Arriving at Salzburg airport has a wow factor if you like mountains (which I do). As you step out the airplane at their perfectly sized airport, perfectly in the centre of town (on the day we arrived it was also perfect weather) you are greeted with a view of the biggest local mountain. The Untersberg, which at 1,973 meters high, straddles the border of Austria and Germany and is very popular with tourists because there’s a cable car to the top and it’s only 9 miles out of town.
Two days later and we’ve taken the cable car and are standing at the top. None of us have been up this mountain before but we’re all mountain-fit and Gina has run up it. Gina runs up mountains before breakfast. We have the dog with us, the weather’s great and we have a plan that showed no signs of being silly: we walk to the summit plateau and then down a bit to the Toni Lenz hut, have lunch and then walk back up to the summit. We have a return ticket on the cable car.
The Untersberg is a lovely mountain. The views from the top are impressive and cover distant mountain ranges and a distant Salzburg. We take the obligatory photo before continuing on the path to the summit, marked with a large cross which looks odd on a clear day but is probably a good idea in snow or mist. Apparently you’re supposed to keep to the paths to avoid falling down 300 feet holes that can be hidden by bushes. I wander how that works in winter when the place is covered in snow.
We weren’t quite expecting via ferrata and it suddenly goes steep with wooden ladder steps. These descend for a while down through tunnels in the rock. Looking back when we get to the hut it’s hard to believe that the sheer slope is passable at all. Greg had to carry Sophie had she had made it clear she wasn’t the carrying kind of dog. We vetoed the return trip in favour of just going down the mountain.
It’s soon clear we have a time issue and our pace increases. For speed we diversify from the zigzag path and go straight down the fire paths, which means straight down. After about three of these our legs are screaming for something flat – but they can’t have flat. We go down more fire paths at almost running pace. After about five I’m fighting to keep my teddy in the pram but thankfully we run out of fire paths and have to zigzag. It’s not lost on me that the guy who walked the path all the way down arrives at the bottom a matter of 60 seconds after we get there.
It was a week before we could walk up and down stairs and it didn’t hurt to get up from the sofa. It would appear none of us were fit enough to do three hours in a squat position.
I would definitely do it again – with maybe a few variations:
- Some mountains should not be walked straight down … the bendy route at a stride is fast enough thank you.
- I would teach the dog to use via ferrata or to get over being carried. Or just not take her along
For an unfamiliar route I would allow more time. Mountains are to be enjoyed and not endured.