Setting out for Gamskogel

In the morning I woke around 7am, without an alarm – not necessary, with all the people making so much noise around me. I felt refreshed, a lot more rested than the day before, and after splashing some icy water on my face and dressing for the day I went over to the main building for breakfast. Claire was already sitting at a table, so I joined her to have my muesli and prepare bread with cheese and ham for taking along while talking with her. We had a very good conversation, and I wondered about hiking the day together, but since she wanted more time to pack up and not hurry we just agreed to catch up at some point later. Before setting out I had a look at my heels – they had suffered mildly with the ascent to the hut the day before, I hadn’t worn my heavy hiking boots in more than a year, and had a small blister on each heel. Nothing serious, but I was prepared – I happily put on the blister patches I had packed for this occasion, the cushioning colloid types, because my friends had heartily recommended them and I wanted to be on the safe side – there were still nine days ahead of me. The next thing was getting some water for the day – the tap at the sink in the washroom had a big sign saying “no drinking water”. I asked about it, and most people said it was totally fine to drink the water, the sign just had to be there because of health regulations for drinking water. So I filled my bottle and was finally ready to set out and see what the day would bring.

View down to Starkenburger Hütte
View down to Starkenburger Hütte

Straight after the hut the path went steep up for about 100m elevation gain, and I was out of breath way too soon. What had happened to feeling rested and fresh? My grandmother came to my mind, always telling us kids not to walk too fast on a hike because one runs out of energy too quickly. So I slowed my pace down to a steady trudge, feeling slightly stupid but breathing less heavily – this was not walking in the city. The path crossed over a ridge and alongside the mountain, offering a fantastic view of the Schlicker Seespitze (2804m). I felt tempted to go up, but did not find a path for access. And besides, I was still at the start of the day, with supposedly 7 hours of walking ahead, and I had wanted to go up the Gamskogel (2659m), opposite of the Schlicker Seespitze.

It is a less impressive peak, but here the New York logic applies – the Empire State building is more beautiful, so I rather go on top of the Rockefeller to have a view of the Empire State.

The Gamskogel turned out to be an easily accessible peak which offered a great panoramic view of the neighbouring valley and the surrounding mountains. I stopped for taking pictures and have a look at my feet – they had started to hurt, and I had the fantastic idea to put some of the cotton wool pads from my cosmetics bag in the back fo my socks to cushion the heels from the friction that occurred on ascending. After this little break I continued on the path over the Gamskogel, which luckily joined the path along the valley to the Franz-Senn-Hütte. It was a narrow path which after some point was marked as “difficult” – I hoped for some diversity, maybe a bit of climbing, but “difficult” in this case didn’t turn out to be a challenge at all. The view down into the Oberbergtal branching off the Stubaital was amazing though, so it was ok that the path was less challenging.

Lunch break and meeting up with Claire

Around 1pm I sat down to have my bread, and got lucky – after a while Claire came along the path and joined me for the break. We sat out together again, looking forward to having a break at the Seducker Hochalm, maybe have a drink and some food. We reached the Alm about 40 minutes later, and had a good conversation on the way, talking about traveling and how life was different in the US compared to Austria. I really enjoyed her company and was happy to sit down with her in the sunshine outside the little hut. There was an old man providing drinks and simple food – we got water with elderflower syrup and Claire ordered eggs with Speck – typical Austrian. Sitting outside we got into a conversation with two girls and one guy hiking together, students, maybe around 22. They were from Germany as well, and it turned out they would hike the same route as me, just not fully around the valley. They started for the hut earlier than me and Claire, but we agreed we would meet there later. I was happy to have such a nice prospect for company for the evening, I had not really expected to meet so many nice people my age or younger – in my mind hiking vacation of this kind was done farm more often by older people, so I considered myself lucky. After a while I felt I was getting tired, and since Claire wanted to sit at the hut a bit longer I sat out on my own again so as not get too sleepy.

