Over the Dachstein

July 2017  |  Austria

The final destination of our three-week northern limestone Alps tour was the Dachstein mountain range of Austria. Starting from near the Südwandhütte, above the lovely village of Ramsau on the south side of the range, we hiked for three days around and over the Dachstein to the famous village of Hallstatt on the north side, via the Hofpürglhütte, Adamek-Hütte, and Simony Hütte.

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The spire of Torstein (2496m) shrouded by clouds.

Austria, Dachstein, wildflowers, Alps, photo

The high valley of Rinderfeld is an Alpine "Shangri La" full of larch forests and gorgeous meadows bursting with alpenrose and gurgling springs, all surrounded by towering rock spires. I was awestruck by this little slice of paradise and had a hard time leaving!

Austria, Dachstein, Hofpürglhütte, hut, Alps, photo

The Hofpürglhütte must be in my all time top three favorite huts. It’s positioned on the edge of the mountainside directly below the vertical rock daggers of the Große-Bischofsmütze, with a commanding view of the Dachstein massif across the valley.

On the way towards the Hofpürglhütte I got caught up photographing the mountains and wildflowers, so Claudia went ahead to secure a place in the hut for us. By the time I reached the hut and started to settle in, my head was fairly spinning from the awesome scenery and photo excitement!

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The ragged vertical peaks of Große-Bischofsmütze soar up behind the Hofpürglhütte.

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Sunset light on Torstein and the Dachstein massif, as seen from near the Hofpürglhütte.

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Evening at the Hofpürglhütte.

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Hiking along the Linzersteig route to the Adamek-Hütte.

On day two we left the Hofpürglhütte, backtracked a bit, then hiked over the Linzersteig route to the Adamek-Hütte. The route traverses a limestone basin full of more of the nasty convoluted limestone terrain which we’d be dealing with for the next few days.

Austria, Dachstein, Linzersteig, Alps, photo

Climbing a pegged cliff along the Linzersteig route.

The Linzersteig route is borderline klettersteig but is still possible to do without climbing gear, in good weather. Fortunately we did have fine sunny weather and though there were a few exposed climbing sections with metal peg ladders, we made it just fine.

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Along the Linzersteig -- and in much of the limestone rock of the Dachstein -- are millions of fossils of ancient Megalodon sea creatures dating from the Triassic times (roughly 250 million years ago). These horseshoe-shaped bivalve fossils are referred to as Kuhtritte, or "cattle footprints". They are about the size of your hand or larger and are all over the place, oftentimes arranged in the hundreds or thousands across the rock.

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Another Megalodon bivalve fossil.

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Crossing the barren rock left behind by the retreating Großer Gosaugletscher (visible above) along the Linzersteig route near the Adamek-Hütte.

The final stretch of the Linzersteig route involves crossing the barren rock left behind by the retreating Großer Gosaugletscher (visible above) before arriving at the Adamek-Hütte which is situated on a small island of stable rock between the moraine and vertical mountain walls.

Adamek-Hütte, Austria, Dachstein, Große-Bischofsmütze, hut, Alps, photo

Sunbeams over the Große-Bischofsmütze as seen from the Adamek-Hütte.

The Adamek-Hütte offers a view back towards the Große-Bischofsmütze where we were the night before.

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Sunset light on the convoluted limestone rock near the Adamek-Hütte.

Austria, Dachstein, Alps, photo

Torturous limestone terrain in the Dachstein.

After a night at the Adamek-Hütte, we hiked around to the Simony Hütte on the north side of the range. I won’t lie — the entire route from the Adamek-Hütte to the Simony Hütte is a grueling slog through torturous limestone terrain which I was thoroughly sick of by this point!

Austria, Dachstein, Hallstätter Gletscher, wildflowers, sunrise, glacier, rainbow, Alps, photo

A gorgeous sunrise and rainbow above Hoher Dachstein (2995 m / 9826 ft) and the Hallstätter Glacier, as seen from near the Simony Hütte.

I woke up for sunrise at the Simony Hütte and was already pretty happy photographing the light on Hoher Dachstein when seemingly out of nowhere this rainbow emerged!

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Sunrise at the Simony Hütte. The hut is named after Friedrich Simony, the first person to ascend Hoher Dachstein. Founded in 1876 on a location selected by Simony himself, the hut has been enlarged and restored a number of times since then.

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Hiking down through the forest from the Simony Hütte towards the town of Hallstatt.

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Another obligatory photo of a quaint window surrounded by ivy, on the outskirts of Hallstatt.

After a long hike down from the Simony Hütte we reached the world famous town of Hallstatt. Situated on the edge of a large lake with immense mountains soaring above, it's easy to see why this place is so famous. After finding our hotel and getting cleaned up, we enjoyed strolling around town looking at all the gift shop knick-knacks and snapping photos alongside all the rest of the tourists.

Austria, Dachstein, Hallstatt, Alps, photo

The world famous lakeside village of Hallstatt. Despite the throngs of tourists, this town is super charming with its Tyrolean houses climbing up the steep mountainside above the lake.

A relaxing evening eating schnitzel, drinking wine and beer, and watching swans from a lakeside patio restaurant made for a fine ending of our three weeks of trekking in the Alps!

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Morning in Hallstatt, Austria.

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