Childhood Memories: Falling in Love with the Mountains

Last updated 22.05.2020JannisJannis
The first summit hike, watching animals in the wild, tucking into a hearty meal at one of the local huts. Our editorial team has dug deep in their family photo albums to find those magic moments when they fell in love with the mountains of Tirol.

This spring I had to spend more time in my Innsbruck apartment than I wanted to. Instead of enjoying the first walks and hikes of the year, all I could do was gaze longingly of the window, go back through my scribblings from previous summer adventures and delve into old photo albums. The latter can be a beautiful experience, reviving formative childhood memories. When I told my colleagues what I had been up to it turned out they had been doing the same. In the end, during one of our online editorial metings, we decided to collate our childhood mountain memories and put them in a blog. Here is the result! What were your favourite places as a child?

Adventures in Lederhosen on Wildseeloder Mountain | Jannis Braun

To be honest, I can’t really remember what felt better on that magical day 25 years ago atop Wildseeloder mountain. Of course,  I was thrilled to have climbed my first ever alpine peak – all 2,119 metres of it – on foot. Coming from Bremen in the flatlands of northern Germany, it felt like a huge achievement. But there was something else that felt good that day: I could finally show off my favourite item of clothing in its “natural habitat”. For years I had jumped at every opportunity to wear my Lederhosen – at school, playing football with friends, helping out in the garden, even at weddings of relatives. If it had been up to me, I think I probably would have worn them in bed. Finally, on a hot July day in the summer of 1996, with jackdaws flying above (“Mum, why can’t the birds in Bremen fly like that?”), I finally had the chance wear them for their true purpose: climbing a mountain. Everything came together that day on the Wildseeloder peak: great weather, breathtaking scenery and me, sporting my beloved Lederhosen, standing on top of an alpine peak I had climbed on foot.

But enough about me and my Lederhosen. After all, this is supposed to be about how I fell in love with the mountains of Tirol. I can’t really remember what precisely it was about that particular hike which makes it stick out all these years later, but I know I was amazed to find a small patch of snow just below the summit despite the fact it was summer and 35°C. Back in Bremen it is a rare sensation to get even a dusting of snow in winter. The temptation was, of course, too strong: I grabbed a handful, formed it into a ball and lobbed it towards my unsuspecting sister. Bullseye! Another thing I distinctly remember were the cows at the Wildalm hut (“Dad, I don’t think those are cows. Cows are always black and white, aren’t they?”). And I will never forget the friendly local at the top, who went through every single mountain on the horizon and told me the name of each one (“Wow, I want to be able to do that one day!”). One of the most fascinating things was seeing those furry brown marmots and hearing their distinctive whistles echoing off the waters of the Wildsee lake (“Dad, what kind of birds are they?”). At the same time, I remember being amused by how small the Wildsee lake (admittedly one of the most beautiful lakes in Tirol) was compared to the vast North Sea back home in Germany (“Dad, why do they ride pedalos on a pond?”). My final memory is sitting down on the terrace of the Wildseeloderhaus htu and being served a huge portion of “Kaiserschmarren”, a sweet dish of chopped up pancakes served with icing sugar sprinkled on top and apple sauce on the side (“Mum, can you make this for us when we get back home?”).

Onto the Wildseeloder mountain

Where? Kitzbühel Alps, Fieberbrunn
How long? 7 hours from Fieberbrunn, 4 hours using cable cars
How high? 1,400 vertical metres up and down from Fieberbrunn, 600 vertical metres from top of cable car
How hard? Mountain hike on trails of intermediate difficulty
Where do I start? Bottom statio or top station of Lärchfilzkogelbahn cable car near Fieberbrunn
Where can I eat? Wildalm, Wildseeloderhaus

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Young Warriors on Lorea Kopf Mountain | Holger Gassler

My parents have always loved hiking. My mother, who grew up in her beloved village of Nassereith, likes nothing more than pulling on her walking boots and heading for the heights. At weekends and in the school holidays (with the exception of a short break spent each summer at one of Austria’s many lakes) we would spend much of our time exploring the mountains on foot. One of our favourite walks was to the Lorea Hütte, a self-catering hut, where we would stay the night and continue the next day to top of the Lorea Kopf mountain. This peak high above the valley floor offers some of the best views of Nassereith.

