Snowy Salzkammergut winter, and I wanted to try another approach to Hallstatt. This time, over the Sarstein.

The hiking trails over the Dachstein, which really are on slopes around Hallstatt, lead almost directly into that famous village.

The Sarstein lies on the other, eastern, side of the Hallstatt lake. Thus, the approach from there is not such a direct one. It still makes for an interesting hike or trail run with views to the mountains all around, the lake, and the village.

Or in the case of this attempt of mine, it made for an interesting experience.

A Winter Night Approach

After the snow fall that the region had already had, it was clear that I would have to see if I could get up, let alone over, the mountain at all. Spending a night outside in the snowy cold was a decided part of it, though.

My usual approach to such adventuring is to go out as early as possible, hike into the night, spend the night somewhere bivouacing and then continue (and finish) the next morning.

This time, I tried something different: To travel out there later in the day, find a place to sleep rather soon, then have another day to be on the move.

Snowshoes and route navigation on GPS watches was sure to be necessary.

Snowshoes on the Dark Trail
Snowshoes on the Dark Trail

When Trails Became Snow

In fact, things went differently.

The path at the foot of the mountain was snowy and icy enough, but no problem to see, follow using the route navigation, and walk safely with the Icebug shoes (with spikes) I had taken for that.

The snowshoes became necessary much sooner than I had expected once the trail started to climb, though. And actually, what trail?

Navigating Invisible Trails…

Even with the route navigation on the watches I was using/testing there, the trail up was more of an idea and a general direction than anything visible. Only in some parts, after an initial climb, was there some recognizable path.

“Recognizable,” it was only because the snow lay differently once I came to a section where the path cuts along a slope in the mountain. Whenever and wherever it climbed, it disappeared in the snow.

And the snow? The snow was at least shin-deep all the time. Often enough, closer to knee-deep. Fresh and powdery so that even the snow shoes helped only little.

Simonyi-Blick Backtrack

I trudged upwards for a while. At yet another point where the path disappeared, climbing up between and over rocks, not quite following the route I had been shown on maps (and had loaded on the GPS watches), it was decision time.

Even the next morning, with sunlight – which was still a long time away – it would have been impossible to cross over the mountain. Avalanches may have been possible, but no good crossings.

Where to Sleep…

Neither was there a decent spot to settle down for the night; most of the snow would have been at quite an incline. Not good with a slippery bivy…

Once again, then, it was time to backtrack as I had gone.

That way lay a trail that was still visible, that continued where I had arrived climbing up. That led to the shelter, basically like a lean-to, of the Simonyiblick (the Simonyi view, a lookout point named for one of the Dachstein’s major naturalist-explorers).

With a view down to the Hallstätter See lake, just visible underneath heavy clouds, I put my bivy up in there.

Simonyi-Blick Bivy Building
Simonyi-Blick Bivy Building

Winter Night Bivy Experience

The little things you’d never think of… these tend to be what makes a little different kind of night out a bit of a microadventure.

Good side of that night: My sleeping bag was sufficiently warm, by and large, so I did not get uncomfortably cold even in the temperatures below freezing.

Not so good: I managed to fail to consider that shoes and gloves soaked in sweat, left outside, would freeze until stiff. Which they had done by the next morning, of course.

As I woke up again, then, I had to put those gloves and shoes into my sleeping bag to warm them sufficiently so I could even get back into them.

Still in the sleeping bag, I boiled some water for tea, had some of the food I brought, tried to stay warm enough. Got out as soon as I could to relieve my bladder.

An Outdoors Winter Morning

It was an interesting situation I woke up to.

The overcast weather that the forecasts had predicted was actually heavy snowfall. Had I gone any further up the mountain, I would have had to contend with knee-deep snow, easily.

The snowshoe-print tracks from last night, only a few hours before, were only somewhat visible anymore.

Later, in Hallstatt, on that snowy morning
Later, in Hallstatt, on that snowy morning

Down and Along the Eastern Hallstatt Lakeside

To get down, then, I took the path I (kinda) knew was there and visible.

One of the paths actually turned out not to go anywhere. Back down in the settlement, even on roads, it was not so easy to find the path down to the hiking trail along the lake.

Some path into the woods there was, at least for a while, quite alright. Then I tried crossing the rail line – itself a good sign I was close to where I wanted to be – and get down to the hiking trail along a creek, but it didn’t work out.

The path along the rail line continued and finally led somewhere I could cross (if up on the rail tracks) and finally get down.

Snow, snow, snow.

Only one person in the houses along the path, getting out to go somewhere.

But, the path was nice, all white and quiet and empty like that. In sight of the buildings close by the Hallstatt railway station, there is a nice resting spot right at the lake where I refilled my water bottle.

Fresh, cold lake water that is safe to drink – and admittedly, got filtered by that bottle. One of those simple pleasures.

At the railway station, I checked out prices and times for the boat crossing to Hallstatt, the next train connections – and it all worked out nicely for a visit.

Hallstatt Railway Station
Hallstatt Railway Station

Hallstatt in the Snow

Finally, I got to Hallstatt the way so many people do: With the “ferry” boat from the Hallstatt railway station.

Nearly alone, however, early as it was.

Hallstatt itself seemed almost deserted. A few Chinese tourists who were leaving, one or two tourists going places, but even more – two or three, that is – locals. Going to the bakery. Walking the dog on the deeply snow-covered path above Hallstatt.

Snow was still coming down all the time, even as I left again for a quick stop in Bad Ischl for a second breakfast of cake and coffee at the Café-Konditorei Zauner and the trip back home.

If you’re interested in a discussion of the tracks/data recorded by the Suunto 9 and Garmin Instinct, you can find that here.