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Crossing the Alps differently: From Lake Königssee to Lake Wörthersee Part 1

Christina hikes across the Alps & reports

Crossing the Alps by foot: that is the dream of many hikers! Crossing the Central Alps in a week without climbing glaciers and without ropes is an exciting project. I deliberately avoid the heavily frequented ‚hiking highway‘ of the Oberstorf-Merano route and hiking four full weeks of our Alpine crossing by Eurohike from Munich to Venice is not possible this time. Also: Instead of hiking to Lake Garda in the classic fashion, I will now aim for Lake Wörthersee.

So I am on my way to explore this ‚slightly different Transalpine crossing‘, our hiking tour from Lake Königssee to Lake Wörthersee, 8 days.

Start at the ‚Bavarian Fjord‘

At almost 200 metres, Lake Königssee is the deepest of all German lakes. It is located just like a fjord in the heart of the Berchtesgaden National Park, surrounded by steep mountain slopes. Only a small section of the shore, where I start this hiking tour, is accessible. On the day of arrival I walk along the river up to the lake and am impressed by the wonderful sight of the dark green water in the evening light! Overnight I am a guest in Berchtesgaden, a typical Bavarian Alpine village situated at the foot of Mount Watzmann. A stroll through the pretty town centre and a visit to the beer garden with a hearty snack gets me in the mood for the hike.

Through Berchtesgaden National Park

An organised transfer picks me up early in the morning, so I am right at the starting point of the hike. Let’s go through the magic forest along the rushing stream Mühlbach up to the crystal-clear Lake Hintersee. The route then leads deep into the Berchtesgaden national park and over a suspension bridge to the alpine pastures, where a rest at the Bindalm-hut calls. Further across the border to Austria I am now in the Pinzgau region and the next highlight follows: An imposing climbing system through the roaring Seisenbergklamm-ravine. I climb over bridges and steps into the valley to the small mountaineering village of Weißbach. Far away from mass tourism, cable cars and loud music, I spend a quiet evening in the middle of the mountains.

The mountain world of Mount Hochkönig in the Salzburg Pinzgau

On the short taxi ride between the steep walls of the Leoganger Steinberge and the southern face of the Steinernes Meer-mountains, I marvel at the rugged rock towers. Luckily I do not have to climb up there, but first hike moderately uphill on wide gravel paths and forest roads over the alpine pastures. One hut after the other and grazing cattle everywhere. In the middle of the cowbell concert, the path soon leads steeply up over the meadows to the passage onto the Marbach Höhe peak. Phew! At the top, Mount Hochkönig beckons me – an impressive rock massif. The weather is good, so I embark on the detour to the summit cross of Mount Kingspitz at an altitude of almost 2000m.

It was worth it: gigantic allround view from Mount Dachstein to the glaciated Tauern mountains! Descending over mountain meadows and forests, I reach the snack station and inn ‚Grünegg‘ featuring a historic mill, its own spirit destillery and a wonderful panoramic terrace serving coffee and cake. Reenergised, I go on the varied church trail to the pilgrimage church in Dienten, where I immediately get a pilgrim’s stamp. It does not matter whether I am on the Pinzgauer Marienweg-path or crossing the Alps: the journey is the reward.

Hiking-spa in the Gastein valley

Another short transfer to bridge the low-lying Salzach river valley and I am already at the entrance to the famous Gastein valley. It starts along the river to Bad Hofgastein, where I can taste warm thermal water at the drinking fountain. Then up to the Gasteiner Höhenweg-path: in the distance I can already see the Hohe Tauern mountain chain and can already guess the transition to tomorrow’s hiking day. Today it is almost on flat terrain with best panoramic views through spectacular tunnels, over bridges and deep ditches along the entire valley. Shortly before Bad Gastein, I can decide: continue directly in the direction of the thermal baths, the centre and hotel or still the alpine insert over the Poserhöhe.

A glance at the time and my stamina: I am ascending. Another crisp 500 vertical metres in serpentines through the forest – but not for nothing: at the top I reach the very nicely maintained alpine chalet ‚Poserhöhe‘, where there are delicious delicacies on offer. It is good that I can recharge my ‚batteries‘ here because the descent offers a few challenging passages over steeper slabs of rock. Once at the bottom, it is a leisurely stroll along the Kaiser Wilhelm Promenade to the traditional spa town of Bad Gastein. Here I marvel at the spray cloud of the roaring waterfall in the middle of the town, completely fascinated!

The Queen’s Stage across the Hohe Tauern mountains

Today I tackle the crowning stage of the crossing of the Alps. Right at the beginning I reach the core zone of the Hohe Tauern National Park and hike on wonderful paths over the pastures past the final few alpine huts. Now the only way is up. The path climbs steadily, step by step I approach the saddle, the highest point of the tour. The Hagener hut is located there and the Carinthian flag flutters at me at the crossing. Bridle paths, smugglers’paths and pilgrimage routes have always passed through the mountains here. A historic place and a dreamlike location. Of course I stop for a supper to feel the atmosphere. I love the flair of the real Alpine Club huts – rustic mountaineering stations far away from civilisation.

The bridle path leads along wide cart tracks and little gravel roads pleasantly downhill on flat terrain into the valley. The landscape is simply stunning, but I still have a long way to go. The sun is burning down on the shadeless plateau and I am looking forward to the rest at the Jamnigalm, where I can top up my fluid reserves. The route then continues through forest in the shade and on beautiful hiking trails through the Tauerntal-valley all the way to Mallnitz. This small village is a certified mountaineering village. Here there are only nature-loving active holiday makers and no streams of tourists, hotel complexes or shopping centres in sight. The only centre is the national park information centre and the small village square with a fountain. A few good inns for dinner and cozy hotels. Perfect as a day finish on the way across the Alps.

To be continued ...

The first four stages of crossing the Alps from Lake Königssee are done. You can find out how my hiking tour to Lake Wörthersee continues in part 2 of the travelogue here on the HikingBlog!  


See you soon,

yours Christina

Christina Keltenich

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Christina Keltenich
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