The Nordkette, I knew, was not going to be my only hike with the many weeks I had left in Innsbruck. I was invited on another hiking trip with a few other colleagues, only this time it would be close to the Italian border in the Stubai Valley. They had asked me if i had ever seen a glacier before and I answered that I hadn’t. What an excuse to go see one. We headed out to the Stubai Valley, which was something like an hours drive from Innsbruck down the Brenner highway and eventually parked our car at the base of the hiking trail.
Beautiful day for a hike, the only forecast of concern was possible rain in the late afternoon. We started our walk immediately after parking…
…a long way to go, we were heading towards the snow in the distance!
The Franz-Senn Hut would be our pit stop, some 500m higher than where we were and it would take us about an hour to get to it. If you can’t find it in the map, it’s near the bottom. Look closer
Some cows, greeting us and wishing us well for our hike!
There were heaps of cows, grazing happily around the area…
The first stretch was a winding narrow path uphill and after a bit of walking we found ourselves a lot higher than where we had been. Can you spot the “lookout bench” in the middle of the picture? Makes for a good rest with a view!
Despite walking for quite a bit, it still felt like we had ages to go until we had the snowy areas in our reach!
We approached a raging river running down the mountain near our pit stop. Although it looks small, closer inspection of the picture will give you a nice size comparison (with the person walking along the path on the top right-hand corner).
Lots of water gushing out a dark cavern! I don’t think it would be a good idea to go exploring here
The Franz-Senn Hut, within our grasp, we only needed to walk a few more hundred metres (and this after an hour of hiking).
My colleague had brought along a topographical map and we studied it while relaxing at the hut to a cold drink. Once you reach the hut, you are faced with several choices of routes to take. Each of them would take you on an approximately 1-hour hike (one-way) in different directions. We chose to go to the Rinnensee Lake to get a much closer look at the Stubai glacier (pretty much the crowning glory of the valley).
At this altitude (above 2000m) you start feeling a bit cold despite the boiling hot sun shining down on the valley. Our walk continued uphill past another winding path. We saw this little house on our way up, probably a refuge for hikers fleeing from bad weather we will keep that in mind!
So three pictures ago we were below the hut and less than half an hour later, we found ourselves much higher up! It’s scary how fast you gain in altitude in this place! The reflection in the small pond near the hut is pretty awesome, such clear water!
While we got our first proper view of the glacier, it still felt like it was miles away with a long and narrow path leading closer to it.
With a bit of help from my camera, I managed to get a better view of the massive ice layer. Looks cold, don’t you think?
We came upon this open area, where we took a short break. Look! Snow! In summer!
The layer looks quite strange in its melting phase, but it was still very thick!
One small step for man, one cold step for me. I also used the opportunity to make a snowball to throw at my colleagues!
Unfortunately, our fun ended here as the weather took a turn for the worse. What was a shiny area has now become a dark and scary place. The rain was coming and we were still about half an hour away from the Rinnensee Lake. Seeing that I did not have much to keep myself warm with (I was not counting on needing it as the forecast did say that stormy weather should only have reached us by late afternoon and it was still one-ish) we decided to turn back.
Soon after we had taken a few steps did the rain come pouring down. Not only that, it turned into large hailstones only minutes after. We hurried along the narrow path, which I walked along slowly and carefully only a quarter of an hour earlier to escape the cold and painful barrage of stones. Everything was drenched within minutes, but we hurried along covering ourselves with raincoats and anything that’ll keep the cold away from us. Ironically enough, we saw hikers seeking refuge in that hut I mentioned earlier. We skipped it and headed straight for the Franz-Senn Hut, because I desperately wanted a hot soup and some meat to gobble down (yes, while in this crazy storm, I was thinking of delicious food!).
I rewarded myself shortly after with a huge bowl of soup and this nice sausage! This was after we had squeezed a swimming pool full of water out of our jackets, shoes, socks, shirts and everything else we wore…
We stayed at the hut until the rain had stopped and the sun had decided to come out again. The building lies at 2145m above sea level, so we would have roughly been at 2300m or so when the rain hit us (Rinnensee would have been about 500m higher than the hut). For the non-German readers, the hut was built in 1885 and extended in 1932 and 1962. It is run by the Austrian Alps Association’s Innsbruck Office, a beautiful stone brick and wooden building, which houses a restaurant and guest house. So if you’re lazy for the day, you can spend a night here.
Although it looks quite small, the area occupied by the hut is surprisingly spacious. Pretty much any hiker in the area will visit the place as it is a hub between the car park and the main tracks around the Stubai valley.
We did not have to wait long until the rain clouds cleared. People started hanging out their clothes to dry the minute the sun showed itself too. This was our window fro leaving the mountain and heading to the car back home. It was also about 3 in the afternoon and it would take us about another hour to get back to the car. We set off and were lucky not to get caught in another storm. Our shoes were however still wet and cold (and mine spent the next week drying), so our walk downhill was filled with interesting treading sounds.
I had a closer look at the paths we walked on our hike and here’s a summary for you on the route we took (until the rain decided to stop us).
View Hiking in the Stubai Valley in a larger map
You could say that it’s unfinished business and I will definitely have another go at it when I return in future. I hope to reach the glacier the next time, but we would have to see whether that’s possible within a day. I have purchased a copy of the topographic map as a souvenir from Austria (I have one of Innsbruck as well to remember my hike up the Northern Chain)! I will be sure to bring them with me the next time I go!