Friday, March 22, 2013

Thursday Adventure: Dachstein Alps, Austria

Looking at the snowy peaks of the Rockies on my commute to work inspired me to show off some nice glaciated mountain pictures for this Thursday's adventure.  And if you want to see glaciated peaks, what better place than the Alps?  (At least for now.  I hear the glaciers are shrinking fast in Europe, just as they are everywhere else.  Famous climbs like the Eiger are becoming more and more dangerous, as the ice melts to leave friable rock that all too easily shatters and falls.)  

On our trip to Austria back in 2005, my husband and I hiked many beautiful mountains, but my favorite spot was the Dachstein massif.  Craggy, glaciated peaks with ice caves in their upper reaches, and abundant wildflowers covering the verdant meadows at their base, the Dachstein Alps are a hiker's paradise.  A climber's paradise, too, as they are home to some of Austria's most difficult klettersteig routes.  We had our sights set on the infamous Johann Klettersteig, but upon arrival in Ramsau, we found a storm had left a treacherous combination of verglas ice and deep snow coating the rock of the upper mountain.  We hadn't brought any crampons, hand axes, and other technical gear required for safe climbing in icy conditions.  So instead of attempting any summits, we trekked over the glacier and around the peak of the Hoher Dachstein, scrambling over ridges while wistfully admiring the other, better-prepared climbers.  Next time we visit, we hope to join them!

The Dachstein Massif, viewed from our hotel in Ramsau
The Dachstein Gletscherbahn gives access to the upper mountain for climbers and skiers.  (You can ski all year long on the glacier.)
Robert trekking on the glacier; the remnants of stormclouds still shroud the peaks
Sinuous curves on the glacier

The Hoher Dachstein appears at last from the mist
Climbers on the start of the klettersteig route up the Hoher Dachstein
Robert on the ridge beside the Hoher Dachstein
Climbers high on the route
Stark but beautiful scenery as the storm clears out
Climbers near the summit
Looking down from the ridge, at the village and meadows far below
Robert at the base of the Hoher Dachstein


  1. Mmm...Glaciers!

    A very pretty massif indeed.

    1. Glaciers always make everything better. Well, except frostbite. :)

  2. Such a wild place that you can go for a day hike and reach an area that looks like it's hundred of miles above the Arctic Circle.

    Also, what does klettersteig mean? Is it the area, or a type of climbing? Or maybe it's an apfelstrudel? :-)

    1. Klettersteig is a type of climbing route where fixed protection has been placed: iron rungs, cables, etc, to allow climbers to rapidly ascend difficult terrain. (The more popular term is the Italian "Via Ferrata", literally "Iron Way".) Soldiers put up a bunch of routes up pinnacles in the Alps during WWI and WWII so spotters could call in artillery strikes. Since then, it's become a popular form of climbing in Europe. (Climbers in the US typically hold to a more wilderness aesthetic, though the cable route up Half Dome in Yosemite or the route up Angel's Landing in Zion are examples of similar fixed-protection routes. But both of those are much, much easier than most Austrian klettersteigs!)

    2. Thanks! And now I remember - you used the word just two months ago, about your climb at Pyramidenspitze. Either my memory's going or I shouldn't take up German. : p