A day in the mountains of the Niedere Tauern with a mountain bike, views and enthusiasm. Explore the Salzburger Sportwelt along the Stoneman Taurista trail – for the particularly sporty – crowned with gold.
With a loud crash I throw my bike to the ground. “Holy shit, it is never going to end?“ I swear to myself. Sweat’s pouring down my face. I’ve been carrying my bike for what seems like ages. But there’s still only piles of rock and loose stones in view.
There’s only an elevation gain of 240 m between the Oberhütte in the Schladminger Tauern and the cross-over into the winter sports centre of Obertauern. They are, however, a real challenge when like me you have your bike with you. Although without my bike I wouldn’t even be here. As my mission is the Stoneman Taurista. Stoneman Taurista in gold, to be exact.
This circular tour through the impressive mountain scenery of Salzburger Land was opened in 2018 and measures a formidable 123 km and 4,500 altitude difference. The clever thing about it – tourist boards, accommodation partners and shuttle services have combined their efforts so that the Stoneman Taurista can be absolved in one go or in two to three stages as you wish.
There’s no stopwatch and no competition stress – yet finisher lists and awards – and for completing the trail in one day – the “stone man“ in gold.
Toward gold throng all, to gold cling all!
Not surprising, that as a former long-distance racer my ambition was awakened as soon as I heard about this new trail. I’m done with racing stress and competition atmosphere. But there’s nothing better to spur you on than being a proud finisher…
“Unbelievably beautiful here, isn’t it?“ A hiker standing next to me, pulls me out of my thoughts. Yes, exactly. He’s right! Why am I moaning about a short passage of carrying my bike? The sun’s shining down from a clear blue sky, the sheer rock faces of the Meregg and the Lungauer Kalkspitze rise up majestically from the deep-green alpine pasture floor and below the Oberhüttensee Lake glistens temptingly. All around the lake cows graze peacefully, you can hear the laughter of children in the distance. Most probably a younger visitor has discovered the guinea pigs at the Oberhütte or the stream in the natural playground.
The hut owners also know how to thrill me – with butter milk and Kaiserschmarrn (a chopped pancake dish) on their sun terrace. And anyhow, I’ve covered more than the half of the total altitude metres.
Freshly motivated, I pick up my Fully bike once again. That ridge up there – could that be the hotly awaited Seekarscharte? And if not, no reason to panic. I’m well within shedule.
360° alpine peaks
I started around six hours ago in Altenmarkt. Thus my first challenge of the day was the 1,770 m high Rossbrand mountain. Originally I wanted to start in Flachau, so as not to have any more long ascents after crossing the Tauern. But I was told there are worthwhile trails on the Rossbrand. And in the early morning, before the hikers travelled up on the cable car or drove up the toll road, they were deserted…
Radstadt’s local mountain is a quick-change artist. From the initial road through a cluster of houses, the small red “Stoneman” signs soon lead me into a fairy-tale forest. Gentle sunlight trickled through the conifer branches, deep-green ferns and dense blueberry bushes lined the meadow trail. Slowly the terrain started to get bumpier, until I came to a tough, steep passage where I had to push my bike. This ejected me a quarter of an hour later into a seemingly mysterious high alpine moor area with playful natural trails. Here the trees withdrew and the Alps appeared. Huge wooden benches enticed me to stop for a rest.
The 360° panoramic view on the top was overwhelming. Dachstein, Bischofsmütze, Hochkönig and Grossglockner are just the most well-known of the over 150 (!) peaks, which you can see from the top of the Rossbrand. “Dear Lord! Our homeland is beautiful!“ is what is carved into the cross beam of the mighty peak cross. I couldn’t top that. I surfed past dark-yellow grasses and rooty trees along a scenic moor trail with little wooden bridges over the boggy parts to a giant radio tower, where I came back onto forest roads and tracks. What a great start to my own personal “Stoneman adventure”!
Bravery awards no. 2 and 3
Then it was mostly downhill via the Steinalm and Mandlberg to the second checkpoint of the day. As after your heroic deed, to actually get your Stoneman trophy, you have to produce a punched start card. For this, eight control points have been constructed along the trail. Large information boards provide relevant details about the next stage of the trail, and the stamp equipment is fixed to their wooden frames. At the Mandlberggut I got my bravery award number 2 – I got the first one on the Rossbrand – on my card with neckholder. A quick look at the King Dachstein, the Schladminger Tauern and the tempting wares at the schnaps and whisky distillery with adjoining café, then I whizz down the valley and in a southerly direction over the Enns. Via the Brandscharte I reached the third checkpoint in Forstau – a relatively easy point to earn!
The initially tarmaced trail towards Forstau-Winkl also proved harmless. A gently climbing gravel track towards the Fallhausalm and Vögeialm alpine huts is shady and leads alongside the fast-flowing Forstau stream. Thereafter the fun ended unfortunately. The four kilometre long forest track to the Oberhütte stands up like a wall. In three, four very steep bends it rises up from the idyllic valley floor to the 500 m higher valley head. It’s certainly true that the view became more open and the surrounding mountain landscape more imposing. But all in all, it was an absolute grind, which called for a short refreshment stop to recuperate.
On and off, on and off
And so I carry on stomping, with renewed energy up to the Höhenkote at 2,110 m. What I don’t know at this point: I’ll also have to get off my bike heading downhill along the alpine trail with its grassy knolls and stony steps. Overall the area around Obertauern offers surprisingly trail-like passages. At the Berggasthof Sattelbauer I’ll need another break – a tasty dumpling soup and a fantastic view of the Bischofsmütze, Dachstein range & co. In the meantime I’ll be enthralled by the natural spectacle of the Johannes Waterfall just before the Gnadenalm and enjoy the quick, fluid run from Untertauern back into the Enns Valley.
The third, long ascent from Flachau up to the Griessenkar will test my limits with its monotony and steepness. Backache, snail’s pace, jelly legs – the following descent through the Bikepark Wagrain to remind me what a real shot of adrenalin feels like. On the way to the final control point at the Edelweiss Alm endorphins finally kick in. But only when coasting along the Enns Cycle Path with the last light of day do I get the feeling that all that glitters is gold…
photo credits: Lisi Hager, TauernBikeTours