HF Holidays have been known to me for a while but for some reason, I’ve never given them the consideration that they are perhaps due. Whilst not being a stand alone Lakes & Mountains operator, they provide some terrific options for the alpine enthusiast but it must be said, at a price.
Being the only UK based holiday provider that is a cooperative society, all profits generated are ploughed back into making their holidays “even better”, according to their easily navigable website. This is of course to be applauded but in my experience of cooperatives, namely the Co-op itself, you can find cheaper alternatives or the same product(s) elsewhere for significantly less. In these days of price comparison websites and savvy travellers eschewing travel-agents and tour-operators by booking directly with airlines and accommodation providers, it is a dangerous game for any holiday provider to potentially price themselves out of the market. HF Holidays are though an ethical organisation founded upon Christian values, all the while with a not inconsiderable 100 years experience of assisting travellers to make the most of their precious time away.
One holiday amongst the fifteen they organise to Austria particularly caught my eye. The High Routes of Mayrhofen, takes in, again to quote from their website, “high summits and cols that are normally ‘off-limits’ on our guided walking holidays”. This is certainly something a bit different than to what is offered even by the leviathans of the Lakes & Mountains industry, demanding a high-level of fitness and more than an element of technical expertise from it’s participants. Giving the hiker an opportunity to potentially ‘bag’ several 3000 metre peaks is a wonderful opportunity for many who would not otherwise have the confidence to undertake such an exacting week of walking. But, in my opinion, here is the problem. A week is nowhere near long enough to reach such altitudes, bearing in mind Mayrhofen stands at a relatively modest 633 metres. Why do I say this? From personal experience of going ‘too high, too soon’ there is a very real danger of contracting altitude-sickness when the disparity of the starting and finishing points’ altitude is so great. A ten day excursion should be the bare-minimum for this holiday, giving the touring party the correct amount of time to build up to reaching the 10000 feet pinnacles. Thankfully, this holiday is fully guided throughout by presumably a local, who will know the warning signs of altitude-sickness better than anybody.
On the face of it, this holiday is a spectacular introduction to the myriad delights of the Ziller valley, although, considering the exposure on some of the routes I would hope that all undertaking this tour either have previous experience of some of the aspects of for instant the Ahorn or Rastkogel; failing that I equally hope that HF Holidays check that travellers have strong experience elsewhere and are realistic about their own abilities. Bearing in mind that this route takes participants into high-level hiking back-country, the importance of safety and walking to ones own ability cannot be under-estimated.
Notwithstanding the unfeasibly short duration of this holiday including the lack of rest days, I look favourably upon the itinerary for this expedition. The hotel used by HF, the Waldheim, is well regarded by a couple of dozen or so Trip Advisor reviewers. Flights are taken to Munich, with a lower-price bizarrely offered if you don’t arrive by ‘plane. How in this case you are meant to arrive in Mayrhofen, I am not sure. As though indicated earlier in this post, I find the prices to be unacceptable. A basic price of £974, based upon a flight from Manchester and without the obligatory regional flight and single-room supplements, as well as the transportation costs to and from the walks being strangely not included, a lone-traveller as myself is looking at an outlay of £1100. I find this unacceptable.
I am sure a good holiday would be had by all but I believe the cost and short-duration of it will put off some. This isn’t though a post to completely rubbish what HF have to offer; I have been impressed with the range of destinations on offer, as well as offering holidays that are guided AND self-guided, for those amongst us who enjoy the alps on our own, at our own pace and therefore not compelled to suffer fools gladly out on the trail. “Look at that view” has to be one of the most oft-used and at the same time stupid utterances heard in the mountains. Yes, I am aware of the view as I am looking at it as well! Wainwright would understand what I mean!
More links to HF Holidays and the Zillertal(Mayrhofen High Routes) tour can be found below: