Sunday, July 10, 2011

the Story of the Steinbock

Kochler Alm (hut)
I set out to knock a hike off my bucket list:  the Benediktenwand (the Benedictine Wall) in Bavaria, southern Germany.  my goal was to go all day.  I was not sure how far it was, or how long it would last. 

happy cows by the Staffel Alm
I asked a friend of mine (my favorite Dutch Uncle, Jan ~ pronounced Yaan) how far it was from my starting town, Kochel, to Lenggries, the town at the other end of the Benediktenwand ~ he said, “about 5 hours”.  Hmm… I wasn’t sure how far 5 hours would be, and he wasn’t sure either.  I figured it had to be about 10 miles away, over the mountains.  So, if I was going to get about 20 miles on the day, I would have to do an out and back.  I had a back-up plan that if I got tired, I would take the bus back home to Kochel.

after consulting the map (Jan gave me an updated map, as mine had routes on it that I think no longer exist… ) it looked as though I could hike up to the Kocheler Alm (hut), over to the Staffel Alm, and then take the high route to the cross at the peak, and take the low route back to the Tützinger Hütte (large hut) to say hello to a family friend, and then make my way back the way I had come.
Staffel Alm

after about an hour of fast hiking up the forest road, I was at the first hut, the Kocheler Alm.  I kid you not, as I passed by the Kocheler Alm, a man yodeled off in the distance.  this was starting out to be a beautiful day.  the weather was cool and partly cloudy, and I started having thoughts of possibly bagging a couple of peaks (Rabenkopf ~ the Ravens’ Head and the Jochberg ~ the Yoke Mountain).

I quickly made my way across to the Staffel Alm, where I saw one other hiker who had just come off the Rabenkopf and we said a quick hello.  I jogged down past the friendly dairy cows of the Staffel Alm area and was at the World War memorial cross in no time.  I would now be heading into an area that I was more unfamiliar with.  Making my way down a path through a thick woods, I passed about 10 other hikers going the opposite direction ~ they all appeared to be retirees, and I was inspired by them.

gate at electric fence along the way
I hit the intersection for either the Tützinger Hütte or the Peak Cross (Gipfel Kreutz) and decided to bag the peak before socializing with friends.  I was not sure how long it would take me to cross over the ridge of the Benediktenwand, and there were some dark clouds rolling in, which made my decision even a bit easier ~ I would get the high route done first.

About two-thirds of the way up the last climb to the cross, I saw two horns poking up on the trail out in front of me.  Odd, I thought to myself.  Seems like a strange place for a deer.  I got my camera out, but then failed to see what animal the horns belonged to.  I walked another 10 minutes on the trail and came to a secondary junction, decided to take the left-hand fork, because the route looked a bit more direct up the ridge.  I came around a corner and to my surprise I was face to face with a Steinbock (Ibex).  Seriously, I just about crapped my pants.  He was about 20 feet away.  I quickly got my camera out and snapped some photos, not believing my eyes or my luck.  I thought about going past him on the trail as he lazily scratched his rear leg with the tip of his long horn, but then thought better of it after seeing the size of his genitalia.

Remembering the secondary junction just moments before, I retreated back down the hill, and proceeded along the alternate way to the cross.  I was hoping the Bock had not meandered down the trail to join me at the next junction, and luckily he had not.
steinbock with Benedictine Peak cross in the background
I busted up the last bit of trail to the cross and snapped some photos, wrote my name in the book, and thought of my parents:  especially my father, whom I had always hoped to have hiked this trail with.  I also thought of my mom and our German friend Liesi, as they had come along this route together many years ago.  I peaked over the edge of the escarpment and my stomach lurched and my legs tingled ~ it was easily a 1,000 foot drop down to the valley floor where the Tützinger Hütte lay.

Benedictine Wall Peak cross
As I hiked down the east ridge, which was quite rocky and steep I heard some very slow, heavy footfalls ~ thunk… thunk… thunk…  Oh, my God, I thought to myself.  another Steinbock.  I scrambled on the rocks as the sounds got closer, and then he poked his head around the corner!  I took a sharp breath in and I’m sure the look on my face was quite a sight to see for the other hiker who was coming the opposite direction!  “I thought you were a Steinbock!”  I said.  He laughed at me and wished me well upon my way, “No, I’m not a Steinbock…  I think I must have really scared you!”  “Yes, you did,” I said and explained to him that I had seen the Bock only moments before. 

As I made my way down the remainder of the ridge, I laughed at myself several times.  I’m sure that man will have a story to tell:  of the silly girl on the ridge who thought he was a Steinbock!

A brief hailstorm moved through the area on my last stretch to the Hütte, and I was glad to pass a couple of hikers (one of whom commented on my boldness on the trail… ) and ducked into the hut.  I went up to the counter inside the hut and said hello to the Wirt (Hut Host) and asked him if he knew who I was.  He said, “Yes, you’re the young lady who hugged my father at the folkdance festival a couple of nights ago!”  “Yes,” I replied and explained who I was and that his father and my father had been friends growing up.  I had a good chat with him and his wife and then explained I needed to be on my way because I still had some distance to cover.
Tutzinger Hütte far below

The next two hours were relatively uneventful except for the drenching rain that ensued and I decided not to bag any peaks on the way back home.  Uneventful, up until the time I got back to the Kocheler Alm and met up with a mountain biker who passed me on the way down.  He went a little ways and then turned around ~ I thought he might have forgotten something at the alm.  But no, he told me to keep running, that I had a very nice tempo going and just wanted to chat for a bit and see where I had gone today.  We wished each other well on the descent back down to Kochel in the rainstorm and I reflected on what a magical day I’d been so lucky to have ~ 19 miles, just short of 7 hours, and so many beautiful sights and great people along the way.

metal-cable hand rail

thirsty?  why yes, thank you.  nice clean spring water

No comments:

Post a Comment