The Hochgründeck is a wonderful hiking mountain for the whole family and popular with locals and visitors alike. With its 1,827 m it counts amongst the highest wooded peaks in Europe and surely amongst the most beautiful mountains with views in the Alps. With a view over a sea of over 300 peaks the effort required for the ascent is quickly forgotten and since a refreshment stop at the Heinrich Kiener Haus, this mountain counts amongst my absolute favourites in the Salzburger Sportwelt.
‘Talking brings people together’ – How often in life has this ancient piece of wisdom proved to be true and allowed me to experience the unexpected. And today too, I’m amazed at what you can learn when you listen closely and let people talk. I’ve been hiking for a good 1.5 hours now, I left my car somewhat above St. Johann-Alpendorf, at the Hahnbaumalm, and set off towards the peak of the Hochgründeck in the slate mountains. After my hike to the Penkkopf yesterday evening my alarm clock woke me early this morning and dragged me from my dreams in my cosy B&B pension in Flachau. But what does it matter? After all it’s a pleasure to get out of bed when the day promises to be so beautiful. At breakfast with a view of the mountains, I went through the tour in my head and consulted my walking map. And then I was off. Time and again I meet other hikers and I quickly realise that the Hochgründeck is not only popular with tourists but with locals and families too.
One of the highest wooded mountains in Europe
At first I was able to start off gently along a wide hiking and biking trail, before it started to get steeper uphill. Wide, open alpine meadows alternate with areas of forest, which despite the hot sun already allow me to keep a cool head. Once on the mountain ridge it’s uphill, then downhill. At first I wondered why the path is called the ‘Tree and Wood Wature Trail’, but soon all becomes clear. A total of eight stations describe the types of local trees and their characteristics as well as uses and using examples from nature makes them tangible. Not just educational for children and teens but a welcome change. The path crosses the forest trail three times, before you suddenly come to the sun-drenched terrace of the Heinrich Kiener Haus at an altitude of 1,800 m above sea level. Even though the aroma of food was very tempting, I decided to visit the relatively nearby peak and to succumb to culinary pleasures somewhat later.
A fabulous view on the Ladies’ Mountain
And here I am, I walk over the grass towards the peak and wonder about what the older gentleman with the many wooden signs told me at the turn-off. The Hochgründeck used to be a ‘Ladies Mountain’. Back then tourism was starting up in SalzburgerLand, and local pioneers conquered the peak in 1876 and built the refuge. This mountain was far too easy for the men of this world, yet at the time considerably popular and fascinated the ladies with its fabulous panoramic view of 300 mountain peaks. Below you can see the mountains of the Salzach, the Hochkönig, the Tennengebirge, the Berchtesgadener Alps, the Dachstein and the Hohe Tauern with the imposing Grossglockner. In parting my new-found mountain comrade gave me the tip to hike up here sometime at sunrise or sunset and to experience the mountain in a completely different light. Although I won’t manage it today, I can imagine that it would be a completely different experience. Yet during the day I also can’t get enough of the panorama.
At the peak I sit down on one of the benches and savour the moment to the full. How wonderful it must be to hike up here on the first Sunday in September and to take part in the mountain mass here at the peak. Or to stand down below amid the several hundred-strong audience cheering on their favourite at the Hochgründeck-Ranggeln (wrestling) – an event which has take place for over 120 years.
The St. Vinzent Church und das Heinrich Kiener Haus
After of good half an hour at the peak and numerous sips of water from my drinking bottle, I pack up my things and head over the lush grassy ridge back to the turn-off in the hollow. A number of families have spread out their picnic blankets here and are enjoying the wonderful day in the sunshine. Children are romping around, playing catch and seem to be having great fun. Even though the Salzburger Sportwelt is of course well-known for its outdoor activities, it is also a holiday paradise for the whole family. I leave the path back to the Heinrich Kiener Haus briefly and visit the St. Vinzent Church on the west peak. It was built between 2003 and 2004 and designed with great symbolism to the smallest detail. Thus the “the vision of global peace between mankind and religion was given visual expression“, as can be read at the entrance. Inside absolute peace and quiet reigns and I sit down for a moment, pause for though and I’m thankful to able to be here. After all I’ve been looking forward to climbing the ‘7 most beautiful peaks in the Salzburger Sportwelt’ for so long. After lighting a candle, I leave the church again and skip the few metres over to the terrace of the Heinrich Kiener Haus.
The panorama I savour, whist drinking my coffee and eating my delicious cake, is incredible. The house, in which you can also stay overnight, by the way, is not just extremely cosy and blessed with a scenic location, it is also, due to its sophisticated technology one of the most environmentally-friendly in the Alps. Solar panels, photovoltaics and even its own wind power station ensure that up here you really are using green electricity. Great! It’s nearly time for me to head back down. On the way, I not only come across hikers, but mountain and e-bikers too, wanting to enjoy the sunshine up in the mountains. At last out of my walking boots, I dig my toes deep into the warm meadow by the car park and take another glimpse upwards. Tomorrow I can finally enjoy a lie-in. In the afternoon I’m off to the Südwiener Hütte and the day after tomorrow first thing in the morning I’m off up to the Spirzinger. At least then I’ll manage the sunrise.
What I take with me from the Hochgründeck:
- A ladies‘ mountain can also be wonderful for men
- Those who ‘ranggeln’ (wrestle), don’t necessarily have to argue
- Talking brings people together
- Coffee and cake taste even better at over 1,800 m
Photo credits: Peter Zeitlhofer