The hiking season continues! Indian summer is just around the corner and brings us stable high-pressure weather, crystal-clear long-distance views and mild-warm daytime temperatures. Perfect conditions for discovering one of the most beautiful high-altitude hikes in Salzburg: the 4 Summit Tour in Zauchensee.
High-altitude tours are among the very special mountain experiences: Hiking over lonely ridges from peak to peak, you not only experience the fascination of heights, but also enjoy never-ending views from horizon to horizon. The sky is closer than ever, the valley far below, the peace almost tangible.
Autumn is the ideal season for high-altitude hikes: Compared to summer, the weather is more stable, which reduces the likelihood of thunderstorms. In autumn, the temperatures are pleasant and the sun mild – in high summer, a mountain tour is incomparably more strenuous and needs to be even better prepared. And unlike in spring, the peaks are free of snowfields in autumn. At least until the end of October, because that is when Frau Holle traditionally returns from her summer holiday.
The 4 Summits Tour in Zauchensee is one of the most beautiful high-altitude hikes in the Tauern. As the name suggests, the tour connects the four highest peaks around the Seekarsee: Gamskogel, Schwarzkopf, Tagweidegg and Arche. Throughout the hike, you can enjoy magnificent views of nearby and distant mountain ranges – from the Dachstein in the north to Austria’s highest mountain, the Grossglockner, in the southwest.
The 4-summit tour is a circular hike, approx. 7 kilometres long and takes about 4.5 hours. Start and finish is at the mountain station of the Gamskogel Lift. You hike a total of around 700 metres in altitude. The 4-summit tour is also suitable for children from primary school age, but your kids should already have hiking experience and above all be fit enough. Around the Schwarzkopf, sure-footedness is required at a somewhat more demanding point, so please pay special attention to your young mountain friends here.
Tip: Until the last weekend in September, you can use the Gamskogel lift to travel up the mountain and glide comfortably down into the valley after your hike. Our “Cabrio Lift” is open daily until 26th September (except in wet weather) from 9.00 am to 12.00 pm and from 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm.
Good news for all Kaiserschmarrn (chopped pancake dish) and snack platter lovers: the Gamskogel Hut with large sun terrace also remains open for visitors until 26th September!
The 4 Summit Tour at a glance
As a circular hike, the 4 Summit Tour can be conquered from two directions – clockwise and in the opposite direction. I recommend hiking the tour anti-clockwise, because at the beginning the Arche, as the comparatively lowest peak, is ideal for warming up.
Tip: At the lift ticket office of the Gamskogel Lift in the World Cup Arena, you will receive a 4-summit tour collection pass where you can enter your summit victories. You will find a marker at each of the four summit checkpoints. If you hand in the full collection pass after your hike at the Gamskogel Hut or at the lift ticket office, you will receive a small reward and souvenir of your hike.
Let’s go! You start the 4-summit tour at the mountain station of the Gamskogel Lift (of course you can also reach it by hiking trail). Pass the Gamskogel Hut and hike over the Seekarscharte to the Arche (2,060 m), where you can pick up your first collector’s pass entry. From the Arche, enjoy the view towards the Dachstein and Hochkönig before returning to the Seekarsattel. The trail continues to Tagweidegg (2,135 m) and from there to Schwarzkopf (2,263 m). You should be particularly attentive and sure-footed on this section of the trail, especially if you have children with you.
The Gamskogel (2,186 m) is the fourth peak of your circular hike high above Zauchensee. In winter, it is a spectacular venue for the FIS Ski World Cup with one of the fastest women’s downhill runs in the ski circus. The next World Cup races will take place at the beginning of January 2022, more information will be available this autumn.
From the Gamskogel you descend to the Gamskogel Hut. Hike back to Zauchensee via the World Cup course or the Oberzauchensee alpine pastures. Until 26th September you can fortify yourself for the descent with delicious delicacies at the Gamskogel Hut and glide comfortably back down to the valley on the Gamskogel Lift. Here you will find the exact route description of the 4 SummitTour.
Antler scramblers, mogul slide and lots of animal fun
Right next to the Gamskogel Hut is the adventure playground Master Cup of Alpine Animals. Here your children can find out what it looks like in a marmot’s burrow, how fast bees can fly, how far a hare can jump and other animal secrets. Since this summer, there are four adventure stations to discover around the adventure playground, which you can reach via three adventure trails: the cow hump slide, the wing ladder, the antler scrambler and the “chamois” climbing wall. You can find all the information on the Alpine Animals’ Champions Cup here.
Tip: The adventure playground is also open for you after the Gamskogel Lift and Gamskogel Hut close and can be easily hiked from Zauchensee along family-friendly hiking trails.
The perfect equipment for your hike
Even though the Gamskogel Hut is open every day until 26th September (except when it rains), which means that unscheduled stops are also possible: On your hike you should always make sure you have the right equipment and take enough to drink and provisions with you. Especially on high-altitude tours, because there are relatively few shelters, huts, fountains or similar.
The mandatory equipment in your hiking backpack should be:
- Rain protection
- A warm garment
- Sun protection (sun cream, sunglasses, …)
- Headgear (depending on the season, cap, bandana, headband)
- Fully charged mobile phone or GPS device
- A power bank to charge your mobile phone
- An emergency kit with blister plasters, bandages, allergy tablets, MNS mask, disposable gloves, aluminium blanket, circulation drops and dextrose.
- If necessary, for beginners and less sure-footed hikers: height-adjustable hiking poles.
- Food (drinks and snacks)
When it comes to drinks, keep it simple: water, isotonic drinks or diluted fruit juices are recommended for hiking. Depending on the heat, length of the tour and exertion, you should take at least 1.5 to 2 litres of liquid per person.
Tip: Ziploc bags, aluminium and Tupperware boxes and reusable drinking bottles are perfect for carrying drinks and snacks in a safe, practical and hygienic package. Please make sure to repack fruit bowls, empty packaging, PET bottles or beverage cans and dispose of them properly later.
What are you waiting for? Pack your rucksack, put on your hiking boots and head to Zauchensee!
What to wear on your hike
Your hiking clothing should be made of light, breathable material that either wicks moisture away or absorbs it well (Gore Tex or cotton). It is always a good idea to wear trousers where you can easily zip off or zip on the leg sections as soon as it gets too hot or too cold.
When it comes to shoes, I recommend sturdy shoes that go up to the ankle, especially for high-altitude tours. Depending on the season and route, they should be waterproof and have a stable sole with good grip. This will give you a good grip at all times, prevent you from twisting your ankle and protect you from wetness, stones and sharp-edged rocks.
Tips for your packed lunch
When it comes to provisions, more is more! Hypoglycaemia and dehydration make you tired, reduce your ability to concentrate and encourage missteps. To avoid this, take enough to drink and food with you.
For each hike, pack a few muesli bars, fresh or dried fruit, nuts and, for longer hikes, sandwiches, pasta or lentil salad in your backpack. This way, you can take regular snack breaks to give your muscles new energy without putting unnecessary strain on your stomach.
photo credits: Bergbahnen Zauchensee, Shutterstock