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Anno dazumal Part 7 | Winter and spring trips on both sides of the Inn Part 1

The KitzbĂĽhel Alps 1916

by Bettina Larl • 03/17/2017
In the next part of the Anno Dazumal series, Sepp Zangenfeind enthuses about strenuous tours, rewarding views and fast descents in the KitzbĂĽhel Alps in an article from 1916.

Winter and spring journeys on both sides of the Inn

By Sepp Zangenfeind

Broad and sedate, as if well aware of its importance, the lower Inn rolls its waters through the wide valley towards the northern Tyrolean border. Since time immemorial, the proud river has been followed by a main route of international traffic, along which a colorful crowd has moved upstream and downstream over the course of countless centuries. (...)

The towering mountains to the left and right held no attraction for the travelers. The craggy walls on the northern side of the valley may have frightened them rather than attracted their attention, while the vast forests on the other side of the valley certainly harbored all kinds of dangers: Master Petz lived there and in the earliest times many a bold snapper rode down from many a castle when the watchman had reported the approach of a wagon-horse. The blessing of the mountains then lured industrious squires here and there, and from proud castles bold huntsmen set out on happy pastures; the forests were cleared, the farmer gained the ground for his peaceful activities and villages, markets and towns sprang up everywhere; thus the beautiful, wide, residential Lower Inn Valley gradually became one of the most blessed, richly cultivated valleys in Tyrol.
But while down in the valley the industrious, striving man took more and more possession of all arable land, the noble mountains, unless the miner extracted precious ores from them or extracted the salt indispensable to man, remained in quiet grandeur lonely guardians of the busy life at their foot. Apart from the stalking hunter, only a few isolated people came to the sunny heights, for whose beauty and wealth people still lacked a sense. It was only a relatively recent era that gave mankind an understanding of the priceless fountain of the most sacred joys that we love the mountains as today, and new flocks are now reviving the old military roads, from which they set out for the beloved mountains and penetrate into all the side valleys, filling the innermost corners of the high valleys with exultant jubilation.
And in very recent times, the mountains have once again gained a whole new host of admirers: the Nordic snowshoe has taken away many of the horrors of the Alpine winter and opened up new, previously unimagined, incomparable beauties of the mountains to mankind. It has also had the effect that many a mid-altitude peak, otherwise hardly noticed by the sky-striking high alpinists, which was comfortably greened in summer, has suddenly come into its own, and that many a quiet valley, which otherwise saw few visitors even in summer, but was completely closed off from the world in winter, is now suddenly filled with often joyful life.

So numerous have the friends of winter mountain beauty become that one even hears the complaint that even in winter there is hardly a truly quiet corner left. But this is often an exaggeration. The vast Alpine world will probably never be completely filled with human restlessness and sometimes you only need to deviate a few steps from the usual paths of the crowds to enter a world that is still almost untouched - at least in winter - where originality and the silence that allows us to interact so intimately with nature are still at home.

One such quiet world is the little-known charming side valleys of the lower Inntal, the Alpbachtal, the Wildschönau and the southern branches of the valley leading into the lower Brixental, the Kelchsau with its grounds and the Windautal. Although directly accessible from the main road of the Inn Valley, these valleys and their wonderful winter snowfields are completely foreign to the masses.
But even otherwise much-visited areas can still allow us to taste all the charms of undisturbed solitude if we approach them at a time when the great stream of travelers is not yet or no longer flowing. I have often tried this out, and when I talk about the "quiet mountains of the Lower Inn Valley" in the following lines, I can also add the peaks of the otherwise so busy Rofan group, which gave me something so beautiful and unforgettable in early spring, to the group of mountains on the right bank of the Inn, dreaming in peaceful solitude.

In the Windau

Nachsöllberg, Fleiding and Brechhorn. - I know a quiet valley and want to call it the valley without a name. It usually appears in alpine literature as one of the cross valleys of the Kitzbühel Alps, which connect the Brixental Valley with the valley of the upper Salzach, the Oberpinzgau. A forest valley, with green meadows and peaceful huts, with gloomy high forests and lonely cirques, framed by high mountains with broad domes and strangely shaped rocky peaks. And from all the heights, silvery waters leap down into the valley, where the Windauer Ache river rolls foaming white in the alder shade between moss-covered primeval boulders. The Rötwand rises abruptly and forbiddingly to the sky from sun-pale meadows and lush green mountain pine fields, where the alpine roses bleed and towering stone pine giants spread their mighty arms. Further up, in the Reinkar, lies an earthy piece of blue sky, the Reinkarsee; the summit rock of the Kröndlhorn is reflected in its crystal-clear waters. A golden chariot rests at its bottom, so the tale goes. And when the golden lights of the morning sun flit over the rocks of the Kröndl, you can see the golden chariot shining deep in the lake's depths.

