Planning your first hut to hut trip. There has to be a first time for everyone. If you are 'into mountains' for walking, trekking or climbing, sooner or later the Alps will call. Where to go? Almost anywhere in the alpine chain will reward a visit.
For the first time the Austrian Alps take a lot of beating. Heights are modest, but the mountains look big and the ambience is something you’ll never forget.
Try Trekking in the Stubai Alps southeast of Innsbruck, with a base at Neustift. Or go to Swiss Alps and be seduced by scenic hiking trails in the Engadine, or the Bernese Alps above Grindelwald or Mürren.
An extensive network of huts exists right across the Alps, and linking several together to create a multi-day hut to hut tour makes a truly rewarding holiday. The 11-12 day Tour of the Vanoise south of Mont Blanc in France would make a fine start. The Tour of Mont Blanc itself is another obvious choice, but the Tour of the Jungfrau Region in Switzerland is almost guaranteed to get you hooked on this style of multi-day hiking.
Don’t be put off by the word ‘hut’, however, as this is a bit of a misnomer. Most are rather like youth hostels, with dormitory accommodation and a resident guardian in summer who serves meals and refreshments to the guests. Some huts are more like mountain inns; amazing places far from the nearest road or village, but offering good facilities in a truly magical location.
Should you plan to use a number of these during a holiday, consider joining the UK branch of the Austrian Alpine Club for reduced overnight fees in all alpine club huts – AAC membership also gives mountain rescue insurance cover.
10 Tips for a First Trip
- To get the most out of your first alpine holiday, get fit before leaving home.
- Don’t be too ambitious, but steadily increase height-gain and distance as you grow accustomed to the alpine scale of things.
- Check the weather forecast. As all districts are prone to rapidly changing conditions, stay alert for warning signs and take appropriate clothing.
- On a full day’s walk carry sufficient food (plus emergency rations) and at least a litre of water to avoid dehydration.
- Leave a note of your planned route and expected time of return with a responsible person.
- Be vigilant when crossing rocks, snow patches and mountain streams.
- Do not stray onto glaciers, and keep clear of icefalls and hanging glaciers.
- Carry a map, compass and first aid kit – and know how to use them.
- Know the International Distress Signal – six blasts on a whistle (and flashes with a torch afer dark) followed by a minute's silence; then repeat. Keep a whistle and torch with you.
- Be insured against accidents. Mountain rescue in the Alps is highly efficient, but very costly.