Trails of Spring 1: Winter’s Last Hold at the Traunsee

The passion for exploratory living does, admittedly, profit handsomely from some studies in contrast.

My personal practice for that (as you, my dear readers, may have noticed ;) ) are trips to the Traunsee in the Salzkammergut, Upper Austria.

The area is nice, all the more so as it offers opportunities for heading over to and up the Traunstein, or into the Höllengebirge (Hell Mountains). Or, of course, to any of the other mountains around.

With trips into the mountains, this early in the year, come both signs of spring and reminders of winter. Sometimes, more than just reminders…

One of those recent trips, the plan was to head up the Feuerkogel, the skiing slopes on which had only just closed a little while before.

It had also snowed, however, and while the lower reaches were free of the snow and ice of a little while before (when I had gone there to try out the La Sportiva Crossover 2.0 snow-running shoes), a bit further up, the snow hadn’t just hung on but returned with a vengeance.

Snow's Return

There was a layer as deep as I had never seen it outside of the depths of winter, when everything around was also covered in a blanket of snow.

That by itself would only have made for interesting travel, but not been all that problematic, but that layer of snow had been added onto an older layer that had started to thaw before. So, it was all rather unstable – as evidenced by the snow that had already come down, even just in the forest path on the flank of the mountain.

Little Forest Avalanche

Moreover, this having been the first nice day after the cold front that brought the new snow had moved through, there weren’t even any footsteps of people who’d gone before.

It got time to turn around much more quickly than expected.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always conflicted when I turn around somewhere.
On the one hand, I have little problem letting safety come first and making sure I can get back to my wife, and back outdoors another time.
On the other hand, it is disappointing, and I carry the dissatisfaction around with me for a bit.

This time, things went a bit differently as I turned the disappointing turn back into an exciting decision to finally go on and over the two peaks at the lake, the Grosser and Kleiner Sonnstein (“Big” and “Small” “Sun Stone/Rock” ;) ), between Ebensee and Traunkirchen. I had never been there and always wanted to go, anyways.

Sonnsteine-Run

Even that tour turned out to offer an “interesting” trip back into wintry conditions…

The path to take was easy enough to find thanks to the map hung out at the town’s administration building, by the train stop to use for tours there (“Ebensee Landungssteg”, which is at the lakeside rather than in the center of the settlement).

Up the Sonnstein

Up the Grosser Sonnstein, there were only a few flecks of snow remaining, and the view from the peak was truly nice…

Where to go on and over to the ridge leading to the Kleiner Sonnstein, the lower of the two peaks, though? It was visible, but the path wasn’t clear… until I noticed, just a little down the path I had just come up, where the sign for the turnoff was.

That trail goes down rock, with steel ropes for safety – and it was like a(nother) dive back into winter. Snow and ice.

Many more passages there were quite runnable, but they were also deep enough in snow (and having not expected that and wanted to finally let my skin breathe a bit more, I had taken off and didn’t want to re-attach my gaiters).

Where it was not snow, later on, it was a bit of mud peeking through, but mainly it was snow, all on the north(west) side of the ridge, below rocks.
Let’s just say, I got another chance to check how comfortable Icebug’s Zeal trail running shoes remain when they get wet…

The Kleiner Sonnstein offered yet another great view over the lake and the mountains all around…

And then, the path down to Traunkirchen turned muddy, but also led back to more spring-like temperatures, blooming flowers, and general satisfaction – all the more so, also, as I happened to end the last leg of that run (which has to go over asphalt, unfortunately) at the railway station a perfect 3 minutes before a train I could take.

And the next day, I went over and around the Traunstein again, and back into deep snow again.

Traunstein-OverAround2

Traunstein-Plateau in Deep Snow

And with that tour – but hey, at least there were footsteps visible up there! – I went into what looked like it could easily have turned into a bit of trouble, as the run had to go down and over the deep snow with only one earlier track, and sometimes no trail to be seen, later on. Over snowfields and hoping not to tumble with the snow balls that had come tumbling down, with some anxiety and, after all, excitement, through snow and the beauty of the area.

That adventure you seek? It’s easy enough to have if only you go out there and create it.

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