Only rarely does a mountaineer enter the world-forgotten ground. Only lumberjacks, root diggers and dairymen or hunters who hunt chamois in the cirques and musty mountain forests, or who lie in wait for the mankei high up in the rocks of the Reinkar.

This is how it is in the quiet valley in summer! But for those who love to enjoy the holiday tranquillity of the winter mountain world in solitude, and like to go their own way away from the crowded ski routes, I want to show them the mountains of the Windau in the shimmering white robes of winter. I want to open up a new territory for him, full of untouched splendor, with boldly shaped peaks offering great views and wide, silvery snowfields, where only a snowshoe track rarely crosses our trail ....
We leave the early train at the Westendorf state railway station and walk in the twilight of a misty winter morning towards the village, which lies somewhat off the beaten track on a hill. Immediately above the school, we follow a path that takes us uphill to the farms of Natzelberg. Above the houses, the forest welcomes us. We slip into the Brettel and keep to the right uphill in the forest to reach the forest-free western slope of the Nachsöllberg. The slope is steep. We need to take our time, as we have quite a long hike ahead of us with considerable differences in altitude. Slowly but steadily, we slurp our way up the steep slope in long hairpin bends on firm snow, which lies before us cloaked in deep blue. We soon pass a barn, then a number of forest islands that remind us of Böcklin paintings in their deep black solitude amidst the shimmering blue slopes.

Gradually, peak after peak emerges from the pale blue dawn. The shadows deepen and ghostly lights flit across the milky-white slopes. Inside, the fog still lingers. Only the Rötwand and the Kröndl tower high above, holding the young morning captive on their plump rocky breasts. And then the first waves of Rofen flood over the pale ridges and peaks. The fiery red edges stand out sharply against the deep blue shadows. A sharp ridge wind whistles around our ears. Not a sound around us! Then the first tufts of golden sunlight flash high above the cirque. A strange silence envelops us. Now and then a shrill whistle and the wind-blown sound of bells from the valley. And the anxious silence also communicates itself to us. We trudge silently up to the clear heights and listen to the quiet ringing within us, as the soul holds its solemn hours....

At last, the last tuft of forest lies behind us. Only the deep, dark forest ditch to the left accompanies us higher up. The slope becomes steeper and steeper. Our zigzag becomes shorter and shorter. And as every thing has an end, so does our toil, and after a two-hour climb we cross to the left out onto the cirque, a panoramic hilltop that is situated in front of the Nachsöllberg like a pulpit. The gable top of the small chapel, to which the dairymen from the surrounding alpine pastures carry their requests in summer, barely protrudes from the white shell.

In front of us lies the high dome of the Salve, whose summit house, bathed in sunlight, greets us. But the Filzer Scharte defies the gilded rocky chasm of the Treffauer Kaiser, the Törl peaks cut through the bright blue sky. On the slopes leading down to the Feuringgraben, the huts of the Koralm are hibernating, probably dreaming of the sound of bells and alpine songs of summer. Two descents, steep but snowy and shady, lead from the Kor into the valley: via the Stöckelalm to Brixen and via the eastern slope to Luisenbad near Lauterbach.

The actual summit of the Nachsöllberg, a forest-covered rocky ridge, has nothing to offer. We bypass it on its wooded western side and later climb up to the ridge to get over to Fleiding. A short but beautiful descent takes us to the high pointed cone of the Fleiding, which turns its forest-covered narrow side towards us and makes every effort to make the ascent as sour and warm as possible. But we don't let ourselves be shaken off, we edge up loop after loop, carve step after step into the hardened flank and finally climb up to the beautiful summit. The volcano-like peak is a small fortress. Impregnable from the east, where the rocky slope plunges abruptly into the depths, the high forest wants to get at it in tightly closed rows on the sunny side. But it has to stay behind and clings to the steep slope like a black wall. Only a few strikers and skirmishers, storm-torn, torn and stunted tree cripples in the hard struggle for existence, climb up to the summit.

