Trip Number: 12665A
Price: $2,495 (11-14)
$2,895 (or fewer)
Staff: Cathy Dezendorf
- Enjoy stunning glacier views while trekking in Austria’s magnificent
- Stay in comfortable German Alpine Club mountain huts
- Hike to the Similaun Glacier, where Otzi the 5,000 year-old Iceman was
- All lodging and meals
- All on-trip transportation
- All gratuities
Photo: Paul McKown
Come join us in hiker’s paradise as we trek hut to hut in the magnificent
Otztal Alps while carrying a light backpack. From our base in the tiny village
of Vent, located southwest of Innsbruck in a remote area along the Italian border,
we’ll embark on three separate overnight hikes to explore this dramatic
and heavily glaciated area. It was here in 1991 that German hikers discovered
the frozen body of Otzi, protruding from the Similaun Glacier. Radiocarbon dating
proved that he had died at least 5,000 years ago and that this area has been
used as pastureland for 6,000 years. We’ll have the opportunity to learn
more about Otzi and the archeology of the area on a private bus trip to the
South Tyrol Museum of Archeology and we’ll hike to the location where
his mummified corpse was found.
Hiking is the emphasis of this trip and except for the mid- trip visit to Bolzano,
we will be hiking every day. Veteran backpackers who no longer relish hiking
with a heavy load may especially enjoy this opportunity to "stay out"
without having to carry a full backpack. While many treks in the Otztal Alps
require technical mountaineering skills, our hikes are planned to be within
the capability of any fit and experienced hiker. Hotel stays are interspersed
with hut stays to allow for a bit of a respite, a hot shower and some luxury
between the treks. We’ll spend five nights in traditional family-owned
hotels offering warm and gracious hospitality and six nights in huts with hikers
who have traveled from all over Europe to climb the nearby peaks and glaciers.
Expect congenial leaders who look forward to sharing this special experience
Photo: Cathy Dezendorf
Please note that the itinerary is subject to change should weather or participant
safety issues arise.
Day 1: We will meet mid-day on August 26th at the Innsbruck
train station and then travel on by train and bus to our base in the isolated
village of Vent. The trip will take about two hours, and after settling in at
our hotel there will be time to explore the village before our first trip meeting
and dinner. Overnight: Vent hotel.
Day 2: Our four-day trek begins with a hike up to Breslauer
Hut, (9,300 feet) beautifully situated at the foot of 12,300-foot Wildspitze,
the highest mountain in Tyrol and second highest in Austria. The hike starts
at our hotel and we’ll take plenty of time to cover the almost 3,000 foot
elevation gain along a well-graded four-mile trail. For those who wish to start
out with an easier hike, the ascent can be reduced by a chairlift ride. Overnight:
Day 3: Today we will traverse beautiful high alpine terrain
on an eight-mile hike. After a lunch stop at the sprawling Vernagt Hut, we’ll
begin a moderate descent to reach Hochjoch Hospiz (7,900 feet) where we’ll
stay for the next two nights. Expect to see plenty of sheep grazing on the verdant
green grass along the trail. Overnight: Hochjoch Hospiz.
Day 4: We’ll lighten our packs even more for a day hike
up a rocky trail on an ancient trade route to have lunch just across the Italian
border at Schone Aussicht (Bella Vista), elevation 9,324 feet. The round-trip
hike will take about 5.5 hours. Overnight: Hochjoch Hospiz.
Day 5: A gradual descent through the dramatic gorge of the
Rofen Valley will take us back to Vent in about three hours. We’ll cross
a suspension bridge to Rofenhofe farms, the highest year-round settlement in
Austria and quite famous for raising prize-winning Haflinger horses. Perhaps
we’ll stop in to sample a delicious germknodel, a steamed sweet dumpling
topped with poppy seeds and melted butter, before returning to our hotel to
enjoy hot showers and clean clothes. Overnight: Vent hotel.
Photo: Cathy Dezendorf
Day 6: This will be a rest day as we take a comfortable private
bus over Timmelsjoch Pass to Bolzano, Italy. This road, highest in the Eastern
Alps, is sometimes called the "secret gate" and is open only in summer
when the weather allows. In Bolzano we will visit the Otzi Exhibit at the South
Tyrol Museum of Archeology. After an Italian lunch we’ll return to Austria
to spend a second night in our Vent hotel.
