Sunday 2 April 2017

Bad For Good: Part 3

Day 5 – Walking and Skiing in Sportgastein, and walking back from Bad Gastein

11.75 miles

With a promising start and favourable forecast, we caught the bus up to Sportgastein at the head of the valley, wedged in on the 9.15am with all the downhillers. Characterised in the main by rudeness, interesting personal hygiene and lack of spatial awareness, it would be easy to get piste-off with the off-piste crowd.

Walking the 5k loop at Sportgastein

Not to worry. We grabbed a seat for the 40-minute journey, and enjoyed the views beyond Bad Gastein for the first time. As we passed Bockstein, we entered a steep-sided gorge that had the road ducking through tunnels and avalanche sheds before finally exiting the gorge to reveal a lovely snowy cirque perched at 1600m above sea level.

With more work required to get there, it was a little less busy than other ski areas, and with separate areas for downhill and walking/langlauf, good snow conditions and some of the best weather of the week, it proved to be a beautiful setting.

Getting ready for the off

We started by following the 5k prepared walking track, a gently undulating path that toured the bottom of the cirque whilst criss-crossing the langlauf tracks. It was such a beautiful morning that we were thinking of going round again, when Missy G declared she was up for a spot of cross-country skiing!

A short while later, replete with rented skis, poles and boots, we were gliding effortlessly across the snow in glorious sunshine and crystal-clear air like practiced professionals. Well, not really, but we were following the track with reasonable accuracy, if a bit slowly, and with only minor falling over.

However, we did improve, and the last couple of hundred metres was negotiated without incident and in some style in front of the watching hordes.

We then caught the bus back to Bad Gastein and picked up the Kaiser Wilhelm Promenade towards Grune Baum (stopping for a quick lunch break by a memorial to the Kaiser). After crossing the entrance of the Kotschachtal, we joined the Martin Ledinger Gasteiner Hohenweg, heading for Bad Hofgastein.

With signs advising the route to be “Closed in Winter” but plenty of footprints to evidence recent passage, there was some doubt as to how far we would be able to get. In the other direction, we had seen it was closed beyond the Rauchberg Muhle. But for how far?

In the end, the going was easy and there was little snow to negotiate. So, we made it a good way along before opting to drop into the valley at Gadaunern, from where we followed the back road into Bad Hofgastein via Felding.

We’d had another good day. It was quite tiring, though – you wouldn’t believe how many calories you burn Cross-country Skiing! - but we finished off the day as we did all days with relaxation, dinner and a stroll.

Day 6 – Grune Baum to Prossau and back, and return to Bad Hofgastein

13.50 miles

Another decent morning beckoned, with the promise of bright sunshine for much of the day. We ran the gauntlet of downhillers again, catching the bus to Bad Gastein and on again to Grune Baum.

We had enjoyed our trip to the Alpenhaus Prossau so much a few days ago, we decided to go again. Not that huge platefuls of strudel had anything to do with our decision! This time we planned to return to Bad Hofgastein by the high route found yesterday, making for a doable but quite long day out (and one which would require a bit of lunchtime fuelling).

The valley was looking beautiful with a little extra snow on the ground. We made our way up the track, reaching the hut at about 11.30. Radler and Strudel were promptly ordered. Mine took about half an hour to come, with suitable apologies, but was fresh out of the oven and almost too delicious for words. Almost, but not quite: layer upon layer of thinly sliced apples piled high, bound with a delicate pastry and served with vanilla sauce, whipped cream, and ice cream gently melting into it on the side.

As before, we made the walk back down in just over an hour. After a quick coffee at Grune Baum, we dispensed with our Yaktrax and set off to join the Gasteiner Hohenweg.

It was beautiful in the afternoon sun, and quite warm too – only a fleece and T-shirt required, which is not bad for an early March day in the Alps.

Making our way back via Gadaunern again, we were quite tired by the time we got back to the hotel. That didn’t stop us having our regular wander out after dinner, though!

Day 7 – Bas Gastein to Bad Hofgastein via the Gasteiner Hohenweg

6.50 miles

Once we had discovered our departure time, we realised we had a good few hours available in which to go a walk. The weather was good, so to make the most of the time and conditions, we followed the Gasteiner Hohenweg back from Bad Gastein again – for the third day in a row!

That may seem a bit under-ambitious, but to be honest some of the best views were to be had from the path, and we knew the way so needed a minimum of maps, bus timetables, etc, which were already safely packed away.

All that remained when we got back to Bad Hofgastein was to grab a spot of lunch and get ourselves tidied up for the transfer to Salzburg airport.

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