The Hochschwab Salza loop – tramping through snow thunder and rain

Where did the crystal clear water go? Opaque grey silty water flowed past by through the Salza river when I inflated my packraft. Warm temperatures, high amounts of snow melt and the rainshowers of the days before had caused rather high water levels.

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Ready to hit the Salza just downstream from Gusswerk village.

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Flowers abound around the snow line.

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The Ennstaler Alps as seen from the Goss mountain pass above Hinterwildalpen.

The desolate Klausgraben canyon presented itself as a delight to the eye. Passed through the canyon several heavy rainshowers teased me on my float, but I paddled on till the evening when a layer of fog formed and draped the river bed. Now I could only hear the next white water coming and throw myself into it blindly. That wouldn’t be so clever, so I put out and hiked the remaining distance till close to the village of Wildalpen where I tarp camped in the forest. Distant lightning strikes lit the sky at dusk, soon it started to rain, often it rained heavy and it didn’t stop till late forenoon.

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The snow covered plateau under the scraping clouds.

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Wagnergraben from the Römerweg trail.

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Fobisbach down Hinterseeaugraben.

With the last rain droplets that fell in the morning, I made a cache in the forest to leave my packrafting gear behind for the remainder of the trip. The Salza river had swollen too much overnight so that any packrafting was irresponsible now. I climbed out of the Salza valley and wandered through vast mountain forest and some more heavy rainshowers that got my legs soaking wet until I reached the west part of the Hochschwab plateau in the evening. The sun broke through and I enjoyed watching the towering clouds over the mountains in the distance building the next thunderstorms.

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Looking down Hinterseeaugraben with Pfaffenstein (1871m) in the background.

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The bridge over Fobisbach appears from under the snow.

The plateau still had an almost 100% snow cover once above 1200m, but the snow had hardened enough during the last days thanks to all the rain that my snow shoes where now useless weight in my pack. Except from a few frightened chamois I seemed to be all alone on the deserted plateau. The weather improved on day four so that I chose to climb to the summit of Brandstein. A glider suddenly scared me while standing near the summit cross. Even though you can have the feeling to be all alone up in the mountains in the early season, suddenly there might always appear some company from an unexpected side in the Alps. It’s so typical.

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The plateau seen from Brandstein summit (2003m).

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Looking back onto the south face of Brandstein (2003m) from the plateau.

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Entering the flowery Trawiestal valley.

The nice weather window only lasted one day as the next day I had to race against an advancing coldfront. I was now under Hochschwab’s summit but the mountain remained in the clouds all the time so that I had to leave the plan to climb any higher. The marmots were deserted looking around while keeping close to their den. With still so much snow cover everywhere around their den, there was not yet much delicious to find to satisfy one’s hunger.

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I just woke up after my half year sleep.

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And I stretch my legs for every photographer.

While I crossed the mountain pass on its south side it started to rain, cloud base lowered sustainingly and soon the first lightning strikes were flashing. I reached the valley bottom of Dullwitz valley just in time. The roaring thunder behind my back became loader and loader. Not much later I smiled and enjoyed the hailstorm that bombarded me. Lighting strikes hit the valley ridge above with for several times only two seconds that I could count between flash and the bang. It had been a long time since I got to experience a decent thunderstorm in the mountains.

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Descending deeper into the Dullwitz valley whith the thunder approaching behind my back.

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Rainy forest bivuoac.

I pitched the tarp in the forest while it kept raining in the evening and so it did during the night… and the next day… and the next night… Well, I just hiked through rain and fog the entire day after. Fortunately it became dry the last day after about 42 hours of continuous rain. I hiked upstream through the attractive Klausgraben canyon and soon finished the loop. Late spring is a beautiful time in the mountains as proved this trip again.

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Hiking through the Klausgraben canyon…

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… with the Salza river now showing its green waters.

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Timid forest dweller.

This trip took place May 06-12 2013.
Watch the gear list for this trip.


5 thoughts on “The Hochschwab Salza loop – tramping through snow thunder and rain

  1. A pity you had so much rain Joery, even so you still managed to take some beautiful shots. The Ennstaler alps look terrific under those ragged clouds and I love that chamois.

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