And once again we are granted a wonderful excursion to proud rocky ranges and shimmering peaks, into steaming valleys and sparkling expanses. Many a good friend greets us from near and far. For example, our rugged neighbor to the east, the Gampenkogel, a magnificent snowshoe mountain that is "superior" to our Fleiding in form and descent. Opposite us, the pyramid of the Brechhorn rises broadly from shady hollows and sunny gullies, with a narrow ridge leading up to its black summit rock.
We fly down to the Streitalm and draw fine blue gullies into the sun-drenched southern slope. At the Alm, where we take a short break, three routes diverge. The eastern route leads to the Gampenkogel and past the Wildenfelln pasture to the Kobinger HĂĽtte on the Harlesanger, with descents into the Spertental valley. On the Fleidinger west slope, the descent to Rettenbach in the Windau. That leaves the ascent to the Brechhorn, which we choose.

The white mountains lie still and solemn in the great calm of midday. From somewhere, sometimes loudly, sometimes softly, like goblin giggles, comes the gurgling of a little stream rushing down into the valley. The golden sheets of sunlight are spread wide and comfortably over the slopes and hills over which we climb to the Brechhorn. At the beginning, we are accompanied for a while by lightning-splintered weathered fir trees and old larches groaning under the weight of the snow. But the old ones don't go far, only young trees, juniper bushes and mountain pines, which the sun and wind have freed from winter's shackles, run and climb along for a while. We keep to the eastern edge of the large hollow, where the Feldalm lies deep below, and peer out into the distance. The higher we get, the wider and more magnificent the view becomes. High above the Spertental valley, the peaks and ridges from the Ehrenbachhöhe to the Kleiner Rettenstein glow and shimmer in the silver sheen of winter. New peaks are constantly coming into our field of vision, new images are constantly coming to life before us.

The ridge runs further up into a steep ridge cutting leading to the summit, which challenges our particular attentiveness due to the many meter-high cornices. We are already very close to the summit, but mighty cornices block our access. So we unbuckle and use boards and sticks to make a breach in the blue wall. A hard piece of work, but we are not denied success. And now we have the privilege of praying on the summit, which is bathed in a lush flood of sunshine. The happiness offered by the solitude and the thieving joy at the failure to fend off the proud and capricious Brechhorn make us forget all the drudgery. A silent, white, beautifully shaped and colorful world lies at our feet. An army of shining white warriors gleams in gleaming armor; and the All-Mother Sun gives off the most brilliant colors, pouring liquid gold and glistening silver over slopes and humps, in crevices and depths. Our silent valley lies in the depths in radiant whiteness. Our gaze flutters as far as the Gamsbeil in the remote Miesenbachgrund and the deep blue forest ripples of the Hirschrinne and catches on the summit rock of the Kröndl, which protects the dreamy Reinkarsee.

But what grabs and captivates us most is the Grosser Rettenstein, the Spertental's watchtower, which rises proudly and defiantly like a giant red-brown obelisk. It looks down on the cosmopolitan Aschau at its feet and southwards to the dazzling row of peaks of the fir-blue Tauern, and to the fine ridges and spikes of the Zillertal ice world. And far, far out over the white mass of ridge and rock, the thirsty gaze flies as far as the rigid rock wall of the Steinernes Meer and westwards to the craggy crest of the Karwendel. You can't get enough of the view and would probably like to spend the whole sunny day up here.

We climb back down to the ridge via the cornices, descend a little first and then slip into our snowshoes, teeth chattering. One last summit view out into the glistening expanse, then we clatter down over the firm firn snow of the ridge section. Further down, the snow gets better. The ride gets faster and faster! The glittering clouds fly into our faces like dusty spray. And there is a singing, whizzing and shimmering around us and within us, as if we were flying through boundless expanses.

And now we turn into the blue shadows of the large hollow, past the Feldalm, up the valley and down to the Schledereralm. Bushes and trees fly past us and we speed out of the cold, greedy shadows into the sunshine. We stop at the Streitalm. Once again we look back at the blue snake tracks that wind their way down from the Brechhorn. And as we have to leave, one thing is certain: we'll be back.
And now over to Fleiding, on whose western slope we descend to Rettenbach. First we race along the dark high forest over steep slopes and alpine meadows into the depths. Then we thrash into a forest, which soon releases us again. We pass between forest islands, across mountain meadows down to the Windauberger farms and from there to Rettenbach. In the Jägerhäusel in Rettenbach, where the lumberjacks beat their pennies to the sound of lutes and bright whoops, we have a good cream coffee. But then we row far out along the Ache on a good toboggan run out of the valley.

Violet lights float on the snow and with the shadows of the blue twilight, the cold of the evening falls. Glowing red and glowing yellow, the Brechhorn and Fleiding tower above the pale whiteness of the wide slopes. And above the fading peaks is the first star.

We rattle under the high bridge. Frosty mist broods on the meadows and follows us to the stately village of Hopfgarten, where the evening train picks us up.

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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