Winter Hiking Fun in the Austrian Alps

posted in: Outdoors, Travel | 4

I admit I was rather hopeful we’d find time in between all the skiing and eating on our recent trip to Austria to check out one or two of the winter hiking trails in Obergurgl. I’ve been told the walking in the Austrian Alps is quite awesome, and I do like a good mountain view, so it would have been rude not to. It is most definitely winter in the Alps now, with 145cm-185cm of snow at the top of the Obergurgl part of the mountain range, and so any hiking would feature lots and lots of the white stuff.

After an absolutely stunning Monday skiing in Obergurgl and Hochgurgl, blessed with blue skies and sunshine, we woke up on Tuesday morning to a not-quite-so-lovely view of a white-out from our hotel room window. Checking the weather and lift status online we decided over breakfast that it would be a non-skiing day – strong winds, heavy snow, low cloud, and the majority of lifts and runs closed as a result. No matter, we’d had a great time the day before and this had been forecast so it wasn’t a surprise. After a very leisurely breakfast (mmmm fresh omelette) we got togged up in our layers and hiking boots and headed up into the village to see what we could find.

View from Obergurgl in the Austrian Alps

View of Obergurgl in the Austrian Alps from the hiking trail – one of the moments the cloud broke and the mountains showed their tops. 

After walking through the village we came across one of the hiking trails that skirted around the lower part of Obergurgl and up towards St David’s Hut and the Steinmannbahn. The track was marked but very well snow covered so in places it was a little hard going – lots of fun though, and a good few calories burned (which is a good job – I never watch what I eat when on holiday!). The views were amazing. The cloud was very fast moving and we saw tiny glimpses of blue sky, offering opportunity for photographs, before the cloud came back in and the snow started falling again. There were lots of other walkers out, some appeared frozen in their jeans and trainers, others were well equipped with snow shoes, walking poles and even ski goggles. I guess we were somewhere in the middle – I had my new Odlo thermals (review soon) on under my ski jacket and pants, my fabulous KEEN snow boots and of course one of my beloved beanie hats.

Winter Hike in Obergurgl - Me Breaking Trail

Winter Hike in Obergurgl - LincsGeek

Winter Hike in Obergurgl - Waterfall at David's Hutte

Frozen waterfall. Probably not enough ice here for climbing. 

After having fun in the deep snow along the trail from the village, we reached a road and a bridge that had been cleared by a tractor a minute earlier just below David’s Hutte from where we could see a frozen waterfall. I wanted to get to the bottom of it to see it up close, but there was no way down into the valley from there. We stopped for a while and watched the skiers braver than us descending down the mountain to the Steinmannbahn (it was very busy, this was the only section of mountain open to skiers) before heading over to the continuation of the walking trail. The route was a narrow but well trodden path on the side of the mountain, with trees home to bird boxes and several catholic crucifixes.

A little way along we came across a couple of benches – one well sunk in the snow, the other that had obviously been cleared that morning. There was a signpost saying there was another waterfall 45 minutes walk away, which I really fancied seeing, so we continued for a short distance before the weather closed in again and we decided turning back was the better option (the avalanche risk in Obergurgl was “considerable” and we didn’t want to end up with a problem). On our way back to the hotel we took the lower route around the bottom of Obergurgl, alongside a fast flowing stream. It was cold and damp but absolutely stunning and a fantastic way to spend a few hours outdoors.

Winter Hike in Obergurgl - River

I wasn’t expecting to see flowing water but this stream (probably a wide river in summer) was really beautiful. No, I didn’t go paddling.

Winter Hike in Obergurgl - Taking a Break on a Bench

Taking a break on a well hidden bench. When we went hiking as a family when I was young breaks at benches en route would be called “sweetie stops”. My mum or dad would always find a packet of mints or jelly babies or something else in their bag. Apparently this isn’t normal, though, and no-one turned up and offered me a pear drop when I sat down.

Winter Hike in Obergurgl - Can you make out the trail?

You can just about make out the trail, I think. A very well used and marked route ideal for hikers in winter.

Winter Hike in Obergurgl - LincsGeek

By the time we got back to our hotel the visibility was very poor again. This is LincsGeek heading up the ski slope. I didn’t follow. 

While I’ve been walking on low level trails in the snow before, I have never really done any proper winter hiking, and this (albeit very little) taste of it really made me smile. It was hard work, not just because of the snow but also the altitude (David’s Hutte is at 2,004 metres / 6 574 feet) – I’m not used to it and was upset to find a few flights of stairs in the hotel was making me pant for breath, but I definitely want more. I shall have to see what I can get organised for next winter; I’d love to make time to hike up one of the UK’s snow-capped peaks when it’s got a decent layer of snow on it, or even better get back to the Alps for some more lengthy hiking time. I’d also love to try show shoeing and also hiking in crampons. Have you seen those courses where they teach you winter survival skills? Better add it all to my bucket list!

Winter Hike in Obergurgl

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