This tram up to the Schmittenhohe is one of the main paragliding launches in the Pingau valley, known as the XC highway of Austria. Large XC flights are made from here and other nearby launches. But not today...we set off hiking along terrain we hoped we would soon see from a bird's eye view. The route along the ridge is called the Pinzgauer Spaziergang. That's a mouthful but it only means the Pinzgau Valley Panorama Walk. The ridge itself isn't that high, only about 6,000 feet, but the views we had of the main ridge of the Alps to our south were amazing.
The hike itself isn't too strenuous, just long. It stays on the south side of the ridge and sticks to the contour lines, so it doesn't go up or down toooo much. The ridge tops at times were several hundred meters above us, but our eyes were drawn to the south and the snow covered mass of the Grossglockner massif, at 3,798 meters almost twice as high as we were hiking!
I kept exclaiming that our ridge looked like Scotland, it was amazing. There were little bogs and some heather; ponds that were filled with still, dark water; and bright green rounded ridge tops with just a touch of rock here and there. It really was eerily similar. Then I started thinking of caveats. It's warm out (we were hiking in shorts and t-shirts). It's not windy. It's not raining. Our feet are dry. There's no knats. So maybe not really the same...but it was close enough I think I just saved Jim a trip to Scotland someday, where he could have looked at hills eerily similar to this, while standing in driving rain with wet feet while dressed in full rain gear and dodging puddles. Anyway.
If you don't want to hike all the way down to the valley, it is possible to divert to the north after a while on the ridge. Then it's possible to do a one-way hike to the Schattberg lift over the town of Saalbach, and then catch the bus back to wherever from there. But I always prefer to get back to where I started on foot if possible, and we continued along the ridge until we were over the town of Uttendorf. There are multiple ways down to the valley and we picked one through a muddy forest track that eventually got down to a gravel road. The switchbacks continued for miles, but through thick forest and it was just as nice as the views from the ridge top. A little warmer though...I had thought it was going to rain in the afternoon, but all we had was bright sunshine and a small shower in the distance. Perfect.
We reached Uttendorf in the late afternoon after 20 miles and about 8 hours.
|Looking down on Zell am See from the tram|
|A friendly foal on the ridge|