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August 15th 2019

From great heights magnificent views again!

Yesterday the weather had completely cleared up: a clear blue sky with hardly any cloud. Therefore I had from my hotel room a wonderful view on the Ortler and the wooded slopes to the west of Sulden, with on top the mountain station of the chairlift Langenstein. That mountain station was the starting point of my trip: from there Weg Nr. 23 leads to a Statue of Mary, named Marlt Madonna, which hangs on the rock wall of the Marltgrat, at 2.568 metres, with impressive views on the top of the Ortler!

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Sulden am Ortler: panoramic view on the Ortler from my hotel room in Hotel Nives

On my way to the chairlift of which the valley station is more towards the beginning of the valley, I passed by the old parish church with the special frescos again. This time I had a closer look at the memorial at the entrance: it was a large rock, whitish and grey, with a cross attached to the top and a “Gedenkbuch“, made of copper, a book with pages that can be turned like in a ring binder. In that “book” the name of all people who have been killed during mountaineering in the Ortler area. It is kept up-to-date by the “Bergrettung Sulden“. That is a reminder that hiking or climbing in the mountains can involve risks, even if one is quite aware thereof…

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Sulden am Ortler: a memorial near the old parish church to commemorate those who have fatally perished in the Ortler area

I got without problems into the chairlift that transported me easily and noiseless from Sulden to the mountain station Langenstein. Every now and then I heard voices of hikers who went by foot uphill or of workers who were busy to dig hoses into the ground (probably for snow cannons?). The avalanche barriers which have been built uphill from Langenstein against the mountain slopes were even better visible. The transmitter station became larger too. Today again the top of the Ortler was hidden behind a few white small clouds.

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Above Sulden am Ortler: from here also a view on the avalanche barriers on the slopes above Sulden

I got off the lift and looked where I should head for on the panels and on the detailed map of the area, which I had bought upon arrival in the supermarket near the hotel – after the first sign “23 – Marlt Madonna” the road seemed to have vanished. The wide road over the scree fields of the Ortler glacier lead toward the south, to the Hintergrathütte, into the direction of the mountain station of the gondola with which I had gone to the Schaubachhütte and the source of the Suldenbach stream. After a couple of minutes I was under the impression that I didn’t go into the right direction and looked for the map that I had put in the pocket of my trousers – against my habit… After having partly undressed in order to find that map, I had to conclude that I must have lost it… When I walked back the same way and did not find the map, I considered the loss just as “my good deed for this day”: hopefully someone else had been very happy with finding my map!

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Above Sulden am Ortler: at the mountain station Langenstein the road to the left goes across scree fields to the Hintergrat Hut

In the restaurant K2 at the mountain of the Langenstein I informed where the track of Road Nr. 23 was. Because of the refurbishment of the restaurant I had to follow a provisionary path, that ran steep against the slope. From there I came after a while at a wider path that wound slowly uphill. I could see the heavy steel constructions of the avalanche barriers from close by, and down in the valley Sulden. I also understood that these barriers weren’t there for nothing: the slope was steep! The views were marvellous: to the north I could see the Ober-Vinschgau again, with the Reschensee Lake as a light blue patch.

I continued my way over the Marltgrat mountain ridge an I discovered that under the debris still a large glacier was hidden: there a few little lakes had been formed in the ice, with bright blue water in them. At the steep rims the thick layer of snow and ice was visible.

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Above Sulden am Ortler: over a small elevation on the mountain slope and then suddenly the statue of Mary comes in sight!

At the foot of the steep rock sheep in shades of caramel and black were walking around and lying down. They didn’t quite trust me, because they went away towards a narrow crevasse between two rocks and disappeared… One black sheep stayed, continuing to ruminate. Whether it enjoyed the view over the Laaser Mountain massive as much as I did, I wouldn’t know: most likely it just enjoyed the sunshine and the ruminating. The last stretch to the Statue of Mary was a challenge in itself: it was steep and I had to step from the one op the other large chunk of rock, without a really visible path. I had in mind that the way back would be a still bigger challenge, but that was still to come…

When I had made it to the statue I could enjoy the beautiful view over the Suldental and the Ober-Vinschgau in the north. Through my binoculars I saw Mals, the Tartscher Bichl and even … Hotel Margun! So every time I had looked from there to the Ortler I would have been able to spot the Statue of Mary too. Nice thought. The Statue of Mary itself was large and nicely designed, in Laaser marble I assume. This place breathes much tranquillity: I felt that I was protected by strong powers – and not only from the grand Ortler, of which the top didn’t seem to be that far above me!