View down the Oberbergtal
View down the valley to Obergberg


The path continued with only small changes in elevation along the Oberbergtal. I quickly caught up with the Italian family who had passed us earlier and the three students from Germany, and walked on – it felt good to be in a constant movement at my own pace. At one of the small streams cascading down the mountain I filled my water reservoir, since the old man at the hut had said the water was drinkable. It tasted wonderfully fresh and was brilliantly cold, just perfect on this sunny day. I had never drunk straight from a mountain stream before, so another entry for the diary of first times. About 20 minutes later the Franz-Senn-Hütte came into view, sitting nestled in between the mountains, accompanied by a stream going by, and I felt good – soon I would have managed the first real stage of my hike.

View of the Franz-Senn-Hütte
View of the Franz-Senn-Hütte

Unfortunately the mountain had a different agenda – after the view of the hut the path went steep down into the Villergrube, before hidden behind the back of the mountain, only to ascend back up again. So there was a lot more hiking involved than I had first thought. But it was still fun, even though my heels started to hurt more, and I was getting a bit worried about what I might find when I took off my shoes later. The sky had turned cloudy as well, so I was hoping to reach the hut before rain started, and increased the pace. About 50 minutes after first seeing it I reached the Franz-Senn-Hütte, and by then I was very happy I didn’t have to walk any more.

Bloody blisters

The Franz-Senn-Hütte was considerably bigger than the Starkenburger Hütte, and there were quite many people sitting out on the terrace enjoying drinks and talking. Having a better idea about how things work on a mountain hut, I checked in and went upstairs to the sleeping area. In this hut it was below the roof, and the sleeping places were divided into boxes, each accommodating up to five sleepers. I put my sleeping bag in the last free space in my designated box – lucky me, right in the middle – and got some clean clothes out of my backpack. Then I mustered the courage to look at my heels. They seemed ok, but the blister patches had not kept in place on top of the blister, but had slid halfway down, so part of the blisters was not covered and had opened up from the friction. Still, not that bad, I just had to remove the unreliable blister patches and put normal band aids on instead. I tried to remove the first patch gently, but it was sticking too well, and with removing it I also removed the skin covering the blister as well as a big patch around it. My heel instantly started to bleed, and I was completely shocked, looking at the big bright red area of open flesh. How was I supposed to hike around the Stubaital with open heels? I tried to be more gentle on the other foot to avoid such a disaster, but it turned out even worse – there was no way to remove the stupid blister patch without tearing off the skin. For a moment I just sat there and didn’t know how to react. Then I made up my mind that I should clean up the mess and take a hot shower since I felt very cold.

The shower proved to be a great comfort – it was steaming hot, not crowded (and for free).

After washing off the sweat and dust and feeling warm to the bone again I was a lot more optimistic about my heels – I just needed to let the open areas dry with air, and the next day I would put band aids on and cushion the heels of my hiking shoes to reduce the strain. Thus I went down to the common room to pass the time before dinner. I sat down at a table that was reserved for four persons but could seat at least six, and since it was next to the cozy looking oven (which was unfortunately not heated) I just decided to wait for the other persons to arrive and ask if it was ok with them. I had my diary with me, and wrote a bit, and then started reading, though I got really tired. Finally it was 6pm, dinner time, and with it came the excitement of chosing food. I was very hungry again, walking all day seems to have that effect indeed. I chose a traditional dish, Fleischkäse with potatoes and eggs over easy. My table company arrived as well, it turned out to be the Italian family I had passed earlier. We didn’t talk much, but they were nice company. I had kept my eyes on the people coming in to spot Claire or the three German students, but didn’t see them. Later I found out that there was a second common room, that’s how I missed them. After dinner I was really tired, and was so glad to get up to the sleeping area and crawl into my sleeping bag, put my earplugs in to ignore the rest of the people moving around making lots of noise, and just sleep. That night I slept very bad – my heels hurt, it was hot and stuffy, and people around me moved and had to leave bed all the time.