Alpannonia: Semmering, Still from Above

Ascension, Alone Along the Alpannonia…

Seeking adventure, you need to stop seeking and start moving.

It’s something I’m still learning myself, in many a context…

As I was ‘thinking up’ plans for this year’s running, a friend mentioned the Alpannonia hiking trail connecting the Alps and the Pannonian plains.

I live, more or less, on said plains, in the flatlands of “alpine” Austria’s East; now I also had the incentive of wanting to put the new Suunto Ambit2 through its paces, and with this year’s main official race I will participate in, the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, exactly 50 days away, Ascension Day seemed the perfect time to just get out and moving, doing some ascending of my own.

To start low, I went to Köszeg, Hungary, where I arrived three trains and four hours after setting out, to somewhat cloudy but nice weather.

Alpannonia_Köszeg

The forested hills right outside of town looked promising after all the flat land, but no beauty comes without pain: The GPS track stored on my Ambit2 as a route to follow almost immediately went off in a different direction from where the trail markings seemed to point (and they were put up on many an intersection in ways that didn’t make it quite clear which path should be taken).

Alpannonia_Irrötko

Also, the woods were beautiful, with trails that were mainly soft ground, but also full of insect silk making it feel like running through a horror story (except, in broad daylight).

Getting to wider paths with less plant growth reaching right across them was, after that experience, a welcome relief, and the lookout tower from which on the paths tended to be wide and empty like that provided nice views back to the landscape just left, and forward to the hilly terrain ahead.

Alpannonia - Look Back to Köszeg

Paths just – not surprisingly – went on and on, up and down, with some wide views and many covered by tree canopy, past the Stajer Hazak (Styrian’s Houses) and into Austria, until quite suddenly reaching the top of the Geschriebenstein, the Burgenland’s highest “mountain peak” with 884 m, and its observation tower. Again, great views of the road just traveled – and views ahead that ranged far and seemed to threaten rain.

Alpannonia_Trail1

Alpannonia_Canopy

Alpannonia_Trail2

Going (semi-)self-sufficient, my bigger concern regarding water was finding enough of it to drink; a waitress at “Die Ranch” at the Geschriebenstein parking lot fortunately was happy to fill up my water bottles (even as the bathroom’s tap said that the water there was not potable…).

Alpannonia_LookAhead

Alpannonia - descent from Geschriebenstein
Going down from the Geschriebenstein. Looked like excursion day in high school ;)

On and on towards Bernstein, which wasn’t far, but took its sweet time to reach, I went. Paths continued as they had, with trail markings that it was always nice to find, but that often didn’t seem to be in the places they should be, so that a bit of bushwhacking was regularly required in order to get back on the actual trail. Always an interesting experience how the normal paths seem to meander around just too much, making for so much extra distance – but the more direct paths taken to get back on track are much steeper and go through woods in ways which aren’t exactly comfortable, either.

But of course, someone looking for comfort shouldn’t be seeking his/her adventures in such a way, anyways.

Alpannonia: Bucklige Welt, towards Oberkohlstätten

Finally, after having passed past the coal kiln of Oberkohlstätten and enjoyed not just some gel or bar but a Carinthian Reindling (which is a traditional Southern Austrian pastry like cinnamon rolls without the cinnamon)…

Alpannonia: Reindling in Oberkohlstätten

…going past the chalk kiln somewhat close by, through the (former) mining town of Goberling – and then promptly getting off the actual trail yet again, in a rather strange way (because the markings had been right there – until they suddenly weren’t), I came past the hill tombs and Roman remains before town…

Alpannonia_HillTombs

… and into Bernstein. Still with some time of sunlight, at the outskirts of town, a woman was watering her plants and assented to my plea to get watered as well.

A while later, somewhat lost yet again on muddy paths apparently on the wrong side of a creek, it had become time to fetch the headlamp out of the pack, scramble down, over, and up, and rejoin the actual path. It led outside of forests, along roads winding their ways over the hills of the “Bucklige Welt,” into strong winds which made me don my jacket and wonder if the mountains awaiting me later on would even be passable without running into trouble.

Alpannonia_IntoDarkness

At one point, in the middle of the night (quite literally; it was 2 a.m.), in the middle of the forest area I had again been running through, accompanied just by the shine of stars above and the light of my headlamp), I came upon a bench and promptly decided to see about recharging the batteries – those of the Ambit2 (which had gone down to 22% – still a bit, but not enough for the whole tour… and I was now relying quite a bit on its route display), and my own.

Alpannonia_AmbitRoute

I had not been eating much, but felt very much okay with it; wondering a bit, though.

Wrapped in the emergency blanket I had carried with me, I didn’t even know I had been fast asleep when I got up again, re-wrapped the blanket around me, but found myself unable to sleep any longer. In fact, I started shivering so badly I decided it would be better to get up and moving.

Ambit2 back on my wrist, noticing with puzzlement that it was charged to 66%, I re-started the recording of the run, grabbed the second Reindling – and noticed that I could hardly get it into my mouth because my arm was shaking so badly. On I went anyways; to eat it I managed – and the motion and the sugar got me into much better condition; my legs felt very much rested right from the start.

