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Stories from the mountain summer

Glacier Experience Tour 

Journey to the eternal ice

Summer, sun, fun in the snow. With 600 hp on an adventure tour on the Hintertux Glacier.

It doesn’t get any more midsummer than this. Early in the morning, when we arrive at the valley station in Hintertux, it is already 25 degrees. The sky presents itself in its most beautiful blue, evoking images of jumping into water. Our encounters are all the more original. With people walking past us in their anorak and ski boots. What an image! Though not extraordinary anymore up here, of course. 365 days a year, you can carve down perfectly groomed slopes on the Hintertux Glacier. And thus the offer of skiing first, then swimming, gollfng or climbing traditionally attracts many guests to Zillertal.

Panorama terrace at an altitude of 3,250 metres. Today, however, we have a different plan. We’re meeting up with Georg Gottfried and Katharina Auinger, who will be our guides on the popular Glacier Experience Tour. Both are trained mountain guides and throughout the summer they accompany groups (with a maximum of 37 eight people) for around one and a half hours through the fascinating world of snow and ice. What we have in common with skiers: sunglasses and SPF 50 sunscreen. The intensity of altitude and light reflection should never be underestimated. We’re sitting in the gondola. We reach the top station “Gefrorene Wand” via three sections and quickly reach the panorama terrace at an altitude of 3,250 metres. Katharina’s advice to bring warm jackets is spot on. Up here, temperatures still hover just above zero at this time. But it’s not just the clothes that warm you up… the incredible view and the sun’s rays do so too.

A true feast for the eyes – before us, the gleaming white of the glacier; behind us, the summergreen mountains.

Long-distance view of the mountain giants. Georg hands us trekking poles and prepares us for the upcoming adventure. We’re standing on the Tuxer Hauptkamm, looking eastwards to the Zillertaler Hauptkamm, the alpine ridge that forms the border to Italy. The long-distance view is phenomenal. Georg and Katharina take the time to share their geographical knowledge while we’re marvelling at the panorama. To the south we can make out the South Tyrolean Dolomites, to the west the Stubai Alps, and to the north the Karwendel Mountains are visible as well. “Our German guests are always particularly happy about this view,” says Georg, pointing to the northwest. “In such weather, the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, is also clearly visible from here.”

We set off on our journey. And right at the start, we learn how to achieve the ideal surefootedness on the glacial ground. After a romantic chairlift ride, we continue on our way. We will cover about 500 metres. The impressions are extraordinary. Before us the gleaming white of the glacier, behind us the summergreen mountains. Katharina tells us about how the glaciers were formed thousands of years ago. “At that time, the valleys were also still heavily glaciated.” Georg adds: “The glacier’s ice masses are still in perpetual motion today.” And because that happens in some places on variable subsoil, the ice sometimes cracks and the famous glacier crevasses appear.”

Fortunately, we don’t ever come across those because our mountain guides only take us on hikes in secured terrain – where both young and old can enjoy their experience. If you prefer something more extreme, with rope and crampons, you have to join a mountain guide – “no one should hike around here on their own anyway,” says Katharina. After about 45 minutes, we’ve managed the athletic part. Now comes the action part. Here are the bright red, ultra-modern “Pistenbullys” that will take us towards the Olperer north ridge. “That’s always the tour highlight,” Georg laughs. Manfred, the Pistenbully driver, now stands in front of us and explains what these vehicles are capable of – also in terms of preparing the slopes: “The model with the winch, which by itself weighs 2.5 tonnes, has 600 hp.” Very soon after, two of us are sitting in the machine, while the others are standing on the secured ramp, and off we go. A true spectacle. Katharina recounts: “Many people say that they have always wanted to drive a Bully like this.” And Georg adds: “And when they then see all the buttons and get to press the horn, even grown men turn into children again.” Who certainly know one thing at the end: Glacier Experience Tour? For sure again next year!

Image Sebastian Vind, Bernhard Huber and text: Michael Hufnagl
Zillertal magazine summer 2022


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