Stoneman Taurista – a mountain bike tour your calves won’t forget in a hurry
Actually I only wanted to let my colleague Andrea know, that I completed the Stoneman TAURISTA with my brother-in-law around 2 weeks ago, and hey presto she persuaded by to share my experience with you. So here’s my blog entry for you to read. As I work (but only on the periphery – as the routes don’t lead directly to St. Johann im Pongau) with the projects of the Salzburger Sportwelt and Obertauern, I wanted to try out this new route straightaway.
Organisation is half the battle
I let my brother-in-law do all the organisation and registration, as he can approach things impartially (I learned things from my work colleagues).Registration can be done easily via the website and you receive a confirmation email. As we don’t require overnight accommodation (we prefer to sleep with our wives at home J), we can pick up our start time from our desired Tourist Office from 4.00 pm on the day before at the earliest. I think that this is so as to pass a control point prior to starting out. We choose the full package and the member of staff in the Tourist Office knew what was what. Included in the starting package there are the start cards, some info sheets, the route map, some chain grease, a bottle opener and some other little things.
Into the sunrise
As I am a hunter I know that you shouldn’t disturb animals during their night resting time, therefore we kept to the starting time (5.45 am) the next morning to the very minute and started from the car park in front of the BBF Center in Flachau in excellent weather conditions and a good mood. We’re not mountain biking experts but not beginners either – we would describe our ability level according to our physical condition as “hobby sportsmen”. We decided to undertake the whole route in one day from the outset. We chose the starting point in Flachau deliberately, as at the end we then “only“ have to get from Altenmarkt via the Sattelbauer to the finish line. The ascent to the Griessenkar on the Flachau side is particularly suitable for a start. In the upper half you can enjoy the rising sun and quite quickly you reach the first control point on the Griessenkar. The board is visible and it’s helpful that there’s a description for the next stage of the route on it. To confirm that you’ve been there, you have to punch a hole in the start card provided – just for info – all hole punch machines weren’t working (however my brother-in-law was informed of this when he picked up the our start package) – for this reason there are also punch pliers at the control points and you’re recommended to take “photographic evidence” at the check point.
Our personal challenge – the Bike Park
Afterwards we commenced our first descent in a BIKE PARK in our over 40 year lives. We both have approx. 7-8 year old hard tail mountain bikes with light V-brakes – not exactly the best equipment for a bike park. You can also detour this and ride down the forest road towards Wagrain. We didn’t do that of course and took the bike park route. I therefore had to push my bike around 70% of the way as far as the mid-station as the whole experience was quite unnerving without the proper equipment. Thank goodness we were on the track before it opened – otherwise there would have been a traffic warning on the radio that there was an obstruction on the upper part of the Bike Park in Wagrain. From the mid-station the park poses no problem for older men and is almost “cool” to ride down.
On further towards the 360° panorama
After we “survived“ the park, the route leads nice & “smoothly“ via the Edelweissalm to the next checkpoint “mid-station of the red 8-seater cable car“. Afterwards we head down the valley past the new football golf course (something I should also have a go at, by the way J) via Moadörfl towards Flachau – a short detour at the sawmill up to Schloss Höch and further alongside the Enns river to head up the Rossabrand mountain. The route is along tarmac at first and then joins up with a forest track and is pleasant to ride on as far as the turn-off to the Reitlehenalm. Thereafter the route becomes somewhat more demanding and finally you need to get off your bike and exercise the principle “he who loves his bike – pushes”. I did, as well as already mentioned often downhill in the bike park J after Tino battered his gears!). It’s taken us around 4 hours from the start to reach the flat peak plateau on the Rossbrand. After stopping for refreshment on the Rossbrand with fabulous panoramic views (unfortunately you can see the whole of the trail still to be covered J) we head off along trails and tracks downhill towards Mandlberg. There are just a few easy ascents to conquer. At the Mandlberggut there’s a checkpoint and afterwards you cycle right down into the valley in order to reach Forstau via the Eibenbergweg and the Brandscharte on the other side.
Crossing the Tauern range
After filling up our water bottles we head on to the Vogeihütte. This route is very pleasant and you can save your energy for the not unusual ascent to Oberhütte. I think the route planner from the Vogeihütte to the Oberhütte was ordered to make the route as short as possible. In the end, however, I’m really pleased, that I’ve got 3 gear pinions left. You’ll be rewarded at the Oberhütte with great service and tasty Kaiserschmarren.
At the huts you can enquire about the further route but you’ll probably get differing opinions. Therefore, it’s best you experience it for yourself. After some passages of pushing and carrying your bike to the highest point (2,200 Meter) you carry on towards Obertauern. I estimate we needed 50 around minutes. After that we then had “firm ground“ in the form of a forest track beneath our wheels, the route leads directly to Obertauern and then onward to scenic alpine pastureland towards the checkpoint at the Johannes Waterfall. You should of course stop to take a look and then head on towards Untertauern.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Past the alpine meadows there are a number of little tricky side roads to the Katschberg road up the valley towards Radstadt. The views of the Rossbrand and the trail already covered is very heartening. Particularly enjoyable is the route through the perfectly laid-out golf course in Radstadt. After a quick pit stop we soon reach Altenmarkt and you can almost see “light at the end of the tunnel“. You also constantly wonder why the Sattelbauer wasn’t built a bit lower J!
When you then come out of the forest after the Sattelbauer forest track, you head over the field the last few metres to the Sattelbauer, and you’ll be pleased you’ve finally made it. After the checkpoint you carry on along the mountain bike route back to the starting point – the car park in front of the BBF Center.
After around 12 hours pure cycling time we arrive back in Flachau at 7.45 pm. In order to “confirm” your tour you have present your “punched” card by 10.00 am on the next day at the Tourist Office of your choice. The photos of the control points are not required. The trophies are handed over without much ado and you can look forward to your next Stoneman – we’ll probably head off to Italy. I’ve also heard that the Stoneman Road Bike in Italy is worth doing. I hope there’ll soon be a road bike version here too (through St. Johann pleases!) – as I’ve had my fill of “bike parks” and trails.
photo credits: Dennis Stratmann, Hannes Rieser