Rescued by Reindling; thank you, Joseph Brot ;)

Good thing, too, for I again had some paths that were really easy to find and follow, and other spots where I had to somehow make my way alongside paths that were more of a morass than a road. It was somehow nice anyways to be moving, feeling okay and better, especially when pushing on along one such path, on a very nice broad stretch, only to look up and directly at Ursa Major…

Alpannonia_UrsaMajor

Finally, coming out of forests, I ended up in Mönichkirchen, which again managed to present me with paths that seemed to have disappeared right before my eyes, be blocked off… until I found that I had completely overlooked the right way, which suddenly was right in front of me – and, thankfully, it led me past public restrooms which had tap water, which was very necessary by that point.

Alpannonia: Mönichkirchen Restrooms At Dawn

Dawn also started breaking, and finally, from here, the trail started really moving up, getting to the foot of what are used as skiiing slopes in winter, now with the sun fully rising.

Alpannonia: Sunrise at the Wechsel

Further up, the trail went through forests singing with the storm winds blowing through their tops. Still further up, outside of the woods, fog moved in. Further up and along again, I came onto the top of the Hochwechsel, still in fog and with gale force-winds – and with a mountain biker pushing his bike along the first person I had met since Bernstein – and then suddenly breaking into sunshine, with the clouds being pushed over the lower peak behind me, the path ahead still stormy but also sunlit.

Alpannonia: Above the Clouds on the Hochwechsel

Down again towards the Feistritzsattel, the path didn’t just go past a few specks of leftover snow, but over small but veritable snow fields.

Alpannonia: Snow on the Feistritzsattel

Finally, the goal seemed close at hand – and didn’t.

First, the path meandered along anyways (but at least, since having gotten to Mönichkirchen – even before which, I actually noticed the trail had merged with the 02 Central Alps hiking trail, which runs right past where I live and is on my agenda… – I was on trails that are part of the various Alpine mountain/hiking trails, which are marked rather well).

Then, it finally got close to the Sonnwendstein, the last of the peaks on the route – only to go straight up another (in winter) skiing slope.

Alpannonia: Sonnwendstein Skiing Slope

Fortunately, it didn’t go right up the next section of the same, but branched off, went around – and I suddenly found myself on the “forest road” down to Semmering. Nice unpaved road it might be, but it went on for ages with rather slow descent, and the balls of my feet were rather too tender for the rough stones on it. But, anyways, eventually, I found myself back down, partly with shortcuts down the skiing slopes going that way, at my finish.

Alpannonia: Semmering, Still from Above

As it turned out, the 1 sec recording for the track I had set up on the older/original Ambit and the GPS Track POD gave me the right totals, but had reached the maximum log size some 10 km before the end, so that the last track points weren’t recorded anymore; the 10 sec logging on the Ambit2 worked to the end and could have still gone on – but for details and impressions on this techie side of the run, see my review of the Ambit2.

All in all, it was a nice adventure, gave a few more impressions of parts of Austria I have (and haven’t) seen before, and it did so in a way that is still, rather unfortunately, unusual: measuring the world as a human being, in steps. I don’t feel I was particularly fast, most of it was an ultra-march-athon once again, but it was long enough for having been in one go – and once again, I just walked on to the train station, caught a train and went back home, ready to fall asleep that night, but none the worse for wear.

 Gear:

  • Inov-8 Trailroc 245
  • Smartwool toe socks
  • CW-X Ventilator tights
  • Mountain Hardwear Elmoro T-Shirt
  • and Ghost Whisperer Jacket
  • Ultimate Direction “Peter Bakwin” Adventure Vest
  • SOL Emergency Blanket
  • Suunto Ambit, Ambit2, and GPS Track POD (for testing)
  • (Sony DSC-RX100 camera)

Food:

Clif… 2 bars, 4 Shots, 2 Shot Blocks, 2 Carinthian “Reindling” from Joseph Brot (and more of his bread, with almond butter, for breakfast and on the train before the run).

Hydration:

Water, tap (see above) and creek (whenever they looked clean enough) ;)

Data:

  • Duration: 20 : 37 ‘ 31 . 7 (+1 hour asleep)
  • avg.HR: 133 bpm
  • Distance: 112.3 km
  • Speed: 11’00 min/km
  • Cadence: 56 “rpm”
  • PTE: 4.0
  • Recovery: 91 h
  • Calories: 6512 kcal
  • Ascent: 4261 m
  • Descent: 3543 m
  • Ascent Time: 10:40’43.0
  • Descent Time: 8:43’39.0
  • Flat Time: 1:13’09.8
  • Highest Point: 1760 m
  • Lowest Point: 290 m
  • Temperature: 20C (min. 11C)
  • VO2: 46 ml/kg/min

Alpannonia_Track

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6 thoughts on “Ascension, Alone Along the Alpannonia…

  1. Excellent account. I didn’t plan for it, but playing Enya when I decided to read this made for a great soundtrack… Made it extra epic. :) I’m inspired to do something like this… The stars, snow, problem solving, alone with ones thoughts and prepared resources as well as what you happen upon… Also love your great record keeping of gear and fitness stats. Thank you… This really took me close to the experience.

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