I woke up with a start in the Franz Senn attic when I noticed bright light streaming through the window. After two days of hiking through the clouds I immediately jolted up and ran to the window. Outside, the mountainside was glistening green in the morning sun and higher above me a dusting of snow powdered the ground.
On the far side of the attic was a door to a fire escape, so I grabbed my camera and ran out onto the metal railing. Before me, I could see a deep valley stretching back to where I had set off from the day before.
The hike to the next hut, Neue Regensburger Hütte, was shorter than the day before’s, so I decided to first climb to the Rinnensee, an alpine lake about 1.5 hours' hike above Franz Senn hut.
On a map, the path to the Rinnensee looks very short, but it was basically straight up! The trail zig-zagged up the steep mountainside north of the hut, past a stream from yesterday and up above the snow line—a bracing start to the day. At one point, I was ambushed by a group of sheep who all came running down the hill to crowd the path in front of me.
After almost an hour I reached a level area, which I at first thought was the lake. Did it dry up? Looking more closely, I saw that the trail continued through loose rock over another ridge and beyond. Climbing over the rocks was a little tricky since they were covered in snow—I had to be really careful with my footing, and the painted signs were harder to find.
I clambered over the rocks for about 20 minutes before the Rinnensee revealed itself in a higher pocket. It was glassy smooth and a mix of glacial turquoise and white reflected from the snow and clouds. I had it completely to myself. Above me, the Rinnenspitze towered like a mini Matterhorn. I changed lenses to get a closer shot looking across the lake to the mountains across the valley, but a fast-moving cloud swept in and hid most of the view!
Eager to start the hike to the next hut, I tried to get back down to Franz Senn as fast as possible. I was hindered by a sharp pain that developed on the outside of one knee, which seemed to hit me out of nowhere...
Once back down, I quickly refilled my water at Franz Senn and set off to my next hut, Neue Regensburger. The sun was out again, and the luscious landscape felt like the Shire, green and intersected by streams and waterfalls. Franz Senn lies in an offshoot of the main Stubaital valley, so I was hiking around and over the intervening mountain ridge.
The beginning was easy and mostly level, with amazing views out over the edge of the mountains I was skirting. Eventually the trail cut back and steeply up a rocky chute that had water flowing down over it. It started to rain lightly (great timing). At the top, I reached another landing crisscrossed with streams and higher ridge above it. I stopped on a large boulder and ate my lunch I had made out of the breakfast meat and cheese selection. It was dry but good. The section over the next wall was very steep with lots of little hand holds and support structures. For as high up as it looked, it went pretty quickly though.
Once again, I underestimated how far I had to go. This was not the top, just the entrance to another, even higher bowl which I had to cross and climb the far side of. Far ahead in the bowl I could see two tiny specks moving among the scree: the two Scottish hikers I had been eating with (they had not gone to the Rinnensee).
At this point my knee was really hurting me. I made it across the rocky bowl and worked my way up endless turns on the far side, eventually pushing through a final, long diagonal stretch to the final (real) ridge. The Scottish guys were up there taking a break and I dropped my bag and my butt quickly. The ridge was windy, cold and topped with a large windswept snow bank.
I had to do some rock climbing to get around the snow bank, and the way down the far side was steep, but less rock-filled. The views of the mountain walls in the main valley were great. I couldn’t yet see the hut, but knew it must be hiding around a corner somewhere.
After going down for a while, the trail cut to the right around the side of what I had been coming down. At this point I could see Neue Regensburger Hütte sitting on the lip of a saddle with a waterfall tumbling down in front of it. The hut was white with a red roof and bright red shutters and was the prettiest I had seen so far. It was a straight shot over a few cold streams and past some livestock and then I was there.
I loved Neue Regensburger Hütte not only because it was so picturesque, but also because it was family run, with a homey atmosphere and delicious fresh food. They put me in a shared room, but I ended up having it to myself.
They made the best cappuccino and also treated me to a round of their Schnapps. They also had incredible homemade cakes and strudel. I accidentally ordered my cream cake “mit sahn” (with cream) which really confused the chef. I ended up with more cream than I could eat but it was good.
I had a chance to talk with one of the hut workers who said she had just studied in Montana (veterinary science) and was eager to talk about the US. The host family themselves were also very friendly and I was envious of their young children who got to spend their summers up in the mountains every year.