Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Winter Walking In Seefeld - Arrival & Day 1

Reith Here, Right Now: Seefeld to Reith, Leithen and back.

11.60 miles / Ascent = 596m / Descent = 621m

Because of other commitments and restrictions on our holiday time this year, we have decided to take a short winter break to get our walking year off to a good start. Having enjoyed our trip to Mayrhofen four winters ago, a week in Seefeld, an attractive skiing village perched at about 1200m half an hour or so north west of Innsbruck, seemed to be the perfect choice.

With its miles of prepared winter walking routes and the infrastructure to support it, it seemed like a great opportunity to get some serious winter walking done.

Looking back to Seefeld across the Wildsee

So, with hats, gloves, scarves and long johns packed, we arrived in Austria all raring to go. Only there’s a bit of a problem: whilst we’ve remembered to pack everything we need before coming away, over here its inconveniently forgotten to snow.

Yesterday's travelling had pretty much gone to time, but as we came in to land at Innsbruck airport, we could see that although most of the peaks looked suitably Christmas cake-y, there was barely any of the white stuff at lower levels.

Snow is a bit thin on the ground

As we rolled past green fields on clear roads, the coach-transfer to the resort only served to confirm this snowlessness more fully. Fortunately, Seefeld is at such an altitude that much of the snow that had fallen had remained, and there was a good snow forecast for the remainder of the week so we would eventually get the winter wonderland for which we were hoping.

Having settled into the hotel and enjoyed a delicious evening meal - something that would bode well for the forthcoming week – all we had time for was a quick orientation walk around town to get our bearings.

Wonky fairy-tale chapel

Sunday morning dawned, and still a dearth of snow. Not to worry: the plus side to this unseasonal warmth was that we had the chance for a more spring-like walk than we expected.

With lunch shopping complete and local maps bought, we set off down the valley. Last time we did some winter walking in Austria, the average daytime temperature was about -10°C. Today was probably around 20°C warmer than that. Still, it was great to be out. We decided to do a low-level walk that would stretch our legs and get a few miles under our belts.

Deer Park

Our first objective was the Wildsee, a small lake just outside the village centre that was still iced over despite the recent warm conditions.


Beyond the Wildsee, the paths were almost devoid of snow. The villages of Reith and Leithen for which we were headed are only around 100m lower in altitude than Seefeld, but that relatively small drop seemed to make a lot of difference as far as the snow was concerned.

Barn decorated with tools and implements

Making our way generally southwards, we bypassed Auland on the way to Reith. There were plenty of interesting things to see: a wonky chapel, pens of deer and sheep, a barn decorated outside with agricultural tools. There were even some flowers out!

Flowers on the snow-free banks

We stopped for coffee and biscuits just after Auland, then carried on until we reached Leithen where we stopped for lunch. The church here is dedicated to St Magnus, whose Saint's Day just happens to be my birthday.

Church of St Magnus, Leithen

By now it was pretty warm. From Leithen, we were to turn back towards Seefeld on a higher path. Soon we would be climbing, so we shed layers before setting off again. Overall, it was more of a steady pull than a full-on climb, but we were certainly given a bit of a work out on the way up. 

Distant mountains peeking through the trees

From a point above Reith, we picked up another path that doubled back and skirted the hillside higher up, offering tantalising views of the valley through the trees.

Pathside shrine

Descending, we rejoined the lower path and stopped for our afternoon break beside a small shrine. This section of path is known as the Bee Nature Trail (with boards highlighting many interesting facts about these vital creatures) and we passed the "Bee Hotel" on the way.

The Bee Hotel

A home for the bees

A final stroll along the eastern side of the Wildsee brought us back into Seefeld and back to our hotel for a relax before dinner. In summary, we’d covered more miles but seen less snow than we were expecting, and it was good to be out getting to know the area better.

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