Mountain Huts Close Up: Pfeis Hut at Karwendel Mountain Range


This is the story of Vroni and Michl. And of Flora. And of being in a good mood. “We don’t want guests to come visiting Pfeis Hut,” say the Kirchmayers, “we want them to come visit Vroni and Michl.” And Flora.

This year everything is a bit different for both the hut keepers and the visitors to Pfeis Hut. Well, actually it is completely different, for Vroni and Michl Kirchmayer’s family has grown by two feet! The Bavarian-Tirolean Karwendel couple with their friendly resident dog named L’Anouk has been adjusting to a big life change in 2017 as they welcomed their little baby girl Flora.

The love story of Veronika and Michael Kirchmayer began eight years ago. Vroni, born in 1982 in Bavaria’s Tegernsee, Germany, has a degree in communication science from the University of Munich and opted for a career in international music marketing with Sony. “But it just wasn’t my piece of cake,” says Vroni. “That’s why I joined a number of outdoor education programs.” Michl, ‘a true Tirol native’, was born in 1975 and has been working as an electrical engineer for 16 years. By then, he had reached a point in his life where he felt like he wasn’t moving forward and decided to do something completely different. “It’s now or never.”

Michl Kirchmayer has been running Pfeis Hut together with his wife Vroni for eight years. In 2017 their family has grown by two feet when they welcomed their little baby girl Flora.

Vroni and Michl are passionate mountaineers who know the surroundings of Pfeis Hut like the back of their hands.

Michl had first experienced the life of a hut caretaker when he lent a friend a helping hand at Taschach Glacier in Pitztal Valley. Vroni spent “the biggest part of her childhood on her grandparents’ Alpine pasture hut.” The two met in Innsbruck during a ski touring instructor program. To make a long story short, they were looking for a mountain hut to run together and the Innsbruck Alpinist Association gave them one. “We were thrilled to bits.”

In their eighth summer season, they are still passionate about their life as hut keepers, although they had to invest lots of time, money, and effort in the first few years—and they had to learn things the hard way. “We have faced many challenges. We hadn’t expected it to be this way nor had we wanted it to be this way,” remembers Vroni. “In our first summer, the road was flooded and hit by mudslides eight times, making it impassable. And you never know how long your day will be – but the sense of accomplishment, the feeling of achievement, when all the work has been done, is just overwhelming.”

Luckily, Michl can solve most of the technical problems himself: “Imagine it’s a sunny Saturday and the dishwasher doesn’t work anymore…!” Another important part of their philosophy is making it personal: “We don’t want guests to come visiting Pfeis Hut,” say the Kirchmayers, “we want them to come visit Vroni and Michl.” The couple actually puts a lot of effort into that personalization: “You will find lovingly handcrafted decorations throughout the hut, from knitted cutlery baskets to clothes hangers. We love to interact with our guests, making new friends. That’s why we decided not to work in the kitchen.”

Attentive guests will notice lovingly handcrafted decorations throughout Pfeis Hut, from knitted cutlery baskets to clothes hangers.

Yes, of course there are those moments in the life of a mountain hut caretaker that can sometimes “leave you feeling like you’re spiraling out of control. But then, there are those moments that are absolutely beautiful… The two of us usually make breakfast in the morning. We get up early at 5:00am, preparing breakfast in peace and quiet. Then one of us stays at the hut while the other gets out summiting a peak. To bask in the magical atmosphere of watching the sun fill the air over a mountaintop with its warming golden glow, the serenity, the crisp air – it’s so amazing how inspiring those moments are!” Vroni tells us.

The Kirchmayers aim at welcoming each and every guest with respect and esteem. Vroni and Michl are conditioned and seasoned mountaineers who love to embark on demanding treks full of technical challenges. “However, it doesn’t matter how fit someone is. And it doesn’t matter if they are hardened peak baggers or just taking a stroll – it is just perfect if someone explores the extraordinary places their feet can take them.”

The couple has written its motto on a chalkboard over the bar.

Borrowed from French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire, the couple has written its motto on a chalkboard over the bar: “The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood.” On New Year’s Eve2016/2017, Vroni and Michl were in such a good mood at Pfeis Hut (where else?) that they decided to marry! They got married in a civil ceremony in March and had planned to celebrate with family and friends on Pfeis Hut in June. “But then Flora was born,” says Vroni. “So we caught up on the party in 2018.”

This summer, the Kirchmayers will be accompanied by dog and child while making forays into the Karwendel Mountains – up to now, the Pfeis Hut wardens were only known for their adorable white Swiss sheepdog called L’Anouk. The new family member doesn’t bother the dog at all: “He’s a friendly resident dog who loves sitting on the terrace, watching the world go by. In between, he goes for a walk, checking to see if everything is as it should be. And he looks after our daughter.”

Photo Credits: Tirol Werbung/Jens Schwarz

Many trails lead to Pfeis Hut: From Scharnitz across Gleirsch and Samertal Valleys (easy, approx. 5 hours, open to mountain bikers); from Halltal Valley along Herrenhäuser and Stempeljoch Col (intermediate, approx. 3 hours); from Nordkettenbahn Gondola’s top at Hafelekar along Goetheweg Trail (easy, approx. 1.5 hours); from Arzl or Hungerburg near Innsbruck across Arzler Scharte Notch (intermediate, approx. 4.5 hours); from Rum or Thaur past Vintlalm and Kreuzjöchl Col (intermediate, approx. 5 hours). Learn More about Pfeis Hut:

From Stüdl Hut on foot of Großglockner Mountain to Berliner Hut in the Zillertal Alps to Pfeis Hut in Karwendel Mountain Range: This summer, we will be telling the stories of Alpinist Association refuges and shelters in Tirol and the people who operate them. The new “Mountain Huts Close Up” series starts here on the Blog Tirol in July 2019.

Mountain Huts Close Up

Witty and sharp-tongued, Irene Heisz is a journalist and author who writes blog posts about Tirol, Tiroleans and their peculiarities—and there are many of them!

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