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A high mountain walk (and a tumble) in the Gaistal Valley, Austria

It’s become an annual ritual for my friend Julia and I to take off for a few days in early September for some hiking in the mountains. Over four years we walked the Tour de Mont Blanc and revelled in the high mountain passes and physical challenge. Last year our walk in the Serra de Tramuntana of Mallorca was beautiful but just a little tame. Perhaps a few days hiking with Headwater Holidays in the Tirol region of Austria would give us the chance to test ourselves in the mountains while returning to a comfortable hotel each night and not a bunk bed in sight.

Heather and Julia set off from Hotel Xander in Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather and Julia set off from Hotel Xander in Austria

For our first day’s walk we decided on the Gaistal Valley since it could be easily reached direct from the hotel and promised some great views without too many extremes of altitude. As we left Hotel Xander the sun was already warm, the path meandering through the traditional houses in the hamlet of Kirchplatzl. We felt the order of this Tyrolean community in the well-kept houses, each with a painted name and vibrant flowering window boxes bursting with the energy of the mountain air and copious amounts of plant feed.

Walking through Kirchplatzl in Tirol, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking through Kirchplatzl in Tirol, Austria

The gravel track wound gradually upwards through forest with occasional gaps in the trees where we could see a field of horses or piles of freshly mown clover that would be dried for winter fodder. With a forecast of several days of sunshine ahead of us, the farmers were literally making hay while the sun shines.

Walking into the Gaistal Valley, Tirol, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking into the Gaistal Valley, Tirol, Austria

As the track curved upwards we could hear the sound of rushing water and found a bench to overlook the Klammbach Gorge where the mountain river was tumbling over the rocks below us. We left the gravel track on a much steeper climb, picking our way over the forest roots on the path. The sunlight was dappled through the pines with lush grass speckled with blue cornflowers and baby pines trees pushing up to make the next generation of forest.

Walking through forest in the Gaistal Valley, Tirol, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking through forest in the Gaistal Valley, Tirol, Austria

Finally at the top of the forest trail we reached the Wettersteinhutte, a mountain hut with a terrace overlooking the valley below. Red geraniums and hanging baskets were blooming in every corner and cheerful red sun umbrellas completed the inviting scene. We took a seat by the balcony and ordered a couple of the beers from the crates that were cooling in the water trough.

Walking to Wettersteinhutte in the Gaistal Valley, Tirol, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking to Wettersteinhutte in the Gaistal Valley, Tirol, Austria

The Gaistal Valley is well known for the many huts that serve the thirsty walker, serving wholesome and hearty fare using local cheese, sausages and other mountain produce. We were hoping to continue up the valley to discover some other huts that we had been recommended for lunch, especially the Tillfussalm hut that we heard made cheese and dairy produce that they served in their cafe.

Wettersteinhutte in the Gaistal Valley, Tirol, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Wettersteinhutte in the Gaistal Valley, Tirol, Austria

Unfortunately we never made it to any other huts, since it was soon after we left the Wettersteinhutte that I took a tumble. Julia was well ahead of me due to my habit of stopping every few minutes to take photos. The path was flat but narrow and open to one side with a steep grassy slope below. Somehow I missed my footing on the side of the path, over balanced and rolled down the slope a few times until I managed to stop myself. I sat for a while in shock, trying to assess the damage and realised that my right ankle had been twisted quite badly, although thankfully nothing seemed to be broken.

Walking in the Gaistal Valley, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Soon after this I took a tumble and twisted my ankle

For a while I shouted constantly, calling Julia’s name, but she was too far down the path and couldn’t hear me. No other walkers came along the path above me. Cautiously I inched my bottom up the slope and little by little made it back up to the path. Thankfully I could walk on my ankle and hobbled along for another 10 minutes until I found Julia waiting for me. We assessed the situation and I took some of the painkillers I had in my small medical kit while Julia found a stout stick from the forest to help me walk. As we followed the path back down to the valley I reflected on the lessons I should learn from this tumble;

  1. I normally use walking poles on these mountain walks but had left them in the hotel, a mistake I won’t make again since I feel sure I wouldn’t have lost my footing with them.
  2. My husband always keeps a small whistle attached to his walking rucksack for attracting attention in an emergency – just the kind of emergency that there would been had my ankle been broken rather than just twisted.
  3. After the tumble Julia and I decided to make a rule that we should stay within sight or at least shouting distance of one another.

Luckily there was no major harm done and we were passed by an elderly German couple who seeing the wooden staff told me “These poles are much better for your knees and legs!” Yes, I think I had learned that lesson now!

