|Page Type:||Trip Report|
|Lat/Lon:||47.07000°N / 10.15000°E|
|Date Climbed/Hiked:||Sep 7, 2015|
In the late summer of 2015, Marie and I spent 2 weeks staying in St Anton. The weather was very “mixed”, ranging from boiling hot clear, blue sky days at the start, through heavy rain and cold snowy days by the end of the trip.
Early on, we had noticed from the Valluga summit, an interesting looking peak in the Ferwall group of mountains to the south. It was a three headed peak – which Marie named “the Three-headed Dragon” – whose real name was Patteriol and according to what I had read in a local guide, was nick-named the “Matterhorn of the Ferwall.”
On a day that promised mostly sunshine, we got the local bus to the Salzhutte, the last stop in that valley at about 1500m high and set off walking from there.
We were surprised to find that there was no “hutte” at the Salzhutte, just the bus stop and a bench. The next hut along the track was the Konstanzer (1688m), which was about 90 mins away and we set off as fast as we could. We were in the deep shade and a cold wind was blowing into our faces from the higher mountains but soon we could see the Patteriol looking fantastic covered in a layer of new snow against a clear blue sky. It looked like a black, jagged tooth jutting upwards into the sky, frosted with white.
The track up the valley was popular with mountain bikers, which meant we were constantly looking over our shoulders in case we were about to be mown down!
It took us just over an hour to reach the Konstanzer hut and as we had a number of options available, we tried to decide what to from there.
As it was 10.20 am, we decided to just continue southwards on the path up the Fasultal and enjoy the views. However, as we warmed up in the sunshine, we started to regret our decision and wished we had headed up towards the Kuchenjoch – a pass at 2730m on the east side of the valley. According to our map, we would have had to have made that decision at the Konstanzer hut and taken a path at the Verwallalpe to cross the river but it was too late to return to that now, so we continued on our way.
At about 11.15am, we were surprised to find a small wooden bridge crossing the Fasulbach with a signpost which said “Schiebler – 4 hours.”
We had a chance to change our plan so I studied the map, this crossing was definitely not on it but it was easy to see where it was going.
“Schiebler is a peak about 250m above the Kuchenjoch.” I said. “If it takes 4 hours to get there, we should make the Kuchenjoch in 3 hours, which would be around 1.30 pm.”
“The last bus from the Salzhutte is at 5.25 pm, so that gives us 4 hours to get all the way back down and we have to stop for some lunch, might be cutting it a bit fine?”
I agreed but the decision had already been made and we decided to turn around at 2.00 pm at the latest, wherever we were.
We crossed the river and set off up the well-marked path. We made good time, heading upwards towards the huge Shark-fin shaped Kuchenspitze which was plastered with new snow and towered over our goal.
As we gained height, the views of the Patteriol improved with almost every footstep. It was amazing how the shape of the mountain changed as we got higher and it became more and more spectacular as we saw more of the black gneiss covered in snow.
We headed up the grassy slopes and was surprised to meet an exhausted looking man coming down. He passed us and just after that we noticed three hikers ahead of us moving upwards and just reaching the snow line. Had he turned around and left them or had he passed them on his way down?
Soon we were in the snow too. The temperature change was well defined. One minute, we were on a grassy hillside and then suddenly, we were walking through several inches of snow.
Time moved on. We crossed the snow-covered hillside and found we were scrambling over snow covered rocks with more frequency. Above us, a few clouds started to form in the sky and plunged us into frigid cold when they passed over the sun.
“I’m starving!” Marie exclaimed.
I looked at my watch, it was nearly 1.00 pm.
“We must be nearly there.” I replied looking up to the next outcrop of rocks. “I reckon that might be it.” I said more in hope than judgement.
We crossed the hillside to the rocks and followed the painted flashes upwards until we could see… more rocks.
“I’m stopping here for some food.” Marie said taking her rucksack off.
I nodded but was convinced we were nearly at the Kuchenjoch. I scrambled up the next section of rocks expecting to see a sign to mark the pass. Ahead, all I could see was the three hikers we had spied earlier, they too had stopped for lunch. Behind them I could see about another 30 mins of walking and then maybe the pass?
I reported back to Marie that we weren’t as close as I had thought and we dug out our food.
“If it is another 30 mins to get there and about 30 mins back, we won’t be back here again until around 2.30 pm.” Marie worked out. “Then we have less than 3 hours to get all the way back to the Salzhutte. It might be best to turn around now.”
“We are nearly there,” I said. “The views won’t be much better than this.”
We contemplated our situation, so near and yet….
At 1.20 pm we started on our way down, re-tracing the steps we had so recently taken. The snow was starting to melt around us and we noted that the prominent snow line on the surrounding mountains, was gradually getting higher up the hillsides.
As we descended, more clouds appeared in the skies and the vibrant views became more muted and greyer. We got some close-up views of Marmots as they emerged from their burrows although, they seemed to be quite used to seeing people.
After 2 hours of descent, we reached our bridge over the Fasulbach and sat there whilst we drank some water and ate some Jelly -baby sweets! Both of us were feeling tired and we still had a way to go.
Continuing down, we reached the Salzhutte at 4.45 pm, just in time for the 4.55 pm bus.
By then, the skies were cloudy and a cool damp wind was blowing down the valley. It seemed that autumn had already arrived and this was borne out as for the rest of the trip, we experienced similar weather.
The overriding memory I have of that day was of the Patteriol, the “Matterhorn of the Ferwall” looking resplendent in the sunshine. Black rock, white snow and an azure blue sky, the “Three-headed Dragon” rearing up from the gloomy valleys into the golden light.