To reach this hut, you have to cross the border between Austria and Switzerland. Admittedly, you will only be inspected by a couple of curious cows or horses. Part 3 of Trisanna’s series on the mountain huts of Paznaun. Today: the Heidelberger Hut and its legends.

This hut has a very special history. It lies at a height of 2 264 metres in furthermost Fimba, and is the only German Alpine Club mountain hut to be found in Swiss territory. The huts of the Heidelberg Section belong to the political municipality of Valsot, but are administered from Ischgl, currently by the hut manager Alois Eiter.

And in addition to this, it has a very long tale to tell. The first version of the Heidelberger Hut was built as early as 1889, as this photo of ETH-Zürich shows.

The Heidelberger Hütte in 1890

The first hut managers were brother and sister Heinrich and Hirlanda Kurz. They managed the Heidelberger Hut from 1901 to 1914, when the First World War broke out. Mountain guide Heinrich Kurz became famous as a master of the one-pole skiing technique and covered the stretch from Idalpe to Ischgl in twelve minutes.

After the First World War, mountain guide Alfons Ganahl took over the hut, followed in 1922 by his colleague Eugen Zangerl, popularly known as “Wippas”, who lived in the hut until 1939. He was relatively content, and only occasionally wrote wistful letters to the Heidelberg Section hut manager: “My health is tolerably good, but from time to time a wife would indeed be good, if it were only not for a lifetime! My irons in the fire are burning just as little as yours at any rate. In the hut I have so much to do that I had enough time to think about this issue…”

Perhaps the most legendary Heidelberger Hut manager, however, was the mountain guide and later cableway pioneer Erwin Aloys, called “Annamarieler” by his friends. Many skirmishes with the customs were ascribed to him, as this anecdote demonstrates:

“One early morning, the hut manager drove down into the valley with the rubbish. At the Oberere Pardatschkapelle chapel two customs officials stopped him to check his car. With great presence of mind Erwin got out of his jeep, walked in front of the vehicle, knelt down and kissed the earth, made the sign of the cross three times, raised his arms to the sky and cried as loud as he could: ‘Lord God, come down and enlighten the understanding of these two finance officials, as they know not what they do.’ The customs officials were overcome with laughter and went to the back of the vehicle. At which point Erwin jumped up, was in the car as fast as lightning and raced away…”

After Erwin Aloys, Emil Zangerl took on the Heidelberger Hut and worked there as hut manager for 28 years. After the Salner and Huber families, Alois Eiter has now taken over the hut.

From Ischgl the climb over the Bodenalpehnhaus takes four hours. From Galtür the path leads through the Lareintal valley over the Ritzenjoch, taking some five hours. The most popular destinations from the hut are the Heidelberger Spitze (2 963 m, 2 to 3 hours), the Gemsbleisspitze (3 014 m, 3 hours) – and, of course, the mountain which leaves its mark on the entire range: the Fluchthorn (3 399 m, 4 to 5 hours).