In September 2016, a trio of two cousins and myself traveled through Europe for two weeks. Innsbruck, Austria was one of the four cities on our itinerary. Innsbruck was on and off our radar throughout the planning process, but eventually, we decided it looked too beautiful to miss. None of us regretted the memories that were made in this city, with consensus it was the best part of our two week voyage. While Europe is filled with abundant marvels that Americans dream about visiting, this city is not on most people’s list. I encourage everyone to add it, as this will always remain a highpoint of the trip we shared.
We spent three days in Innsbruck. On our second day, we decided we needed to climb to the top of the beautiful mountain that surrounded the town. Since we were backpacking through Europe, with only a 50L pack per person, we weren’t exactly prepared for the day that we set out on that autumn morning. Our packs were filled with typical every day wear, proper hiking shoes and a hydration pack weren’t included. Instead, all we had were worn running shoes and plastic liters of water from the store that were sure to be warm 30 minutes into the hike. Thankfully, we did have two hiking guides. A friend from my time in Norway lived in the area, and was excited to meet us for the day. Although these hiking guides hadn’t ever hiked what we were planning, they were still natives and could communicate in case we needed directions.
We set off around 10 am from downtown Innsbruck. We had taken a bus with the help of our tour guides from downtown Innsbruck to the Hungerburg stop (also where the highest zoo in Europe is located). Not knowing what we were in for that day, or exactly how far we would be able to make it, we set off on our trek. We took trail #216 to Bodensteiner Alm meadow. It took us about 2 and a half hours, with an altitude gain of 795m. Each step led to more breathtaking views than the last had given us. The first official stop (not inclusive of all the others when we stopped to catch our breath) had the most charming hut I’ve ever seen. This is a privately owned restaurant that surrounded us with fellow hikers and others who had driven up. In order to get here, we had to pass two massive wild bulls pictured below (at least I think they were bulls?) standing in the middle of the path. I would not recommend touching them, as cute as they may look. Maybe just keep your eyes down and pretend they aren’t there. At this stop, we treated ourselves to a beer and their famous chocolate cake (not our smartest options mid hike, but hey, it was famous cake!). We also had the opportunity to replace our lukewarm water and for fresh, cold stuff. Below is a picture of the hut, isn’t it the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? If I could spend every Sunday afternoon here, I think I would too happy.
From here, we discussed what our best options were. Our group was split between continuing on and just calling it a day. After all, we had done more than our typical days’ worth of exercise. I think none of us had felt like we had exhausted all of the energy and beautiful scenery we had for that day. I remember “we’re only here once” being an argument that got everyone in the mindset to carry on. In the end, perseverance won out and we got up and let our legs do the work.
Our next goal was to reach Seegrube. To do so, we continued uphill, passing the trail for Moslalm until we reached a fork that went left to Seegrube. It took us close to three grueling hours to reach Seegrube. Towards the top, the sun was hitting us pretty hard. Although it was a mild fall day, the climb had taken a toll on us and our legs weren’t conditioned for the steepness we were enduring. The sun only added to the uncomfortable and demanding hike. Towards the end, the group was a couple blocks apart, due to different fitness levels each of us were used to. There was a lot of encouragement shouted to each other, although I know everyone was questioning their own ability to finish this climb. It wasn’t an option in the last hour to turn around before reaching the top. Much of the motivation was related to the cable car that was at Seegrube. This car was doing it’s last haul to the bottom of the mountain at 5:30 pm. That meant we didn’t have much time to waste. If we decided we couldn’t make it to the top, that meant at least another 3 hours walking down to retrace our steps. This time limit pushed us all and we finally made it to the top around 5:15 pm. It left only a couple of minutes to snap a few pictures and take in this overwhelming view, but it was worth it.
The cable car is a bit pricey, so if you do chose this option, be prepared to pay around 20 euros to get down, but I think your wobbly legs would gladly fork over this cash. I would recommend if you did this to start earlier and be able to enjoy your time at the top, as there is another restaurant. This way you can soak in the views and your accomplishment and not have to rush down right away.
I titled this entry: The First Time I Really Pushed Myself, but maybe that isn’t true. I guess this was the hardest I felt I’ve ever worked physically, but there must have been numerous other times I trained for something harder than I had before, right? Maybe this was the hardest I’ve ever worked for something, but it definitely won’t be the last time I push myself harder than I have before.