Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Austrian Road Trip - Klettersteig!

So apparently Frankenjura isn't the only place we're supposed to go on holiday. The weather is warming and it was time to take the van further afield. Having taken the van to so many cool places in Germany last year, we settled on a trip to check out Austria, and in particular their modern take on Via Ferrata.... or Klettersteig in German.

It basically works like this. Routes are graded A-G, where in reality A is a path with a rope, E is "extreme" which basically means up to French 6a but this can be in an Alpine situation or a 1000m face, where a fall could be very serious indeed. As for G... well we didn't get that far, and there is nothing harder than E/F in Austria.

The Klettersteig Guidance!
We started our trip with a night stopover in the Franken forest. While we didn't get a chance to climb it was a great start to the holidays!

Waking up to sunshine

It was then quickly on the road down to the far south east of Germany, to Konigssee, for our first Klettersteig experience and a lovely hour long boat ride to Obersee. Where you get to see a guy dressed in Lederhosen play a mini trumpet to the mountain... and the mountain plays back Yes Germany!

The first klettersteig, graded "E", was a non alpine but pretty long route (something like 500m up) and Jen's first Via Ferrata. Needless to say she was pretty excited!

Grunstein Klettersteig

Jen not containing her smile!

Getting started on the first hard stuff.... still having a blast!
Exposure creeping up

Yes, as fun as it looks...
After walking back down via an full Umpah band and biergarten at the top of the mountain we headed for a well deserved boat ride.


Frish Milch!

Obersee, Jen's take on the classic boat house shot

Leaving Konigssee

Austria was calling, so after some confusion with the toll system, (YES you need to pay tolls in Austria and NO there isn't any booths or much warning, you just need to know and get a sticker for 9eur a week), we head down to Hallstatt.

Hallstatt - thanks wikipedia!
Hallstatt is really nice, so much so that the Chinese have made a replica and it's basically an Asian pilgrimage to see the original... yep, really. However it's kept it's Austrian feel, and is surrounded by beautiful alpine mountains including the Dachstein range.

Echernwand in the background

Having driven down during the day, we made a speedy afternoon of the short but steep Echernwand. This was super fun, other than the "Panorama leiter".. which is basically a ladder overhanging over the edge of the cliff. Jen loved it. I shat myself.

Starting up the Echernwand (or should that be Urchin Wand?)

Jen definitely not taking Via Ferrata seriously.....

Can you see the whites of my knuckles? This I did not like.

Amazing views of the Hallstatt and Dachstein range in the background

Happier to be back on Rock (and Iron)

After a crazy night of red wine and cards (plus a couple of spectacular thunderstorms), we were ready for a bigger challenge....

Who needs Berlin Clubbing?

 Keen to attempt something more Alpine we head over to Krippenstein Nordwand, which is 2100m, and in May still very much covered in snow.

Oscar and Jen with the Krippenstein in the far background

The only way up this time of year is by cable car. It was getting pretty obvious that it was too early in the year to be trying this.... but someone was too excited!

Snow Fields below Krippenstien, and Jen's first Gondala ride!
Wondering if the Blizzard, and Snow Fields can be navigated through...
We took a walk out to the Five Fingers viewing point to take a look anyway, and instantly hit a problem. The way in to the Klettersteig was a 3m cornice and cliff edge, no sign of the cable hidden deep in the snow. Just about to give up and Jen convinced me on a slightly crazy idea, "let's downclimb the "hard" route, traverse along the bottom, then climb up the "extreme"..... Convinced we were going to hit a snow field half way round, but safe in the knowledge we could simply reverse it.... I humored her....

Left - way in totally covered in snow, so we downclimbed the hard route...
As it turned out the way down was totally snow free. But there were some serious snow fields still left on the face. We gave it a go.

The long and exposed traverse across the bottom of the north face
Here's where it goes up... can you spot the ladder? 400m of gently overhanging north face klettersteig
As it turns out most of the North Face was also free of snow, with the exception of one small field really close to the top, where clearly at least one other party had been mad enough to try it and dug the cable out for us...

Half way up the Krippenstein

Enjoying the Metal Pokey Rods. Not too hard but stamina needed!
So, we got there! and as it turns out the route was absolutely awesome. I definitely want to come back here later in the season and do some of the higher ones.

Back on the tourist route!
Proud, we treated ourselves to a visit to the Eishöhle - really impressive ice cave!

The Eishöhle
Next up was a visit to somewhere more rural. So we hopped in the van again and headed round to the other side of the Dachstein.... here it quickly changed. No American or Asian tourists in sight, just some local German and Austrian walking and Via Ferrata groups, and some really nice rural camping.

Away from the tourists, south of the Dachstein
Here, there is a lovely gorge called the Silberklamm. It has 3 klettersteigs. Apparently you are supposed to do one each day, and make half a week of it. Clearly not, we did all 3 in an afternoon, including a quick stop for a Cola in the refuge!

Jen showing her moves in the Silberklamm

Still not quite adhering to the Official Austrian Guidance for Safe Klettersteig
After the alpine day before, the routes were almost a bit tame, despite climbing the infamous "Rosina" which is basically a 400m vertical ladder. Very easy if you can hang on for that long, one handed moving over all the cables, and I am sure very tiring if you can't!

The awesome Vertical Ladder pitch of Rosina

The third of three Klettersteigs, hidden at the top of the Gorge
I loved the Silberklamm gorge.... even just to walk around the place is soooo peaceful!

After some debate as to what to do next, we eventually settled on a rest day. It was windy and a storm was brewing after all.... A visit to the local Therme and wander around some of the local sport crags, debating whether trying an 8 pitch 6- with 1x30m rope, 1xBelay device, and some quickdraws, while absolutely knackered... was a sensible idea or not.... nah.

The day after, it was back to Hallstatt for a 4 hour epic tour of the Salt Mine. No photos unfortunately but just to say it was super cool. We did the non-tourist extended tour...

And with the final weekend coming up I couldn't resist.... 2 days in the Franken! As it turned out it was the Marmot Kletterfestival. So after crushing some 8-'s at Verte Dimension, we head over to join the Freibad, Fun, and DWS Competition....

Nice weekend for the Kletterfest!
Jen hoping to catch a glimpse of Alex Megos' abs (who unsuprisingly won the competition)
Finally, a Sunday visit to the Norisbrettel, to do the mega no star classic 8 "Meglomania". Perhaps I got a bit power crazy on the onsight... falling off the last hard move and then spending another 6 attempts to get it. Jen flashed it and got straight on an 8a project.... schooled....

So after another amazing week in the Van, reality felt like a vague blur. It was time to come home, feed the bunnies, and sleep in a normal bed again....


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