, but excruciating stretching.
We ate, the lady in the next room vomited for 6 hours, after a lot of internal discussion I decided I didn't have food poisoning, and so drifted into her troubled sleep.

Day 5,

The dawn brings the same lady in distress. At breakfast I plump for a trip up to the Dachstein Glacier, and depart to fight my way onto the bus. At the cable car there is a ticker, "No ascent without reservation", I move to the reservation and ticket office and show my Sommerkarte, giving me a free ride, this is where things go wrong:
"Sprechense Englishe bitte?"
"Umm, could I have a reservation?"
"When do you want to go up"
"As soon as possible."
tappety tap tap tap
"One hour?"
"Fine there's plenty to do round here."
tappety tap, zizz - one piece of paper.

During the intervening hour I set off for the Sudwand hut, in an attempt to scare myself crossing a snowfield on a steep slope - I succeed. I return to basecamp and meet Peter and Rita, I tell then they should book right away as there is a one hour waiting list, they do, and, mysteriously end up on the one behind me. I should explain that this is an act of faith for Rita, not great on heights or buses. I get on the car, sadly not the one with the outside balcony, where people talk quite loudly after take-off (see Day 6), and whizz my way up a thousand metres or so. At the top (in cloud - ho hum) I check all buckles and pockets, push my recalcitrant specs up my nose, knowing full well that at the first opportunity they will lemming into the void, if I had gold fillings I'd be breathing through my nose exclusively, and move out onto the glass panel of the "skywalk". before attempting to take a picture of Rita in the approaching car. Whether it is the motion sickness pills I cannot say, but someone is ecstatic with achievement. After a brief flirt with 6cm thick glass, we move onto the glacier and set off for the wrong walk (mea culpa), ending up doing a partial ascent of an arete, someone is more ecstatic, up to a point. A point which Pete surpasses by about 100 metres, presumably to contemplate what may have been unleashed. We return for coffee in the restaurant and talk about the pieces of paper.
"When are you due to go down?"
"Well look that's your up time and that's your descent. You were supposed to go up at 10 and down at 11, look at ours."
I replay the conversation from 1000 metres ago.
"When do you want to go up?"
"As soon as possible."
tappety tap tap tap (aka "I'll do it for now").
"One hour?" (at the top, or would you like more).
"Fine! Some sort of Englander murmuring that means nothing".

At the ticket office the lady makes a joke about me being 3 hours late for the descent, I can determine no numbers, so presume I'm not being charged.
"I said that you'll have to go down tomorrow morning, it is a joke."
I gurn hilariously, wondering why she would joke with me in Deutch, my loss I guess. To cheer me up after such hilarity, I travel down on the top of the car, like Richard Burton, only without a stunt double but with fences. It's windy.
On the trip back Rita tells me that that Michael Mosely bloke on the telly says that when confronted with abject terror, that one should tell oneself that it is excitement as the hormonal kerfuffle is the same. I commit this to the " potentially useful " box , but far enough away from the "that Michael Mosely, what does he know!" box to avoid collision.

Coming soon: abject excitement as I descend 1000 metres with my original knees after an ascent on a bus that reduces the passengers to an excited silence.

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