Discovery Intern: Up in the Mountains

Sometimes the shortcut isn’t necesarily the best choice…

While roaming Germany with Discovery Australia & NZ, my journey took me from Berlin to Munich, and then all the way to Ettal. Being so far to the south, a quick hop across the border to Austria was just too tempting. Before long, we were checking into an Austrian hotel with the most incredible view! There were mountains everywhere, on every side. Some closer, some in the distance, they really created a full panorama! I soon realised I couldn’t visit Austria without taking the time to get out to one of the incredible alpine walks the country has to offer. It might sound a bit ambitious, but the destination I chose was Seebensee. A lake way up high in the Erwhald area of Austria, and like most places in the area, it was completely surrounded by mountains. The idea sounded incredible, and the journey definitely was!

From Erwhald, the first step was to take a cable car over a decent portion of the terrain, to a nice starting spot with some altitude, which would hopefully save me some time. I actually highly recommend the experience – it wasn’t too pricey, took only a few minutes as opposed to a couple of hours of intense uphill hiking, and if I said the views were incredible before, seeing the landscape from a glass cable car metres above the forest trees below was on another level – literally. As the cable car reached an intersection of tracks at the top of its route, I realised I would be racing the sun to get to where I wanted to be before any colours started appearing in the sky. It was mid-afternoon, and the sun was pretty high, but I still had 3 hours worth of gravel track to traverse, and a good portion of that followed a steep gradient upward. The hills weren’t the biggest challenge though, it was the fact that everywhere I looked was so stunningly beautiful I wanted to stop and pull my camera out! Sometimes even the camera seemed unimportant, and I just wanted to stay there and let my eyes enjoy everything in front of them. I really didn’t have time to stop though – the only thing that kept me going, was knowing that the final view would look so much more amazing if I reached it while it was still daylight, but I definitely snapped a few photos as I ran. The last few kilometres were definitely the WORST! The nicely packed gravel trail became a loose scattering of rocks that some giant seemed to have hurled up the side of a steep bank, and then whoever ran over them first decided to spray-paint some red and white markers at different intervals. Not fun when you have to run it! The sun was getting pretty low by now, and the light was streaming in hazy rays through every gap between the summit rocks. At least I didn’t have long to go. I passed a mountain hut with a few cherry hikers gathered outside with some cold drinks, and then I was at the top. The sky had just started to change colour, and there was an orange glow on all of the distant peaks. Sprinting across the ridgeline, I finally found the view I was after. Was it worth the effort? 100%!

Walking back down didn’t happen for a while. I waited till the glow disappeared and the stars began to come out.

The temperature dropped dramatically during this time, and although I was prepared for it, the change in degrees was definitely nippier than I considered comfortable. I still waited for the sky to grow completely dark, and with virtually zero light-pollution in the area the milky way was clearly visible with the naked eye.

Wow! Ok I was happy with the photos I had, so time to head back to the carpark at Erwhald… but uh, which way? The cable car didn’t run at night, and hiking back the way I had come would take 5 hours. Luckily, some friends I met at Eibsee a few days earlier had advised of a route that took only 2 hours, going directly down the hill to the carpark below. I had been given a rough sketch of where to find the trail entrance, and figured if I stuck to the main paths, it would turn up eventually. Turns out, finding trail markers and signs isn’t so easy with only a headlight to provide visibility. Unfortunately, the trail I decided to follow ended up being the wrong one. In fact, after finding anchored carabiners screwed into the side of the rock face, I realised I was actually trying to navigate my way down on a full outdoor abseil course. BIG nope! In the end, I had to walk all the way back to the main track, and then continue the 5 hour hike I should have followed in the first place.

Pro tip, and something I am reminded of on numerous adventures, 90% of the time, sticking to the original patch that you know will be faster than taking any shortcuts you don’t know.

Aside from a mild scare from a couple of goats I encountered in the dark (hey, someone told me there were wolves in the area), I reached the carpark safe and sound 10 hours after first setting out. What an adventure! Austria definitely provided some incredible memories, and I’d definitely recommend the hike to Seebensee if you’re in the area and want to release a bit of energy. One day I’d love to go back and spend a bit more time there, but for now that’s the end of my Austria story. On to the next adventure!

– Kaleb Anderson