Day 7: Our three-day trek begins this morning as we hike a
well-graded trail for about 2.5 hours to reach to the Martin Busch Hut (8,200
feet). This hut serves as a base for many mountaineering ascents. If conditions
are favorable and there is interest, perhaps we will attempt a hike toward the
summit of Kreuspitze (11,400 feet), the highest ice-free mountain ascent in
the Alps. Summit views are said to include the Swiss Alps, Italian Dolomites,
and the vast ice fields of the Otztal Alps. Overnight: Martin Busch Hut.
Day 8: After hiking 5.5 miles to the Similaun Hut, elevation
9,900 feet, we’ll have lunch and maybe get to watch climbers on the glacier
below. After a short rest we’ll hike for another hour to see exactly where
Otzi was found and then return to the hut to spend the night. Overnight: Similaun
Day 9: This will be our longest distance day as we hike 6
to 7 hours back to our hotel in Vent. Though we will be traveling the same path
as on days 7 and 8, the down-valley views will offer a new perspective. We’ll
take plenty of stops to take photos and to give our knees a rest. Once back
in Vent we’ll celebrate our last night in this charming village and bid
farewell to our hospitable innkeepers. Overnight: Vent hotel.
Photo: Cathy Dezendorf
Day 10: Our final trek starts in the posh ski resort of Obergurgl
(6,330 feet) and will take us to within view of the Gurgler Ferner, a major
glacier flowing down from the central Alps crest. After a short taxi ride from
Vent, we’ll drop our luggage at our hotel and begin the climb up to snug
Ramolhaus, located at an elevation of almost 9,900 feet. It is built on top
of a rock outcropping with stunning views of the glacier below and of the high,
snow-covered peaks in the central Alps crest. We will take our time on the sometimes
demanding ascent and should reach the hut in less than five hours. Our efforts
will be well rewarded and perhaps we’ll toast our accomplishment with
a bit of the local schnapps. Overnight: Ramolhaus.
Day 11: After hiking back down the valley to Obergurgl, we’ll
check into a lovely hotel to relax, and perhaps enjoy a sauna, before a festive
farewell dinner. We’ll celebrate both our trekking accomplishments and
the new friends we have made over the past 10 days on this memorable adventure.
Day 12: Following breakfast, the final trip meal, we’ll
take the bus and train back to the Innsbruck train station where our trip ends.
Participants who wish to head for home can reasonably expect to be able to reach
the Munich airport in time to catch a late-afternoon or evening flight home.
The leader will provide information on things to see and do in Innsbruck and
in Bavaria should you wish to extend your trip.
We will meet in the Innsbruck train station at noon on Sunday, August 26th.
Participants can either take the train directly from Munich that morning (about
two hours) or arrive in advance to enjoy the many delights of Innsbruck. Munich
is the closest major airport, though some airlines do fly into Innsbruck. Another
good option would be to fly to Milan in northern Italy and take the train over
Brenner Pass to Innsbruck.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Paul McKown
The huts (“refugios” in Italy and Spain) are substantial structures,
well run by staff and quite comfortable. They are situated in scenic locations
and provide an opportunity to relax and enjoy spectacular views from their large
decks. Most are owned and operated by the German Alpine Club (DAV). Sleeping
accommodations are coed and range from rooms with 8 to 12 bunk beds to large
dorms with mattresses placed close together. We will request beds in the smaller
rooms, but may not always be able to avoid the "Matratzenlager" (dorm).
Single-sex, shared bathrooms are simple, but always clean. Coin-operated showers
are available occasionally when the local water supply is adequate. Warm blankets
or comforters and pillows are provided and participants will need to carry only
a hostel-type sleep sheet. Smoking is not permitted inside the huts.