Walking down through the Gaistal Valley in Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking down through the Gaistal Valley in Austria

Our plans for visiting the huts further down the valley that we’d been told were great for lunch had to be abandoned, since it was now a case of getting down the mountain and assessing the damage. Already I knew we’d have to move from the more advanced ‘2 boot’ walks to the more gentle ‘1 boot’ walks in the Headwater Holidays walking guides.

Walking by the river in the Gaistal Valley, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking by the river in the Gaistal Valley, Austria

Arriving at the Salzbach car park, we followed the flat path that is also used by cyclists along the valley floor. The river was low, exposing the grey boulders with places where you could swim in the milky blue water. We crossed a bridge and looking up could see a small cave high up in the rock face with a crucifix and life sized religious figures, with a shrine to St Joseph on the road below it.

St Joseph's shrine in the Gaistal Valley Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Joseph’s shrine in the Gaistal Valley

As the valley widened out we reached the first village of Klamm and crossed the bridge to look for the farm shop that had been recommended to us. Gut Leutasch, we were told, was the place to buy cured sausages and pâté which were supplied to many of the restaurants in the area as well as local honey and fruit flavoured kirsch. Had it been lunchtime we could have sat at the table with a cup of coffee and a fresh bread roll filled with some of the cold meats or sausages of our choice.

Farm shop of Gut Leutasch at Klamm in the Gaistal Valley, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Farm shop of Gut Leutasch at Klamm in the Gaistal Valley, Austria

The path now took us across the meadows backed by the mountain slopes rising behind. This was truly the Alpine scene that is the image of rural Austria, with the fields of clover uncut in some places, in others with hay drying in neat rows and in places the fat, white plastic-covered bales of hay neatly stacked at the side of the field.

Walking back to Leutasch through the meadows Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking back to Leutasch through the meadows

As we passed the neat houses with playful scarecrows sitting next to a clump of sunflowers, I thought what a wonderful place it was to bring up a family in the mountains with so much open space and fresh air. Isn’t one of the fun things about being on holiday to imagine what it would be like to live somewhere else? Another half an hour and we were back at Hotel Xander, where I could rest my leg and we could plan a walking adventure for the next day that my ankle could manage.

More of our walking holiday in Austria

Day 2 – Hiking in Austria – the views from the cross at Seefelder Spitze in which we took the cable car from Seefeld up the ridge of Seefelder Spitze for 360 degree views over Seefeld and the surrounding valleys.

Day 3 – Hiking in Austria – a Rifleman’s Parade and Mental Power Walk at Seefeld</a in which we joined a traditional parade with local regiments in colourful uniforms, then walked back to our hotel along a forest walking trail with relaxation stations on the theme of mental wellbeing.

Day 4 – Hiking in Austria – the wild Leutasch Gorge and picturesque Mittenwald in which we explored the wild, rocky landscapes of the Leutasch Gorge and the picturesque painted houses of Mittenwald, before a final lakeside walk through glorious mountain scenery.

Back at Hotel Xander in Leutasch, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Back at Hotel Xander in Leutasch, Austria

Want to go walking in Austria’s Leutasch Valley?

Heather’s walking holiday in Austria’s Leutasch Valley was provided by Headwater Holidays – this 7 night walking holiday is based in Kirchplaztl at the 4 star Sporthotel Xander with over 450km of walking trails accessible direct from the hotel or via local bus, taxi and lifts. The holiday includes a full programme of self-guided day walks of 1 boot or 2 boot levels, depending on whether you prefer the gentle valley walks or the more challenging high altitude trails which are sometimes accessed via chair lifts and cable cars. The holiday includes detailed walking guides and maps, breakfast and dinner at the hotel, a packed lunch on walking days and flights/ transfers via Innsbruck. Prices from £669 per person.

Headwater Holidays are a leading UK specialist in self-guided walking, cycling and relaxed activity holidays that allow you to travel at your own pace and get closer to the places you visit. For more information check their Website | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | Pinterest | Instagram

More things to do in the Tirol region of Austria

For more information on things to do in the Tirol region of Austria visit the Tirol tourism website and follow their social media channels: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest. More information about things to do in Austria on the Visit Austria Website and information on the Seefeld Region on the Seefeld Olympia Region Website.

How to get to Leutasch Valley, Austria

Heather flew from Bristol to Munich with BMI Regional who fly 12 times each week on this route, so you often have a choice of 2 flights per day. The ticket includes 20kg checked baggage and full at-seat in-flight bar and snack service at no extra charge.

Transfers from Innsbruck airport are less than 1 hour’s drive to Leutasch and included in your Headwater Holidays package. If, like us you fly into Munich Airport, the transfer to Leutasch Valley takes around 2 hours and can be arranged through your hotel or holiday provider.

