After 6km of continuous ascent, the pink hue of our faces and levels of perspiration increasing in direct proportion to the gradient of the climb, we reach a signpost that points to a series of steep steps climbing skywards off the path.
‘Blaueishütte 40mins’, the sign says.
At the foot of the steps, three elderly walkers are pondering their options. Guessing their average age must be in the vicinity of 80 yrs, I’m both impressed and humbled by the fact they’ve made it this far. After some deliberation, they settle down on a low wall, presumably to summon up the energy to make the final push. Shamed into feeling somewhat pathetic, I take to the steps with enthusiasm.
It had been a difficult decision.
It was our penultimate full day in the hiker’s utopia of Berchtesgaden at the southern tip of Bavaria and, our final day already committed, we had to choose whether to re-route our first walk of the trip in order to get a better look at the distinctive profile of geotope, Steinerne Agnes, or make the steep ascent of the flank of the Hochalter mountain range to reach the mountain Hütte tucked into a craggy ledge below the Blaueis glacier. With no guarantees that Agnes would deign to look any more impressive from anywhere other than the cockpit of a helicopter hovering alongside, we opted for Blaueis.
My initial zeal rapidly diminishing into slow, hard slog, we finally emerge at the side of the Hütte, walk around the rear where one or two tables sit outside the back door beneath the gaze of the eponymous glacier above, and onto the front decking terrace. I walk to a free table at the far side of the large terrace where a posee of yellow-billed, Alpine choughs line the wooden handrail like expectant waiters.
We order a large platter of cold meats, cheeses, crusty bread, and a slab of butter and, as we hungrily tuck in, the realisation of just where we are begins to sink in.
Around 800m (2,600ft) below us, the artist’s lake of Hintersee shimmers like a fallen piece of sky in the midst of the pine forest at the foot of the Lattengebirge mountains. Behind us, the Hochalter mountains rose to their craggy peaks while, tucked into a crevasse just a short distance above us, the Blaueis glacier sits, a thin line of walkers making negligible progress as they snake along the granite rock towards it. And here we sit, on a wooden platform jutting out from the rock face, suspended 1600m above sea level, the sun on our faces, and a feast on our table.
It might have been hard work to get here but it was worth every step to be in such a unique spot.
As we’re leaving, the three octogenarians have just arrived at one of the tables at the rear of the building and are perusing the menu for their well-deserved lunch.
Don’t you just love Slow travel?
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, DK Guides, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+