Little adventures can sometimes be the hardest to come by:
When you go on a big adventure, you know you have to plan. There is time to make, gear to organize, anticipation to enjoy.
Microadventures, as Alastair Humphreys has popularized them, are much easier. You just have to go.
It’s just a quick little something, though. Hardly even worth it. And so much easier to remain in comfort, stay at home, take care of your family.
You have been there, done that, after all – and even if not, it isn’t all that different from where you have been.
Such a way, it came about that I had been on the Traunstein, the “Guardian of the Salzkammergut” at the entrance to the Upper Austrian Alps, a few times already.
Never had I gone all the way to the summit, however, and never stayed overnight.
This early spring, flowers blooming down in the valleys, snow still lying up on the peaks, was to be different.
Fortunately, having already wanted to go a week before, my wife was warned and made plans. So, changing my mind as I almost did, again, would have meant that I would have stayed at home alone.
Better to go, then.
Not much is needed for a short overnighter, but when a winter sleeping bag is necessary, my 40 liter backpack feels one-third full just with that.
Add bivy and thermal mattress just in case I would want or need to sleep outside, extra clothing, a bit of food and water, my DJI Spark and other recording/photography gear, the tablet with which I work (or, “work”) on the train back and forth…
The 40 liters get filled up easily, the backpack feels quite alright but not exactly light.
The mountain looked almost a bit too snowy-white still; that promised to all be interesting. And then, the different timing from my usual…
The walk down from the railway station into Gmunden and then along the lakeside was warm and sunny, flowers were in full bloom, it was all nice – and it is a long and boring walk on the side of a road, still.
(Going over the Grünberg may have been more fun, but also more exertion, taking longer, and I wanted to make it up as far as I could while as much daylight as possible still remained.)
The Naturfreundesteig up was quite nice.
It still amazes me, whenever I take the time to look around on it, how steep some of the passages are where everyone just walks up, holding on to the steel ropes only a bit… but that’s how we roll here.
Some snow was still there, towards the top it became quite a bit and it was good that the extra ropes added for winter ascents were still there. It all worked quite well and securely as the snow was soft from the warm afternoon sun.
A chamois was standing there, calf beside it, right at the trail, not too disturbed by me.
Reaching the Naturfreundehaus hut at the top, I heard someone cursing… and it turned out just as I expected: He was cussing out his iPhone, which gave up the ghost just as the sunset turned its most beautiful.
It was lucky chance, but my timing was just right for the sunset view from the terrace of that hut, for photos – and there was some juice left in the battery pack I had brought with me, wanting to try something out, so the other man up top also got his photos.
He went down, I turned into the winter bivouac room to escape the cold that was rapidly descending.
Warmed up a little from some time in my sleeping bag, I ventured out for some night / astrophotography, but turned in soon to sleep.
Rising to the Summit
The next morning, I woke a little before my alarm, quite a bit before the sunrise, warm enough and just as stiff as I had recently got in my bed at home.
Prepped with some breakfast, taking my contact lenses again, repacking everything, putting my headlamp on, off I went towards the summit.
Fortunately, there was at least something of a trail left from someone who’d gone there a while before. The snow was deep up there on the summit plateau, and I only had some notion of how the path to the top actually goes…
Past the turn to the Mairalmsteig descent, which really was not yet doable except perhaps on skis.
Up to the Gmundnerhütte, the second hut on the Traunstein.
From there, close to the ridge, still on a path that had been left by the few people who had gone there before. Good thing, as it provided extra grip as well as orientation in the nicely settled snow…
In the dawn light, I made it over and up to the summit, finally.
To the bench at the end of the mountain.
To a sunrise, beautiful as it could possibly be, in the still mountain air, with no one else around.
The path down had to be the Naturfreundesteig again, I now knew. And it got rather dicey, with all of the soft snow from the day before now frozen into slippery ice.
It was okay, though, hanging myself onto the ropes, crawling down steeper rocks on all fours, as I often do on that mountain, anyways.
The way back from the mountain, I took the detour into the Kaltenbachwildnis, which I’d only recently discovered for myself.
Along the slopes of the Grünberg, I ended up bushwhacking as I so often do there. Then finally, I got back to the railway station and went back home again…
All just over 24 hours, most of those not even on the mountain and away from social media and all that – but on the mountain, with views that were worth the climb. And the climb was good training, too…