Alps Adventuring: Hochkönigman Skyrace

“So, does it warrant the ‘Skyrace’ label?” Thomas Bosnjak, the race director, asked me about the Hochkönigman Skyrace. With a grin.

I had, just having finished, had to complain how hard it had been…

Considering my motto for 2018, the Skyrace definitely belongs to the “Experiment” category.

An “Experimental” Race

That’s not how I meant it.

My training in the Burgenland, though, is not consistent. And when I go running for 20 km there, I barely get 500 meters of altitude.

Going from there to the Hochkönigman Skyrace with some 30 km length and nearly 3000 meters of ascent, that calls for some experimental spirit…

As expected because of all that, I probably shouldn’t even be on the list of results. I would eventually have needed longer than the 6 hours’ time limit.

The Hochkönigman honors the motto it has followed from its inception, though: It’s all about the “winners never give up“-feeling.

All the races included in this weekend should not be underestimated, all are beautiful – and all don’t require a first-place finish to feel like a winner.

The Hochkönigman Skyrace Track

The Marathon Trail 2016 already made me curse the long ascents.
The Speed Trail 2017 had me sit down for breaks.

And now, with the Skyrace, I added a lot of additional ascent and descent.

The first and last parts are on the same course as the Speed Trail.

In between, however, one goes up the Buchauer Scharte from Rohrmoos to just below the Schönfeldspitze. Then around that, almost all in snow – which I did not expect, from the information given in the description and race briefing.

(And the winner of the Skyrace labeled himself as “winner” in quotation marks as he hadn’t quite followed the planned course and ended up running across the Schönfeldspitze – as did some others after him…)

Hochkönigman Skyrace. Landscape Up Top

Hochkönigman Skyrace. Landscape Up Top

Then, the trail goes up over the Wurmkopf and Schönegg peaks to the Riemannhaus.

From there, finally, it’s all downhill back to Maria Alm.

(A description plus GPS track for download is available at

Skyrace? Or Hellrace?

Easily 2800 meters of ascent, nearly two thirds of that on the one uphill up the Buchauer Scharte. – That is racing to the sky, definitely. The exertion is rather hellish, at the same time.

My first peak value at the Hochkönigman Skyrace came right at kilometer 8: A heart rate of 206 bpm as I checked my timing and found that I might not make the very first cut-off time!

Hochkönigman. View up the Buchauer Scharte

Hochkönigman. View up the Buchauer Scharte

That, I did manage (if I’m not very much mistaken) – and the ascent in the Buchauer Scharte made me forget all about the time.

All I wanted was to get back down to Maria Alm for the bus I needed to get back home. Or at least, I just wanted to not need the mountain rescue.

Again, I needed some breaks quite regularly. I spent a lot of time, up there in the snow, on all fours – especially as I “only had to climb that slope” up to the Wurmkopf. Which was steep and in snow, of course.

The requirement to bring gloves had amused me a bit when I saw it on the list of mandatory equipment.

They were lifesavers up there, often as I had to grip into the snow… even if I took several passages down through the snow on the seat of my (nicely slippery) CW-X tights, anyways…

Not a glissade, in view of the Riemannhaus

Not a glissade, in view of the Riemannhaus

Victory over Yourself

How I was able to go on, let alone get back to running on the downhill – it puzzles me.

Slowly, slowly as I went up and over, not looking at my collective sports technology (which I also tested here) anymore… Well, the time didn’t matter anymore. Pace didn’t matter. The route was the only thing I regularly checked.

It probably was exactly this speed (or lack thereof) that helped. At least, it kept me from cramping up completely, made it possible to stumble on. On until the downhill revived me into running, especially as the trails there turned into beautiful forest tracks.

The end result? The winner feeling that really matters: Not to feel like a winner. But to have accomplished something that hardly felt possible.

In our uncertain world – and fittingly, I had received a rejection for a position that would have saved me, career-wise – it is essential to sometimes feel that.

To see, that you can grow above yourself. To accomplish something. To get on, step after step.

To see that you can get somewhere. Step by step.

The “High King” Feeling

At the Hochkönig (literally, the “High King”), there is also this: I had hardly expected to really be able to run into the finish anymore. After all, it was already past the time limit.

In fact, though, this expected me: A boy in traditional garb ran the last meters into the finish with me, with words of encouragement. Crew happily welcomed me back (and I got my finisher’s medal). The crowd in the finish area applauded the effort.

Hochkönigman Finish - with Company

Hochkönigman Finish – with Company

All were strangers. Or acquaintances, at best. But then and there, they were friends happy with everyone who made it.


← Previous post

Next post →


  1. And now put those feelings in your treasure chest ;)
    My hat’s off to you!

Leave a Reply to walker Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.