Sunday, 10 September 2017

A Walk In the Salzkammergut Mountains in Austria



View from Predigstuhl

As a gear reviewer for The Great Outdoors I’m invited on a quite a few press trips every year, mostly for the launch of a new product or material. I rarely go on these trips due to the time they take and the fact that often there’s no outdoor component at all, just factory visits, product presentations and nice meals. A trip this last week to trekking and ski pole make Komperdell in Austria promised to be different, with a mountain walk and a stay in a mountain hut, so for once I accepted. 

The cliffs of Predigstuhl
 
Komperdell is based in Mondsee, a lovely rural area of Austria that is part of the Salzkammergut range in the Northern Limestone Alps. It’s an area of forests and cliffs, rising to 2,000 metres. After an interesting tour of the factory (I never knew making poles was so complex) we headed out into the hills, or more accurately into the woods, to try various new trekking pole designs on an ascent of 1278 metre Predigstuhl. The mountain walk to the Dachstein glacier and the stay in the alpine hut had been abandoned due to the weather forecast, which was for thunderstorms, heavy rain and low cloud. 

Forest carving

The high mountains were indeed cloud-shrouded but lower down there were many layers of drifting mist that made for an ethereal and mysterious landscape. Much of the time we were in the forest, itself somewhat strange and magical in the hazy air. This is a rich and lovely mixed forest with much undergrowth. The first autumn colours were evident and there were many fungi pushing up through the damp soil. Early on in the walk there were many carvings beside the path to add to the fairy tale atmosphere.

Sheltered from the rain

From the lower forest we traversed the face of the great cliffs on a ledge cut into the mountainside. Here the first rain reached us and there was the only clap of thunder of the day. Overhanging walls shielded us from the downpour. 

Cliff edge
 
Beyond the cliff the path wound up and down through the woods, sometimes with cables and ladders on steep rocky sections, to the summit of Predigstuhl, marked by a large cross. Set right on the edge of the cliffs there was a magnificent view of the surrounding lakes, forests and mountains even though the highest peaks were still hidden in the clouds. 

Wet ladder
 
Further rough walking through rocky forest led through a huge landslip strewn with giant boulders to the Gasthaus Hutteneck-Alm and welcome beer and food. 

Through the landslip
 
This was a good walk for an introduction to the beautiful Austrian countryside. Whilst the forests feel remote whenever there’s a viewpoint you look down on towns and farms and neat fields. This is wild country but not wilderness. We saw little wildlife but with a group of eight not moving quietly that wasn’t surprising.  We did see several fire salamanders, their exotic colouring making them stand out.

Fire salamander

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