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Exhilarating Alpine roses

Wherever you look - red color in all facets! We are in a rush of Alpine roses, diving into thick umbels that line the trail to the left and right. A sea of bright red flowers on which we surf towards the summit. Anyway, Michl - as everyone calls him - looks more like a beach boy than a hiking guide with his trendy mountain outfit and baseball cap. But appearances are deceitful - Michl loves hiking. Just like he loves cross-country skiing in winter. Because Alpine skiing is not sporty enough for him. "I ascend to the Brand Area several times a week," he says. "Here I can recharge my batteries in almost no time. In the reconstruction phase of our bio guesthouse 'Veitenhof', despite heavy physical work - or precisely because of that - I often went up here after a long working day." More exactly he "ran" up the mountain. For him the ascent takes only about 60 minutes and he needs another 30 minutes for the descent, covering 800 altitude meters on one route. With city plants like me he chooses a more leisurely pace.

Michael Leiter
About Michael Leiter

Year of birth: 1978
Marital status: married, 2 children
Activity/Volunteer: carpenter, farmer, state-certified cross-country skiing instructor, certified hiking guide, mountain bike guide, certified trek riding guide, accommodation provider, member of mountain rescue team, Ötztal Tourismus: committee member of Umhausen - Niederthai Information Office

About favorite place

Starting point: Sennhof car park/Niederthai Information
Walking time, both ways: 3 ½ hours
Difficulty level: intermediate
Difference in altitude: approx. 800 m

With every breath I fall under a spell

Why exactly is Brand Area Michl's favorite spot, even though Niederthai is surrounded by majestic mountains? "Brand Area is very close, it is a mountain at 2283 meters," explains Michl. "It's not just about reaching the summit, it's about the overall experience. The landscape's variety is really fascinating. The Alpine scenery is constantly changing - the forest trail becomes a footpath that runs along the mountain brook. The dense fir forest soon turns into light, open pine forest - always with the rugged, steep mountain tops in sight. With every breath I take in the forest, I fall under its spell. Often I meet deer and with a bit of luck even chamois. You will only experience this when you are up here! I take a deep breathe, stop for a moment and just look around."

But we are still far from that point. First we take the well-maintained red hiking trail through the forest where it smells of Alpine stone pine or "Zirme" as the Ötztal locals call it. "Part of it belongs to the family," says Michl. "As a trained carpenter, I myself work a lot with Alpine stone pine." I stop at blueberry fields, which grow alongside cranberries in lush bushes, he urges me not to lose time. So I only indulge in the visual enjoyment that the Alpine roses have to offer. The climb is never exposed further up, it winds its way in pleasantly wide serpentines to the highest point.


The wind, the calm, the view and nothing else

The wooden bench on the level summit rarely waits for completely exhausted hikers. Rather, it serves as a stable base for taking photos and videos of the brilliant panoramic view. A stone stands behind them with a brass sign, made by the mountain rescue, in memory of Michl's comrade Vezi, with whom he was often up here. Niederthai nestles deep below us. The focus is on Strahlkogel peak at 3288 m, the highest mountain of the Larstig Massif belonging to the mighty Stubai Alps. The uninterrupted view of Ötztal comprises the entire plateau of Niederthai. "The wind, the calm, the view and nothing else," is how Michl describes the reason for his personal happiness on the summit.

But as the landscape changes constantly, also the "nothing" changes after a while. The summiteer points to a clearly visible building in the distance. "Our farmhouse is down there," he says with a huge smile. The umbilical cord to Margreth, his wife, the two children, the horses, everything that connects Michl to the valley will never be cut. "And that's a good thing," says the family man and suddenly shows emotions that the cool guy rarely reveals, at least to the outside world. But that's the way it is with all the favorite places - they touch people, get under their skin, make them open to allow feelings. Natural therapy!


Hard drive cleared

Only at the summit Michl decides which way to go back. The regular path on the other side or the easier descent via Mahdebene area as part of Grastaler Höhenweg Trail between Brand and Hemerkogel peak. "Mahdebene" means mowed plain in Ötztal dialect, as it was laboriously mowed by hand until the early 1950s. The hay was then brought down to Niederthai on steep and dangerous paths. We choose the route via Mahdebene. Michl takes the opportunity to look after his cows by the brook, grazing peacefully on the Alpine pasture.

"Brand Area," says Michl, "is a year-round mountain. You can climb it on foot, on skis or snowshoes. Here I live at my own pace, at my own rhythm. Here I have the best ideas and after returning home I can start the next day with a cleared hard drive. A truly liberating feeling!"

Further Favorite Places in Niederthai

Tauferberg Area


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Untere Hemerach Alm


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