Tuesday July 16
The long dusty drive down the valley to the Ursprungalm saw us drift through the small clump of farm houses and barns and weave our way through the meandering cows to start our walk. Again, I had to carry the terrified Polly over my shoulder as the huge brown monsters lazily munched their way from tussock to tussock between the buildings. We set off up the wide track, and half of us removed our clothing on the outside edge of the valley hamlet. We hadn't gone more than a few hundred metres before we realized that this was actually a very popular path, today, and we soon nicknamed the track: the motorway. While we overtook some groups of clothed hikers, with an initial burst of enthusiastic speed, they mostly overtook us again in short order, as we waited for our large group to re-coalesce from time to time. Mostly our little naked group had friendly waves from the passers by, some giggles from a few young girls, and one or two semi-grumpy grunts from one elderly couple. Several people took photos and we waved in friendly fashion to them too.
The track simply followed the stream in the valley bottom the entire way up the gradually stonier valley, until we reached the gorgeous raised valley above. We stopped for photos, with one passing couple asking if we'd like them to take a photo of the entire naked group, before continuing our way around the gently rising path which traversed the length of the valley above the clear blue lake below. We passed mountain horses and arrived after a while, at a mountain Gasthof where beer and hot food was being amply served to the clientele. We had other ideas, so we politely dressed to pass the hut, and stopped perhaps 100 metres higher up the slope for a rest. At this point we undressed again, to feel the mountain air on our skin, and a belly of laughs echoed from the hut just below us, and we could see people taking photos and having a jolly time. Probably half of these people had been overtaking us, or been overtaken by us, during the last hour or so. We waved back and smiled.
We followed the now steepening trail as it wound it's way upwards between the high boulders and steep slopes of the mountainside and past a huge steep ridge of rock soaring up into the sky above us. As we broached the shoulder, we came across a small tarn, so stopped for the customary Karla-dip and a bit to eat. Loud moans were heard, as some wanted to continue the walk at high speed, and others wanted to have a long French-style lunch break of several hours, probably. I made an executive decision and we settled for a 20 minute break, to eat and to drink before continuing. A single male hiker came past, on the last leg of his journey from the far end of the ridge that day, and was very relaxed to meet this large group of naked hikers. He was a little hard to understand as his Austrian dialect was quite strong, but we got by all the same. With a friendly wave, we set off once more, and wove our way through the rocks, past a bigger lake, (with more moans that we hadn't stopped by the bigger lake), and then an even larger, truly majestic, one above that, surrounded by small snow and ice fields.
Continuing up the side of the lake, we gained height steadily, meeting now several groups of hikers coming the other way. All of whom were varying in their friendliness, but all of whom were distinctly friendly. Of course we were an unusual event in their day, but they took it in their stride and we made a few people smile, thus improving their lives for a short while. Our good deed for the day done, we crossed several snow fields until we reached the main ridge, with stupendous views to the rest of the ridge and the mountains all around. This was a fine place to stop for another lunch stop. Although the break was still a tad short for some, I was a bit concerned at the length of the walk and how the time was going and didn't want to linger longer than 20 mins or so. The weather was nicely stable though, and the scenery was magnificent.
We continued along the track, taking a line just below the main ridge, watching the mountains as they flowed beside us on the horizon. We reached the promontory of the main summit and skirted it's final slopes to the left over some slightly steep ground which was wall protected with cable. Coming from the south was fortunate as no-one could see the drop before they had got across the slightly awkward stretch. Sheep now kept us company as the trail snaked over the final slopes until we had crossed to the other side of the Schiedeck peak and rested, waiting for the small summit party to return after their mad dash to the top. Clearly some people were still full of beans.
Leaving our third food and drink stop after another, short, 20 minute break, we followed the ridge along and down towards a lower summit. Looking back we could see the fine ridge we had come along as we descended towards the forest below. After some time, we reached a hut surrounded by milling cows, and some welcome water. People were beginning to look a bit tired now, and Conxita's normally fine mood was not improved by her finding someone had put a rock in her rucksack. But we still had some way to go, as we had descended, but still needed to walk back the length of our hike to where our cars were parked. Now began, what some have referred to as the "Ursprungalm Deathmarch", as we followed the fairly easy, but long, trail through the trees as it wound it's way up, down and around various rocky obstacles along the way. The valley seemed to go on forever, and the car park never to get nearer, as we heard a helicopter come and go, several times up and down the valley, parallel to us.
Some time later we finally strolled, tired, into the car park, receiving a wave and a smile from a departing car, before setting off for the last leg of the day, the motorized return trip to the hut. Fortunately Gianni and Mira and Gus had decided to take the day off, so we were able to telephone ahead and get them to start preparing a BBQ outside our hut for when we returned, late and hungry, after our long but rewarding hike. It had been an especially magnificent day, with an interesting route and outstanding views, not to mention the good weather and the even better company. And even though we knew our legs might ache a little on the morrow, it was a day to treasure.