The name Lorea comes from the Rhaetian word “Luraria” meaning “funnel”. Looking back now, it is a very apt description of its shape – though as kids, of course, we had no time for any of that. We were much more interested in the many rocky ridges and the sheep grazing on the high alpine pastures which made the terrain below the summit of the Lorea Kopf the perfect place for a bit of alpine hide and seek. Wearing old US Army fatigues given to us by a friend in the village who worked at the military base over the German border in Garmisch, we would spend hours recreating our favourite scenes from Rambo. The sheep, as you can imagine, looked on with a mixture of bemusement and boredom.

The camo gear was made for military men with bulging muscles, so it was a little on the large side for us. Did we care? Hell no! Instead of AK47s and grenades we equipped ourselves with long wooden sticks, charging off ahead to be the first atop the peak. A few minutes later our parents arrived to supply the adventurers with their hard-earned provisions: a “chocolate bread roll” (take a bread roll, cut it in half, place a bar of milk chocolate inside – voilà) or a “chocolate chip bread roll” (take half a bread roll, cover it with a thick layer of butter and then sprinkle “Hagelslag” chocolate chips kindly brought all the way from Holland by friends of the family). Those were our favourite foods, and we could have eaten them forever.

Hike to the Lorea Kopf mountain

Where? Lechtal Alps, Fernstein near Nassereith
How long? 7 hours in total
How high? 1,500 vertical metres up and down
How hard? Mountain hike of intermediate difficulty
Where do I start? Centre of Nassereith or Camping Schlosshotel Fernsteinsee
Where can I eat? No places serving food along the way, Hotel Schloss Fernsteinsee at the end of the hike

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The Start of a Mountaineering Career | Martina Nairz

To be honest, I wasn’t always a big fan of the mountains. Like most kids, I would complain: “Mum, are we nearly there yet?” or “Mum, my feet hurt!”

Today, of course, things are different. I enjoy thinking back to those times we spent as a family exploring the mountains. One of the most vivid memories I have is my first hike with my mother and my two siblings along the “Südwandsteig” trail above the village of Leutasch. It must have been in 1999. Leaving from the Wettersteinhütte, it took us about 30 minutes to reach a area of open terrain which took my breath away – especially for someone like me, who was curious to explore everything in sight.

From this plateau the trail led west along the ridge of the Wetterstein Mountains, undulating at around 2,000 metres above sea level. On that day our destination was the Steinerne Hüttl hut run by a friendly local called Franz. There was also the option of shortening the walk and descending a little earlier to the Rotmoosalm hut. We were keen to enjoy the full experience and so we pressed on. I remember the amazing views of the Wetterstein Mountains on the right and the peak of the Predigtstuhl peak to my left. We didn’t climb the Predigtstuhl that day, but I knew straight away it would become one of my favourite mountains.

The Südwandsteig trail

Where? Wetterstein Mountains,  Leutasch near Seefeld
How long? 7 hours
How high? 1,300 vertical metres up and down, highest point 2,132 metres
How hard? Mountain hike of intermediate difficulty
Where do I start? Salzbach car park at start of Gaistal Valley, Leutasch
Where can I eat? Rotmoosalm,  Gaistalalm, Wangalm, Wettersteinhütte, Steinernes Hütt’l, Tillfussalm

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Dreaded Dumplings in the Kaisertal Valley | Eckard Speckbacher

Sentimentality and rose-tinted glasses can make almost all childhood memories good ones in hindsight, whatever things were actually like at the time. However, even now I know for sure that as a child I loved going to the Kaisertal Valley near Kufstein. Two distinct memories are the heavy walking boots we would be made to wear and the fact that my older brother kept telling me that at the Pfandlhof, the hut at the end of the walk, there was only one thing to eat: bacon dumplings. The horror! It was the worst meal I could imagine as a child. He was, of course, joking – though he did a pretty good job of convincing me. Since then I have been back to the Pfandlhof and the Kaisertal Valley many times. And I have learned to love bacon dumplings.

