I spent the next two nights at the Neue Regensburgerhutte. In reality it was more like a mountain hotel, especially if you were in the new extension as I was, sleeping in a Mehrbettzimmer (rooms with several beds in, usually 2 or 4) rather than the huge Matratzenlager in the attic where everyone slept in a row on one long mattress. A bed to myself with a duvet rather than the old scratchy grey Alpine Club blankets and a smell of new wood used for the extension. Washrooms as well with hot water, complete luxury.
The hut was built in 1931 to replace the original Regensburgerhutte which was (and still is) in the Dolomites. The original hut was built by the Regensburger Section of the German Alpine Club in 1888 in what was then Austria, but the hut was lost to Italy after the first World War and a new hut was built in the Stubai.
Back into the rhythm and routine of hut life after 3 years away. Arrive at the hut, have a beer and relax on the terrace for a while. Then find the boot room and exchange boots for hut crocs. Ignore the large signs saying “Keine Stiefel in Hutte” (no boots in the hut) at your peril. Then find the hut warden, tell him who you are and find out where your bed is, what time dinner and breakfast are and when to pay your bill. Dinner usually at 18.00, breakfast at 06.00 and pay your bill after dinner at 20.00. The hut warden gets cross if you try to do something at the wrong time. It’s a mammoth task feeding 100 people every night in a small hut high in the mountains and it all depends on everyone being punctual. Then find your bed, claim it as yours with your sheet sleeping bag and go to sleep for an hour. Then a wash, more beer, dinner and more sleep. And don’t forget to pay the bill after dinner.
I had an early start the next day, with breakfast at 6am and walking by 6.30am. It was already warm, even at 2,000m, and the sun shone out of a clear blue sky. I was going to climb the Kreuzspitze, a rocky peak above the hut with a summit at 3,084m and the guidebook time was 4 hours up and down, a nice half day with a light rucksack. Initially the narrow path climbed steeply up grassy slopes above the hut and half way up I heard a loud whistle in the grass to my right. I looked and saw a large marmot running quickly away. The whistle was to warn its friends of impending danger in the form of me. The grass turned to scree and glacier moraine at about 2,700m. There was a small glacier marked on my map here but I was using the map I bought 28 years ago and although the map had stood the passage of time the glacier had not.
The path got rougher and led me over glacier rubble to the base of a large cliff. It seemed improbable that the path would go up here but go up it did, zigzagging its way along narrow ledges, often with a wire cable to act as a handrail. No real scrambling but a stumble off the edge of the path would mean certain death. The last 50m of the ascent involved easy scrambling over large granite blocks and suddenly, there was the summit cross.
There is a large cross on the top of a lot of alpine mountains, carried up on someone’s back. The alpine countries have a history of being religious nations, usually catholics, praying to God for deliverance from storms, lightening, rockfalls and avalanches. In the same way that we build church steeples high to be closer to God, the alpine countries place their crosses on their highest points.
I sat for a good hour on the summit, enjoying the gentle breeze and warm sunshine. The mountains in the distance were a dark blue, first the Stubai peaks and then, further away, the Dolomites. I had the summit to myself and there was no noise apart from the odd alpine chough and the faint sound of a mountain stream far below.
Eventually I saw another group making their way up the scree at the base of the cliff and I made a move, descending the same way. The descent was worse than the ascent as I was facing outwards over the steep precipice, but I kept my head and used the iron cable when I could. I reached the scree and from there it was a quick descent back down to the hut. The hut warden was going to be unhappy if I arrived back at the hut before lunch as that is their time to clean and have a rest so I sat in the grass above the hut for a while. Eventually it was time to go back to the hut for a beer and an afternoon spent sleeping and sitting on the terrace reading and listening to music. Another day in paradise.
Copyright of all text and photos: Jane Ascroft 2022