Friday, May 23, 2008

Goldsteig

I am back from the Goldsteig - and of course, everything went quite different than I thought... The first few days I had fine weather: The trail is nice and I liked to be hiking again instead of cycling. It was great to be outdoor again. But then the weather changed dramatically: It started to rain and the temperature dropped - unfortunately exactly then when I was at the highest section of the trail. I know that this sounds like a constant weather report, but weather can make or break a trip. But to look at the positive side of it, it was a good test for my AT equipment and unfortunately some of it failed completely:

a) It is an absolutely stupid idea to go hiking in rough terrain and high winds with a poncho: I nearly tripped over my poncho several times and at the end of the day I was usually soaked. I will change to rain jacket and pants for the AT.
b) My brand new titanium SnowPeak stove developped a compatibility problem with my gas cannister for a reason completely unknown to me. Luckily it was still working somewhat, but it took my 15 minutes to bring 2 cups of water to a boil. That's ridiculous - even HEET it faster. I will change back to my hated PocketRocket, that failed in the middle of the CDT because its thread wore out... maybe I should go for an alcohol stove, but I seem to be too stupid for that, too.
c) My new WM Summerlight sleeping bag is not made for a climate like this - I was freezing my ass off every night despite using a VPL. I will take the WM Ultralight for the AT.

Wooden chapel
I also had to face another challenge: Where to recharge my new Nokia cell phone/camera/radio/mp3player? The funniest place for that was at a cemetary at the "Aussegnungshalle" - this is a hall where they show the dead in their coffins before they are buried. I must admit that I felt pretty stupid sitting in a cemetary in front of this hall having a lunch break and waiting for my Nokia to recharge. I could not believe that there were so many people looking at the dead - and my Nokia and then I had to explain my story...

And I met another interesting long distance hiker: A female social worker accompanying a "problem" girl on a 6-week hike through Germany as a measure for building her self esteem. It reminded me a lot of the drug kids that are doing trail maintenance in the US...

And then the funniest place where I slept: On an especially nasty day I was climbing the Arber (the highest mountain on the Goldsteig with some 1.500 m) and wanted to stay in a hut which I could not find in the fog. Therefore I ended up sleeping at a skilift in front of the toilets which was the most wind sheltered place around. In the morning I realised that the hut was just 100 meters away - but the fog had been too thick to see it. Unfortunately the toilets were locked, so the location was not particularly helpful in the obvious respect. 

Most frustrating experience: When I turned up at a hut shortly before sunset and being almost hypothermic I was nearly turned away because they didn't want to take credit cards - cash only! Luckily I had just enough cash left for staying overnight, but I could not buy anything to eat. These huts are more like restaurants or hotels rather than mountain huts. That night I was so cold that I took 2 hours in bed with my sleeping bag AND a warm blanket before I could stop shivering.

But all together I liked the Goldsteig: It was tougher than I had expected due to the bad weather but offered good hiking. And I must admit that I probably just underestimated it by arrogantly assumed that for an accomplished PCT and CDT thruhiker a German forest would be a piece of cake. Well, the German forest kicked my ass and humbled me a bit.


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