Hike on the sunny side of the Kaisertal Valley

Where? Kaiser Mountains, Kufstein
How long? Variable. Full hike = 7 hours; to Pfandlhof = 50 minutes from starting point
How high? 320 vertical metres up and down to the Pfandlhof (793 metres); full hike: 1,120 vertical metres, highest point: Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte  (1,388 metres)
How hard? Easy trail to the Pfandlhof; full hike easy to intermediate
Where do I start? Car park at bottom of steps into Kaisertal Valley, Kufstein
Where can I eat? Pfandlhof, Ritzaualm, Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte, Bergkhof, Hinterkaiserhof

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Bolognaise on the Pfitscherjoch Ridge | Andrea Hochmuth

Boots on, let’s go! Okay, if I’m honest then my five-year-old self maybe wasn’t quite as motivated as that. Still, with my parents I spent my summers visiting many of the huts in the Zillertal Valley. One I remember well is the Pfitscherjoch Haus, located on the border between Austria and Italy. Nestled away in the heart of the Zillertal Alps, this hut really is one of the most beautiful huts anywhere in Tirol. The walk up to the hut begins at the Schlegeis-Stausee reservoir, which can be reached by car or by bus in around 30 minutes from Mayrhofen. The route then leads along the Zamserbach stream, gently uphill – perfect for little legs. Eventually you get to the Pfitscher Joch ridge at 2,249 metres. At the hut, officially on Italian territory, I remember tucking into a huge bowl of Spaghetti Bolognaise. Even now, at 30 years of age, I still love going to the same hut and eating the same meal – albeit these days with a glass of red wine. 😊 By the way, the Pfitscherjoch Haus is an excellent starting point for further walks and hikes to surrounding mountains such as the Rotbachlspitz. It is also one of the overnight stays on the Peter Habeler Hike, a multi-stage hike in the Zillertal Valley named after one of the valley’s most famous sons, extreme mountaineer Peter Habeler.

Hike to the Pfitscherjoch Haus

Where? Zillertal Alps,  Schlegeisstaussee reservoir near Ginzling, Mayrhofen
How long? 4 hours
How high? 570 vertical metres up and down, highest point: Pfitscherjoch Haus (2,275 metres)
How hard? Mountain hike of intermediate difficulty
Where do I start? Car park or bus stop at Schlegeisspeicher reservoir
Where can I eat? Lavitzalm, Pfitscherjoch Haus

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Rendezvous With Some Furry Friends | Christian Wührer

I was already 11 years old when I set off with my parents and my sister on an adventure at the end of the Stubai Valley, so it was not my first time in the mountains – though it would turn out to be a particularly memorable one thanks to an unexpected encounter with some sheep near the summit. My family has always loved walking and hiking. As children, we shared in our parents’ passion for nature and the mountains. We would spend many hours walking through Tirol’s forests and meadows. Back then in autumn 1983 we were on our way to the Großer Trögler, at 2,902 metres a serious challenge for little legs (my sister was just 8 years old at the time). The difficulty lay not only in the distance and vertical ascent but also in the fact that the trails were not always easy to negotiate. The route started near the Grawa Alm at 1,590m. We made our way up, enjoying fine views of the Grawa Waterfall (today there is a separate trail along the waterfall, the WildeWasserWeg), to the Sulzenaualm and then on to the Sulzenauhütte. I remember the incredible views of the glaciers, which stretched further down into the valley than they do today. We stopped for a break at the rushing glacier stream next to the hut and had fun building a dam where the water would rise up before cascading down into the valley.

The rest of the way to the top of the mountain was full of things for us kids to explore. There were even a few sections requiring some scrambling. As a father today, I can imagine my parents must have kept a close eye on us – one small slip could have sent us tumbling a long way down. We didn’t meet many other people that day, but near the summit we did run into a herd of sheep very keen to welcome us. In fact, I remember that my father had quite a job on his hands keeping them away from me and my sister! However, as you can see in the photos, they soon calmed down and even let us get up close with a friendly hug. Another thing I vividly remember is the view from the top. We could see many of the most famous mountains in the region, including the Wilder Pfaff, Zuckerhütl and Ruderhofspitze. Looking back now, those photos also provide an interesting snapshot of the glaciers in the 1980s. You can clearly see the glacier on Ruderhofspitze, a mountain which today is almost completely free of ice.

My parents liked circular hikes, so instead of returning along the way we came we descended down the west-facing side of the mountain to the Dresdner Hütte, a mountain hut on the edge of the Stubai Glacier ski resort opened in 1973. To be honest, I can’t remember much of the final section down to Mutterberg and back to the car. I have probably erased it from my memory – it must have been one seriously long walk for my sister and me. My mother tells me today that we didn’t complain at all, so I’ll have to take her word for it. Or maybe it’s just the case that with time you forget all about aching lungs and tired legs, leaving only the good memories.

