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Wild and without a destination

We’ve been out in the cold long enough now so we’ve decided to take a break from the tent and sleep indoors. Caroline has found a room in our budget somewhere between Kaprun and Innsbruck on a mountain named Gerlosberg. We’re really excited because it looks mega cute and cosy. There is no public transport up there so we’ve sent an e-mail to the owners to check how to get there before we book. Fortunately we are informed that someone can pick us up from town at the bottom of the valley and bring us up to Gerlosberg, so we book!

Now we have the complicated task of getting there. We have to cross a mountain pass. And we are not sure which way to go. Google Maps suggests one way, but the other way looks more direct and possibly a newer road. Eventually we decide on the newer looking road, we can try the other if it doesn’t work out.

We get up early and pack away the tent, it’s soaking wet but we’ll be indoors later so we can dry it there. We continue our bread and hummus Billa ritual and head back down the same road to the train station. This walk is so boring and it’s our third time walking it now. Mind you, we probably saved ourselves over 20 euros doing so.

The train: part 2

We get to the station and hop on the train. We’re somewhat sceptical about the ticket still being valid but all is well. The ticket we purchased the other day when visiting Krimml, the largest waterfall in Austria is still valid!

We try to relax on the train but we are slightly nervous about the hitchhiking ahead of us: we don’t want to get stuck on a mountain again.

Hitchhiking

We disembark at the stop before Krimml, Wald im Pinzgau and we set up shop at the local petrol station/spar/post office combi – Welcome to the country side.

There’s not much traffic here and no one stops. We wait for over an hour and nothing. We try smiling at customers who stop but no one cares. At one point we thought some customers were watching us from inside. We hope when they leave they might offer us a ride, but no – they were just curious and drove straight off.

We hop inside for coffee and cake and then decide to walk a little way up the mountain road. At least this way we know for sure that any traffic is going in the direction we are, towards Gerlosberg. Because there really is nothing else this way.

In reality this method doesn’t help much apart from making you angry at every passerby who has space because you know for sure they definitely could have stopped. At least the view is nice and we have all the water we could need.

A beautiful stone water fountain with snowy peaks in the background

We wait one more hour and thankfully a local guy picks us up in a huge hummer and drives us a short while. Longer than he originally said he could, to a hotel on the top of the mountain. He is very thoughtful and explains that if we get stuck at least we can stay in the hotel. We nod but are secretly howling inside like hahahaha mega expensive, we plebs definitely cannot stay there.

On the mountain…

At least it is a good spot to continue hitching. Lots of space and yeah, hotel in case of emergency. It is however a lot colder up here and the traffic is very thin. We are slightly apprehensive, as ever with hitchhiking.

To our amusement a bunch of cute baby highland cows come trotting down the road and surround the cars in the car park while we giggle at their antics. The receptionist comes out all angry and flustered and tries to shoo them away. They don’t care much for her though and completely ignore her futile attempts to make them flee.

A cute baby cow blocking the road on our way to Gerlos

We wait outside the hotel for maybe another hour or two, wondering what we will do if we can’t get a lift. We stay positive, we HAVE to get to Gerlosberg, otherwise we will be sleeping rough, freezing and wasting our money!

Our luck turns and a woman in her late twenties stops. We squeeze in to her small smelly car and she drives us all the way to the town at the bottom of the mountain we are staying in. From here our lodge owner will pick us up, but not before we find some well deserved food.

The ride to Gerlosberg crossed gargantuan winding mountain passes, huge alpine lakes and snow peaked rugged mountains. What a wonderful drive it was, I was glued to the window in the back seat while Caroline chatted along to our driver. They both laugh at me and shrug. Caroline explains: He’s from the UK, mountains like this are still a novelty.

Down and up again

We laugh at some sheep and grab some mediocre pizza from town as is customary, and stroll to the train station where our host will pick us up. A short while later a young dude turns up in a van and we hop in after chucking our rucksacks in the back. We’re super excited about our stay but the dude is not very enthusiastic about his home – He’s bored of Gerlosberg. He tells us how he is planning a trip in his van with his girlfriend to the south of France and Portugal where they want to climb and surf and bask in the heat.

The van rattles up the mountain and we eventually arrive at our destination, the cosiest wooden lodge on the mountain. Our room is divine, every window has a mountain view, we have our own balcony and are surrounded by green and the purest of nature. The room is decorated with such pleasant taste – pine tree duvets, vintage tiles and forest colours.

We hang all of our camping equipment on the balcony to dry, put our phones, powerbanks, laptops, cameras and lights on charge and watch a marvellous sunset from the balcony. Leaving here will be very hard.

Gerlosberg apartment sunset panorama

Exploring Gerlosberg

I spend the next day relaxing and doing nothing at all. Caroline, however, attempts a monstrous walk into town to shop for groceries – Of course we forgot to get food before retreating to our little mountain paradise. As she returns on the only bus that runs once a day here, we’re cooking a decent dinner and drink a big delicious beer. The last few days have taken their toll, mentally and physically, but feeling refreshed today I decide to go for a walk. No clear plan other than walk upwards and to explore Gerlosberg. The freedom is energising.

