Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Elbows and bottoms

Austria is mostly wonderfully organized, but it does miss one key item of outdoor equipment: decent maps. You can, if you are lucky, find a map of the local area (albeit usually not in most sports shops). If you manage to lay your hands on one, everything looks very clear and confidence inspiring. Until, that is, you actually try to use one to navigate. At this point you will find that the map bears only the most superficial resemblence to actual reality. Yes, there is a path here and a few roads there, but those switchbacks on the map merely mean that "the path winds around a bit here" and the topology of the road network is frequently a complete fabrication.

Today we checked out the route from the Gerlos Pass (near turnpoint three) towards the Zugspitze (turnpoint four). Jon, Richard and I hiked up from Gerlos to the open - but deserted - ski slopes above. Above us was blue sky and fluffy cumulus clouds, but also a moderate SW'ly wind. We launched into light leeside conditions and climbed out over the pass to 3000m. The views were stunning: deep green valleys, blue sky, and the perfect white of fresh snow on the alpine summits. Working our way north, we flew up the Zillertal valley (home of Kelly Farina's Austria Arena) and towards the Innsbruck airspace to land at the corner by Jenbach. A short and exceptionally scenic flight, but we also learned valuable lessons about this critical section.

From Jenbach we explored further along the route around the Innsbruck airspace, up until the eastern slopes of the Zugspitze.

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