Sonnspitze | ©, Mia Knoll

What happens when Bikers turn into Hikers?

Mountain bikers on a detour

02:00 AM. We had only just fallen into our deep sleep cycles when the alarms started to go off. Whilst some stumbled through the room more asleep than awake getting their backpacks ready, others were already two coffees deep. Time for some honesty: not a single person in our group considered themselves a passionate hiker at the start of the day. Neither did anyone particularly care for the early bird or its worm. We do enjoy spending time outdoors but so far, our weapon of choice has always been a bike, a pair of skis or a snowboard. Not hiking boots.

We were well prepared – or at least we thought we were – so we assumed, all we had to do after waking up, was to brush our teeth and grab our packs. “Our bike packs will do”, was the group’s consensus so we packed them to the brim with water, snacks, sunscreen, shades, first aid kits, a change of clothes, a cap and our camera gear. At this point we hadn’t yet thought of how little space we had left to store our jackets following the sunrise.

Our goal was to watch the sunrise from the first summit of our hike and so, with time ticking away, we started our hike at 02:30 AM at the Lengau parking lot and headed towards the Spieleckkogel. The bright full moon lit up the path of the 3.5-km-long hike before it dipped behind the mountains at 4:30. The hike was silent. Not because we were tired or didn’t have anything to say, but because we were in awe of the moonlit landscape as we slowly made our way to the summit accompanied by hares, marmots and the calming sound of cowbells from the pastures around us.

Shortly after the moon dipped behind the mountains and the first signs of the approaching dawn crept across the dark night sky, we made it to the peak of the Spieleckkogel and celebrated a collective accomplishment before most people in the valley had even dreamt of leaving their bed. We sat down in the morning-dew-covered grass and gazed into the surrounding landscape with its imposing mountains before the sunrise took our breath away. We grew up here and yet, we all fell in love with our home all over again. Forgotten were the tiredness and any lingering ill mood due to the short night and early morning.

After finishing our breakfast, or rather our first round of granola bars, on the Spieleckkogel’s summit, we continued our hike towards the Sonnspitze. The 2-km-long, narrow path sprinkled with some tricky climbs and descents led us along a ridge and past impressive rock formations and small mountain lakes to the next peak and back down to the Henlabjoch. After 6.5km and three and half hours of pure walking time, we decided it was time for lunch – and time to reduce the weight of our packs.

From our lunch spot, we had another 2km of hiking in front of us to reach the last peak of the day. Hiking along the back side of the summit, this part of our hike put our surefootedness to the test. Not only were we right at the valley head of Saalbach Hinterglemm at this point, but also right on the border of Tirol. Turning back towards the last summit of the day, the 2,115 meters-high Staffkogel, we gave our Tirolian neighbours one last wave.

And there we were, lying exhausted in the warm grass and enjoying the view. As adrenaline junkies, we had never thought that a hike could bring us this much joy and serenity. To our surprise we were soon joined by some friendly locals from the neighbouring valley. Locals, who have known these mountains much longer than us and who, surprised by our presence, swiftly struck up a friendly conversation, as “our generation normally doesn’t do hikes like this” and they “had never seen hikers with tattoos before.” Pure bliss. We love our home.

As the temperature continued to rise along with our hunger and a strong craving for Kasnocken, we pulled ourselves from the views and started to head back into the valley and past a waterfall that provided a much-needed cool-off. After a total of 13 Kilometres, 1400 vertical meters of climbing and another 1000 meters of descending, we each consumed a large portion of Kasnocken in record speed before succumbing to a feeling of serene lethargy that forced us to stay at the beautiful mountain hut for juuuust a little longer before returning back to our starting point.

Summary of our hike:
Starting at the Lengau parking lot, the route leads to the summit of the Spieleckkogel from where it continues along the ridgeline and to the summit of the Sonnspitze. From the Sonnspitze, the route continues across the Henlabjoch before reaching the peak of the Staffkogel and heading back down towards the valley past the Ossmannalm and Lindlingalm and back to the Lengau parking lot.

Length: 16.5 km
Climb: 1340m
Descent: 1340m
Time: approx. 6:30 hours (without breaks)

Alternatively, hikers can use the Reiterkogelbahn from 09:00 AM. This option saves 300 vertical meters of climbing but lengthens the route to 19 km without the chance to see the sun rise.

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