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Alpine Boot Camp – Episode 1: Zamangspitze

By Matthias / 28summits on 2014.09.06 In Alpine Boot Camp 2014 Hiking trips

Start slow they said

Even though there are still several summits left on my 28Summits list, my plan for the summer of 2014 was not to cross off more of those, but to learn and grow as a mountaineer. Instead of just going for more summits, I wanted to improve my mountaineering skills to be better prepared for the mountains to come, so I could enjoy those moments even more. The two week vacation I took in the summer was made up of two parts: shape up and get up. Here goes the story of “shape up” and the first week of my personal Alpine Boot Camp 2014 (ABC).

For the first week of the Alpine Boot Camp my plan was to slowly build up stamina again and get used to long mountain days before setting off into the higher mountains for the second week. Going into the mountains alone is both dangerous and boring, so I convinced my friend Kai (who is actually afraid of heights) to accompany me to a one week trip through the Austrian and Slovenian Alps. He did not need a lot of convincing and was willing to accompany me on this trip and fighting his fears heads on. The highlight of this first week was the summit of Triglav, the highest mountain of Slovenia that I previously wrote about, but you have not yet heard about our time in Austria. Our plan was to gradually increase the length and height covered as well as going higher up into the mountains, but well … not everything went as planned, but see for yourself.

Zamangspitze, Verwall (2,386m)

Zamangspitze 1

Our first stop of the Austria tour was the little town of Schruns rested in the broad Montafon valley. Above our camp ground loomed the local ski jump as well as the target of our first mountain day, the Zamangspitze. After setting up the tent and going for a quick swim in the local swimming pool, we started planning the ascent of the next day. In winter there are ski pists around the mountain so there is infrastructure up to a height of 1,800-1,900 meters that you can reach by car. However, as we wanted to have the proper mountain experience as well as being afraid my little car would not make it up the mountain, we chose to start in the village of St. Gallenkirch early the next day.

Zamangspitze 2After a night of well-deserved sleep and the routine muesli breakfast, we started the short drive to St. Gallenkirch. In the town a local elder woman told us “nicely” where we should and SHOULD NOT park, so we could finally take off to the first mountain. Our trip started on a height of roughly 880 meters, would take us up to the summit at 2,386 meters and back down again. The trail started off in the village and after a short passage through the meadows and farm buildings we entered the forests. There the trail got steeper and steeper, so the going became slower, harder and we had to take the eventual break to draw breath again.

Zamangspitze 3After a while we reached the first mountain pasture on around 1,300 meters and took a short break again for the second breakfast while enjoying the view. After the pasture we left the steep forest trail to follow the road leading up the mountain that would eventually bring us back on the trail. This way we would not exhaust all our energy while at the same time we would have a unobstructed view of the surrounding mountains. We followed the road for a while and eventually reached the next mountain pasture where people had lunch and looked at us in a way that made me believe that we would probably be the only two idiots that approached the mountain over the South flank this day.

Zamangspitze 7Behind the mountain hut we got over a fence and followed the trail through a group of cows and over yet another pasture further up the mountain. Throughout the summer the cowherders in the Alps keep their cows on these high altitude pastures so these meadows remain free of forests to enable the growth of wildflowers and other plants that otherwise would not grow in the mountain forests. Furthermore, the meadows in the valleys can recover and provide enough food to get the cows through the winter in the valleys. While we navigated through the cows the sky got darker and darker and I started to get worried. Despite the sunny morning we had, the weather in the mountains can always change in an instant. Not surprisingly the rain started a few minutes later and we got soaked while still ascending, now more cautiously over the stony sections above more dangerous terrain. Luckily the rain did not turn into a thunderstorm, but retreated after a while. The rain disappeared and so did the clouds, opening the view to the summit that was only another 150 meters of height away.

Zamangspitze 5We had to navigate a field of rocks and boulders around the summit, but the hardest section was still to come as there was a narrow path leading to the summit cross. And even though there was a railing keeping one from falling a few hundred meters down the East face of the mountain, Kai had to summon all his confidence to navigate this part. I am still proud of him for daring to face his fear and follow me to the summit and so I happily left a note in the summit book. We just took a short break to eat some nuts and chocolate before heading back through the narrow section to get back on the trail that lead further on over the mountain. This trail was the normal way to get to the summit after you have spent a night in the Wormser mountain hut that is only a few kilometers away.

Zamangspitze 6We walked on this trail along a nice ridge while spotting the first marmots of the trip. I am always grateful to see some of the mountain wildlife on my trips as a proof that tourists and mountaineers like me did not scare them away from their natural habitat yet. To keep it that way I can only advise everyone to stay on the trails and leave no trace except your footsteps when walking and hiking in the mountains.

Zamangspitze 8Zamangspitze 4After the tough ascent the descent felt easier, but it took us quite long to get back down into the valley as the trail was winding in serpentines down the mountain. We took a different route down so we would see some more of the mountain, but that also meant a longer descent that we anticipated. In the end our descent took as around nine hours and we covered an ascent of more than 1,670 meters and 23 kilometers of trail. So much for taking it easy and increasing the trip length gradually.

Zamangspitze 9Back in camp we took a shower and tried to recover, but I apparently strained my back while descending and it started to hurt. We had planned to take a rest day with some low intensity the next day, but as my back was not better the next day we turned it into a proper recovery day. Instead of heading into the mountains we went into the closest swimming pool that had a heated pool to cure my back pains. The pool side recovery sadly did not help, but so did the heating patches we got at the local pharmacy. We did not want to strain my back again too soon and changed plans a bit and took off a day early and went straight for the next stop of our tour, the mountains around Zell am See. But more in the next episode …

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About me

This blog is about my 28Summits Challenge with the goal of reaching the highest points of each member state of the European Union.

Matthias

My name is Matthias, I am 28 years old. Growing up close to the Alps I have been hiking basically all my life. I love being outdoors and exploring the nature. When I am not doing this I am working in media management or follow up on my other passion of cooking and baking.

On this site I will share my experiences along the road to achieve the challenge I set myself. Furthermore, I will blog about my other hiking trips as well as media about the outdoors.

/ Matthias

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