Since his youth, Gisbert Rabeder has been hiking the mountains. At home near Lake Schwarzensee in the Wolfgangsee Region, he knows every nook and corner of the Salzkammergut. He was vital in the creation of the long-distance trail that traverses the region. It’s a pleasure to join him on an excursion into the mountains.
A passion for hiking has seized the population. Over the past few years, more and more people are lacing up their boots, packing their backpacks and grabbing their hiking sticks to clamber up the next summit. This is also true in the Salzkammergut. For Gisbert Rabeder, who celebrated his 80th birthday in 2019, this is nothing new. Since he was 13 years old, he has been out and about in the mountains. Even in retirement, he makes at least two treks each week. In both summer and winter, Rabeder is always climbing mountains – whether it’s in the Salzkammergut or elsewhere. He has turned his passion into mountain hiking guides and maps. Hikers and climbers exploring the area swear by his regional guide ‘Totes Gebirge’. “Holiday by the sea? That’s not for me,” he admits with a laugh. Before the route was finalised, Gisbert conducted test hikes along the 350 kilometre long-distance BergeSeen Trail which opened in 2017 and extends throughout the various regions of the Salzkammergut. During his more than 40 years in the forestry service, he rambled the forests and meadows, over hill and dale, around Lake Attersee and Lake Wolfgang. By the end of his career, he was responsible for 3,800 hectares of land. He still knows his territory. He loves the region even when it experiences changes.
He nimbly leads the way from the Niedergadenalm meadow, located at 1,228 metres above sea level, up to the 1,533 metre Thorhöhe peak in the Wolfgangsee Region. With steady and certain steps, he ascends the path. First a section through the forest. Then a segment across the open meadow. Accompanied by the sound of cow bells, the wind in the treetops, the chirping of birds and the gurgling of streams. Now and then, Gisbert Rabeder looks back over his shoulder – enjoying the panorama of mountains and lakes against the backdrop of a bright blue sky. Conifers stand crowded in clusters. Limestone outcroppings pierce the luscious green of the meadows. “Few people realise that the landscape here is often man-made,” Rabeder reveals. At one time, the salt industry demanded a lot of wood. Extensive logging took place, and the area was later reforested. Over the past few decades, reforestation - as is typical throughout Austria - has increasingly been carried out using spruces. Conifers grow quickly but are not the most robust of trees. Because of their shallow roots, they are easily felled by storms. A mixed forest would be more durable, but establishing it takes time. Gisbert Rabeder watches the changes to the forest and thinks about his time working as a forester. “I was out in nature a lot, in every kind of weather,” he remembers. “By the time I reached my workplace, I had already hiked one and half hours through the forest. Then my workday actually started.” Did he ever want to pursue something other than forestry? “No. I would have had to leave the forest. Foresters don’t do that.”
Working in the fresh air, with people, with nature – Gisbert Rabeder likes to ponder these moments. In the past, he was often outside with his four children. Today he enjoys hiking with his grandchildren. His wife also accompanies him on his nature treks. He has guided Japanese tourists through the forest and Korean TV-stars up the mountain. This passion for outdoor activity has never left him. Therefore, it was only natural for him to explore, adapt and co-design the BergeSeen Trail for the Salzkammergut. Step by step. Trail by trail. Not a single new path was laid for this long-distance hiking trail through the Salzkammergut. In cooperation with the Alpine Association and experts from the individual regions of the Salzkammergut in Upper Austria, Salzburg and Styria, existing trails were integrated to create a tour with 20 daily stages. A single stage can consist of 9.5 or 26 kilometres, cover 160 or over 2,000 metres of elevation, and take 2.5 or 8.5 hours. A yellow ‘S’ on a black background clearly marks junctions and signposts in the direction of the next destination. Forty alpine and regional hikes along the trail can be combined with the long-distance tour. For some rest and rejuvenation, accommodation and refreshment stations are located in the mountains and towns along the hike. “We generously measured the walking time,” Rabeder explains. The classic daily stages can also be tackled by beginners with good footwear, some physical condition and weather and route-appropriate equipment. “However, one should not underestimate the longer routes,” Rabeder advises.
Upon arrival at the Thorhöhe peak, Gisbert Rabeder takes the summit book from the small metal box on the summit cross. Small drawings, short sayings or just names of the hikers are immortalised in its pages. Rabeder writes his name and sits down on the wooden bench for a quick rest. The Postalm meadow stretches before him with 42 square kilometres of gentle hills and craggy peaks. Cows and horses peacefully graze on the meadow. In summer, more than 5,000 animals can be found on the plateau, the largest alpine meadow in Austria. When asked, Gisbert Rabeder patiently names every mountain peak in the 360° panorama. Those nearby – Gamsfeld, Wilder Jäger, Rinnkogel, Osterhorn, Pitscherberg, Schafberg – as well as those in the distance – in the Tennengebirge or Totes Gebirge Mountains. “Yes, back there you can see the Loser in the Ausseerland-Salzkammergut. From there it isn’t far to the Appelhaus,” Rabeder states.
The Appelhaus in the Totes Gebirge Mountain is a station along the long-distance trail through the Salzkammergut. The alpine tour leads from Gößl on Lake Grundl to the mountain hut and then continues into the Alm Valley. “That is my absolute favourite route,” Rabeder admits. In the Kompass hiking guide for the Salzkammergut BergeSeen Trail by author Wolfgang Heitzmann, the tour is listed as a ‘king’s stage’. The route combines all the features promised by the BergeSeen Trail: views of the mountains and plenty of lakes. On warm summer days, the water provides a fresh cool down. On clear days in autumn, there are almost unending views into the distance. “Whoever wants to hike the full 350 kilometres of the long-distance trail in one go needs three weeks of holiday and continually good weather,” Rabeder explains. “I suggest hiking in stages.”
Even two years after its opening, Gisbert Rabeder regularly checks the paths of the long-distance trail around Lake Wolfgang and occasionally beyond. He’s pleased when he is faster than the allotted time for a hike. He makes suggestions for improvement if one path or another should be done a little differently. All for an even better hiking experience in the Salzkammergut.
Gisbert Rabeder grabs his backpack and his hiking stick – it will take a while to reach the valley. The path is a section of the eighth stage of the long-distance trail – from the Postalm to Strobl. With unwavering steps, Rabeder descends to the Niedergadenalm. He leisurely walks through the forest to the Schartenalm. On the left, the Bleckwand. To the right, the Sparber Mountain. Solitary and powerful, it stretches 1,502 meters into the sky. “There is also a nice circular route around the Sparber,” Rabeder states. It’s not surprising that he also knows this trail. The hike ends at the Weberhäusl tavern. The forestry house of Strobl am Wolfgangsee is just around the corner. Gisbert Rabeder cheerfully talks about the past - about students who once came to him from abroad to study the forest or about working with the numerous sawmills in the region. Suddenly his phone rings. His daughter is calling. The next mountain tour is pending. Tomorrow? “Of course, see you then,” Gisbert Rabeder says, hangs up and laughs.