Onto the Großer Trögler mountain

Where? Stubai Alps, end of the valley
How long? 8 hours (without using the cable cars)
How high? 1,300 vertical metres up and down
How hard? Mountain hike on difficult (black) trails
Where do I start? Car park at Grawa-Alm hut, bottom station or middle station of Stubai Glacier cable cars
Where can I eat? Grawa-Alm. Sulzenaualm, Sulzenauhütte, Dresdner Hütte

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A Big Day Out at the Zoo | Klaus Brunner

First Communion was and still is an important event here in Tirol. As tradition dictates, the ceremony was followed by lunch at a nearby guesthouse with the obligatory Schnitzel. In the afternoon came the highlight: my godparents, known here in Tirol as “Godi” and “Göd”, treated the family to a day out. The photo below was taken at my sister’s First Communion in 1986, when I was just three years old. As you can see, I was dressed up to the nines in my Lederhosen, knickerbockers and crisp white shirt ready for a trip to the zoo in Innsbruck. In terms of First Communion treats, a day out at the zoo was like hitting the jackpot in the lottery. For us youngsters there were so many things to see, including wolves, bears and ibexes. My personal favourite was the lynx, who I imagined to be a wild cousin of our cuddly kitty cat at home. Even back then in the 1980s the zoo in Innsbruck was a pioneer in creating the most natural habitats possible for these wild animals. Sometimes the enclosures were so large that the shy animals remained hidden from view. Today, 60 years after it opened, the zoo remains an excellent place for children of all ages to learn about the flora and fauna of the Alps.

A trip to Innsbruck Alpine Zoo

More information about Innsbruck Alpine Zoo

Following in the Footsteps of Grandpa and the Pigs | Laura Stojar

“Tirol – what a fantstic place to live,” I remember my grandpa saying to me as a child. I can still see him in front of me now, his eyes bright with excitement as he talked about the mountains which meant so much to him throughout his life and have come to mean so much to me.

One of his favourite places to go walking was in the Kalkkögel, a chain of mountains in the Stubai Alps to the south-west of the regional capital Innsbruck. These craggy limestone peaks can be accessed either via Schlick in the Stubai Valley or from the other side, via Axamer Lizum or Grinzens and the Kemater Alm. This photo was taken during one of my first hikes in the Kalkkögel mountains with my mother and my grandfather. I was just three years old at the time, and our destination was the Adolf-Pichler-Hütte. The walk, which took around an hour, started at the Kemater Alm hut. I remember that one of the pigs kept at the Kemater Alm accompanied me every step of the way. I was so thrilled by my new porcine pal that the time flew by and before I knew it we had already reached the hut.

While my mother and I tucked into a hearty portion of “Kasspatzeln” and enjoyed the view, my grandpa hadn’t had enough yet. He kept walking and ended up completing a via ferrata climbing route to the top of the Ochsenwand mountain at 2,700 metres above sea level. The views, he told us with a broad smile when he returned, were breathtaking. The climb he did that day is, in fact, just one of many adventures in the “Dolomites of North Tirol”, as the Kalkkögel are known thanks to their pale colour and craggy appearance reminiscent of their southern cousins over the border in Italy. Some other highlights in the area include the walk to the Salfeins See lake as well as challenging hikes to the Ampferstein and Marchreisenspitze mountains. Those early experiences in the Alps have stayed with me until today and remain beautiful moments etched into my memory.

Hike to Adolf-Pichler-Hütte hut

Where? Stubaier Alp, Grinzens near Innsbruck
How long?  1.5 hours leaving from the Kemater Alm hut; 7 hours leaving from Grinzens
How high? 300 vertical metrs up and down from the Kemater Alm hut, 1,000 vertical metrs from Grinzens
How hard? Mountain hike on easy trails
Where do I start? Kemater Alm hut (accessible via toll road), Grinzens
Where can I eat? Kemater Alm, Adolf-Pichler-Hütte

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Conquering Mountains the Easy Way | Florian Neuner

I can’t remember much about it myself, but according to my parents and their collection of photos one of my first ever walks in the mountains was in the summer of 1980 on the Zugspitze. My father had grown up in the village of Ehrwald, at the foot of the Zugspitze mountain, and later moved to Zirl (where I grew up). Therefore, it was important to him to take me back to the place where he had his roots and share with me the beauty of the landscape there. Even back then there was a cable car up to the top of the mountain, which lies on the Austrian-German border, so considering my little legs it was decided we should take the easy way up and then walk back down. To be honest, walking down the mountain from top to bottom was tough enough. It took us a whole five hours to complete the 1,400 vertical metres to the Ehrwalder Alm hut, where sausages and a glass of lemonade were my reward. From the hut, we then took the cable car for the last section back down into the valley. After all, at just five years of age I had done quite enough walking for one day!

