G3VGR LECHWEG     Lechtaler Panoramaweg      

Having completed the Lechweg, I wanted to make an Alpine walk with which to end my holiday. The locals in Holzgau recommended the circular walk along the Lechtaler Panoramaweg, returning on the Alpenrosenweg and including the summit of the Jöchelspitze at 2226 metres. This seemed a pleasant walk, but as often happens in the Alps, things don't go according to plan and one has to accept failures and compromises. There had been a heavy thunderstorm the previous evening and it had rained through most of the night. The morning was chilly and it was drizzling while I waited for the bus to the Jöchelspitzbahn Talstation. I was the only passenger on the bus and noticed the Talstation's car park was deserted when we arrived. When I was at the Talstation during my Lechweg walk a few days ago, the place was alive, being a hot, sunny day. It seems there are many fine weather hikers on holiday in the Lechtal. I hate to waste a day just because it's raining and I do subscribe to Sir Ranulph Fiennes' theory that "There's no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing" The long, exposed ride up on the chairlift left me feeling quite cold. At the Bergstation, I stopped at the Berggasthof Sonnalm hut for a hot chocolate and was their only customer.

The walk along the first part of the Panoramaweg up to the Lachenkopf was easy, although I didn't enjoy much of a view due to basically walking inside a cloud. At the Lachenkopf is a large wooden hut, the Bergheumuseum. Inside were the artefacts showing the simple and harsh way of life of mountain farmers. Probably, this equates to crofter's cottages in the Hebrides. After signing the visitor's book, I ventured back outside and found the trail that leads to the Jöchelspitze summit. It was quite steep, which was no issue, but unfortunately the previous night's rain had turned the path into a quagmire. The ground had the texture of wet Essex clay. Large clods of the sticky earth stuck to my boots and I was slipping and sliding about on the steep slope. Progress was slow as I was trying to find rocks to anchor each step. Not far from the summit, the last steep section looked particularly muddy. Mindful of the fact that I would have to descend through this mud slide, I abandoned my attempt to reach the summit and started the hazardous journey back down. Progress downhill was even slower and quite tiring as I tried to control the descent. Whilst making the slow descent, I started to notice and take interest of the alpine plants along the way. I don't know the names of hardly any of the plants and didn't have my little plant book with me, so started photographing them. It was quite difficult trying to hold the camera steady whilst also maintaining my balance on the treacherous surface. I was impressed at making it back to the Panoramaweg without falling. The route onwards was downhill through another quagmire. This spot on the trail was at the junction with the Alpenrosenweg, which also started with a downhill section, but was of an easier, although rough surface.

I started down the Alpenrosenweg and was immediately amongst beautiful displays of alpine flora. Just as I was starting to congratulate myself on a change of fortune, the camera's battery (the last spare I had) died and I hadn't brought a backup camera. The trail carried on a narrow track along the mountainside in a large semicircle around the cirque of a valley. It was quite exposed and the fine rain made the walk a little uncomfortable. I came across one of the black alpine salamanders who was crawling over the rocks in front of me. When he sensed my presence, he stopped and played dead. Even some tickling from my finger failed to stop his pretence. I walked past and observed him from a distance. After a few minutes, he decided the danger was over and carried on his way. The path now climbed up to a small plateau and it was here that I saw my first hikers of the day. I walked behind them to the Bernhardsecke Hütte. Inside the Hütte there was a wood stove burning and two very friendly cats. I enjoyed the best Apfelstrudel of my stay here, whilst warming myself in front of the stove with a cat sat on my lap. It was unlikely I could make it back to the Jöchelspitzbahn Bergstation and take the chairlift down in sufficient time to catch the last bus, so I decided to walk down to Elbigenalp instead. I started down a very steep forest road, then some narrow paths in the forest. By now the cloud had lifted, the afternoon was warm and a few patches of blue sky appeared. After about 90 minutes, I heard a cacophony of cow bells, people shouting and dogs barking. I quickly reached another road at the bottom of the path and saw the noises were due to the farmers driving their herds of cows down from the alpine pastures. Many small boys and red-faced overweight farmers wielding sticks were running downhill trying to keep the cattle moving. I did notice that the cows seemed quite indifferent to the promptings of the farmers and just continued down at their own pace. After the odd procession passed by, I noticed I was next to another mountain inn, the Gibler Alm, so I stopped there for a glass of fresh buttermilk and a shot of Obstler. The weather had improved sufficiently that I was able to sit outside in my shirtsleeves. It took another 20 minutes down a forest path until I reached a bus stop at Elbigenalp. I did notice from the patches of brown coating on the road that the cows had also come this way. However, there was no sign any Almabetriebsfest in the village. As I waited for the bus, I reflected on the day's events. Despite the bad weather, despite failing to attain my goal of climbing the Jöchelspitze and despite losing my ability to take photographs, I had actually had a very enjoyable day. That is the "Magic of the Mountains" and why I keep returning.

The Bergheumuseum at the Lachenkopf

Inside the Bergheumuseum

Along the Panoramaweg

The way to the Jöchelspitz summit

The Alpenrosenweg

Scheuchzer's Bellflower

Alpine Hawkweed


Alpen Kälberkropf and Goldenrod

Scabiosa Columbaria



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