At the start of 2022, I hoped I’ll get a bit more winter outdoors time. February made me act on it. Details (and photos) inbound!
Let me start that the weather wasn’t always too winter-like, especially in the lowlands. The snow has pretty much left the lowlands – as the month went through waves of different weather, the snow line moved between 700 and 1000m ASL.
That said, the first weekend (6.2.) let me have some snowtime. At that point, the snow line was still quite low, around 500m ASL, which was close to perfect weather for testing my new snow gear, which I’ve teased in the January recap.
Soon after leaving the train station, the trail I chose started to ascend, and I decided to test the snowshoes thoroughly, meaning I decided to put them on even when they weren’t exactly needed, to get a feeling for the movement. That said, it took me a bit of time to put it on properly and I kept readjusting the straps a lot during the first couple of minutes. Another challenge was adjusting my walk style – I tend to keep quite a narrow stride, which I had to widen a fair amount.
In the lower portion of the hills, the weather was quite sunny. With the temperature just below zero and me being warm from the ascension (despite frequent stops to readjust the straps, I kept a high pace, meaning that I even removed my jacket and walked in just shirt and hoodie), it looked to be like a relaxing walk.
Things changed a lot when I reached the higher portion of the hills. From maybe 1250m ASL, the hills were swallowed by low clouds. Humidity and colder air had me not only put the jacket back on but also dig my backpack for my woolen gloves – a move I soon appreciated as ascending the main peak exposed me to the cold wind. During this ascension, my snowshoes had a chance to really shine – the wind accumulated the snow in a very uneven way and I know from past hikes this is a tough terrain to walk. This time, I felt like a tank (a month later, this comparison hasn’t aged well) – slow but steadily dealing with anything. That said, this is how much I was able to see at the peak due to the clouds and wind:
If you think there’s… nothing at all… you’re close to the truth – seeing an outline of the next wooden pole that marks the way in such conditions was pretty much it. And they’re some 10 meters apart… so I moved through and went on to descend from the peak. On the first crossing below, I took a side trail. The first part – reaching the rock formation I’ve posted a couple of times in summer – was easy. The trail was used, even if not much, and would be passable even without special equipment.
Not so much the next part – any hints of a trail were buried below drifted snow. For most people, the trail would be classified as impassable under those conditions. Seeing hints of wider ski marks, I decided to give myself and my gear a thorough test and, with frequent checks of maps, made the trail, though it was still difficult.
Then I came to another pass, followed by an ascension on deep-frozen snow – testing my gear in yet another terrain. On the next peak, I was buffeted by wind so strong that I’ve put my mask on to not breathe so cold wind (thanks, COVID!) and kept it in until I reached the next pass. From there, it was a slow but comfortable descent using a trail I know very well.
That wasn’t the end of my adventure, though – on the way back home, the train stopped some 20km before my destination because of a damaged pantograph, meaning an hour of delay, missing a follow-up bus, and thus another 40-minute wait. Still, a good day.
The next Saturday (13.2.), I had only a light walk planned but the weather was still good, so I went for a “quickie” on Sunday. At that point, the snowline moved a bit upwards, though it still remained around 600m ASL in colder places. Facing several cycles of melting and freezing as well as wind, this meant quite an uneven terrain, though it was okay-ish until the 1000m ASL mark, where my snow gear became very handy again.
The peak was, once again, buffeted by a strong, cold wind. I took a couple of pictures – one towards the lowlands to show the difference…
… and another of the snow which had frozen in a way that reminded my sometimes way-too-vivid imagination of tiny dragonscales.
The trail I took had me go through a sharp first part of the descent, an easy middle part, and a longer (almost 10km) section across the lowlands. As an added bonus, it meant a ride in the new double-decker train operating on this line since mid-December. As someone who visits these peaks often (as they’re near to the cities), I know the extra capacity is useful and needed.
The third weekend (20.2.) had me cancel my planned hike – strong winds hit the whole Europe and with forecasts warning about 100km/h+ winds in the hills… I decided to not risk my health.
For the final weekend, I had an easier hike planned, though I extended it a bit. By that time, the snow line moved to some 800-900m ASL while the highest point of the original plan was around 920m, so bringing the heavy snow gear wasn’t planned, though I extended my trip a bit (and to a higher point, where it would be useful for… maybe 4 kilometers).
That said, my main point was searching for quite an out-of-the-way waterfall. Getting relatively near wasn’t the issue – a wide path passes maybe 100m away from it. The thing is – the 100m is up (or down, depending on your direction) a steep slope. So I had to deal with a treacherous descent with no hint of a path, on damp soil covered by half-decomposed leaves, clinging on to trees for support. Just below the path, the stream looks like this:
And it takes as steep a descent as it looks to reach the main waterfall which, apart from spring snowmelt, is lacking any significant amount of water (probably why it’s not known much).
I would say that my February hiking exceeded expectations by a lot. It seems that the snow should hold for at least one more week in the higher portions of the hills, so I’m not giving up on more snow time for the beginning of March, but only time will tell.
I hope the last month has treated you well and given you enough space to enjoy your hobbies. And that March will favor them as well.
See you next time.