Blog
Categories
© Tirol Werbung / Rodler Ilvy
Food & Drink
© Tirol Werbung / Hörterer Lisa
Companies
© Bert Heinzelmeier
People
© Tirol Werbung / Schreyer David
Architecture
© Tirol Werbung / Aichner Bernhard
Arts & Culture
© Tirol Werbung / Moore Casey
Recommendations
© Tirol Werbung / Haindl Ramon
Feel Good
© Tirol Werbung / Webhofer Mario
Nature
© Tirol Werbung / Herbig Hans
Family
© Tirol Werbung / Schwarz Jens
Bits & Pieces
© Tirol Werbung / Neusser Peter
Sports
Jagdhausalmen Alpine Pastures, Defereggen, East Tirol, Austria, Europe
Specials

Summit Stories: Bernhard Neumann and Olperer Mountain

Updated on 09.05.2018 in People

Bernhard Neumann_Olperer_Gipfelgrat

This man has bagged the 3,476-meter peak of Olperer for more than 100 times: Bernhard Neumann’s appreciation and respect for this lofty giant in Inner Zillertal Valley grew with each attempt to get there. We tried to get some good pictures of Olperer. With the help of Bernhard.

We hear the mountain creaking and cracking as if it would break in two. Here the glacier is a jumble of seracs, giant chunks of ice cleaving and tumbling in the slow progression of the glacier. We see seracs sliding down from the Olperer’s south flank. I can’t take my eyes off of it and Jens, our photographer, takes full advantage of this tempting photo-op, click, click, click. Bernhard Neumann, our mountain guide, tells us that it is very rare to see such seracs cracking and shifting up close and personal. We are en route to climb his mountain, the 3,476-meter peak of Olperer. Bernhard apparently looks like your typical mountain guide: weather-beaten, sun-tanned, dark haired, tough and wiry, wearing a three-day stubble of beard, a cap and sunglasses. He first stood on the summit of Olperer at about the age of ten, together with his father who is a mountain guide as well. He doesn’t remember the exact date, now that he has bagged this peak more than 100 times.

The south flank of Olperer is a jumble of seracs. This is the mountain in the backyard of Bernhard Neumann, a Zillertal Valley-based mountain guide.The south flank of Olperer is a jumble of seracs. This is the mountain in the backyard of Bernhard Neumann, a Zillertal Valley-based mountain guide.

Bernhard operates an Alpine School in Mayrhofen and guides ski touring travels to Chile, Iceland and the Antarctic. His wife Kathrin is managing the office of the Alpine School, as he tells us. While others travel to the Caribbean, the two of them spent their honeymoon on Chilean volcanoes. On touring skis. Kathrin handles the guiding appointments of her husband so she has organised our tour as well.

We have already tackled the first and easiest section of our day hike, the ascent from Schlegeis Reservoir, situated at an elevation of 1,782 meters to Olperer Hut, 2,389 meters above sea level. Soon after the hut, we meet two women and a Siberian Husky. They are returning from their early morning trip to the 3,072-meter peak of Riepensattel. Bernhard is good friends with one of the two women, Katharina, who happens to be the innkeeper of Olperer Hut. “Earlier, before we had children, my wife and I used to climb to Olperer Hut after work, to have dinner up there,” says Bernhard. “The floor-to-ceiling window displays uninterrupted mountain views, that’s amazing. And the staff, with Katharina and Chef Manuel does a great job.”

Our destination on the map: Olperer Mountain.Our destination on the map: Olperer Mountain.

Olperer Hut, the popular base for summiting the peak of Olperer.Olperer Hut, the popular base for summiting the peak of Olperer.

Conquering the summit of Olperer within a day is ambitious and strenuous.Conquering the summit of Olperer within a day is ambitious and strenuous.

En route we meet Katharina, the innkeeper of Olperer Hut with her Siberian Husky named “Snowy”.En route we meet Katharina, the innkeeper of Olperer Hut with her Siberian Husky named “Snowy”.

Looking to the south, a seemingly infinite array of peaks spread out before us. Bernhard identifies some of them for us: Hochfeiler, the highest mountain in Zillertal Valley at 3,510 meters, Hoher Weißzint, Großer Möseler. And we are looking right at 3,410-meter Schrammacher Mountain in its full, unobstructed glory, with its sheer wall of a summit that is very striking. Its north face is an appealing target for the peculiarly determined climber—and instilled visions of Alpinism in young Tirol-native David Lama, who scaled this vertiginous wall in the winter. Hard to imagine. So this is the place where Bernhard Neumann grew up, towered by prominent Olperer Peak. At the age of 20, he dared to cross the Olperer from north to south in the winter among a party of friends. Bernhard had his skis strapped to his rucksack, the others their snowboards. This was the moment when he recognized that heading out to the mountains with no experience is pretty dangerous, says Bernhard. Some of his buddies didn’t know a lot about Alpinism. This was an important experience for him, one that inspired him to become a mountain guide later. Today, at the age of 40, he is teaching and instructing young people to become mountain guides.

I hear a deep growl again. This time, though, it’s not the seracs to our left. To the right, about one kilometer as the crow flies I recognize a snowcat at Tuxer Ferner Glacier. It’s only now that I spot the ski runs that spread out beneath the summit of Gefrorene Wand. Skiers cruise down the wide open slopes. Skiing on July 19?? Well, yes, Hintertux Glacier is the only real year-round ski area in Austria. “It’s very busy here at this time of year. Some 800 skiers come from all over the world to train here in the summer,” says Bernhard. “There are even ski racers from Australia up here.” I thought that ski racers would rather train on the Southern hemisphere in the summer, such as in New Zealand or Chile. “Well, yes, they do but Hintertux Glacier consistently offers some of the very best snow and training conditions in the world.”

Schlegeis Reservoir, constant companion on our way to the summit of Olperer.Schlegeis Reservoir, constant companion on our way to the summit of Olperer.

Roping-up for glacier travel. Depicted in the rear is the summit ridge.Roping-up for glacier travel. Depicted in the rear is the summit ridge.

The summit of Olperer is accessible during a day hike from Hintertux Ski Resort nowadays. In earlier times, the conquest of this mountain was an extreme challenge. Before the glacier gondola resumed operation in Hintertux, mountaineers had to climb up to Spannagelhaus Lodge, situated at an elevation of 2,600 meters. From there it was still a long and steep climb to the top of 3,476-meter Olperer – with a long section of glacier travel to tackle. “My wife’s 86-year old uncle, a mountain guide and shoemaker, did it that way,” tells Bernhard. “This was a hard technical route for mountaineers these days.” Even today it is not all that easy climbing the top of Olperer within one day from the ski resort as you are kind of pressed for time: “The lift starts operation at 8:15am and stops at 4:00pm, so there is limited time in between. Aspiring Olperer climbers wanting to scale its northern ridge need excellent technical climbing abilities. There are treacherous and smooth slab sections that are slippery and the drop off is steep. Moreover, you should not underestimate that the high elevation takes a toll, even on fit hikers. The quick gondola ride offers little relief as the air grows noticeably thinner. Given the rugged terrain and the thin air, there are times every step can be a struggle. The best way to keep altitude sickness at bay is to allow plenty of time to acclimate, such as ascending via Olperer Hut on foot. The dividing line between day-hiking and Alpine conditions is blurred here, yet another way this hike takes you into truly rarefied air.”

We have opted for the less technical route along the south face, which means we have almost 1,700 meters of elevation to hike before the summit at 3,476 meters. Which is quite ambitious for a day hike, given the many times we have to stop to capture pictures. I begin to doubt our attempt. At least Jens has spent last night on the hut, while Bernhard and I started our climb down at the reservoir. We begin to climb with a rope and a harness. This is my first time moving roped-up, as well for Jens. Our boots sink into the soft snow. Bernhard leads us through a snowfield, which is called “Schneegupf”. Snow fell last week and in some places, we sink into the snow almost to our knees. “A few days ago I had to cancel a tour atop Olperer because of avalanche danger,” says Bernhard. In the middle of July. Today, we are lucky as snow conditions are safe for climbing despite a few treacherous, icy sections.

Crossing the snowfield named „Schneegupf“ at 3,000 meters above sea level.Crossing the snowfield named „Schneegupf“ at 3,000 meters above sea level.

Bernhard nears the summit ridge. “A few days ago I had to cancel a tour atop Olperer because of avalanche danger,” says Bernhard.Bernhard nears the summit ridge. “A few days ago I had to cancel a tour atop Olperer because of avalanche danger,” says Bernhard.

