Munich was my gateway into the Alps for this trip. I flew in the night of June 27 and found my AirBnB in the city center shortly before midnight. The apartment was located just off the Viktualienmarkt, a famous outdoor market a block away from Marienplatz.
I had a few hours before my train to Innsbruck the next morning, so I stepped out to enjoy some of Munich. To get a better view of the Neues Rathaus, I climbed the steeple of the adjacent St. Peter’s church. I also grabbed breakfast in the Viktualienmarkt, which was surprisingly quiet in the morning. Lastly, I wandered over to enjoy a bit of the very large Englischer Garten before heading back to the train station.
Stepping out of the station in Innsbruck, the first thing to hit me was the mountains looming over the building tops directly in front of me. I was in the Alps! The buses were waiting right outside as well, and I was able to quickly hop on one heading for the Stubaital valley.
Stubai is a range of mountains with beautiful glacially carved valleys just southwest of Innsbruck, in the heart of the Tyrolean Alps. I chose it for its proximity to Innsbruck (bus took just about a half hour), and because it’s home to a classic hut-to-hut route known as the Stubaier Höhenweg (Stubai High Trail). According to a Cicerone guide it is “generally considered to be the finest hut-to-hut route in the Eastern Alps,” a description I found both entertaining and enticing. The route is made up of 8 huts that form a horseshoe around the valley. Aside from the high trail connecting them, each hut also has trails back down to the valley, meaning you can start or end wherever you’d like.
The Stubaital Valley has a string of pretty villages, and to start my hike, I got off at Fulpmes, which sits below my first destination, the Starkenburger Hütte.
Suddenly, the sky was looking dark and my phone showed thunderstorm possibilities. The next minute it was raining and I went through the soon-common ritual of un-stuffing my rain jacket, moving my camera underneath it, and attaching the rain cover to my pack.
I decided I would use the gondola to cut the first hike from 4 to 2 hours. Stopping at the Visitors Center for a map, the woman inside didn’t seem concerned at all. However, at the gondola ticket booth, the cashier had the complete opposite opinion (although was still willing to sell me a ticket)! Missing my first night in the huts would have thrown a wrench in things, so I decided to go for it and embarked on a windy gondola ride into the cold and clouds feeling a bit uneasy.
When I got out, the rain had mostly let up, but parts of the sky were still pretty dark so I got moving as fast as possible… meaning I only lingered for a couple of photos! Even with the weather, there was a great view of the Kalkkögel peaks, which are actually a kind of dolomite. Half sprinting, I crossed over the rocky landscape, getting my first taste of European trails (very well marked and deeply carved into the mountainside) and caught sight of Starkenburger Hütte in just over an hour. En route, I saw a marmot but no other hikers, which added to my urgency.
Starkenburger Hütte was one of the more rustic and traditional-feeling huts that I stayed in. It was a simple stone and wood building with dark wood paneling inside. For a safety deposit of €10 they provided me with an awesome pair of clogs to wear inside. I stayed in the dormitory, which was actually a separate building behind the main hut. Because of the weather and being early in the season, I was the only person in the dorm building! It felt like being exiled when I walked out into the dark for bed while everyone else simply went upstairs.
I chose to order the half pension at all the huts I stayed at rather than ordering food à la carte. It was a great deal (usually around €45 for dinner, bed and breakfast) and also helped me eat things I wouldn’t have known to order. At Starkenburger, they served a creamy soup, a nice salad and pasta bolognese. I supplemented that with beer and apple strudel, as I did most nights.
The hut was run by a husband and wife and a younger girl working there for the summer. She said she stayed 6 days a week up in the hut and one day down in Fulpmes. They didn't speak much English, and I only had basic phrases of German (I wished I had spent more time learning, but researching the trip itself took so much time). Even so, everyone was very friendly and I was aided by two older Scottish hikers, one of whom spoke German. They had more experience hiking in the Alps than I did and we had a good time talking and eating together.