Gerlosberg mountain views from apartment windows

I can’t get over the size of the landscape here, it’s just incredible. Gerlosberg is stunning! These mountains across the valley are the ones we hitchhiked over but a few days ago. If you look hard enough you can see the tiny roads zig-zagging endlessly across to the Pinzgau valley.

I’ve been hiking for around an hour now and I’m having such fun! I feel like I could climb Everest right now, the energy is oozing out of me. So I keep on going. Apparently there is a restaurant further up, I will head towards that and the decide what to do next there.

Enjoying the views

I reach the restaurant and take a little break enjoying the view. There are lots of animals around, horses sheep and cows. Wooden cabins dot the landscape and there is not a soul in sight, everything is great.

I look on Google Maps and it seems that if I go a bit higher I can do a circular route and make it back to the apartment via a different route. Onwards and upwards.

I’m walking around the mountain now, on a slight incline but it’s not really hard going, makes it easier to enjoy the views. All of a sudden the road passes a ski slope – it’s not season yet so it’s not functional. Something in me screams to run towards it and just climb to the top of it. So I do.

30 minutes later I’m sweaty as hell but have made it to the top cable car station. It’s a bit colder up here and there is some snow. Now I begin to wonder how far it is to the top, there must be a summit around here somewhere. The weather and conditions are much better than some of our previous hikes, so it seems safe to me. Not like when we climbed to the mirror lake in the wind and snow.

The summit

And there is: Karspitze at 2264M high. I calculate it’s about a half hour walk from here. I’m determined to get to the top, it will be the icing on cake for this great day.

Complications

Of course there must be some complications I hear you say? Obviously there is. I decide to go down a different route. A smaller trail down a different side of the mountain. Once I descend I can walk around one of the roads back to our apartment on Gerlosberg.

A bench at the top of Karspitze with a mountain range in the background

The descent is tricky from the top, on the other side of the peak there is a lot of snow and ice, everything is wet, it’s been raining a lot recently. The paths are slippery and I have to clamber on rocks and maneuver huge puddles all while trying not to slip on ice. I figure it will be better in a short while, it’s only the very top that is snowy and icy.

That much is true – the snow and ice disappears, walking is much easier. However, the sun is beginning to set and I have a long way to go. Probably two hours walking. I am definitely going to be walking in the dark but I think by that point I will be on the road so it won’t matter too much.

A fork in the path

A short while later the path forks off in a different direction that what my map says. I decide to follow my map using my GPS signal, I don’t want to take a different direction and end up somewhere completely wrong. Maybe I just missed the path and the map is slightly wrong. I use my GPS signal to follow the trail and end up in the middle of a completely waterlogged field trying to dodge electric fences whilst still keeping on the trail.

It seems really wrong here but there is a road that should cross my path in approximately 1KM so I keep on. The going is rough, it’s very steep but eventually I make it to the road.

The sky is illuminated with brilliant orange colours, the clouds have turned in to vessels of burning light concentrating around the horizon. The faint sound of cowbells ringing in the distance brings a moment of calm.

I cross the road and continue down another trail. The road is going up so I can’t walk that – I need to go down. The trail is super confusing, there is only one way to go but my GPS is all over the place. The trail goes deep in to the now dark forest and I’m not sure I’m going the right direction, I begin to panic. There must be a way: it’s going to be fine.

Lost, yet again

I start running through the forest and then at some point the path begins to not look like a path anymore, it becomes overgrown; plants and bushes cover the way. Then there are piles of boulders that I have to climb over, I get to a vantage point and look in to the distance: there is nothing.

Shit. I must have missed a turn, but there was no other turning. Maybe I missed it in my frantic running, my GPS is of no use what so ever, my position is bouncing around everywhere and there is no trail in sight on my maps app.

I decide to backtrack and after 5 minutes or so I see where I went wrong. Slightly relieved I begin to run again, trying to get out of the forest before I cannot see at all. After around 30 minutes of running I come to the road. I am beyond ecstatic.

So many thoughts and emotions were running through my brain, the foremost being why do I keep getting in to stupid situation like this. There is about 2KM of road left to our apartment on Gerlosberg, my feet are hurting and it feels like I have blisters. Now the sun has gone the cold starts to settle in. My sweat soaked t-shirt from all the running begins to freeze and my phone battery dies.

But I am safe and my bed is not so far – Better catch some rest because we are heading to Innsbruck tomorrow! We will truly miss it here, Gerlosberg is totally a place we could see ourselves living in.

FACTS FACTS FACTS

How to get there

There’s a train station in Zell am Ziller, the village in the valley. The very cute Zillertalbahn goes there. Follow this link for information, prices and also bus time tables to Zell am Ziller. Our host picked us up from the station there and brought us to the accommodation. There’s not really any public transport going up on the mountains in the summer season but hitchhiking works super well.

Accommodation

We stayed in the Bluebird Mountain Lodge and loved every minute of it. They have various premised in Tirol, go check them out!

Booking.com

Hike

Aydin went on a bit of an improvised route which we also probably wouldn’t want to recommend, even if we could fully remember the directions. The scenery on Gerlosberg is stunning though, and there are plenty of beautiful hikes around which you can find here. Some hiking trails even started right in front of our accommodation.

Pro Tip

This area turns into a winter wonderland/skiing paradise in winter and accommodation is probably not as affordable anymore. Go in summer and enjoy your surroundings while basking in the Tyrolean sunshine!

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