Hiking in Ehrwald, Austria

If I could insert googly-eyes, I’d do it.

I know we’ve only been in Munich for 2 months, but I’ve been dying to get to the mountains. So, when a soon-to-be-whenever-Germany-lets-Shane-finally-work (ugh) colleague invited us to tag along on a day trip to the Alps, we jumped at the chance. So, last Friday we headed (only) an hour and a half south to Ehrwald, Austria.

The hike starts at the Ehrwalder Almbahn – the village’s cable car – and loops around the mountain, following signs to the Seebensee (Seeben Lake). Head around the lake and take the path straight ahead (and up) to the Coburger Hütte (hut) for some refreshments and a nice view of the next lake, the Drachensee. To return, backtrack past the Seebensee and keep right following the signs for the Almbahn. Finally, a left on to the Immensteig Trail cuts down the mountain and back to the parking lot.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Wrong.

Can you spot me? (Photo thanks to Justin & Alice)

“It’s rated as difficult, but it’s only 800 m of elevation gain, so it can’t be that hard!”

From the 800 m elevation gain (~2600 ft), 12.5 km distance (~7.5 mi), some scrambling, and some “oh shit” moments – this route earns it’s difficult rating, but man, it was worth it!

Ehrwald village in the background.

The hike itself started out easy enough. Were my quads already burning? Sure. Was I embarrassingly out of breath after a whole 5 minutes? Absolutely. Regardless, we trudged on, my lungs figured out this whole ‘altitude’ thing, and we headed for the Seebensee.

The start.
Up we go!

It may have “only” been a total of 800 m in elevation gain, but I swear the first half of the hike was nothing but up. It was one of those experiences where you can SEE the top, but the top never seems to get any closer. Luckily, there were some built in break spots with phenomenal views – which you needed to start the next portion of our “probably not that difficult” adventure. The scrambling. At least there were cables, right?

Started from the bottom now we’re here. -Drake. (Literally, we started at the parking lot in the photo.)
Mountain-mounted handrail cables.

After about 3 hours (from the start) we arrived at the first lake – the Seebensee! The water was incredibly clear and there were lots of people – families with small children included – sunbathing and swimming. Obviously, there was an alternate route to the Seebensee…

Seebensee – Coburger Hütte straight ahead!

At this point, we were hot & had been promised a hut with beer. We didn’t realize it yet, but we could literally see our destination. We had a little more work to do first…

An unexpected bonus? COWS! Free-range cows with giant bells! Apparently this is a ‘thing’ in the Alps. Sheep & cows are put out to graze wearing bells so their owners can find them again later. Too bad for you if you’re a sleepy cow – in this area, the bells were constantly ringing. For a while, you could only hear them, but we did eventually get close enough for a cow-photoshoot. They obviously see humans all the time because they didn’t give two shits about us.

Can I pet dat cowwww?
Caught in action.
My masterpiece. What a beauty.

I digress. Onwards and upwards to the hut! Thanks to my one track mind (nooo… not beer. Fanta, actually, with a beer accouterment. Does that make it a two-track mind?), I forgot to take a proper picture of the Coburger Hut. From above you could see the second lake, Drachensee. We intended to go swimming, but honestly it was kind of chilly up there! By the time we were properly refreshed we were also properly cold, so we skipped the swimming.

The hut from below.
The Drachensee from the hut.
View over the Seebensee from the Coburger Hütte (1910m, ~6250 ft).

After that, it was time to turn around! It was another ~2 hours back to the car. I think at this point, everyone was happy to be on flat ground for a while… little did we know we were going to be scrambling straight down the side of the mountain with those cables again.

Photo thanks to Alice.

So, note-to-self: Trust the hike ratings. It was certainly a difficult hike, but if you’re feeling fit and confident in your feet then it’s by no means unmanageable. Honestly, going up and down with the cables felt a little sketchy at first (especially going down), but you get the hang of it and it’s really fun! I would absolutely recommend this hike, and do it again.

Here’s a link to the hike on Komoot. And if you’re considering it, here’s what you can expect on the Immensteig Trail (at the end of the hike). Conversely, you can just be surprised, like we were. 😜

If you’re interested in the Seebeensea and the Coburger Hütte but a difficult hike isn’t for you, then I recommend checking out the official tourism website. They list all the trails and their difficulty.

Our group – Us, Josh, Alice, & Justin.
Drachensee.

Until our next mountain adventure –

Tschüss,

Whitney

Innsbruck/Ischgl, Austria

After nearly 3 years of living in Europe, we FINALLY went snowboarding in the Alps! 

It’s ironic that it has taken us this long as snowboarding was one of the opportunities we were most excited about when first moving – it’s the Alps after all! Luckily, the Sufrinkos wanted to come back for another taste of Europe and so we had no excuse to put it off any longer.  So, without further delay, I give you (as Whitney has so aptly named it)…

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The Shwitfrinko Snowboarding Adventure!


Innsbruck

Our adventure begins in Innsbruck, Austria.  For a quick back story, if you are going skiing in the Alps, you have multiple countries to choose from – Switzerland, France, and Austria are among the most popular.  We chose Austria for no other reason than we had yet to visit that country.  So, as I was saying, we began in Innsbruck.  For Whitney and I, it was a short one hour flight from The Netherlands.  For the Sufrinkos, not so much.  So the first day was just causal exploring of Innsbruck and jet lag recovery.

We stayed in Innsbruck for two more days, exploring more of the city,

completing an escape room,

alicia-sufrinko

and of course ringing in 2017/celebrating Whitney’s birthday!

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January 2 saw the end of our Innsbruck stay (we would return again at the end of the trip) and on to Ischgl for snowboarding!


Ischgl

For the next 5 days, we stayed in Ischgl.  When we arrived, the entire area had snow, but it was all man-made.  However, by day 2, the real snow started and we ended up with nearly a meter of fresh powder (2-3 ft).  The view from our room really shows the difference: from no snow to dog sleds in the period of 4 days!

Speaking of rooms, if you happen to travel to the Ischgl area, we cannot recommend Hotel Verwall enough.  Great family-run hotel with amazing food!

…conveniently located on the border of Ischgl, not-Ischgl.

The views from any given piste/gondala/mountain top in the area were spectacular! Photo credit to Brian for many of the snowboarding and scenery pictures, as he manned our camera for a large portion of the trip.

He also commandeered my phone…

As an added bonus, you can ski into Switzerland as part of the “Smuggler’s Run” challenge.  Two countries in one trip! Now Whitney can claim that she has been to Switzerland as well.

All-in-all, a fantastic snowboarding trip! Aside from the pictures posted here, I’ve also put together a video of the GoPro footage shot throughout.

Check it out!


Innsbruck – pt. 2

As I said before, we returned to Innsbruck after snowboarding for one more day before our flights the next morning.  Despite the fact that we had already spent three days there, it was a completely different experience – no more holiday festivities and lots of snow!  Naturally, we spent the day indoors, relaxing in the hotel sauna and getting massages. The perfect end to a vacation!

Until next time,

Shane