In the Kitzbühel area, you have sheer mountains in the south and east, the Wilder Kaiser in the north – and in between, a nice part of the Kitzbühel Alps with grassy mountains.
The Hohe Salve is the main peak here, offering a view all around.
Solstice Mountain Fires
These parts of the Alps celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, with fires on the mountains.
I took it as reason for a quick trip there.
There are more impressive solstice fires in the Zugspitz area of Tyrol, actually. That part of the Alps is harder to reach by public transport, however, and I only had a day and a half of the weekend to spare.
Oberstdorf near Kitzbühel is easy to get to by train.
I left my house early in the morning, took a first train, to arrive (on a third train) and start hiking by noon.
The trails there offer an opportunity to cross much of this part of the Kitzbühel Alps, with a view to the Wilder Kaiser mountain range and to the steeper mountains of Kitzbühel, to end the hike at Hopfgarten.
That town is on the other side of those lower mountains, and it lies on the same train route that I had taken to Oberstdorf.
Route Plans – and Other Plans
Of course, I managed to have planned (or rather, get planned) a route that couldn’t always be followed.
Route planning apps do that quite often, following paths which their data see as good, but aren’t actually public (and sometimes, aren’t even actual paths).
I also decided, on the ground, that it would be better to shorten the tour a little bit.
My plan had been to go from Oberstdorf across the Rauher Kopf down to Ellmau, at the foot of the Wilder Kaiser, then up again to the Hartkaiser and up and over to the Hohe Salve.
The day was not just the longest of the year, though, it was also extremely sunny and very hot. Enough so to decide that I did not have to break any records (as if I could), but only to enjoy the scenery and the movement.
This is not a route you are looking for
Thus, after finding that the planned route to Ellmau was not actually a usable route, going down from the Rauher Kopf, I preferred to find my way back from some bushwhacking onto a hiking trail heading from the Rauher Kopf to the Hartkaiser.
Dumb luck, with only a smidgen of potential trail awareness, that I did not have to head all the way back up to the Rauher Kopf on that trail.
It was still better than continuing in the steep forest slope on the side of a meadow which should have had a path across it according to the planning app, but was fenced off with barbed wire!
Even with the heat, especially trying to move slowly, it was an immense pleasure to be out and moving.
Mountain Meadow Paths and Wide Views
Lots of paths across meadows; some parts on planks over swampy areas with beautiful flowers; sections through forest.
Parts where all the attention goes in front of one’s feet and not much else is visible; rises and crests and peaks with views going wide to the rocky sheer faces of the Wilder Kaiser mountains.
It was nice going, all the more so as it was relaxed. Ascents still had my heart pumping more than I should have it for good training. I only wanted to be up on the Hohe Salve around sunset, late in the day.
One early ascent, that meant I felt fine to just sit down on a bench at the path, eat a little something, and enjoy the view. Of course, being the happy-go-lucky person I am, I also imagined what it would feel like to see a massive asteroid coming down onto those mountains…
One nice path meandering in and out between meadow and forest, I finally felt that it was the right time and place to fly my DJI Mini 2, instead of just carrying it all the way (as I usually do).
That went swimmingly
Coming past more and more water reservoirs (for producing artificial snow for the skiing slopes these meadows are in winter), the water felt tempting… but I did not expect what I came upon: Just on the last ascent to the Hohe Salve, one of those lakes is not fenced off with signs forbidding swimming.
First, there is a little water play area for kids – and then the lake offers itself for swimming.
A look at the time – still long until sunset.
A mental check of my gear – yes, I’d have dry underwear to change into.
And I undressed down to my boxers and… well, slowly slipped into the cold water.
Not as cold as some mountain streams and lakes, but still cold enough. And oh, ever so refreshing!
Fastest known times, fastest own times – as much as I like such ideas, especially the latter, it was tremendously nice to forget about having to be somewhere, get somewhere, make quick.
I was still up on the Hohe Salve’s peak with its (ski) hut / restaurant quite a while before sunset. A few people were already up there – and I promptly, soon, met the one trail runner friend who lives in that area.
For once, we met in person, by chance, outdoors, rather than only at outdoors sports fairs or virtually, on Instagram.
Chatting, time passed, the sun went down, food was had. (Hey, when I’m in Tyrol and at a hut with decent local food, of course I’ll nourish myself that way. Since I’m gainfully employed again, I also have the money to afford that.)
Solstice Mountain Fires
The cable cars running up there started bringing more and more people on this, the first solstice night without bad weather or bad COVID-19-related restrictions in years. The first time I had seen something of a crowd outside of public transport in a while, too.
With the skies darkening, the solstice fire on this peak was lit; solstice fires in the valley and on mountains around became visible. Frankly, they were not the most impressive; the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage ones are in the Zugspitze area.
They were still nice to see, nice to consider in their context.
We let ourselves lose so many of these traditions that link us to the world, to the passing of the seasons. It does not do us good. When we forget about practices that promote connections, that structure time in natural ways and bring people together, in nature, for common experiences, we lose a bit of our humanity.
Of course traditions can be stifling, they can become tourist spectacle, they can lose the sense they once had.
It is on us to make good of tradition, same as of modern technology, though. Of our bodies and minds, too.