We got up at just before 5 am, left for Stansted airport, and flew to Salzburg. Spare clothes got dumped at an airport hotel. Then a taxi to Konigsee. There we tried, and failed, to buy gas for our stove. Oddly, none of several outdoor shops there sold it. It was now after midday, so the decision was made to leave anyway – without the gas. Any alternative would have used up too much daylight time.
A long wooden electric boat, built around 1910, took us up the lake Konigsee to St Bartholoma – the start of our route.
We reached the start of the first climb section at 2-30 pm. This first steep climb of 400 m was slogged in rather wet snow, in about 45 min, and we then took a 10 min break for tea. There were a few small, but slightly worrying, wet avalanches coming down off the rock faces – it was very warm. We made it to top of the valley around 4-30 pm, then started the somewhat nerve-wracking 400 m valley head chute climb. This section is
steep and a little awkward – I really wanted it finished in the daylight. The light faded at the top of the chute. But we had at least made it up to where we wanted to get to, and twilight tea at 5-45 pm at the top was lovely.
From there we made a few small errors in navigation – we were both tired and it was fully dark by then. But after losing an hour or so, we got onto the the right path towards the hut. And then the most mesmerizing full moon came up. My photo doesn’t begin to do it justice. There is something quite magical about night skiing in clear calm conditions.
We skied to the Karlinger Haus at about 8 pm. There we found a cold winter room – with two lads huddled in sleeping bags besides a cold stove. They explained that they had tried to light the stove, but that the chimney was blocked. So David took a look inside, whilst I climbed all the ladders around the hut that I could find. I found no way up onto the roof to get to the chimney top – it was positioned at the top of a steeply inclined roof – about four stories up.
We however had no water. It usual to carry 1 lt each in a thermos flask (to prevent it freezing). Our last water had been drunk at 7 pm. So due to the lack of gas for our stove, and despite the blocked chimney, there was no option – except to light a fire in the blocked stove to melt snow.
We opened all the windows, and spent the next two hours in a choking smoke filled room, trying to keep a fire alight, with two very loud fire alarms constantly ringing in our ears. By 11-30 pm enough snow had melted for a luke warm cup of chocolate. I didn’t feel too great – cold, lungs full of smoke, and dehydrated. But then, finally, at nearly midnight enough heat must have made it up the chimney to melt the snow on top. And the chimney began to draw! The hut book said that the chimney had been blocked since snow had first fallen. It seems that many others had also had a go at the problem, but apparently only David and I were desperate enough to endure two hours of smoke filled hell. Possibly the fire that I had set in at the entrance to the chimney pipe also helped. After a midnight meal we retired to warm smoky, and very much appreciated, beds.