The first part of the descent was quite a tricky issue indeed, but I reached the more level area, not far from the avalanche barriers, without problems. On my way I had already seen several specimens of a variety of thistles, that only grows in the Alps, with a Latin name indicating that this thistle is super prickly: the Spiniest thistle (Cirsium Spinosissimum). In German it is called Alpen-Kratzdistel. The beauty in this plant is the colouring: the tops of the plants are almost white, but the nastiness are the spines!

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Above Sulden am Ortler: a “Spiniest thistle” (Cirsium Spinosissimum) with the Ober-Vischgau in the distance

Soon after the mountain restaurant K2 came in sight, where I got myself a treat: a mixed salad with two Knödel, one of the dumplings was with spinach, the other with cheese. The salad was indeed very much “mixed” and tasty; the dumplings were slightly dry, but quite nice. The glass of red wine was to my taste too. I sat inside, in the cosily decorated restaurant with a lot of wood accents. Outside on the busy terrace the atmosphere was animated.

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Above Sulden am Ortler: in the restaurant K2 at the mountain station Langenstein a mixed salad with dumplings

When I decided that was about time to go downwards with the chairlift, I discovered that together with the hiking map also my ticket had “vanished”… No crying over spilt milk and without hesitation I went back to Sulden by foot. The trip was extremely pleasant: a slowly descending, winding path went through light larch forests and along the Kaserbach stream, that here gently murmuring flows through a green little valley, and along a large boulder, on which small trees were growing and which at closer inspection was equipped with metal eyelets and chains. A large group with a guide just came from a path near the boulder: there also were young children and they spoke Dutch. The meaning of the Dutch saying “jong geleerd oud gedaan” was clear to me: “what’s learnt in the cradle, lasts till the tomb”! Still many orchids and other plants were in bloom, like the Alpine aster with its soft purple petals like rays around a bright yellow heart. I also saw a really beautiful patch of lichen in a greyish-blue colour with pale pink spots on it…

Halfway my route crossed a steep path with figures and faces cut out of tree trunks: this is the Wurzelweg (Roots trail), running from Sulden uphill to Langenstein (or the other way round). Since 2010 23 of these figures are placed, made by Toni Reinstadler from Sulden. I spotted a trunk with two faces and another with a grinning dwarf. Funny.

About four o’clock I returned to the hotel. When I looked to the top of the Ortler again with binoculars, I saw, very small, the Statue of Mary on the mountain! That was something special for me – a few hours before I had been standing close by that statue…

Hotel Nives has a restaurant where “only” burgers and pizzas are served (I don’t complain, because the pizzas are very good!). It offers in cooperation with a hotel nearby, Hotel Gertraud, an arrangement, in which one can have dinner in that hotel. I chose that arrangement. But first I had – like the day before – a trendy and popular Hugo cocktail: this cocktail has been developed in South-Tyrol and tastes very good. I chose the Hugo with lemon balm: the Hugo Nives… Dinner was served in a traditionally furbished restaurant with mainly Italian guests. The portions were generous, the dishes typically from the region, like a pork dish with suckling pig, sauerkraut and potatoes with caraway seeds, and a dessert of mocha crème brûlée and Apfelstrudel ice cream, that tasted surprisingly nice. A long time ago I had an ice cream made from stewed pears, where I couldn’t match the cold ice cream with the expected “warm” taste of the stewed pears…

With this meal my stay in Sulden has ended, but I hope to return still many times, because the area is beautiful: here I can still go for many walks and hikes!

Today is Assumption of Mary, an appropriate continuation of the special yesterday’s hike to the Statue of Mary! Soon I will be travelling to Scuol “im schönen Engadin“, for a few days, to finish the second part of Stage 67 of the Red Trail of the Via Alpina, from Plan da Funtanas, where I have stopped last time, on last June 14st, to S-charl.