Simple "climber’s breakfasts," consisting of bread, jam, cheese,
and maybe cold meats, are served in the huts. Communal dinners begin with a
soup, followed by a hearty and filling entrée such as spaetzle (pasta)
and a small dessert. Beer, wine, and locally produced schnapps are always available
for purchase. Though vegetarians can be accommodated at the huts, options may
be limited. For some lunches, we will picnic trailside, sampling the local cheeses,
sausages, and breads. On other days, we’ll stop to have a hot meal at
one of the huts along our route. Pea or goulash soup and apple strudel with
vanilla sauce are among the mid-day favorites! Radler, a combination of lemon-lime
soda and beer, is popular with hikers when the weather is warm.
Our hotels offer generous buffet-style breakfasts that will seem especially
sumptuous when compared to the hut breakfasts. Hotel dinners consist of several
courses and usually feature roasted meats, schnitzels, or local fish. We will
be taking our hotel meals as "half-board" and will be asked to choose
in advance from among two or three selections. There are some excellent wines
available for purchase with special emphasis on Austrian whites. The famous
beers of Bavaria, along with less expensive Austrian brews, are also available.
At the end of each meal our server will come around the table to collect for
any drinks you have ordered.
PLEASE NOTE: All drinks, including bottled water and soft drinks, are not
included in the trip price. (Coffee and tea are included with breakfasts, and
the hotels also include juice.) You may also choose to purchase extra hiking
snacks and afternoon post-hiking treats.
For hotel nights, single participants will be assigned same gender roommates.
If you would prefer to pay the extra cost of a single room, please notify the
leader well in advance and she will try to accommodate your request.
Photo: Dennis Irwin
To enjoy this outing, participants need to be fit and accustomed to hikes
that can last a full day. The hikes range in length from four to just over ten
miles, with the greatest elevation gains (up to 3,400 feet) taking place on
shorter mileage days. The longest trip hike involves a slow descent of just
over 3,000 feet. Our pace will moderate with rest stops at least every hour.
Hikers should be fine if they are comfortable walking two miles an hour on average
terrain and one mile per hour on climbs or difficult trail over consecutive
days. Some portions of the trail will be quite challenging and we will take
the time to navigate these sections safely. Though this is a late-season trip,
there could still be some limited sections of snow to cross. Good endurance
and a love of hiking are more important than speed on this adventure, and fit
seniors are welcome.
Weather in the Tyrolean Alps is unpredictable, with rain, or even snow, always
a possibility. Conditions could be compared to summers in the Canadian Rockies.
Equipment and Clothing
The leader will send approved participants a detailed equipment list well
in advance of the trip. Participants will need to bring a backpack large enough
to accommodate rain gear (both jacket and pants), a warm layer, hat and gloves,
a complete change of clothes to include a poly-pro or wool top and long underwear
bottom, lunch, snacks, two-liters of water, and a hostel-type sleep sheet. A
pack cover and hiking poles are strongly recommended.
- Kompass Hiking Maps and Pocket Guides, www.kompass.at
- Oetztaler Alpen, no. 43, 1:50,000
- Klier, Walter, Oetztaler Alpine. Official mountain guidebook of the German
and Austrian Alpine Clubs.
- Hurdle, Jonathan, Walking Austria’s Alps - Hut to Hut. The
Maps are readily available in Innsbruck and Vent.
Within the last 50-100 years, the glaciers of the central crest in the Otztal
Alps have been melting at an accelerated rate. This is an excellent example
of the impact of global warming. We will talk about the efforts of both the
national governments and the local communities to mitigate this damage and to
preserve the economies and the traditional lifestyle of these small, isolated
communities. Vent also faces the possibility of a hydroelectric plant being
located in their valley and we’ll try to have a local speaker give us
an update on the status of their campaign to prevent it. We will also talk about
conservation activities of the German Alpine Club (DAV), the organization that
maintains most of the trails and huts in the German and Austrian Alps.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Cathy Dezendorf finds great satisfaction in sharing her love of hiking with others. After many years as a National Outings backpack trip leader in the in the Sierra Nevada, she discovered the joy of hut-to-hut hiking and was immediately smitten. This will be the 5th year she has been a trip leader in the Bavarian and/or Tyrolean Alps. She also leads weekend backpack trips for her local chapter and is certified as a Wilderness First Responder. Cathy lives just north of the Golden Gate Bridge and when she isn’t hiking she works as a sales rep and enjoys spending time with her children and small grandchildren.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips