Stats of the hike
– 126 km Oberstdorf to Merano
– 6200 m Total vertical distance up
– 6800 m Total vertical distance down
– 48 hours Total walking time
– More than 1 degree of latitude walked!
Almost every one of the 6 days could be described as a “Tough day”. Starting off in rainy, misty, windy weather definitely set the tone for the days to come. But the second day was probably the craziest. We started by dropping 2000 metres, just walking down and down the mountain for the first 4 hours of the day. It is painful to your knees, and every one of us agreed that we would have rather climbed up 2000 metres instead! Next, we spent 3 hours walking along flat road. While this was a welcome change to the descending, it becomes quite monotonous and had a strange effect on your feet. Normally, when climbing or descending you are on uneven terrain and different parts of your legs get used (and worn out). When you are not mixing it up, it hurts the same parts of your foot over and over. To top off the day, we did a 1000 metres climb. Earlier, we saw the mountain in the distance and remembered thinking how it was the tallest to be seen anywhere around us. Continuously climbing up the side of the mountain, there was no hut in sight until the very end. Yelling and much relief resulted when we finally saw that hut!! What a great day!
When you are doing such a hike it is not uncommon for people not to make it to the very end. A lone guy we met on the trail said that there were 3 that had started together, and now on Day 4 he was the only one left. A big killer was the massive downhills, just taking out knees everywhere. One of the Australians in our group already had bad knees to begin with. Already on Day 2 it was clear to see the pain that we was in, and over the next few days it just got worse and worse. Finally we had to leave him in a small town on Day 4 and continue on without him…
He told us that he would send a text message to us if he would rejoin us the next day, but no text message was received and we expected the worst. It is brutal to lose a member of your group like that and the rest of the day’s climb was spent in near silence.
Miraculously, the next day we came across this awesome Australian guy in a small town and he told us would join us again! Resting up in a hostel for 16 hours, then taking 3 buses between remote villages put him in our path again and we crossed the finish line with the original 5 completely intact!
As the E5 is quite a popular route, you see people again and again in the huts. This allowed us to connect with people as well as assign a few nicknames to people we saw over and over. Surprisingly, a group that we dubbed the “Oldies” kept passing us every day, even occasionally taking beer breaks…
When flying, they always told us that mountain weather can be really unpredictable and that it is best avoided. Caught in a thunderstorm on the side of the mountain, climbing up and not knowing exactly how much longer you have to go is not the best situation you can be in. Yet on Day 5, this is exactly where we were!
Only a 2 hour climb to finish the day, we started heading up to the next hut. After about half an hour the clouds started closing in and we found ourselves praying that it would not start raining. The wind picked up, but we were dry for another hour or so. Suddenly, rain started falling and we began to hear thunder in the distance. Very soon those 10 seconds between lightning and thunderclap became 1 second, and we were in the thick of it all! It just happens that on the side of a mountain, completely exposed is not where you want to be when there is the possibility of a lightning strike. We were practically running up the side of that mountain, and what a relief it was to finally make it into the hut.
Definitely one of the scariest moments in my life…