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Insider tips for a hiking paradise

Three insider tips in a hiker’s paradise

They surprise, enchant, burn themselves into your soul. Little-used paths lead to little-known destinations. Sweat, calluses and heavy feet are the price for incredibly beautiful vistas and hidden natural treasures.

Erlanger Hütte and Wettersee lake

It is the most precious alpine hut in the entire Alpine region. Because behind the building there is a true gem. Emerald green, shimmering - simply beautiful: scenic Wettersee mountain lake. A gift to all mountain hikers who are afraid of the very long ascent. The lake is so cold that it used to be used as a cold storage area. An inscription frames a Madonna figure: "On the steep ridge I doubt whether I can find the way alone." Alone in this mountain area? Erlanger Hütte below Wildgrat ridge and lake Wettersee would have remained unreachable for me.

Lovely Erlanger Hütte – a mirage! Promising, seemingly within reach. But while hiking, the hut doesn't seem to move a meter closer. Maybe the dream image in the sunrise is a fata morgana? It will be hours before hiking guide Alex and I finally conquer the summit.


The long way towards the dream destination

In pitch darkness we left Umhausen with the hut taxi, which dropped us off in the middle of the forest. In the past, the access point would have been a good hour closer, but rockslide several years ago requires the detour. First, recharge your batteries at Vordere Leierstalalm (1798 m). You can't stay overnight there, but a freshly brewed coffee is always available.

We climb higher and higher on a winding path below the goods lift. Wire ropes on the rock make the ascent easier in the last high alpine part. Surprisingly, the fata morgana at 2550 m turns out to be a really cozy hut offering 48 beds, run by the German Alpine Association and managed by the friendly hut keepers Anita and Christian Rimml since 2008. Christian is a professional cook and prepares the dishes from fresh ingredients. His specialty: ibex stew with cranberries. Of course, we are in the high mountains!
Erlanger Hütte Umhausen Wettersee lake

Reichalm high above Farst

Reichalm mountain hut Umhausen Farst hiking summer Ötztal

Steep on Engelswand rock face, 500 meters above Umhausen, the eyrie’s nest of Farst nestles at 1482 m. The serpentine road is only open to hikers, mountain bikers and hut taxis. It ranks among Tirol’s oldest settlements and is already a dream destination for many hikers. But it can even be topped - in both senses of the word. Another walking hour away you will find Reichalm mountain hut, high above Fast.


From one paradise to the next

For Karin Falkner, who runs the Farst snack station, the remote alpine pasture stands for vacation at the heart of a true paradise. "If I didn't run the snack station, I would always be up here from June to September." Every summer, the farmers from Farst, Karin's husband Gebhart, his brother Albrecht and the neighboring family move to the Reichalm pasturelands with their cattle. During the hunting season, hunters are allowed to shoot chamois, roebuck and deer there. Hiking guide Sabine leads me on a wildly romantic climb into this wonderful idyll. As if on cotton wool we hike over the soft forest soil, across the "saddle" the path winds through stone pine and alpine spruce trees.


So close to heaven

Suddenly there is a wide hollow in front of us, in which six wooden houses nestle, complemented by a nearby stone building. Next to us the deep Farster Rinne ravine, all around us the peaks of Hohe Warte, Lauser, Hochreichkopf or Hohe Wasserfalle.

Sheep and goats graze on the alpine pastures all summer long, but the farmers from Farst only drive their cows up there for about three to four weeks between mid-July and mid-August during the grass mowing season. Then they also serve hikers something to drink and prepare small snacks - quite unofficially. Even the small chapel can be unlocked during this time. Luckily, Sabine has the key to open it and we can admire the 14 images of Jesus' Stations of the Cross on both sides of the altar. You can hardly be any closer to heaven than on quiet Reichalm.

Sulztalferner glacier

In the distance you can make out the glacier! The more the Sulztalferner melts, the longer the hiking route. "Like a piece of butter in a frying pan," is how mountain guide Matthias figuratively describes the retreat. We need three hours from Amberger Hütte near Gries to the glacier tongue. When we last visited the area 15 years ago, it was about two hours. It’s as if the glacier is retreating further and further from people and their intervention in nature. Making it harder and harder for them to admire its magic.


At the end of the glacier tongue we make out a ski, a model of the past. Eventually the glacier spat it out. We are lucky, the glacier is not entirely snow-topped and no snow covers dangerous crevasses. Using crampons we can bypass them, look from the edge at the glittering walls of the glacier’s icefall, hear the mountain brook gurgling at the very bottom below as if from the depths of time.

"The glacier reached as far as the bridge, two kilometers from here," says Serafin Gstrein, who runs Amberger Hütte with 90 beds - a bike & hike retreat at 2135 m – together with his wife Lydia. “In 2011, it was still possible to cross Fischbach on the moraine without a bridge. Now the moraine is about five kilometers away.” It is difficult to manage the balancing act between enthusiasm and melancholy on this hike. Much harder than climbing up the glacier.
Sulztalferner high alpine mountaineering Längenfeld Gries Ötztal


Dagmar Gehm

Guest Author Dagmar Gehm

The renowned journalist and sporty globetrotter from Hamburg has a great passion for the Ötztal and its manifold contrasts and activities:

  • Action – Isolation
  • Thrill of speed – Peace and relaxation
  • Ancient rituals – Trendy hot spots

This article was first published in June 2023.