Two summits but no via ferrata

The day didn’t quite go to plan because we failed on the via ferrata (Klettersteig in Austrian). However, putting disappointment behind us, we did then have a great hike, even though it’s been a cloudy day. In fact, it was like being on a mountain in the UK with grey skies, cool winds, and mud and damp rocks under our feet. At least it didn’t rain!

When we got off the Schossalmbahn lift, we struggled to find the practice via ferrata (iron way) area, but got there in the end, after a detour. We were surprised to be the only people there, and also surprised to see it was a near vertical crag… not our usual experience of entry level via ferrata. Also, the rock was wet and covered in lichen, and seemed rather slippery. Nevertheless, we decided to give it a go and put on our helmets, climbing harnesses and via ferrata tails. These have two carabiners to attach to the iron ways bolted into the rock face, to stop us falling far in the event of a slip.

We set off quite quickly, trying not to overthink what we were doing. The via ferrata traversed the rock to the left and went up a vertical section and I paused on a ledge where the cable traversed to the right and went upwards again. My legs were visibly shaking with the adrenaline coursing through my body, and my hands weren’t much better! I looked at the next section, which felt high above the path at the bottom of the crag, but probably wouldn’t have been to a climber, or in fact anyone who doesn’t mind exposure! ‘I don’t think I can go any further’, I said to John. ‘The rock is quite slippery and there aren’t many big footholds. What if I end up getting stuck and can’t move at all?!’ I was pleased when he agreed we’d be better to retrace our steps and go for a walk instead. Phew!

I was still shaking as we removed our kit, packed our rucksacks and headed back to the lift station where most walks began. We were disappointed not to have managed to do the via ferrata, but happy with our decision to leave it for now. Hopefully, we’ll have more opportunities in Italy, where the rock will hopefully be dry and, in our experience, the lower grade via ferratas aren’t as exposed and scary.

We chose a hike up Mauskarspitze, which is 2373 metres high. The path was rough and badly eroded from the start, and also very steep so we kept pausing to look at the view. That said, I feel as though I’m getting used to the altitude now and my lungs weren’t as tight today. The meadows were full of flowers and I love that the hillsides here are so green and beautiful.

As we got higher, the path got rockier and at times we were scrambling, using our hands to pull ourselves up the mountain. The path was very narrow in places, with steep drops, and it’s strange how we’re so comfortable with two feet on the path in these sorts of situation, but tremble when we’re on a rock face even though we’re using safety equipment.

The shiny cross at the top of Mauskarspitze steadily got nearer and before too long we were standing next to it. The views were amazing in all directions. Two people leaving the summit had come up from the other side using a via ferrata, and I was a bit disappointed that we’d been unable to do the same. One day, maybe!

Even with a stop for lunch, it didn’t take long to get back downhill to the lift station. It was still only 2 o’clock so John suggested climbing another small peak… Hirschkarspitze (2119m). We could see another via ferrata to the side of this peak that looked quite easy. It wasn’t on our leaflet, which was a shame, because if we’d known about it earlier, we would have attempted this one.

Never mind. We had a really good day hiking up two beautiful peaks. Now we’re back at the campervan, and have had a shower and something to eat. We’re starting to pack up because we’re heading to Italy tomorrow. We‘re travelling over the Grossglockner Alpine High Road, which we’re looking forward to. It goes up to 2500 metres and, weather permitting, the views should be fantastic.

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