Hallstatt is usually visited quickly, coming by bus or by train and the boat across the lake. I decided to go slow, measure my approach in steps climbed and descended, following part of the BergeSeen Trail over the slope of the Dachstein. Overnight.
When you visit Hallstatt quickly, only for the viewpoints and the selfies to be made from them, same as everyone else has taken them before, you hardly see it.
Go up to the saltmine / museum, and you’ll at least feel the lay of the land, not just have it as the pretty backdrop.
Chances are, you’ll still miss something of the connection between the mountains and the lakes.
Mountains and Lakes
To #GetAtHome in a place like this, you have to feel it. To approach slowly, in your own steps.
It doesn’t have to be the entire BergeSeen-Trail you hike, which would lead past all the major mountains (Berge) and lakes (Seen) of the Salzkammergut – on a total length of 350 km. Not exactly a weekend stroll, after all.
There is, however, a section of the BergeSeen-Trail in its Alpine variant that leads from the Gosau lakes over the Dachstein to Hallstatt. This nicely embeds it in its surrounding mountains and lakes.
Technically, this section of the Berge-Seen Trail is actually three different sections:
- Section 23 from Gosau-Hintertal to the Adamekhütte
- Section 26 from the Adamekhütte to the Simonyihütte
- Section 27 from the Simonyihütte to Hallstatt
I went there at the end of September, incidentally the last day that the Adamekhütte was still open; the Simonyihütte was already closed for winter. Not that it mattered; I went to bivouac outside and gain some experience with a forthcoming Outdoor Research bivy (their Interstellar, if you must know).
(Further descriptions of the tour, including details on the sections and GPS tracks, can be found on Time and Tours.)
To get to the start in Gosau, it was necessary to take the train from Attnang-Puchheim towards Obertraun-Dachsteinhöhlen (Dachstein caves) to the station of Steeg-Gosau.
When I went, there was work being done on the track after this stop, so that only buses continued on to Hallstatt and Obertraun. I helped get a few Asian tourists off the train and to the buses they needed to take, and it was a fun experience to see the diversity of people – by far not only Chinese, but also Koreans and Thais and various others – who consider Hallstatt a must-see, these days.
It was all the more interesting as my own path to Hallstatt also required a bus from Steeg-Gosau,but one going to the Gosauseen (Gosau lakes).
My journey out there had started a bit later than I had wanted to set out, so I spared myself the hike from the village of Gosau to the lakes. It would just have been alongside the road, anyways, so it made sense to go to the final bus stop at the lakes.
Gosau-Hintertal to Adamekhütte
The first part of the hike, on Section 23 of the Berge-Seen-Trail (Alpine Variant), past the Gosau lakes and then up to the Adamekhütte, is a very popular excursion that gets more and more lonely.
Along the edge of the first lake, the path is wide and well-trodden. A via ferrata / rope course offers some fun and action to people who want more than just the views. Enough people just go out for a stroll.
The views are grandiose; the lakes are beautiful and the mountain ridges all around very impressive.
From the first, “front” lake (Vordersee) to the “back” lake (Hintersee),the trail is still almost a forest road, but starts climbing more noticeably through the forest.
Skirting the Hintersee lake, the hiking path up to the Adamekhütte swerves off and starts to be among dwarf trees. One can already see steeper mountain slopes and the trail winding up there. – And thus, it soon starts to become a winding trail wending its way up over rocks.
The views back down to the lakes become amazing, but they are earned with an effort.
Up to the Adamekhütte, the trail gets even rockier. It turns into more and more of a true Alpine trail.
Adamekhütte to Simonyihütte
Section 26 of the Berge-Seen-Trail’s Alpine variant first requires some backtracking, down from the Adamekhütte the same way one had come.
As usual when I am on the same path again, just looking for a turnoff, I got distracted by the watches I also tested there, lost in thought, so that I missed it. And there, the signage was pretty clear…
From the many people down at the lakes, the runners coming down from the Adamekhütte (which ends the season with a run up there), and the hikers using the last opening day of the hut, this trail went into utter loneliness.
The path goes over the polished and deeply scarred rock of the Ice Age glaciers. Sometimes the terrain is surprisingly flat. Oftentimes, one climbs quite the slope.
I had had luck with my timing, for I made it all the way to the Adamekhütte in good daylight. Even a good part of this section towards the Simonyihütte, I still had some light.
