Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Climbing to the Eagles nest in Bertchesgarten, Austria

Run Summary

22 km, 1200m ascent/descent, 2 hours 45min

Four days after the SwissAlpine challenge, I decided to take a day trip from Munich (where I was staying with a friend) to Salzburg. However, during the 90 minute train journey to Salzburg i decided instead to head to the Austrian alps, 40km south of Salzburg. After all, mountains are more fun than cities right?

A friend in Ireland had mentioned that there is a wicked spot near Salzburg where Hitler had a chalet on top of a mountain, surrounded by the glorious alps. The complex was built by the Nazis in the Alps as a 50th birthday present for HItler, and was meant to be a retreat for Hitler to entertain visiting dignitaries.

It is situated on a ridge at the top of the Kehlstein mountain (1834 m altitude), which towers above the Austrian town of Bertchesgarten (600m altitude) on the border with Germany, but is itself dwarfed by the surrounding Alps. On the map above, Kehlstein is on the summit of the smaller peak in the foreground, with the impressive peak Hoher Goll looming over it in the background.

As the public bus headed south from Salzburg towards the Alps, i knew i had made the right call. Pulling into the bus stop in Bertchesgarten, I spotted Kehlstein to the left, and thought i could make out a tiny structure perched on the summit. The photo below is taken from half way up, you can see how tiny the building looks, although it's actually not that small at all.

As the tourists on my bus headed off towards the gondola, I checked out the tourist office to find out just how big the ascent was. After all, i had to get back to Munich that day! After sourcing a map, and ensuring that the climb was within my limits, I slammed an overpriced sandwich and a powerade, and started running. Unfortunately i had not come prepared for the mission. I was wearing casual baggy shorts and a cotton T-shirt, which weren't the best, but would have to do.

The first 8km was up a fairly steep road that wound up through a forest, with an overhanging canopy that conveniently protected me from the hot sun. Eventually a dirt track turned off the road (unfortunately the road now continues most of the way to the top), so i followed the mountain bike trail up what appeared to be a more direct route to the summit. The trail climbed up through a pine forest before zig zagging its way up a steep rock face towards the summit, steep enough to cause pain but still runable (just).

The northern rock face of Kehlstein appeared intermittantly through breaks in the canopy, dwarfing the Chalet that sits akwardly on its summit (you can see it in the photo if you look closely enough). It looked so far away! After almost 1.5 hours of relentless climbing, I arrived at the Chalet, feeling satisfied and fatigued. I was met by hoards of tourists whom had opted for more leisurely transport alternatives. What was once Hitler's mountain lair was now an overpriced restaurant packed with American tourists eating ice cream.

After stopping to check out the views and rehydrate, I began the descent. After an hour and 1/4 of bone shaking descent, I arrived back where i started in Bertchesgarten. Thankful for the classic turquoise coloured river that ran through the village. I found my way to the nearest swimming spot and dived in.

Photos: Looking westward down over the eagles nest with Bertchesgarten visible far below in the background. From the same point, checking out the impressive Hoher Goll peak to the east.

After a bus ride and a brief foot tour around Salzburg, i jumped back on a train to Munich. The end of a rewarding day out.


Mum and Dad said...

Hi Jason it's mum. I can't imagine that terrible man being in such a gorgeous place. The swim at the end sounded good too.

Lauren said...

Hey Jase,

Mike and Lori Ketchen here. Great reading of your running adventures. Lori is training for a 45km off road race early next year so she will have some war stories to share with you we next see each other.

All the best