A hike on the Spirzinger mountain is always a special experience. An incredible panorama, deep-green forests, inviting alpine huts and the unspoilt nature make the mountain landscape high above Flachau so unique. If you happen to stay overnight in the Südwiener Hütte, make mountain friends, stand on the peak first thing in the morning watching nature awaken, then you’ll certainly never forget this experience. Just like me on this summer’s day in August …
As if bewitched, I stand on the peak, slowly turn around and I can’t believe I’m all alone in such a beautiful spot. All around me the proud mountain peaks rise up in the rose gold light of the rising sun and bathe my wonderful impressions in a mystical, almost surreal light. Over an hour ago the ringing of my alarm clock tore me from my sweetest dreams and looking out of the window, I couldn’t believe that the night was already over for me. But the things we do for special experiences. I quickly put on my warm walking gear, laced up my walking boots and left the Südwiener Hütte, my cosy accommodation, behind me. In the meantime dawn was breaking and as I looked up at the pyramid-style mountain in front of me, my sleepiness was gone. The early bird catches the worm, as they say. There’s some truth in it. For to watch nature awake, the sun and the mountains reflected in the dew drops, breathe fresh mountain air and you as part of it all – that’s something special.
Yesterday lunchtime. I’m sitting comfortably in the outdoor area of a restaurant in Flachau, savouring the shade of the mighty trees and contemplating the tour before me one last time. Using my finger I ‘walk’ over the map and note the places and turn-offs I have to take to reach my destination – the Südwiener Hütte, and then tomorrow the peak of the Spirzinger. Hiking in the mountains here in the Salzburger Sportwelt is great experiece, but to stay overnight in one of the alpine huts too, is the icing on the cake. The Spirzinger, with its altitude of 2,065 m is supposed to be one of the most scenic mountains far and wide and shouldn’t be missed in my intention to climb the ‘7 most beautiful peaks’ in the region. After the nice lady at the Tourist Office had raved about the Südwiener Hütte and its owner, I quickly decided to make it my first stop and undertake the ‘peak conquest‘ the next day first thing in the morning. After I left my car by the chapel next to the Gasthofalm at the end of the valley in Flachau, the tour starts off through thick, shady forest towards the Unterbichlhütte. Every now and then I traverse idyllic alpine pasture, watch the cows grazing and wonder what people could learn from these gentle animals. The sun is high up in the sky and I therefore savour every shady piece of forest, through which I hike through. At the Unterbichlhütte I quickly quench my thirst and keep an eye out for the marmots, which can often be sighted here. Unfortunately today’s not my lucky day with marmots and I swiftly head off in the direction of today’s destination.
A few hours sleep at the Südwiener Hütte
After hiking for around four hours and plenty of impressions of the wonderful nature in the local mountain landscape, the Südwiener Hütte (1, 802 m), or as it is known up here, the Süwie,appears just above a gentle brow. It lies at the foot of the Spirzinger, nestling in the natural landscape in the sunshine and is not only accessible from Flachau, but also from the Gnadenalm between Obertauern und Untertauern. In addition it lies on the long-distance trail no. 02, the Enzianweg (Gentian Path), the Arnoweg (Arno Path) and the Geniesserweg (Pleasure-seeker Path). Quaint, dark wood, green window frames and red and white shutters – it’s just how I imagine an alpine hut in the mountains to be. In the meadows in front of the hut, a few cows trot around and high above me an eagle makes his wide evening circles. A picture for the gods! At the hut the Scharler Family greets me with a hearty ‘Servus’ and serves me a cup of coffee. The hut is some 90 years old and I can hardly begin to imagine how many walkers have stopped here overnight. In winter it’s a popular destination for backcountry skiers. I really must try it out in the deep snow too! Before the evening meal I get to know a few other walkers, and as you do, swap stories and tips about ‘musts’ in the region. Before eating I take my rucksack up to my dormitory and put on more comfortable clothes. Of course, you can’t compare an alpine hut in the mountains with a hotel in the valley, however, the Südwiener Hütte offers everything you could possibly need. Clean bathrooms, beds and a cosy snug, from which we’re beckoned with the delicious aroma of cooked food. And it tastes fabulous too! Later, at the regulars’ table we sit together, browse through the old hut books and try to imagine what life was like here hundreds of years ago. Even though it would have been fun to chat for longer, I soon pack up my things and head off for some well-earned rest. After all, I know that the alarm clock is going to ring in a few hours time and chase me out of bed.
Over the ridge to the peak
And it does too. Mercilessly! At five on the dot it’s time to get up. The ascent to the peak on the Spirzinger proves to be steeper than yesterday’s path, and although it’s not dangerous, you do need a certain degree of sure-footedness. The gully snakes through thick mountain pine in narrow bends upwards and in some parts offers open views above and back to the hut. Apparently everyone’s still sleeping. After around half an hour I reach a wayside cross on the ridge of the mountain. I could turn off to the right and head up to the Spatzeck. However, I want to get to the peak cross first, which can be seen glittering in the early sunshine at the end of the ridge.
The trail up to it is imposing, relatively flat and easy to walk on. Every now and again I stand still, take some photos and can’t get enough of the panorama of the surrounding mountains and the rising sun. The peak itself is relatively gentle and more extensive than at first presumed. Although it looks like a point from below, there’s actually plenty of space to walk around, to admire the scenic view from all sides or just to pick a spot for refreshment. I write in the peak log book, noting down ‘my‘ 7 peaks story for posterity and in my mind’s eye look forward to the adventures which lie before me. If these are half as great as what I have just experienced, then it’s going to be a memorable time. The rumbling of my stomach brings me back to reality with bump. True, I haven’t had any breakfast yet. So come on… time to move on. Almost back at the hut I meet the walker from yesterday evening, who is also on his way up to the peak. After a short chat, we wish each other all the best and go our own way. For me it’s back to the Süwie, where breakfast is waiting for me and then via the Scharfetthütte back down into the valley.
What I take with me from the Spirzinger and the Südwiener Hütte:
- Time in the mountains plays a lesser role than down in the valley
- Friendships are made quicker at an altitude of 1,000 m
- Marmots only appear when they feel like it
- Alarms are as annoying at 1,000 m as in the valley
Photo credits: Peter Zeitlhofer