Day 3. We woke after a wind blasted night to a calm and beautiful sunrise, the sun rising behind the steep rocky ridges of the Tauern mountains behind us, the night’s rain still sitting as fog in the valleys below. Packing up, we continue along the easy ridge, Miguel having some trouble skirting the bogs with his fashionable training shoes, until we reached a col and a route decision. We chose left and descended to a high alm where the farmer and his family provided refreshments for alpine walkers while milking their cows and making cheese throughout the summer. The children, (two boys), of the family came out and entertained us with some alpine squeeze-box music which was like something out of the alpine children’s tale “Heidi”. Several of us had a “Schluesselkas”, which was a fresh soft cheese mixed with some harder cheese, and served in a bowl with some heavy Austrian bread. To a townie like myself it looked at first terrible, but the taste was simply superb, a pungently flavoured mix of textures and sounds which melded with the scenery to produce an alpine idyll.
At this point we said a cheery goodbye to Conor and Anniki, they had other stories to cover and maybe we will meet again, in any case we had enjoyed our time together and wished them well, looking forward to seeing the results of their reportage. The rest of us set off down into the valley before heading back up towards the higher Tauern hills above. Walking along the road, and naked past the gasthof at the base of the hill, elicited a few cackles from the 15 or 20 people sitting around their beer and apple-strudel. We met a young girl carrying a ginger cat down the hill in her arms, and of course Polly became all tense and wanted to eat, or at least chase, it. Further up the road, we encountered a large family group with several children and a couple of dogs, having passed us with a friendly exchange of greetings, Roland and I laughed when we heard them guffaw loudly as they next passed by Brian, our very own real-life version of Ray Bradbury’s “tattooed man”, on his way up 100 metres below. By now, they were probably wondering what they would meet around the next corner.
We continued up the winding road, steadily gaining height for another hour or so before reaching the Suedwienerhuette, a superbly placed hut at one end of a raised valley between the higher peaks, run by the very friendly Schett family. Brian set up camp discreetly amongst the trees, and the rest of us moved into the hut, dog and all. We were all made very welcome here, even Polly who had immediately picked an argument with the resident, and until then very peaceful, dog. As afternoon exercise the rest of the team went up the summit behind the hut, possibly a good excuse to walk Polly a bit further, and after a short break I followed and joined them as they were descending. The effort to reach the easy peak was rewarded with a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks, valleys and ridges. We all ate in the hut that evening, and it was a pleasant change to have easy access to beer and spaghetti bolognese, all prepared by a friendly Nepalese cook who spends his spare time guiding walking tours around Everest base camp.