Hotel Xander in Leutasch, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Hotel Xander in Leutasch, Austria

Stay at Sporthotel Xander in Leutasch

Heather stayed at Sporthotel Xander in Leutasch as part of the walking holiday booked through Headwater Holidays. The hotel is a very comfortable 4 star hotel offering rooms, suites and apartments that are ideal for summer walkers or winter cross-country skiers. The other guests when we stayed at the end of August were mainly couples and a few families enjoying a late summer walking break. The hotel is used by several walking companies including Headwater Holidays.

Hotel Xander in Leutasch, Austria Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Hotel Xander in Leutasch, Austria

We stayed on a full board basis, with breakfast, packed lunch and evening meal and found the food to be of a very high standard with a 4 course meal every night and a 5 course gala meal on one of the nights we were there. The hotel has an indoor pool and spa although we did not use them since we were out all day walking and making the most of the fine weather. The hamlet of Kirchplatzl where the hotel is situated is mainly residential and the nearest shops are a 15 minute walk away in Weidach. The bus to Seefeld which runs several times a day stops right by the hotel.

We think Hotel Xander is a comfortable, traditional hotel that will suit keen walkers who want a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. If you are looking for a lively atmosphere, shopping or evening entertainment then you might be better to stay in Seefeld. Check more hotel options in Seefeld here.

Read more articles about how to prepare for a hiking trip here:

How to choose the perfect waterproof jacket for your hiking holiday
10 Things to Pack for a Walking Holiday

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Read about hiking in the Gaistal Valley, Austria with Headwater Holidays

Thanks to Headwater Holidays who hosted* Heather’s walking holiday, to the Seefeld Tourism board who provided some of the experiences mentioned and to BMI regional who provided Heather’s flight to Munich.

* More info on my policies page

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Barbara Weibel
    September 3, 2015 at 6:54 am

    Good heavens! I’m so glad you were OK. That could have turned out much worse. But it looks like the scenery you got to see was plenty gorgeous, even though you had to change routes.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      September 4, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      @Barbara It was gorgeous and we had great weather – despite the twisted ankle I managed to see everything the next few days

  • Reply
    Carly
    September 4, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Photos look amazing Heather, sorry you took a tumble..it’s the sort of thing I’m quite used to doing!

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      September 4, 2015 at 5:39 pm

      @Carly I’ve never had a fall like that before – I now will religiously use my walking poles

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    September 7, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    I do hope you are fully recovered now. I’m off hiking in Slovenia tomorrow (among other things). I’ve not really used poles before but have two to take with me. Having read this and knowing that I sometimes have problems with my knees and ankle, I’ll make sure I have them with me at all times!

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      September 7, 2015 at 10:52 pm

      @Kat I hope you have a great time hiking in Slivenia, I highly recommend walking poles for mountain slopes to steady yourself and take some strain off legs and knees.

  • Reply
    Catherine crone
    September 8, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Heather – no consolation for falling I’m sure, but your photos look fab! Looking forward to next instalment! Cheers Catherine

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      September 9, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      @Catherine – pleased you enjoyed the article

  • Reply
    J-Crew
    September 9, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Wow, hope you are well. I really enjoyed the beautiful hiking pics. Is Gaistal Valley far from Vienna? We are planning to travel through this area in the late Fall, so I would love to see check out some hiking options.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      September 9, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      @J-Crew So pleased you enjoyed the photos. The closest city to the Gaistal Valley near Seefeld is Innsbruck which is around 30 minutes away. Vienna is around 5 hours away I believe.

  • Reply
    2travellingsisters
    September 13, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Beautiful pictures of the valleys, it looks so inviting! Hope you ankle is fully recovered now! 🙂

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      September 15, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      @Travellingsisters – ankle still a bit sore but on the mend thanks!

  • Reply
    Mary @ Green Global Travel
    September 16, 2015 at 12:55 am

    Beautiful photos of the views and mountain peaks. Sorry to hear that you had a fall, but good thing it wasn’t too serious and you could still enjoy your hike!

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      September 17, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      @Mary Thanks – ankle on the mend but it didn’t spoil the trip

  • Reply
    Izy Berry
    September 16, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Beautiful views excellent idea for a trip with friends or family

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      September 17, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      @Izy Thanks, we loved the fabulous mountain scenery in Austria

  • Reply
    Robert
    October 17, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Absolutely spectacular scenery in the Tirol!

    Sorry to hear you had a fall – I think the 3 lessons you learnt are important for any hiker. Carrying a whistle really can come in handy when you are in a bit of a jam.

    I hope your little accident didn’t put you off though 🙂 I am going to show my wife these lovely pictures and see if she would like to visit. It really does look like an enchanting place.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      October 17, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      @Robert – I can highly recommend the Gaistal Valley and Headwater – there were plenty of lovely day walks in the area.

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