We found ourselves driving back into Austria, via Innsbruck towards one of the only free places we could find in the mountains. Originally we’d set our sights on going to Sölden, but they only had a campsite there and we prefer Aires to campsites. Han found an Aire located in the next valley along which would provide us with ample opportunity for walking, mountain views and potentially the cable car ride we’d been holding out for.
Driving down towards Sankt Leonhard im Pilztal, we made good progress, right up until we turned into the valley. We were sure that we’d be arriving in no time, 20km to Mittelburg couldn’t take us the 45 mins it said. Not surprisingly, google was right, but we were not disappointed. Our slow, uneventful climb into the snow line provided us with a fresh view every turn.
I’d spent months telling Han about the views in the Alps, mountains so big that it’s hard to describe how impressive they are. After all that anticipation, here we were, soaking it all in. Green valley bottoms, craggy forest covered steep sided valleys, mountains topped with a dusting of snow and waterfalls seemingly falling from the highest reaches of the mountains. We were in sensory overload.
Not one week ago we were in 30°C temperatures, but now we found ourselves in 10°C at best! And that was at the bottom of the mountain. Not to worry though, we have heating, something which we hadn’t needed over the summer but that would become increasingly used over the coming weeks.
Upon arrival, we found ourselves outside the village located at the furthest lift in the village, the Pitzaler Gletscher lift. Expecting to have to pay a tourist fee, we went in and spoke to one of the ticket attendants. He told us not to worry about it and it was free. Whilst there were no facilities (we’d topped up on the way), there was a functioning toilet, quite a fancy one at that. The availability of facilities such as this always helps in van life!
At the ski centre, we picked up some information hoping to find out about walks. It transpired that the mountain lift gave you prime views of Tyrol’s tallest mountain and it was the highest cable car (Pitz Panoramabahn) in Tyrol. We’d been waiting out for a ride having seen many cable cars at huge prices, this is why we waited for one we actually wanted to go on. Having analysed it a little further, there was a mountain train up through the centre of the mountain then a cable car to the top of the mountain peak. Best of all, dogs were allowed.
We don’t travel with Chief so we can do all our adventures separately, we do it so that we can enjoy all the activities together. Despite arriving in cold and slightly overcast conditions, the weatherman said the next day was bringing brilliant blue skies. We set an alarm (we had to remember how this worked first) and aimed to get up the mountain as early as possible.
The tickets were in two parts, one for the train and one for the cable car. We bought them together so saved a few pennies that way. The train ride was really smooth up to the top of the first peak. It opened up at the Wildspitzbahn to face Pitztal Glacier and provided a direct view of the 3,774 m high Wildspitze summit.
We decided to explore and play at the bottom first for a bit in the snow. Chief was wild in the snow, bouncing and bounding about! We followed a path up to the little church and suspected that the snow wasn’t that deep, but on inspection, we discovered a few icy puddles and deep snow (which I was up to my waist in) whilst trying to take some pictures off the path.
Having had a run and a play, we decided to head for the lift. A fancy 6 person heated gondola ride up to the top provided amazing views. Chief was ace at dealing with it, although we suspect the treats may help. The views on the journey were endless, but on approach to the Hinterer Brunnerkogel station at the top it revealed another platform that we could take the view in from.
Disembarking, we headed for the viewing point. Up until this point, the weather had been kind to us, but quickly exposed at the top we could feel the biting wind (even on a good day). After taking our photos and admiring the view, we decided to head into the cafe.
Being from Yorkshire, I hate parting with cash, but we’d agreed that day was going to be our one treat day to each other. Having ordered two drinks and an apple cake (for an eye watering sum), I returned to the table exclaiming to Han that we could have bought half a weeks shopping for the cost. It was however, delicious, but we did feel a little out of place surrounded by tourists who probably did this sort of thing every day. That said, Chief took the opportunity to have a snooze and relax in the warm environment. It was well worth the visit to the top, but we were not ready to depart the mountain just yet.
On our way out towards the gondola, we noted that we could see the Sölden lifts in the next valley. Somewhere that holds a special place in my heart. We will go back as a family one day I’m sure!
The bad afternoon weather hadn’t yet arrived, so, having gone down to the middle station we set off on a walk, explore and play. We’d packed a plethora of mountain gear, much to the bemusement of the tourists around us, but this allowed us to venture off and more importantly, make a hot drink.
We again played and took pictures in the snow, having loads of fun and enjoying the change in climate. I would consider myself fit, but running around with Chief at these altitudes was exhausting.
I’m not sure what the Austrians make of us Brits, and more specifically, Han, Chief and I. I wonder if they think we’re loopy. Pulling out our bag a survival bag, we attempted to sledge on the mountain side. Maybe the altitude had really got to us! We made a quick brew in our microstove and took in the view a little bit more.
It was early afternoon and we didn’t want to be stuck up here overnight. Exhausted from the day we descended via the train and retreated to the van for some well deserved tea and a snooze.
As we liked it so much here, we spent another night walking the excellent paths in the valley and practising our camera skills. We used the opportunity to give Chief a rest too, he needs down days to recover from all the fun he has.
We had to depart the next day, but Mittelburg in Sankt Leonhard im Pilztal had been one of the best places we’d ever visited!