After having hiked three times across the Austrian Alps on different routes past summer, I often thought about the difference of thruhiking in Austria and abroad. This article should help future hikers what to expect when hiking the Alps in Austria (and other countries along them).
Austria is a small country with a strong infrastructure
Good to know:
- The Alps are a busy place especially in holiday time from July to the end of August. There will be no day where you will not run into other people (not the case when the weather is bad).
- Thru-hiking is not really a thing in Austria, I met only a party of two other long distance hikers in 119 days. This does not mean that no one does it, but chances are low that you run into someone who is going „all the way“.
- There is hardly an area without mountain huts, most huts offer accomodation and different kinds of food. People who have never been here before call them „Mountain Hotels“
Most huts are very busy during the season in good weather conditions. If you plan on going from „hut to hut“ you can hike really light, but you will need quite a budget for it and most thru hikers dont want a hike like that I assume. Too many people, too much comfort, too expensive.
Nevertheless a Mountain Hut can become very convenient and even life saving in bad weather.
- Camping is technically prohibited, but the law is a bit different in every state. Check the site of the Austrian Alpine Club for all Information about it. So if you want to do a thruhike of one of the longer trails in Austria it will be a good mixture of sleeping in huts, bed & breakfast houses in towns and campgrounds. An experienced thruhiker will probaply carry a tarp and use it from time to time in the few areas where infrastructure is rare or with the permission of the landowner and he might consider a stealthcamp from time to time.
- Food purchases are fairly easy, most small towns have supermarkets or grocery stores where you can get different kinds of food a thruhiker will get along with. As mentioned huts provide food too, so you will not starve to death anywhere in Austria. Carry enough cash for huts or emergencys. Some huts are equipped for plastic money but those are rare. You can do a box resupply strategy aswell with the general delivery option at post offices. I dont think that is necessary here, but I did from time to time with shoes, maps and some food. You can get along without them or with just a few if you want to ship maps etc..
- Navigation & Maps: Depending on what you want to do, there is really any kind of information around, guidebooks, maps, GPS Apps, tons of online platforms and resources. I hiked with the guidebooks from the OEAV (Austrian Alpine Club) and the GPS App from Kompass. The guides are not great for a thruhikers need, but show distances, accomodation options and profiles. All the other writen Information in them is more or less useless for the long-distance-hiker. For grocery shops and post offices I did a lot of online research before wich I transfered into excel and brought along the way. I found another app very usefull which shows all kind of local facilties and stores etc gps based with opening hours.
- The trail network is huge! Do not stick too much on a planned route, there are many alternatives out there which you can take in bad weather or even more worth then the original route. Make your own choices! Trails in Austria are often very technical and rugged, including big amounts of elevaton loss & gain. There are days where doing 50 or more kilometers per day will be no problem for a strong hiker, on others you will hike a full day with only 30km because of the streneous terrain.
- Be prepared for any kind of weather at all times! I had two major snowstorms, one in July and one at the end of September, starting rain turn into snow at 1800 meters of elevation and above.
Always be aware of the forcasted weather. Fresh snow, wind and a poor visibility can turn into treacherous and life-threatening conditions very fast.
- Consider a membership at the Austrian Alpine Club offering rescue insurance and discounts on accomodation in huts.
https://www.freytagberndt.com Onlineshop for guidebooks & maps
http://www.kompass.de Another shop for guidebooks & maps
Kompass GPS-App download on itunes
http://www.alpenverein.at Alpine Club information and membership
http://www.bergfex.at Online hiking portal with lots of info and online maps
https://www.alpenvereinaktiv.com Same as above from the Austrian Alpine Club
What else? Feel free to ask me in the comments!