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How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Austrian Alps

The Austrian mountains offer beautiful scenery and some the best treks in the world, but they can also be a place of danger. Here's what you need to know before adventuring in the high altitudes.

How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Austrian Alps
Hiking in the Austrian Alps calls for preparation. (Image: Sébastien Goldberg / Unsplash)

Austria offers endless possibilities for hiking and trekking in its beautiful mountains, forests and trails. The Alpine country is a worldwide destination for wanderers, but trekking in its mountains is very demanding, and people should be prepared.

Even born-and-raised Austrians are not immune to the dangers of the mountains, as a recent incident with President Alexander Van der Bellen shows.

READ ALSO: The six most spectacular train trips in Austria

The president, currently running a reelection campaign, suffered a mountaineering accident while trekking in Kaunergrat park, west of Austria.

“Federal President Van der Bellen suffered minor injuries in a mountain accident on Sunday afternoon. He slipped on a mountain hike on the Kaunergrat and was taken to the nearest hospital by Cobra attendants.”, his team posted on social media.

The tweeted message reads: “The Federal President suffered abrasions and a slight concussion and will spend the night in hospital on the advice of the doctors treating him. He will cancel his appointments at the Forum Alpbach on Monday and Tuesday.”

While 78-year-old politician is (fortunately) on the road to recovery from the accident, many are not that lucky. Unfortunately, accidents in the Austrian alps are not a rare occasion, with more than 2,500 happening to trekkers and hikers in 2021.

READ ALSO: Five of the best weekend getaways from Vienna

Last year, 272 people died in the Austrian alps, a number slightly below the long-term average of 286 deaths yearly. However, many believe the decrease is due to bad weather (as most accidents happen in summer) and coronavirus restrictions keeping people at home, according to the Alpenverein.

What are the main recommendations when hiking?

Austria’s Alpine Association has a series of entertaining videos with dozens of tips for those looking to adventure in the Austrian mountains during the summer.

READ ALSO: 15 things to do in Austria in summer 2022

The videos feature a couple, Berti and Gerti, who want to enjoy the spectacular landscapes of the Alps but are followed by the “clumsy grim reaper” (no joke) every step of the way.

The videos are subtitled in English and worth the watch – if only for the sheer Austrianess of watching Death wearing Lederhosen.

The Grim Reaper following hikers in Austrian Alps (©Österreichischer Alpenverein)

You can watch all the videos here.

The ten tips to hiking in the Austrian Alps

According to Alpenverein, there are seven points that every hiker needs to be aware of.

Be in good health

“Mountain walking is an endurance sport. It makes your heart and circulation work, so good health and an honest assessment of your capabilities are required. Avoid having to rush and adopt a pace that keeps all members of your group from getting out of breath.”, it says.

According to the association, heart attacks are the second most frequent main of death (accounting for 40 percent) in mountain hiking. Men older than 40 are the leading risk group, and several factors contribute to this risk growing.

Plan and prepare carefully

“Mountain hiking is not a walk in the park”, the Alpenverein alerts. Careful preparation is essential; hikers need to know the trail and surroundings well, check and prepare for the weather, account for each group member and their particular fitness level (especially if there are elderly or children), and check the current trail conditions beforehand and gather the proper equipment.

READ MORE: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

The Verein has a handy tip to calculate walking time for a medium-sized group of four to six people: allow one hour for every 300m climbed, one hour for every 500m descendant and one hour for every four kilometres walked.

Walking times for the altitude and horizontal distance are calculated separately. Their smaller value is divided by two and then added to the larger one.

So, for example, if an alpine trail climbs 1,200 metres of altitude (which equals four hours of walking time) and covers a horizontal distance of eight kilometres (two hours). The total uphill walking time would be four hours plus one (the two hours divided by two), or five hours.

Come fully equipped

Ensure you have the right equipment for your undertaking and keep your rucksack light. Rain gear and cold and sun protection should always be in your backpack, as should a first aid kit and mobile phone (European emergency number 112).

You should also bring some food and drink and light. A hiking map, app or GPS will help you find your way.

Hike in appropriate footwear

This item is so essential that the Alpenverein has it listed separately. This is because stable hiking boots protect and take a load off your feet. They are also vital to improve your sure-footednese and avoid falls.

Choose waterproof, lightweight boots with a perfect fit and good grip. If possible, shop where there are experts offering advice and take your time finding the ideal hiking boot for you.

