Is this Italy?
The Zillertal Alps span the Austrian-Italian border. That wasn't always the case though; before the end of WW I it was wholly part of Austria. The change didn't mean that the locals suddenly stopped speaking their own language (in most cases local dialects of German), or even remotely started to feel Italian for that matter, but that didn't stop it from happening. But in the following years, the Italian authorities tried to suppress German influences, and one of the measures was to give every feature in the area an Italian name.
These days the suppression is long gone. You hear German everywhere, and if you hear someone using an Italian name for a mountain, you immediately know it's not a local. The official name of the area is Süd-Tirol again, or Alto Adige in Italian. But whenever I go there, it feels more like being in Austria than in Italy to me. Don't get me wrong, I like Italy just as much as Austria. But somehow I keep coming back to Süd-Tirol. And so it happened that I was in the area again in the summer of 2014, armed with a set of maps, my knowledge from previous visits and not much else by way of information. Browsing my maps, I figured that some of the high peaks of the Zillertal Alps might be suitable for solo exploration. I asked around a bit more, which confirmed what I had hoped for, and set off.
Napfspitze (2888m) and the Edelrauthütte (2545m), located on the Eisbruchjoch
- On the first day I took it easy. I hiked from the Neves Stausee / Lago di Neves to the Edelrauthütte, and, after dropping my pack, made a quick ascent of the Napfspitze / Cima Cadini. It was an easy scramble, but I did need my hands.
Approaching the Hochfeiler summit ridgeThe second day I climbed the highest peak in the group, the Hochfeiler / Gran Pilastro, which was a much longer day. But as I would return to the hut, I only had a day pack, so I could be fast. For the record, I brought crampons and ice axe, and I used them. Without them, the final summit ridge would have been quite tricky. I probably still would have headed up there, but that's easy to say, since I didn't have to make that decision for real.
- Still a bit tired, I opted for a relaxed third day and scrambled my way up the Hoher Weißzint / Punta Bianca, again as a day trip. The normal route was easy climbing (up to UIAA grade II) and I was enjoying myself. As suggested by the hut warden, I didn't descend the way I had come, but, from the summit, I quickly dropped down to the Gliederferner / Ghiacciaio del Gran Pilastro, west of the mountain, and from there I easily made my way to the Obere Weißzintscharte, where I joined the normal route again. As the warden had said, the descent route was indeed easier - but it does involve a short distance on the glacier (including crossing a small bergschrund) which, depending on the snow cover, can be risky, so it depends on the conditions whether this route is suitable for soloing. If you're in the area and consider doing this, ask the hut warden.
Großer Möseler from the southeastThe fourth day was a long one again, not least because I was slow, thanks to having to carry all my gear this time. I hiked the Neveser Höhenweg to the Chemnitzerhütte, which by itself isn't a big day, but I tossed in a big side trip to climb the Großer Möseler / Gran Mesule. Since the weather didn't look all too reliable when I started the climb, I didn't drop my big pack but hauled it up with me, with full bivvy gear (including a very warm sleeping bag), so if things turned sour I could hunker down and safely wait until it got better. Fortunately, the bad weather held back, though the clouds left me with very limited summit views. But only minutes after I started down, the sun came back out and stayed with me more or less for the rest of the afternoon.
- Next morning I was up before dawn, for I had planned one more big day. However, the heavens had opened. It was fortunate that I was in a hut instead of bivvying somewhere, but the rest of my plans where washed out with the rain. But still, I had done a fair bit of exploration. The rest will have to wait for another year.
External LinksHistory of South Tyrol on wikipedia