A Fitness Check: The Kochofen
For one of our first hikes we decided to walk up to the peak of the Kochofen. At 1906 meters high it’s not a huge mountain, and you can drive up to the Michaelerberghaus to save quite a few meters of altitude. From there it’s a climb of about 650m, a great hike for the first few days when you’re still gauging your fitness.
Starting from Michaelerberghaus the walk starts with a pretty steep path through the forest. After a few hundred meters of hiking the path splits in two - a steeper path to the right, and a less steep one to the left. We decided to walk up the left one, as we prefere descending less steep paths, and wanted to make this a circuit.
In the beginning the path leads through wonderful conifere forests, which smell wonderful in the warm summer air. There we found some grazing sheep, that immediatley walked over to us and begged for treats.
Afterwards the path reached a hilltop called “Loskögerl”, at 1548m high, then crossed a small saddle, where the trees started to thin. Around there is the halfway point of the climb up, and the view both towards Gröbming and the Sattental to the other side was magnificent. The path conintued to climb steeply and soon lead through grassy and rocky areas, with fewer small trees rather than a forest.
Continuing further up towards the peak the path stays very steep and because of the thinning treeline the sun burned down on us relentlessly. After a walk of about two hours and fifteen minutes we reached the grassy peak of the Kochofen. Complete with a cross and a bench right below it. “Kochofen” means cooking oven in German, and it really did its name proud – without many trees we were properly cooked in the sun. Also a whole bunch of buzzing insects flew around us, while we wrote our entry into the visitors book and ate our picnic.
For people that want to walk a little further it is another two hours or so, and a climb of another 300m to reach the peak Spateck. A tour for maybe another day, as we had enough and rather wanted to start the descent.
On the way back down we took the second of the two possible paths. That one was a lot less steep and led us right back into the forest after the first few meters down the side of the mountain. In some places there were fallen trees across the path, even though most of them had already been cleared away. Some of the way is on a forest road, which makes descending a lot less steep and easier on the knees.
After the crossroads that reunited the path we had walked up with the one we walked down it was just a matter of another few minutes walking and we reached the Michaelerberghaus. There we stopped for a buttermilk and a bread with Steirerkas. Steirerkas is a local cheese made from cows milk, spiced with salt and pepper. It is very dry and is not spread but rather crumbled onto the buttered bread. At first sight the greenish black color looks like it has gone bad, but for people that like stronger cheeses it really is a delicacy.