From Berlin to Fulpmes, the start of the hike

Leaving Berlin early morning, my flight had a short stopover in Vienna. Around 11 am I arrived in Innsbruck, having had a fabulous view of the Alps and the city before landing. Starting to get excited, though I had only three hours of sleep the night before, and the funny feeling I had forgotten to pack something essential. I credited that to doing something completely new and exciting, so of course I might feel a bit nervous.

Getting to the train station was easy – take the only bus that leaves the airport. At the station I got a quick snack and equally easily found an option to get to Fulpmes, where my ascend to the Starkenburger Hütte was supposed to start. I had read about a bus going there, but to my big surprise there was even a tram going! Austria is an amazing country, and I really enjoyed the 45 minute ride to Fulpmes. The tram stops a few minutes from the Schlick 2000 lift station, and I considered that option for skipping most of the elevation gain of the ascend. I had a strong headache thanks to little sleep and probably a bit dehydration, but I did not see myself going up that way before even having started the hike.

[blockquote indent=”yes” ]Being really tired I asked myself “Maybe I take the lift up?” and instantly felt it would be cheating.[/blockquote]

So I passed the lift station and followed the signs that optimistically read “Starkenburger Hütte – 4.5 hours”. About 30 minutes into the hike I felt really hot – it was a beautiful warm August day, and I was still dressed from the flight in long trousers and long sleeves. So I found a secluded spot next to the gravel road I was walking on, and changed to my skirt – so much better, less sweaty. And since the spot was so nice and secluded, I decided to have a quick nap to catch up on sleep. I didn’t feel so great, my pulse was going way too fast, and since it was still early in the day, around 1:30pm, I thought I could invest a couple of minutes. A good decision – I slept for about 30 minutes, drank a lot of water, ate some chocolate peanuts and felt I could tackle the rest of the 1.300m elevation gain that I was up for.

Hiking up to Starkenburger Hütte

View down Stubaital

The hike was rather uneventful but nice – the view down onto the valley became more and more spectacular the further I advanced up. On the way I passed the Fronebenalm, and by that time I felt a bit annoyed – I had expected the hike to be popular since it was so easily accessible, but these many people were too much. I just hoped that it was just the area around the lift which was so crowded. Passing the Galtalm, I had my first alpine animal encounter – about ten very beautiful creamy-colored cows blocked the path. I took some pictures, since they looked so nice and cute, and at the same time I was very intimidated – these were big and heavy animals, and I had no chance to pass but go right between them. Luckily they kept quiet and let me pass, but I could feel my heart beat a lot faster once I closed the gate behind me. For some reason I don’t really trust animals that are so much bigger and stronger than me, even if they intend no harm. On the other side I saw an older couple looking hesitantly at the gate and the cows. I told them I just had passed safely, but the woman said in reply that she had a nasty accident with a cow that supposedly kept still as well, and then kicker her off the path so she broke her arm.

[blockquote indent=”yes” ]Mental note to myself to keep more distance from peaceful looking cows in the future.[/blockquote]

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The hike dragged on, steadily upwards, and I met considerably fewer people. I found a good walking rhythm and slowly felt the realization coming that I would not be doing anything else for quite a few days. That got me really excited, and I spent some time in a big bliss, sun on my face, enjoying the soft landscape and the colourful dots of the paragliders that started from the mountain range across the valley. The day must have been great for gliding, there were about 30 kites circling the valley, red, orange, green, beautiful. Though as time passed that feeling of bliss faded, my headache returned, and about halfway up I felt exhausted again, longing for a place to sleep. Passing the Kaiserstallalm I finally had a view of my goal, the Starkenburger Hütte, quite some way further up. But that gave me a good boost to keep walking, even though by the end I had to fight for every step. I got to the hut around 6pm, just when the sun was getting low.

First night at a mountain hut

At the hut, I had no idea how things worked. There were no people around, so I walked up to the bigger building, and found a door labeled “Gastraum”. Opening the door, a wave of noise and light and warmth rolled out to me. I entered into the lively common room, where many people were already seated for eating. The proprietor was extremely busy, so I had to wait for registering for the night. I felt a little bit let down by the not very hearty welcome, and  used the time to stretch out my calves, convinced I would have sore muscles the next day. After paying for the night I got instructions to go to the smaller building, that’s where the dorms are located. They were a pleasant surprise – I had expected a mattress dorm, but instead there were bunk beds in a big room under the roof, very comfortable and with many windows. I instantly felt a lot better about staying here, packed my silk sleeping bag on one of the beds and walked back to the main hut to get something to eat. All tables were occupied, and I was told to sit at a mixed table, next to a young woman. Then I got introduced to the eating options – most alpine huts offer a bundle for hikers that consist of dinner with soup and a breakfast with muesli and bread and cheese and sausage to prepare some takeaway food for the day. Being too tired to decide much, I went for the bundle, already calculating that I would need to find cheaper options to eat – food and drinks on the huts are not that cheap.

[blockquote indent=”yes” ]Dinner consisted of creamy mushroom soup and a huge bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese – I had the feeling that I might encounter this dish many times as the cheap eating option.[/blockquote]

After dinner I talked with Claire, the young woman next to me. She was originally from the States, but spoke very good German, and we had a good mixed conversation. It turned out she wanted to hike the same route as I, and was also hiking on her own. So we had a lot in common. Unfortunately I was so tired that I only wanted to get to my bed as soon as possible. I went back to the dorm room to get my washing gear, and that moment I realized what the nagging feeling of having forgotten something essential probably had been about – I did not pack a towel. Wonderful, now I was set to survive without one the next nine days… for a moment I was angry with myself, but then I figured I could just as well use one of the quick drying shirts I had packed. that should work as well. Having had such a sweaty day, I really wanted a quick shower, even a cold one would have been welcome. Upon asking, the proprietor told me that the hut had very little water anyway, so it was not possible to shower. I wasn’t happy about it, but admittedly I was too tired to be out off. So I set out to have a quick wash at the water basin in the toilets, brushing my teeth, and already was half asleep. Around 9pm I crawled into my sleeping bag and piled both of the blankets on top, and left my sweater and leggings on as I felt cold to the bone. I slept like a stone, not hearing the other people bustling in later. At some point during the night I woke up because I felt boiling hot, and got rid of the additional clothes and one blanket. This night’s sleep felt so sweet, it was amazing.

For the continuation of the hike, you can find the other stages here.