It was a particularly good thing to still have light as the trail went over onto the north side of the Dachstein. There, some descent started again. Usually, that is more comfortable – or at least, less exhausting – than the climbs. However, that side of the mountain had some icy patches even at this tail end of the summer. And it is basically all slopes of scree.
From Light to Dark
No matter how one steps, there will be some loose rocks, some slipping and sliding, time and time again. With the dying of the light, the landscape was even more moon-like, grey and (sharply-)gravelly, than it was with sunlight.
The path was still quite easy to find. But where the first part of this section had rather too many markings, following immediately upon each other, there are fewer markings here. In the light of a headlamp, that makes for an “interesting” experience.
Between the route navigation on the watches I was using/testing, the trail markings on rocks, and the usual difference between ‘natural’ rock and the trail, it was all okay. I was happy to have the route navigation active, and active all the time, though.
It was even nicer to see the endpoint of this route come up, deep in the darkness. And there was the Simonyihütte, in reality, too. Closed and without a winter quarters I could see, though. Or with any good spot to bivy.
With the path from there easily visible, it was just a matter of deciding whether to continue fora while and get down and back home earlier, or to stay up the mountain for longer and perhaps be able to show more of the path, with light.
Simonyihütte to Hallstatt
Section 27 of the Berge-Seen-Trail became my late night / early morning route.
From the Simonyihütte, I followed the wide and easy trail – if still of loose rocks – down. In part just for the heck of it, in part because I wanted to look around for a good sleeping spot.
The landscape (even in the dark) changes here, again. One gets further down the mountain and into an area with more dwarf conifers. It is almost a rolling land compared to the slope of the mountain farther up.
As so often happens on these mountains, it was not easy to find a flat-enough spot, somewhere a little secluded, but I found a place to bivy that offered just the situation I liked. Not entirely visible, but a bit of a view; not on rocks, not on a slope.
A bit of food (I still had another Good To-Go meal of which I had received a sampler at the OutDoor fair, that I wanted to try). The water, boiled on my tiny Esbit stove,was again not hot enough, it seems, to get the food completely rehydrated. The spicy Chicken Gumbo was still just the right thing after the exhausting hike and with the onset of the rather cold night.
Some astrophotography attempts. And I settled in for the night.
It was a short night. Something about the whole experience made me sleep okay-ish, but only that. I rested for almost 7 hours – but that included the cooking time at night and the coffee I made in the morning.
In the end, when I continued on down the path towards Hallstatt, it was still only the very wee hours of the morning… if you count a time around 2:30 am as morning.
Back onto the Dark Trail
Hiking down such a trail in the darkness is no good for shooting video of such microexploration /microadventure, but always an interesting experience.
You just get so differently immersed in the landscape: There is the wide view to stars above. And the limited view of anything around. Which makes it all the more noticeable when the trail has descended far enough to be among trees again.
Somewhere right around those parts I noticed that my RX 100 Mk. II, whose predecessor I had managed to lose on the Hong Kong Trail, had (also) managed to fall out a pocket without my noticing. Urgh. Backpack down, up I went looking along the trail – and I even managed to find it!
Still farther down, long since in forest, the trail gets to points where the Hallstätter See lake becomes recognizable even in the darkness. There is some wicked descent that goes down meadow slopes with just enough scree to be dangerous and uncomfortable for already-sore feet. The waterfall above Hallstatt. And roads, which become a pleasure to sore toes.
In the end, I managed to get down to Hallstatt basically as I had wanted to: In time for the sunrise.
Hallstatt, and Salzkammergut Post-Hike Pleasures
There was not much of a sunrise, more of a gradual lightening of the skies.
As in many overcrowded places popular with only too many tourists, the very early morning still left the place (mainly) to myself. Always an interesting experience to see and think about, in and of itself. One does not have to approach such a place so slowly to do that, but having hiked there helped.
Without people around, I stuck my feet into the cold lake water after I had had a look around.
Then I took the early bus (remember, no train service?) to the train. Fast as I wanted to get home, I stopped in Bad Ischl for a very different breakfast from the one I had had earlier that morning, still at 2000 m above sea level…
… and then I returned, richer in another mountain experience. As always, even more appreciative of the simple pleasures of modern, and family, life we take for granted so often: my wife, a warm shower, snuggling up in a cozy bed.