Wanderwege im Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf:  Antje Pabst

10 Jul. 2016 · Summer Activities

Where the Ibexes Roam

I received an invitation quite a while ago. This invitation came from a local friend, hotelier, gourmet chef and fully trained hiking guide. 

I received an invitation quite a while ago. This invitation came from a local friend, hotelier, gourmet chef and fully trained hiking guide. ‘Just give me a ring when you are here again and we can do something together,’ he kept saying. However, even though opportunities seemed to present themselves, something always seemed to get in the way. Until this particular day last year during the time of the year that is perfect for autumn hikes. Things would finally work out.

Wegweiser im Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf:  Antje Pabst

One beautiful afternoon, the telephone range and I was delighted to recognise the voice on the other end of the phone. ‘I am going to the Widderstein tomorrow. Do you fancy coming too?’ I was more than happy to agree even though I had just been there by myself a few days previously. There was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to go on one of my favourite hikes again.

So, this is how I found myself the next morning at the Alpenhof Jäger Hotel becoming acquainted with the guests with whom I would be spending the day. Martin Jäger, the hotel’s senior chef and fully trained hiking guide, regularly accompanies his guests into the mountains and I am pleased to be permitted to join this group.
We set off on our trip in high spirits. First of all, we take the bus towards Bödmen. We then walk for a while along the River Breitach and then along the beautiful River Gemstelbach through Gemsteltal. There is ample opportunity to get to know each other during the morning as we walk along in a companionable group. It is great that the chemistry is just right. There is also ample opportunity to enjoy the fresh morning air, the tweeting of the birds, the chirruping of the crickets, the fresh morning dew and the first rays of sun.

Sicht ins Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf:  Antje Pabst

If you are familiar with this route, you will know that the ascent begins at Hinter Gemstelalpe. As I already know the route well, I walk ahead whilst Martin guides his troop of hotel guests safely over the slightly more tricky spots. He is also very generous with the amount of information he provides. We are repeatedly captivated by the delightful views down into the valley or into the Gemstelklamm Gorge as we make our way up to Ober Gemstelalpe.

We take a short break on the Ober Gemstelalpe and then I had a surprise. I believed until that point that we would now continue walking to the Widderstein. I couldn’t be more wrong! I had sometimes mentioned that I had often considered following the trail that branches off from Obergemstel in the direction of Geißhorn and the Mindelheimer Hütte, but that I had never ventured in this direction. It is only at this point (at 1,700 metres high, following a good two-hour walk) that I found out our journey’s true destination: Geißhorn, the Mindelheimer Hütte and a descent through the Kemptner Scharte.

Wanderwege im Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf:  Antje Pabst

It really was a great surprise! I felt as delighted as a small child about to open his Christmas presents. I am always in favour of discovering new trails and so a relaxing day turned into an exciting adventure.
We waved goodbye to the landlord at the Obergemstelalp who told us that he caught sight of ibexes in the morning who inhabit the Geißhorn. This is very exciting indeed. We make sure we keep our eyes peeled – will we also be lucky enough to see them?

We continue on the left-hand path, which is not particularly steep, towards the Sterzer Hütte. From the Sterzer Seele we continue up a path made up of numerous hair-pins until we reach the ridge and the Koblat border crossing point. I am astonished by how quickly and easily the metres of altitude have melted away beneath our feet. We have another short rest at the Koblatpass and we decide to split into two groups for a short while. The men still want to carry on to the summit of the Geißhorn and the women want to continue on the path in a northerly direction to the Mindelheimer Hütte.

Mindelheimer Hütte | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf:  Antje Pabst

Two hearts are now beating in my chest. I feel torn and wish I could split myself in two. It is such a hard decision to make. I finally decide to go with the ladies. The Geißhorn summit will still be there next summer and other goals and objectives are actually involved. After crossing the Schwabengrat and the Wilden Gund, we finally reach our very own personal piece of the Via Alpina (Alpine Way); the Mindelheimer Hütte which is the starting point for numerous hiking and climbing tours.

We have definitely earned some refreshments. You can really get a taste of the alpine world here: regional products, meat produced by the farmers in the valley, game from the Rappenalptal, cheese from the surrounding alps, hand-made pasta and home-made cakes. The roast beef with onions and gravy is always made from the largest oxen in the Allgäu region. We obviously took lots of photos to send along with exuberant, proud and joyful messages to our friends we left behind in the valley before we very quickly packed away our mobile phones so that they did not fall victim to the Handyausschalter (the mobile phone power-off switch) at the hut.

Hochgebirge im Sommer | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf:  Antje Pabst

After a long break and when the group had reunited, we continued up a slight incline towards the Kemptner Scharte. From here we embarked on a very exciting descent towards the Hinterwildenalpe. The narrow winding track, which is partially secured with ropes, twists its way towards Wildental across a precipitous scree escarpment. It is important not to get scared at this point; you need to be sure-footed and to avoid becoming dizzy. This is the only way to enjoy the ascent over this exposed terrain which is the ultimate icing on the cake of this tour.

We finally reach the Fluchtalpe and the day is rounded off with the final walk through Wildental.
This circular tour offers so many different vantage points and the opportunity to make fabulous memories when climbing to the summit of not just the Geißhorn, but also the Kemptner Köpfle. It features unique and extremely varied types of terrain, and fantastic panoramic views across the surrounding alpine landscape which I couldn’t even begin to describe. It is a difficult tour which requires a moderate amount of sure-footedness and especially a good level of fitness as you will be walking between seven and eight hours. The tour is approximately 18 kilometres long and involves an increase in altitude of 1,400 metres.
If you are able to engage wholeheartedly in the tour, I can promise you a truly fabulous day in the mountains. I did the Geißhorn circular tour for the first time last September, however, it certainly won’t be the last time. I still need to conquer the summit!

>>> The mountain tour

Rund um den Widderstein  | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: Dominik Berchtold

This article might also interest you:

Route check around the Widderstein

‘So, what do you do after work?’ – ‘I put many metres of altitude behind me.’
The fact I will berunning alongside them on the Widderstein Trail on the 29th July usually elicits an appreciative nod from the people I am talking to. Now and again, someone will give me a rather more pitying look.