Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hiking in South Tyrol -- Day 2

One of the many rock piles made by hikers.
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Hiking up mountains is very healthy. It's actually one of the healthiest pastimes one can have besides sipping wine. Hiking down mountains is just stupid. It's hard on your knees, your ankles and your last nerves. Our second day of hiking in South Tyrol was not a happy one. OK, half the day was happy; half the day was OW OW OW OW OW.

The way we usually roll: we hike up a mountain that has a lift to take us back to the valley. Many of the peaks in South Tyrol have these, so null problema, si? On Day 2 I left the planning up to Andrew the mountain goat breeder. Actually I always leave the planning up to Andrew the mountain goat breeder. Andy, well, he screwed it up on Day 2. The supposedly wondrously steep and grueling trail he'd picked out was closed, so we had to go with Plan B, whatever that was. I'm just the guy singing with Maroon 5's "Payphone" in the passenger's seat.

Day 2 might change my perspective on who controls the route. We ended up starting at the Hochmuth station above Dorf Tirol. We've been there before, and we've hiked in the Texel mountains group. I was not deterred in any way. I love the Hütte at Hochmuth. They have a great salad there. OK, I'm a simple guy.

The last few meters.
The hike was steep all the way to the peak--just like I like it. The last 200 meters was practically straight up. I kept turning around to tell Andrew the mountain goat breeder to be careful. "Don't let your extra pounds throw you off balance!" I kept yelling as he kept giving me the finger. "Lean your mass into the mountain!" I demonstrated. Finger.

Of course we made it to the peak with little difficulty. It's not Everest. The peaks in South Tyrol--and in the region generally--have crosses, although I think there's one that has a Buddha. The peak above Hochmuth is a pile of enormous rocks. Really. Just a big pile of rocks with a cross stuck in the middle. When we got there, there were three hikers writing in the book that hangs from the cross. What do people write in these books? I've never been inspired to do this.
OK, actually this is the last few meters.
As we ate our lunch at the top, sitting on the pile of rocks, we considered our next move. Actually Andrew the mountain goat breeder was considering more than I was. He had the map. I don't read maps. Ick.

"We could go down that way." Andrew the mountain goat breeder pointed to what looked like a sheer drop through the rocks but was actually a path (for mountain goats I assumed). "It leads back to Hochmuth."

"How many hours?" I asked. "And how much would we have to walk downhill?"

"About three hours. I don't think it's so steep."

I looked down through the fissure in the rocks. "Heh?"

"Well, after that bit." He pointed to the path in the distance. It did seem to level out. There were a couple of hikers approaching the peak from that side.

"I'm game." Why am I always game? I should change this aspect of my personality.

There were rewards. The descent wasn't so difficult. After a while we came to an enormous rock, and when I say enormous, I mean the size of a cathedral. I didn't take pictures of it because we were teetering around it holding on to a metal cable. But take my word for it: them hills are big.  We were having a lovely time.

Do not eat this.
At some point, however, we took a wrong turn. Wrong turns are always Andy's fault. Chris doesn't have the map ergo Chris doesn't have the fault. We were suddenly walking down the mountain in a grand, ugly way through spider-web tangled forests. My knees and my calves weren't happy about this at all. I was forced--forced--to walk like a 97-year-old man with arthritis, often sideways except when other hikers were present (at which time I of course pretended to be perfectly fine--Mr. Bean-style).

Eat this.
It took us six hours to get back to Hochmuth, where I ordered the biggest bottle of water they had and my salad. Service in mountain huts is notoriously awful. There's usually just one server for around 50 thirsty people. Hochmuth is no different, but at least the server is very friendly when she finally comes to the table.

Day 3 next time.

I must be off,

DAY ONE of Hiking in South Tyrol