DAY 4: Sunday 3rd August
Climbing up to the Studlhutte hut, Grossglockner
It was Day 4 and the previous days had been quite full on. I'd cycled 145kms from Trieste to Trenta in Slovenia, we'd climbed Triglav - Slovenia's highest mountain at 2864m - cycled 190kms from Trenta to Kals in Austria. You can read more about these days in my blog here and Charley's blog here.
Check out our video from climbing Grossglockner here.
Setting off at 2pm we left Kals and made tracks for the Studlhutte. "You're looking better and better with each hour that passes," Charley said to me as we were packing up. I knew how bad I looked in the morning, I could feel it. That puffy face thing is not a good sign.
However, instead of me treating my legs to a hefty day, they decided to treat me to feeling strong. It's amazing how quickly your body can adapt and I felt like mine was starting to get with the program. Yay! The walk up to the hut was one of my favourite approaches to a hut. We walked straight up through this beautiful green bowl shaped valley. We could see Grossglockner ahead up high with it's peak in the clouds. The clouds came in and swooped around us, it was dark and rainy but it felt fresh.
After 4 hours we arrived at the hut at 2802m and boy were we in for a treat! Charley had vaguely mentioned something about the Austrian's really taking it to town with their mountain huts but I had never seen anything like this. It was modern, clean, had inside loos and toilet paper! "They've got beer on tap" Charley said, his eyes lighting up as he checked our names against our reservation. We dumped our kit in the drying rooms, put on the hut slippers and headed into the dinning area. Thankfully it was only 20 minutes until dinner was served as we were both really hungry. What a feast. The courses consisted of soup, salad, mains and desert. Wow.
I could see the clouds had parted leaving a gorgeous sunset so I went outside to absorb it and let the food go down. By 10pm we were in bed and ready to catch some shut eye.
DAY 5: Monday 4th August
Breakfast at 5am was another treat, we filled up on granola, fruit and muffins before our alpine start. Charley had chosen the Studlgrat route a classic grade 4, AD+ alpine ridge leading up to the summit of Austria's highest peak. We loved it. We moved together and pitched the trickier sections. Charley was in his element, I don't think he stopped smiling the whole way up!
5 hours later, at 10:35 am we stood on the summit at 3798m and took a few moments to take it all in before heading down the other side of the mountain.
Suddenly, something changed. I can't pinpoint exactly what it was, probably because it wasn't one thing but a combination of everything. Standing on the summit I felt a flood of relief. We'd made it and in good time. We were happy and confident one minute and the next I just didn't feel the same. Whatever it is that normally helps me feel strong and confident in this environment, I felt like I'd lost it. There's no point in dwelling too much, but it's safe to say that a loose, rocky descent with slushy snow 3700 metres high and suddenly feeling tired will be enough to rock me a little. In that moment I was fully aware of how dangerous mountains are. Half of a wrong foot and the consequences could be fatal. What doesn't break you makes you stronger though, right?!
Charley was my rock and helped me feel more and more confident and secure with each step down. We descended the mountain in a total white out but we attracted a bit of attention in our bright Haglofs gear! Later on, we got chatting to some of the other climbers about our adventure and they were suitably excited by the prospect of it all.
Climb your mountain
The thing about climbing mountains that I like, and sometimes, dislike in equal measure is that there's no one who can get you off other than yourself. You go in there armed with the best you have from your body and mind, all your skills and knowledge about climbing, the weather and the route and you just have to do the best you can and deal with whatever comes your way. It's the challenge and combination between risk, endurance and beauty that keeps us coming back for more.
You can do anything and proving that to yourself by climbing mountains is a pretty good place to start, in my opinion.
Check out our video: