Obergurgl Day Six – The Rotmoos Valley

Dear Readers, after a week of not feeling very well and having weather that was thundery and grey, today dawned in perfect walking weather (sunny but not too hot) so we pounded up the steep service road towards the Rotmoos valley. This is one of my very favourite walks in Obergurgl – at the start of the walk there’s the Schonweissehutte,¬† which was renovated a few years ago but which still serves a decent goulasche soupe.

From here, you edge past the reservoir, with it’s rather confusing warning sign. I imagine it freezes in winter, so maybe it’s a warning to intrepid skaters that this might not be the best spot. If anyone reads German, feel free to correct me.

Then it’s off along the path towards what’s left of the Rotmoos glacier. In 1872 it came to the location of the boulder with the red and white stripes in the photo below. Today, as you can see, it’s barely there at all.

So this adds a sombre note to this bright and shiny day. I remember the glacier being much more developed when I first came here in 1994. It’s shocking to see how diminished it is. The University of Innsbruck has one of the world’s most important centres for the study of glaciation, and the weather station in the valley has been here since the 1930s, continually recording data.

The weather station

But still, the flowers and the insect life here are absolutely stunning. I saw my very first gentians of the holiday…

This orange plant looks rather like our Fox and Cubs, but is a closely-related species, known here as Golden Hawksbeard (Crepis aurea).

There is the delightfully-named Crimson-Tipped Lousewort, a member of the Figwort family…

…Kidney Vetch, which we have in the UK, though I’ve never seen it in such profusion…

There are no true ‘trees’ at this altitude, but there are these little prostrate willows (Salix retusa), who survive in the poor, thin soil.

Further along the path there’s Moss Campion (Silene acaulis), hunkering down close to the ground to survive the cold and the scouring wind (even today there was a chill breeze blowing from what’s left of the glacier). The Alps are a paradise for members of the Pink family, I must have seen at least eight species.

And there’s some Round-Headed Rampion (Phyteuma orbiculare), another plant that I associate very strongly with Alpine meadows.

We were surprised not to see any marmots, though there were a few whistles from the other side of the valley. But there was this female Northern Wheatear with a beak full of bugs – clearly she has a nest somewhere near, and kept a very close eye on us. The birds spend the winter in Africa, but in summer they spread out across the rocky places of Europe. Here in Austria they often make their nests in disused marmot burrows. I’d never been able to identify these birds before, so it was lovely to be able to do so with the assistance of the European Bird Identification Facebook page.

And of course, the paths are full of butterflies and moths. Have a look at these blue butterflies, feeding on a patch of earth that I suspect had been peed or pooed on by some passing creature, leaving behind minerals that the insects needed.

And then, there is a sight that has lifted my heart every time I’ve visited Obergurgl. The local Haflinger horses spend the summer in the meadows around the village, pleasing themselves about where they go and when, and only coming back to their stable if they sense an oncoming storm. They are all palominos, and are led by an experienced mare who knows the territory and calls the shots. I honestly believe that they are some of the most beautiful horses on earth. Once I’ve seen them, I know that I’m truly back in the Tyrol.

5 thoughts on “Obergurgl Day Six – The Rotmoos Valley

  1. Gibson Square

    In about 1960 I climbed up to the Rotmoos glacier, camped overnight in an alpine hut and traversed the ice sheet at dawn. It’s frightening to see the change.

  2. Ann Bronkhorst

    Glad you are striding forth and feeling better. Glacier info is very grim, though.

  3. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    Did you continue along that path to the glacier? From the picture it looks like the ‘end’ may be under all that dark grey rubble or shale. The first time I ever walked on a glacier I never even noticed until I turned around and saw an obvious solid ice arch to the side. The top of it was covered in stones and it just felt like a normal path.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      We didn’t this time but you’re right, in previous years we’ve found that the end of the glacier is easily missed, being a bit grubby as you’ve described. I think we’d have had to trudge up a fair old way this time.


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