We reach an elevation of about 3,200 meters and continue our scramble up over rocks and boulders.  Fixed wires are in place to aid stability. In between, we can spot old iron steps. This is where the first recorded ascent of Olperer took place in the year 1867. Paul Grohmann, Georg Samer and Jackl Gainer conquered this tricky section without fixed wires. 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the first ascent. Bernhard tells us that the local Alpinist Association plans to remove the fixed wires along the exposed summit ridge to give back the mountain its original, unspoiled face on occasion of the 150th anniversary. Instead, they would install bolts, a permanent anchor fixed into a hole drilled in the rock as a form of protection. “In my opinion, fixed wires mean less safety for mountaineers as they tempt people who don’t possess the required technical skills and abilities to places where they shouldn’t go to.” We are quite happy to have the fixed wire in place up here in this truly rarefied air. After all, there are exposed ledges that drop down a few hundred meters right next to us.

A few minutes later, at an elevation of 3,450 meters, we get the first glimpse of the cross on the summit of Olperer Mountain. The mere last vertical meters, marked by the rocky and jagged summit ridge, feel interminable. It’s getting late and we are running out of time. After all, we have to keep in mind that we need to get down the mountain as well. Jens is exhausted and I am exhausted. “We are all tired, me too, I am not a machine,” says Bernhard. He is looking at Jens who has braved the physically taxing ascent. “You have to know when to turn around to avoid disaster. The later the worse. And we really have come a long way. And although the summit is near it’s better to turn around now. It’s still a long way to go down.”

We retrace our steps back down to Olperer Hut. Bernhard and I sit down for a quick bite before proceeding down to the car, which we have parked at the reservoir. Innkeeper Katharina tries her best to comfort us. “So you have a reason to come back. And that’s a good thing!” Jens spends another night on the hut to capture photographs of the spectacular sunset. Alpenglow has Olperer Mountain aflame with orange light, the clouds have passed away. Bernhard looks up. “I stood on that summit more than a hundred times but it never threw me off.” Neither this time.

Photo Credits: Tirol Werbung / Jens SchwarzPhoto Credits: Tirol Werbung / Jens Schwarz

From Großglockner to Wildspitze, from Großvenediger to Wilder Kaiser to Olperer: This summer, we will be telling the stories of five Tirol mountain guides and the mountains in their backyard.

If you want to join Bernhard Neumann for a guided tour please refer here: www.mountain-sports-zillertal.com

When he is not working, Michael Gams is out exploring this beautiful country, hiking, mountain biking, freeriding and ski touring to the most beautiful spots in Tirol.

