After just a few hours of sleep, our day was dedicated to shopping for food and finding our parking spot/campsite. We packed up the soggy dwelling and headed to Kitzbuhl, the richest and most quaint village I’ve ever seen. The streets reeked of money, and spoiled tourists perused it wafting off the scent of expensive perfume. Damian and I were clearly out of place in our dirtbag climbing clothes, but we enjoyed the ice cream and walked around getting our bearings.
In the morning, more weekend warriors showed up, and tourists going for a hike to the huts, and the quickly imagined us to be strange zoo creatures as we cooked on stoves next to a tiny, old Polish Fiat full of stuff. We were a spectacle. This was clearly not a popular place for dirtbags, and since we knew dirtbags to be a dying species, we dirt bagged hard by our fiat, next to the line of shiny, new VW vans with cozy, new-age clean-bags inside.
That next mission was a 1000 meter multi pitch classic that had an easy grade. Due to the length, we agreed to sleep at the base. Damian had downloaded the guidebook, all in Austrian German (hard for me to understand with my basic German skills), but due to our last epic I imagined it was pointless to read it since I might not understand any more than Damian. So we I asked if the approach was the same, he said “I think so.” We packed our bivy gear and as much food and water as we imagined we would need. Our packs were not light. We started that afternoon, hiked up to a hut, then up to a small pass between peaks, along a via-ferrata to a steep downhill scree field, finally hiking into forest, and eventually reaching a boulder field. We dropped the bags and hiked up to the approximate start of our route, then returned to our campsite. We ate a pre-cooked pasta dinner, which was delicious, then located a couple spots to throw our sleeping mats, avoiding the giant black ants that seemed to control the region.
At 5am we set off, and by daybreak we could see two other parties on the wall, what must of surely been our route. We soloed the easy terrain up to them, as two fast guys passed the two goofy guys in front of us. They then informed us that we were all on the wrong route, but everyone had followed each other and therefore we were all in the same mess. We made our first mistake by not passing these fellows right then and there, and we were slowed down for the first half of the route. Luckily the route joined our route, Kleine Halt, and we were eventually on the right way. It was leagues easier than our first day, and we casually enjoyed the moderate climbing, making good time other than licking the heals of the two guys in front of us. Finally towards the top, they let us pass, and we summited in the warm sun, hot in fact. We followed them on the steep descent, eventually getting back to our camp. We had not brought food for another night, so tired and weary, we packed up and began hiking back to the other side of the mountain. At some point during this journey Damian and I had realized we had hiked from the wrong side of the mountain. We could have driven half an hour to a nearby village and hiked for a couple hours, but instead we opted for eight.hours.of.hiking. You win some, you lose some. This turned out to be a marathon. We hiked back up towards the saddle of the Wilder Kaiser, taking a momentary pause at a hut before the upward climb. We sat on the step surrounded by happy, rich hikers and climbers who ate hot meals, drank delicious beers, and would probably sleep in warm beds that night. But, we were a dying species, and this was our plight. We refilled our waters and started again. It was late, the sky was beautiful, and thankfully, there was no rain in sight. The climb to the saddle felt never ending. I became a machine of the mind; ignoring my painful knees, leaning heavily on my Leki trekking poles (lifesavers) and step-by-step tacking each switchback. It appeared we would reach the saddle in the mountain repeatedly, and yet over and over again we would crest the hill only to find another one, dark and shadowy, looming ahead. Damian rambled on about sleeping then and there, but we pushed on, still smiling, possibly because of our stupidity. We could have hiked a couple hours, but here we were hiking, climbing and hiking for 22 hours straight.
Once we heard the cowbells we knew were on the home stretch. Glowing eyes on either side of us welcomed our weary footsteps as we descended the gravel road, and finally threw our bags at the fiat, exhausted and in disbelief. This might be no feat if you are training for such things, but we were both off the couch in some sense of the term. The next day was definitely a rest day.