Base Camp - Searching for an Alm

Sat 09 Aug 2003
Mark Shinwell

Idea was to find the alm visible from the stone bridge (and much of the walk-in) - obvious large grassy patch in a saddle between two hills. Bearing from the stone bridge was 250degrees.

Initial reckonings were that the alm was Hinterer Sandlingalm, also known as Pitzingalm. We went first by road to Bad Ischl, and tried to get access to the alm without a long walk. Unfortunately the way from near Rettenbachalm (the place which is probably the source of the two close-together lights visible at night from the stone bridge) was blocked by a locked barrier at the foot of the Grabenbach valley. We also tried access from [illegible] but the road said "residents only" and we went back - would have been a very long way round anyway.

Went back to Altaussee to try access from the head of the salt mine road. You drive up the road to a large car park, then continue (up the Forststrasse) to the prominent left bend visible on the map, where there is a wooden building on the right and some old cart rails. (Started walking at 4.30pm.) Path leads off uphill, after some while crossing a ski run, to arrive at Sandlingalm. Just above the huts, a path to the right (signed Pitzingalm & marked with single red stripes on the trees) diverges from the main path (marked with the usual Austrian markers). Following the new path downhill through the woods emerges at a grassy area - turning left and following the path over logs placed across bogs leads to Pitzingalm, and a junction to the right with another main path.

Now, unfortunately by this time it was obvious that Pitzingalm was not the correct place, as there was no view of the Schwarzmooskogel ridge. Arse. Next we walked to Pitzingmoos on the main path, but this was obviously not the correct place either. Mark suggested thrashing westwards [No, I don't know why he's talking about himself in the third person either - editor] in the trees (actually easy) as it looked more open up there. This soon hit a much bigger track which we identified on the map, dropping to a point with a quarried (?) section on a corner. (Again this is marked on the map.)

Consulting the map, we identified Hütteneckalm as a next possible target. We actually soon saw this alm, from our newfound path, and it was immediately obvious that it was the intended destination. However, it was not obvious as to how to reach it. Despite it being a relatively small horizontal distance away - and not very much higher than us - a big stream valley was in the way. The alternative route would have been to go back to Pitzingalm and then to Hüttenbachalm via the Lambacherhütte path (201). However, the latter was too far - it being nearly 6pm - so we decided to descend down the current path and then thrash directly up a stream (!) (Mark's idea - Olly) which would then lead directly to Hütteneckalm. Thankfully common sense got the better of us, and when we spotted a path on the other (south) side of the stream which we were descending towards, we followed it - despite the map showing it ending some way from our destination. However, from that point it didn't look on the map to be too much further to the Aml - at least the path would gain us most of the height.

Anyway, we soon reached the end of the path. Two tiny cairns heralded the way on - a tiny path which continued for what seemed like ages. Some thrasing through greenery and assorted undergrowth was required (no bunde tho' !) - but the "path" did eventually pop us out at the bottom of the Alm at about 7pm or so. We were knackered. Just as well we hadn't tried climbing up the original stream valley - looked very steep.

So, there we were on the Alm. Slogged up it to arrive at an area of felled/burnt trees, with (finally) the elusive view of the Schwarzmooskogel ridge we had wanted. (Photos on Expo website.) Looks a long way away and somewhat unremarkably flat - the most striking thing is the distances between the Nieder Augst-Eck/Griesskogel/Wildkogel etc, which is revealed far better from this angle.

Anyway, there we were having walked for ages with no easy way back to the van and under 2 hours of daylight left. Error! We'd thought that we were in for an easy walk and thus didn't have any lights.

The options were two: either to return down the tiny path, thence go (up!) to Pitzingalm and back the way we had come originally to that point. Alternatively, we could go on the main path to the Lambacher Hütte, thence to Vorderer Sandlingalm and then to Sandlingalm, to rejoin the route we'd come on at the junction where we had previously turned off to Pitzingalm.

Given the situation we decided on this second option, as it would keep us on major paths. We headed to the top of Hütteneckalm to start off. There, we found a couple of huts and a Gasthof(!) - plus several cars. There were many merry people being amused outside the Gasthof by a gentleman in some weird garb which I didn't quite understand. Given the cars, we resolved to return on another occasion by road if possible - drinking bier up there would be entertaining adn the place also has FANTASTIC views of the Dachstein range. Would be well worth photographing, when the sun's in the right direction (early morning maybe? not sure).

And so we set off, climbing to reach the Lambacherhütte after quite a lot of path. Took about 50 minutes. Still light. Continued down to Vorderer Sandlingalm, by which time a sunset was starting - nice clouds in the sky (see photo on website). From here, the path was thankfully easy until Sandlingalm. By this time light was fading and it was hard to see in the trees - in the open a nearly-full moon helped a lot.

We definitely set off from this Alm on the correct path, but by now it was dark and Mark's misremembering of the position of a junction (thought to be later than it was) contributed to us losing the marked path (Olly was convinced we were still on the correct path, but Mark wasn't sure). Anyway, we emerged at the top of the aforementioned skirun instead of halfway up it, as we should have. Descended the skirun to the correct path, thankfully obvious. Sometime about now Olly discovered that his digital camera could give quite a lot of light, so we kept that in reserve - saving batteries and not disturbing our night vision. Mark rang Base Camp sometime about now on his mobile, in case someone had come down the hill during the day and was now worrying about us. However, it turns out that we'd accidentally taken the keys to the spud hut with us (precautions against Romany nicking things at Base Camp) - they were languishing in the van! Turns out that Earl + Frank had come down the hill & couldn't get into the spud hut. Since we'd had to take Frank's tent down earlier in the day, as the gypsies had slashed it and Hilde wanted it moved (the gypsies had claimed it was in the way of them oving their caravans, when Hilde asked them to move the caravans so as to accomodate more guests), then he didn't have anything to sleep in. They didn't want to disturb Hilde and so went back up the hill - already late, they were delayed even more by a bottle of squash exploding in Frank's car and needing to be cleaned up. They ended up walking in the dark, presumably without lights. Meanwhile, we were also walking in the dark. Progress was slow but steady - it was hard to see the rocks, pipes, roots, trees and assorted obstacles along the way with only a hint of moonlight to guide us.

However, courage prevailed. No wild animals were encountered and we didn't hurt ourselves. Reached the track near the end of the walk, where the normal route would be to continue down the hillside on the other side of the track to the parking space. However this would have meant more walking down very dark, steep sections and so we took the main road/track back to the van - a lot further but safer and easier.

We reached the van at 10.10pm, a little spaced out. Ate a Tunnocks and then fucked off to Base Camp to get pissed.

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Survex files on this date:
Wallets on this date:
    2003#37 ['notes2', 'notes1', 'plan', 'elev']
Logbook trips on this date:
    Base Camp - Searching for an Alm
    Base Camp - Searching for an Alm (Abridged) (Olly's Pissed Rant)