In retrospect, our last week of riding in Ischgl rushed by, like an out of control quad-copter in Dr Who's Tardis. I concede, we may have gotten overly familiar with this Austrian valley, its catchment and the craggy mountains that influence its ever changing weather. Home to summer mountain biking, tramping and farming along-side winter skiing, climbing and skating and other odd things. So the gods were sending us a massive high all the way from Absurdistan, and we weren't going to squander it by just sitting in the sun and licking large ice cream cones and drinking the excellent Austrian beer. We would save that for after.
From Kappl a forestry-weg roams south and upwards, shaded and cool, damp from a night of showers. It guided us under a broken sky of grays and whites with small patches of blue. We warmed up slowly gaining altitude and mountain views as we emerged above the bush line. A farmers 4WD track then took us into the Grubetal Valley, its open rocky slopes home to a flock of mountain cows and sheep. We heard their bells long before discovering them grazing just above the lake. The lake shone clear and blue as the sun broke through the clouds and we road around its peripheral edge and beyond it. An old dozer track, muddy, rocky and overgrown heads into the Samnaungrup Mountains on which descending would be possible after a fine spell, but climbing not. We lunched and turned the wagon train back around, finding a different weg, back down to Kappl.
The sun invaded the valley early. Wispy mist evaporated as it lifted itself in strange vertical columns above the mountain spruce, leaving only blue sky above. We set out from Mathon rising slowly to the sleepy town of Galtur and up to Kops-Stausee small sister lake, where the first fishing lines of the day were being cast into its still water. On single-track we climbed steeply around the edge of Fluhgruppe to Verbellaalpe and up to a mountain pass below the adjacent Heilbronner Hutte.
Two beautiful tarns surrounded by green pasture reside on this flat topped pass. Each supplying opposite catchments and providing bathing, toilet and stomping facilities for the local cows. We rode across the pass towards St Anton for a couple of kilometers. We checked out the ST and admire the view, before heading back for first lunch at the Hutte. It was then onto the rocky ST that trundles towards Muttenjoch Pass at 2620 meters. Push, ride, carry and repeat, this rocky terrain had a bit of everything to challenge the adventure rider. Stunning scenery and gnarly climbs and downhills rolled under our tyres with a final steep zig zag carry to the very top of the pass.
We pondered the view and our valley descent while a couple of rapid, lightly equipped and even lighter clad Chez mountain bikers arrived at the top. With no helmets or gloves to slow them down we watched them descend, catching up to them, her pushing and him riding bits, dragging a locked up back wheel most of the way down. His english was good, shame about his riding skills (lack of) and P for preparation. It was an all mountain descent that bought out the best of a beefy suspension setup.We bounced down the last click of ST to Friedrichshafener Hutte. Indulged in apple cake and cream before the final stint using up every last morsel of our 1200 meter gravity credit. Ditte's knee held up well and her new knee pads proved their worth on the rocky terrain.
A glacier ride was next up. The track to it, resides on the east side of Silvretta Stausee, the biggest of the hydro dams in these mountains. It then wanders up the Ochsental Valley and onto a ribbon of 4WD-track that peels upwards to Weisbadener Hutte. We indulged in coffee, apple strudel (best so far) and a one eighty of the adjacent 3000 meter peaks, glaciers and waterfalls, all just stunning. We continued up an old dozer track past the original refugio to where the ridge tops out and a vague trail heads downwards. Beyond it rough glacier moraine and a receding mass of ice clings to the rocky slopes of the high peaks, just a remnant of its former awesomeness. We retreated back down the valley and along the east side of the lake this time, to a good lunch spot overlooking the water. The lake circuit is popular with walkers and their dogs, mountain bikers and runners. Post lunch we indulged in the mixed dray road and ST that runs parallel to the main toll road back to Galtur, then home to Mathon in time for tea. I don't think the photos will do it all justice though.
On yet another stunning day single-track beckoned from Idalp, on the south eastern mountain slopes behind Ischgl. From 2320 meters, Paznauner Taja super trail winds its way through steep alpine meadows climbing and descending as the terrain permits. A steep and gnarly switch back dropped us down to Paznauner. As luck would have it we picked up an armor clad group of riders heading onto an enduro roots-and-all section that wasn't on the trail map. We latched on like silent limpet mines as they led us unknowingly down their favorite single tracks, all the way back down to Ischgl. A mix of rooty sections, switch backs and drop offs kept us all amused and what lurked behind those full face helmets will forever remain a mystery. It was hot down there and we fully deserved our double scoop ice-cream cone, before heading back to Mathon.
North of Ischgl, in the dark and foreboding forest behind the village of See, winds a forestry weg that climbs for all eternity (at least it seemed to us on that hot still day). We were making the most of our last ride before heading east. We broke out above the tree-line into rocky terrain with bare open tops looming high above. A final push up to Ascher Hutte pushed the needle past the 1200-meter climbing mark, and provided a welcome lunch stop before we tackled the advertised ST downhill.
Well to cut to the chase, the downhill was a bit of a disappointment, littered with bigger rocks than both of us, and with absolutely no flow, it proved to be a stop-start affair. But we did find a series of side trails and a huge log pile on the way back down to See, that sort of made up for our folly. After a final pack-up and with the bikes stowed safely in our wee VW van we waved good-bye to Anna, a tear was shed by us, as well as the clouds that rolled into the valley, as we rolled out. That's the problem with booking the weather in advance, rain soon follows. Zillertal beckoned, just 190 clicks down the Autobahn.
Happy Biking D & D