Surefootedness is key

The leading cause of accidents in hiking the alps is falling from slipping or tripping. Be aware of keeping a comfortable pace and mind that fatigue can seriously affect your surefootedness and concentration, especially when descending.

“Steep descents require your body’s centre of gravity over your feet: bend your knees slightly, bring your upper body a little forward and round your upper back a bit. If the descents are long and challenging, take breaks”.

READ ALSO: Why getting rescued in the Austrian Alps could cost you thousands

(Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Stay on marked trails

In pathless terrain, the risk of losing your orientation and falling from heights and rockfalls increases.

Avoid shortcuts and return to where you last knew your position if you lost your way. It is not uncommon for shortcuts or alternative routes to end in rough and challenging terrain.

Make regular breaks

Regular breaks give the body time to relax and allow you to enjoy the landscape, and keep your concentration levels high. Additionally, you should eat and drink to maintain your performance and attention focus.

Hike responsibly with children

Hiking with children adds a massive responsibility to adults, and only one adult can look after one child during a hike. Therefore, prepare beforehand and check if the walk is suitable for children before embarking on it.

READ ALSO: Austrian rescuers save 100 German school children stuck while hiking in Alps

Hike in small groups

Small groups are more flexible and make it possible for the members to help each other out easily. Always stay with your group. The ideal group size for mountain hiking is four to six people, and any hikes with groups of far more than eight people “quickly become chaotic outings”, the association says.

Respect nature and the environment

This should go without saying, but: do not leave any waste behind, refrain from making too much noise, stay on the trails and don’t disturb wild animals or plants.

READ ALSO: ‘Waldeinsamkeit’ in Austria: Five peaceful forest walks near Vienna

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VIENNA

What’s on: Five things to do in Vienna this weekend

Vienna is full of events, places to visit and great new restaurants to try out. So if you are overwhelmed with the possibilities or just wondering where you can find a musical about a famous British novel, here are some ideas.

What's on: Five things to do in Vienna this weekend

REBECCA

There are few better ways of learning German than just getting immersed in a book, play or movie in the language – but one that you are very familiar with the story and characters.

Vienna now has the perfect opportunity for those who want to practise their German by following the stories of the ‘new” Mrs. de Winter, her wealthy husband, the sinister Mrs Danvers and the infamous Manderley.

Rebecca, based on the novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, premieres at the Raimund Theater on Thursday, September 22nd, and people can experience the musical thriller live from Tuesday to Sunday.

You can find more information here.

Vienna central cemetery

Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Vienna’s central cemetery

The Wiener Zentralfriedhof is one of the largest in the world and certainly the most well-known in the Austrian capital. It is the resting place of famous people such as Beethoven and Falco, but its landscape is also home to impressive flora and fauna (you can even see deer grazing by).

The Zentralfriedhof is particularly interesting during the moody autumn months when leaves turn yellow and the light is even more beautiful. You can visit every day from 7 am to 6 pm, but tours and certain parts of the cemetery have different hours.

You can find more information here.

(Copyright MA 49 / Fürthner)

Weinwandertag

During an early autumn weekend, thousands of Viennese and people from other parts of Austria participate in the city’s Wine Hiking tradition, which is precisely what it sounds like: walking around vineyards and trying out different wines and food.

It’s a great way to celebrate the arrival of autumn (and the new wine season) in a very Austrian way: outdoors, with friends and family, and with traditional drinks and food. You can take four different hikes (each with varying choices of routes). The trails are senior and child friendly.

You can find more information here.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Al Zaytouna Restaurant (@alzaytouna_restaurant)

Al Zaytouna

Al Zaytouna, which means “the olive tree” in Arabic, is one of the best restaurants for those seeking Lebanese cuisine in Vienna. There are many choices of dishes, including vegan and vegetarian, prepared with tasty Mediterranean herbs and olive oil.

Classic Arabic desserts finish off the night perfectly. The lovely-decorated restaurant (complete with a Schanigarten) is located in the 3rd district.

You can find more information here.

Austria’s Oktoberfest, the Viennese Kaiser Wiesn, is back. (Pressefotos © Stefan Joham)

Vienna Oktoberfest

Vienna’s largest Oktoberfest, the Kaiser Wiesn in Wiener Prater, is back with festivities, beer tapping and live acts.

From the opening until October 9th, the Kaiser Wiesn is open daily from 11:30 am – the Kaisernacht starts at 6:30 pm in the three large festival tents and offers a varied programme with national and international music and pop acts.

You can find more information here.

Do you know any other cool events happening in Vienna during the weekends? You can email us at [email protected] to share your tips and suggestions.

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