The Zugspitze from top to bottom

Where? Wetterstein Mountains, Ehrwald
How long? 5 hours downhill from the Ehrwalder Bahn cable car
How high? 1,500 vertical metres downhill, highest point: Zugspitze (2,962 metres)
How hard? Mountain hike on difficult (black) trails
Where do I start? Top station of Tiroler Zugspitzbahn cable car, summit of Zugspitze mountain
Where can I eat? Bergrestaurant Zugspitze, Knorrhütte, Ehrwalderalm

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Roped Up With All the Family on the Glacier | Christian Klingler

My first ever summit hike? Hmm, I suppose that depends how you define “summit”. My family always loved hiking, and since I can remember I have loved joining in. Adventures in the mountains, celebrated in some families as major achievements, were pretty much everyday fare for us. That’s why it seems a little strange to think about my “first time on top of a mountain” – but if I have to name one then I guess it would be my local mountian in Venet.

If I remember correctly then I was eight years old when I climbed my first real mountain. We spent our holiday in a hut at the Verpeilalm in the Kaunertal Valley, where there are both easy walks like the one to the Verpeilhütte and challenging hikes like traversing the Kaunergrat ridge and climbing peaks such as the Watzespitze, Verpeilspitze and Rofelewand. Each of these three mountains can only be reached by crossing a glacier. I remember roping up for safety with the other members of the group and then carefully making my way across the vast expanse of ice under the watchful eye of my father. Small ice adventures like this became a regular part of our excursions into the mountains.

Back then we traversed the Schweikertferner, a glacier giving access to the Rofelewand mountain. On a fine July day, my father and I carefully crossed the ice and then scrambled up to the top. It was the first major mountain I climbed as a child. From the  top we could see many famous mountains: Wildspitze, Weißkugel, Ortler, Piz Buin, Parseierspitze, even the Zugspitze on the German border and the Großglockner, Austria’s highest mountain.

Today, the Schweikertferner glacier bears witness to the impact of climate change on the mountains. Despite the fact that 2019 was a year of heavy snowfalls, the glacier retreated by 86 metres. As a child I remember the icy masses stretching all the way to the turquoise lake. Today, it is possible to access the final ascent without having to cross a single metre of ice.

The Rofelewand

Important! The climbing route to the Rofelewand mountain is for experienced alpinists only!

An easier alternative is the walk to the Verpeilhütte hut.

Where? Ötztal Alps, Kaunergrat, Feichten (Kaunertal Valley)
How long? 3 hours from Feichten, 45 minutes from Verpeilalm hut
How high? 700 vertical metres up and down from Feichten, 22o vertical metres from Verpeilalm hut
How hard? Mountain hike on trails of easy and intermediate difficulty
Where do I start? Feichten or Verpeilalm hut
Where can I eat? Verpeilhütte

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What wonderful memories browsing through an old photo album can conjur up. As I close the album and place it back on the shelf, I promise to myself that I will go back to the Wildseeloder mountain soon to climb it again. What has changed over the years? What has stayed the same? Maybe this time it will be me explaining the names of the mountains to impressed visitors, and I will definitely stop off at the Wildseeloderhaus for a Kaiserschmarren. After four years living in Tirol, I guess it’s time for me to finally buy a proper pair of Lederhosen. What about the others? I’m sure Klaus will show his son around the alpine zoo in Innsbruck and Eckard will be back to the Pfandlhof to enjoy a bacon dumpling or two. Quite whether Holger will be scrambling around on the Lorea Kopf peak dressed as Rambo remains to be seen…

Which childhood memories will you be reliving this summer?

Jannis

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” This compelling quote says it all for outdoor lover Jannis Braun. His passion for hiking and mountain biking inspired him to move from Germany to Innsbruck. Finding pleasure in the mountains, Jannis continues to embrace the beauty and culture around him.

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