We are relaxing in the lovely Bavarian town of Oberstdorf in southern Germany after having trekked for the last 7 days through the Allgäuer Alps, a fantastic mountain range which runs along the border of Germany and Austria. Read more about the trek and see more photos below!
Here we are, so stoked to finally be in the Alps after nearly six months of anticipation! And what an awesome place to spend our first night – at the Rappensee Hut, situated near an idyllic alpine lake surrounded by wildflower-filled green meadows and a trio of rugged peaks. Life is good!!!
Our main reason for choosing the Allgäuer Alps as our first trekking destination was to visit Claudia’s good friend Susanne who is working at one of the huts here for the summer. Claudia and I had planned to trek for two days before arriving at her hut, so we were surprised and thrilled to randomly see Susanne and her friend Dominik here at the Rappenseehütte! We immediately changed our plans to join them on their tour in the other direction from our planned route.
One of the great things about trekking in the Allgäuer Alps is the nearly constant vistas that surround while hiking. The photo above looks north towards the town of Oberstdorf which is located in the valley at the upper right, nearly 1600m (5,250 ft.) below.
The Allgäuer Alps are known for their wildflowers and did not disappoint! The basin near the Kemptner Hut, our second hut of the trek, was verdant green and filled with wildflowers. This basin reminded me of Fravert or Wetterhorn Basins back home in Colorado, only more vertically oriented!
A hike down from the mountains, a couple bus rides, and a hike up the other side of the valley brought us to the Fiderapasshütte, where Susanne is working for the summer. We stayed there for two nights to visit more with her and relax for a full day.
The classic trek through the Allgäuer Alps (of which we did an odd variation), is often referred to as the “Steinbock Tour” because of all the wild steinbock (aka ibex) that live in these mountains. These are young ones above, be we saw many of them with their large majestic curving horns.
From the Fiderapasshütte, the route becomes a klettersteig (aka via ferrata) – a high ridge route with fixed cables and ladder rungs where needed. Using a climbing harness with two short ropes with locking carabiners, it’s possible to safely climb fairly burly routes without technical climbing skills.
Here Claudia is about to descend a big vertical rock face via a long series of ladder rungs embedded into the rock. The Mindelheimer Klettersteig route continues all the way up the ridge seen in the photo.
Now climbing up that ridge, looking back at the ridge from the previous photo.
Heading towards the Mindelheimer Hut. Alpine huts are a deeply engrained part of the culture here in the Alps, where people have been living up high in the mountains for many generations. Unlike the relatively wild mountains of North America where it’s necessary to bring all your camping gear and food, here in the Alps you can carry a light pack and sleep in the huts where they also cook delicious meals and even provide beer and wine!
Every hut has a different character and feel; some are small and cozy while other large ones can be a somewhat commercial affair. But so far they’ve all been friendly and welcoming. The huts can sleep a surprising number of hikers – the Mindelheimer Hut above can accommodate something like 200 people! Usually everyone sleeps side by side on sleeping pads in long dormitory rooms, but sometimes it’s possible to get a smaller room with less people (and less snoring). If there’s an overflow of people, like over the weekends, they have extra emergency pads so people can sleep in the dining room or hallways. Fortunately we haven’t had to do this yet!
After the Mindelheim Hut we headed to the Widderstein Hut and climbed up the Widderstein – at 2533m, another prominent peak of the range.
Although the Allgäuer Alps are not nearly as famous as other mountains in the Alps, I couldn’t be more impressed so far!
I will update this post when I’m back home in December to add all my landscape shots from the trek. UPDATE 9/26/13: I have added my landscape photos from this trek, taken with a Canon SLR (you can tell which ones these are by the Print-ordering links below them).
As a sidenote for any photographers reading this, all the hiking photos above were taken with a Ricoh GR, which I picked up in Dresden before heading down here. I had become increasingly frustrated with the Fujifilm X100S and its limited, quirky firmware.
Using the Ricoh GR is a breath of fresh air; its firmware capabilities are so far beyond Fujifilm’s offering it’s silly. It almost makes you embarrassed for Fujifilm, for powering their cameras with such a weak, limited firmware. Ricoh, on the other hand, has clearly put very much effort into developing a kick ass firmware system which allows you to control and customize virtually every aspect of the camera, and to save all those customizations into three custom settings which are immediately accessible with the control dial. Using the GR makes me realize what a neanderthal the X100S is in comparison. If you’ve used both cameras you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
I’ve also found that I love the GR’s wider 28mm lens in the mountains. Time after time I was glad to have that wider view, and the 35mm crop option is still available for times when I want it. Such a better solution than the Fujifilm 35mm lens with the clumsy 28mm wideangle converter.
I won’t post a full review here now, but in short the Ricoh GR is a very well thought out camera and a pleasure to use. The Fujifilm X100S is now sitting in storage until I can go back home and sell it. I’m glad to have sorted this out at the beginning of our big trip!