I had had the idea of crossing the alps in the back of my head for a long time, but neither the time nor the money to really go trough with it. But in the summer of 2013, me and a good friend of mine had both, so we decided to seize the opportunity and cross the alps.
Because I am a very passionate mountaineer, I didn’t have to buy any new equipment for the trip except for a second merino shirt, but my friend had to spend quite a lot of money in the months before the trip, among other things for a new backpack, new shirts and underpants. Both my friend and I are mountain addicts and didn’t really do any special training for the hike, but kept to our routines and it worked out great. Looking back, I put the most effort in finding ways to get my backpack lighter and it actually payed of, as my backpack came in at about 4kg (base weight without water or food).
For me the trip was never about finishing, about getting to Venice, for me it was about just doing it, about enjoying it as much as possible, and I never doubted for a second we would reach the Piazza San Marco in less than a month. So as we stood there on the Marienplatz, about to take the first step of a long journey -promising blisters and sore feet and privation but at the same time beautiful landscapes, fun and impressions that I would never forget as long as I live- I was happy.
To be honest, the beautiful part of the trail begins 2 days after munich and ends 3 days before venice. Everything before and after is a necessary evil. As we make our way along the river Isar, upstream, we long for the mountains ahead of us in the distance, waiting to be conquered, getting closer with every step we take. And on the third day we finally make our way up to the first summit and by the evening we reach the first mountain lodge, with a spactacular view on the “Benediktenwand”.
From there, we make our way through the “Karwendel” mountains, paying a quick visit to it’s highest peak, the “Birkkarspitze” (2749m) and soon find ourselves on the way down to the Inn Valley, an passing in Hall, only about 10km downstream from Innsbruck, before we leave civilisation behind once more.
In the next days we pass the “Tuxer” Alps, reaching the highest point of the trail, the “Friesenbergscharte” with 2904m.Even though it’s the middle of Juli, there’s is still lots of snow, and we are the first one’s to do the traverse in that year, most of the hikers chose the longer way, avoiding the snow and danger. When we arrive at the “Olperer” lodge, we agree that the risk was totally worth it, because it’s one of the most beautiful lodges on the trip, one of the most beautiful I have ever been to, and we would have missed it if we had taken the detour. From the modern lodge, there’s a beautiful view on the “Schlegeisspeicher”, a big water reservoir surrounded by mountains.
Next stop: South Tyrol. We reach the boarder before noon and have lots of time to regenerate when we finally reach Stein, where we spend the night. We pass through South Tyrol quickly, every day, the number of Italian tourists rises and we notice a change in the landscape to. The dolomites are more rocky, more craggy, more rugged. The green fields we had gotten used to are rare and bare rock is now the more common sight. It’s beautiful, but when we crossed the boarder to Italy, we decided we would step it up a notch. We had multiple reasons, for example the accomodation, and especially the food, was more expensive in Italy, furthermore, we had reached our daily destinations around noon the last couple of days and thought we could easily fit in two stages in one day. But frankly, the real reason was the Italians. They are so loud, so strenuous. That’s just not what I was looking for on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, the sothern dolomites are still beautiful, but the well developed infrastructure and the almost constant noise came as a bit of a shock after the long days in peace and quiet we spent to that point.
It is the evening before we climb Schiara, the last mountain between us and Venice. The only way over the Schiara is a via ferrata, so we are supposed to have a harness, a via ferrata set and a helmet, but we have none of that. Still, I am pretty positive, we have trained a lot for this, and the way is actually not very hard. All the way, I never feel like I “need” any protection. And because we don’t have to clip in and out of the steel rope every few meters, we reach the destination our guide recommends at half past 10 and decide to go on to Belluno after a quick Coke. When we reach Belluno in the evening, we decide to go to the local Sporting Goods Store and each of us buys a pair of running shoes and a smaller backpack. We put all the things we don’t need for our last few stages to Venice -our boots, down jackets, gloves,…- into a big box and send that box for home. That way, nothing weighs us down and we are more comfortable and faster.
If you only do the hike because of the landscape, you should stop in Belluno and maybe go to Venice by train. To be frank, the last stages aren’t that exciting. You basically walk of the last kilometers to Venice. That’s it. The only real upside is the great food. But when we finally take our shoes off at the beach of Jesolo to walk the last few kilometers to the ferry, barefoot, I am happy.