Last article from Michael
Kufsteinerland, Erl, Hotel Blaue Quelle, Fisch
Updated on 17.03.2021 in Food & Drink
Five taverns with homegrown produce
3 min reading time
stubaier-gletscher-3s_03
Updated on 16.03.2021 in Bits & Pieces
Bye Bye T-Bar, Hello Tri-Cable Gondola.
4 min reading time
Axamer Lizum
Updated on 09.02.2021 in Sports
How to Be a Better Skier: 9 Ways to Improve Your Skiing
10 min reading time
The record breaking 406 meter long suspension footbridge connects remarkable Ehrenberg Castle Ensemble with the remains of the 17th-century Roman Fortress Claudia in the market town of Reutte at a dizzying height of 110 meters. (Photography: Naturparkregion Reutte)
Updated on 29.10.2020 in Recommendations
21 Reasons Why You Should Never Visit Tirol
2 min reading time
Scheffau/Kaisergebirge/Wilder Kaiser, Hintersteiner See
Updated on 14.12.2018 in Nature
Five Hikes for Water Lovers
2 min reading time
Snowshoeing in Hochfilzen, Pillerseetal Valley. (Photo: Tirol Werbung)
Updated on 10.12.2018 in Recommendations
Top Ten Places for a White Christmas in Tirol
4 min reading time
Florentine_Fuerst@Sonnenaufgangswanderung_Itter_-_Kitzbueheler_Alpen
Updated on 31.10.2018 in Recommendations
11 Perfect Shots: Sunrise in the Mountains
4 min reading time
Schloss Tratzberg (c) W9 Studios, Tirol Werbung
Updated on 22.10.2018 in Arts & Culture
Discover the Myths and Legends of Tratzberg Castle
3 min reading time
DSC03276 (2014_07_24 17_33_49 UTC)
Updated on 01.10.2018 in Recommendations
I am Off. To Vent, the Mountaineering Village
4 min reading time
Ramolhaus
Updated on 14.08.2018 in Architecture
Five Alpine Association Huts for Architecture Lovers
4 min reading time
Portrait Vreni Meijerink (c) Bert Heinzlmeier
Updated on 31.07.2018 in People
One of 757 thousand: How Vreni from Holland came to Tirol
6 min reading time
Maeusebussard-1500px-1024×683
Updated on 27.06.2018 in Nature
Out in the Wild. Wildlife Photography Stories from the Field
7 min reading time
Great Trails_Soelden_Leiterberg
Updated on 19.05.2018 in Sports
Five Epic Singletrack Trails
3 min reading time
Ötztal, Niederthai, Le Miracle, Niederthai
Updated on 08.05.2018 in Sports
Five Climbing Routes for Total Rock Jocks
4 min reading time
Updated on 04.04.2018 in Family
Five Family Adventures
3 min reading time
Kilian Scheiber_Wildspitze Portrait
Updated on 12.03.2018 in People
Summit Stories: Kilian Scheiber and Wildspitze Mountain
10 min reading time
St. Anton am Arlberg_Galzigbahn
Updated on 20.02.2018 in Recommendations
A Day In The Snow: Skiing St. Anton.
11 min reading time
Updated on 04.12.2017 in Family
Winter holiday through a photographer’s lens
1 min reading time
Photo Credit: Tirol Werbung/Peter Neusser
Updated on 05.07.2017 in Sports
10 Reasons Why You Should Try Canyoning
3 min reading time
Stunning views of Venet Massif, ringed by Swiss stone pine forest. (Photo Credit: Eva Thöni)
Updated on 04.07.2017 in Sports
The Best Fall Hikes in Tirol
7 min reading time
Portrait_Sara_(c) Carlos Blanchard_S34B5610
Updated on 03.07.2017 in People
One Out of 757 Thousand: How Sara came to Tirol from Sweden
9 min reading time
Bergfuehrer_Matthias Wurzer_Gipfel Großglockner (c) Tirol Werbung_Jens Schwarz
Updated on 28.06.2017 in People
Summit Stories: Matthias Wurzer and Großglockner Mountain
9 min reading time
Left behind the snowcapped spire is our destination: The Summit of Großvenediger.
Updated on 27.06.2017 in People
Summit Stories: Sigi Hatzer and Großvenediger Mountain
9 min reading time
Left behind the snowcapped spire is our destination: The Summit of Großvenediger.
Updated on 27.06.2017 in People
New Blog Series: Mountain Guide Summit Stories
5 min reading time
Ort:
Updated on 20.03.2017 in Family
The ABC’s of Skiing With Kids
6 min reading time
Skigebiet Alpbach in Tirol
Updated on 20.02.2017 in Recommendations
A Day In The Snow: Skiing in Alpbach
10 min reading time
Biathlon Schnuppern 1
Updated on 19.01.2017 in Sports
Why Biathlon is Worth a Shot: Biathlon Clinics for Beginners
4 min reading time
Free Your Heel, Free Your Mind: Telemark Pro Marc Künkele in Hintertux. (Photo Credit: Martin Rainer)
Updated on 05.12.2016 in Sports
Tele-Ho: Learning To Free Your Heel
8 min reading time
DSC_0055
Updated on 01.06.2016 in Sports
What to Bring: The Ultimate Multi-Day Hiking Packing List
3 min reading time
Oscar kocht Innsbruck_Titelbild_1280px
Updated on 07.04.2016 in People
One out of 757 thousand: How Oscar came to Tirol from Mexico
7 min reading time
Beckna Harakiri schmal
Updated on 21.03.2016 in Recommendations
A Day In The Snow: Snowboarding in Mayrhofen
8 min reading time
Figl
Updated on 17.02.2016 in Sports
Figl – That’s the Answer
4 min reading time
2013-2014 saw the severest winter of the century so far: Obertilliach, East Tirol.
Updated on 21.12.2015 in Nature
Where is Tirol’s Snowiest Place of the Past 30 Years?
3 min reading time
1_Skifahren in Ischgl_Pardatschgrat
Updated on 02.12.2015 in Recommendations
A Day In The Snow: Skiing Ischgl
5 min reading time
All articles from Michael
No comments available
Write comment

Keep reading

Go up
Is your inbox in need of a holiday?

Then subscribe to our weekly newsletter full of exclusive holiday tips from Tirol!