The mountains surrounding the Vilsalpsee Lake in Tyrol, Austria are ideal for hiking and mountaineering, which is why it has become such a highly popular area. The Neunerköpfle cable car in Tannheim offers a comfortable ascent for anybody who wants to walk the Jubiläumsweg or simply escape the fog hanging over the valley and enjoy a day in the sunshine. That is why in late summer there are so many people up on the mountain that it often feels the same as on the motorway on a public holiday. It is already late autumn, there seems to be no end to the Indian summer in sight, and so we decided to go on a mountain tour in Tannheim Valley. Our destination: the Via Ferrata on the north face of the Lachenspitze.

The masses have gone now that the cable cars and mountain huts are closed for the winter; this has to be the best time to do this climb. While in summer you can easily manage this tour without being under time pressure, we have the handicap of few hours of daylight. However, as a reward we have the soft light, long shadows and complete solitude. The tour is described as 6-7 hours, which is the same as the amount of daylight that we will have available on this particular day and is the reason why in addition to our Via Ferrata set, picnic and first aid kit, our backpacks also contain a headlamp.

It is just after nine o'clock as we leave the car park at Vilsalpsee Lake and the first rays of sunlight strike the southern slopes of Rauhorn and Gaishorn. Down here it is icy cold above the lake and our route leads us away from the light into the shadow. The squeaking frost under our boots marks out the pace. As the seasons change it is extremely important to have the right clothing with you and your footwear has to be suitable for varying conditions too. After almost one and a half hours we reach Traualpsee Lake. Emerging from the shadows from one step to the next we enter the sunlight and let our cold faces thaw out.

Although we are in Austria, this mountain range is an extension of the German Allgäu Alps. The grass covered slopes are typical for this area, shimmering in the autumn sun with the emerald-colored Traualpsee Lake set in the middle. Then we catch sight of the Landsberg hut for the first time with the north face of the Lachenspitze in the shadows in the background.

After another 45 minutes we arrive at the hut, which is closed for the winter and only offers emergency shelter in the winter room. Since it is approaching noon, what could be better than taking a short break? Catch some more rays and a quick bite to eat before we head off into the shadows again.

Replenished after our break we make our way up towards the dark north face. The Lache, a small tarn below the Landsberg hut at the foot of the Lachenspitze, is iced over. As soon as we cross the line of shadow we can feel the temperature drop 10 degrees. After a quarter of an hour we are almost at the start of the via ferrata. We don our climbing equipment and our helmets and get started straightaway to keep moving and avoid getting cold.

The first few meters reflect the most difficult sections of the tour later on. Then, after the first 30 meters, we reach easier terrain and make some rapid headway. Following the easy part we then cross a steep section before reaching the rock face.

Halfway up we enter a chimney. In order to cross over to the other side the Via Ferrata passes over a block wedged into the chimney; a huge chunk of rock that has fallen from above and has become wedged into the crevice. From here onwards the climb is more difficult again. After almost two hours we reach the summit; the view is marvelous.

To the north the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, to the east the Ammergau mountains, heading round to the south the Wetterstein massif with the Zugspitze, and the peaks of the Karwendel Range reaching upwards in between. Right in front of us is the Mieming, Lech valley and Hornbach Range with the Hochvogel in the west.

Time just flies by, the shadows are getting longer and the sun's rays begin to lose their warmth. We stow our climbing kit into our backpacks and enjoy the last of the daylight as we start our descent. The sun has already gone down before we reach the saddle below Steinkarspitze and after another 30 minutes we are walking in pitch-black. Good that we brought our headlamps with us. As we arrive back at Vilsalpsee Lake we turn to look back up towards Lachenspitze, but it is hidden in the night.