In the corona summer of 2020, I was forced to travel alone for the first time. Since I had never seen the Alps in the summer, I decided to go to Austria for 10 days, mainly for hiking. I had previously looked for a top climb near Neukirchen am Großvenediger (Salzburger Land), but once I was there I had to drive a long way to effectively get to the start of that hike. Fortunately, the very friendly owner of Alpengasthof Neuhaushof was able to help me with a worthy alternative: the climb of the Pihapper (in Der Hohen Tauern). Learn more about the climb of this 2513 meter high col in this article.
I started climbing the Pihapper from Gasthof Berghof. You can park right at the start of the signs. From there you have to hike 6.2 km to the top, but you have to take 1322 vertical meters into account. The first part of the walk is completely through the woods. About halfway you will find yourself in an open area with alpine meadows. The last kilometer is technical and rocky. On those highest parts I even encountered some pieces of snow! The very last part of the climb you have to go up via ladders and with hands and feet. Since I was alone I did not do this for security reasons. When returning you take the same route.
The route is easy to follow via the yellow signs (see photo below). You can’t really go wrong because you don’t come across so many different paths. Everything is well marked in any case. So that’s one less worry! If you want to do such hikes on your own, make sure someone knows you are there.
It had been a while since I had done an even heavier climb (since the climb of Pico do Fogo in Cape Verde). The lockdown had also not really helped my fitness, and in Belgium it is difficult to prepare for such ventures. So slowly but surely I stepped up (that’s how you actually have to do all the tough climbs). Probably because of my less condition, the many altimeters and the altitude, the last kilometers were very tough. Bad weather was also predicted in the afternoon so I was a bit “in a hurry”. In the end I saw a lot of clouds, but had no rain. When things cleared up a bit I was treated to some beautiful views.
So I will not soon forget the climb of the Pihapper. Once close to the top I didn’t want to go up just those ladders and stuff anymore and I went back down. Of course I also decided this for security reasons. Fortunately, descending is always faster, but I still noticed that I sometimes stepped wrong because of the fatigue. I was very happy that I had my walking sticks with me anyway, because once in the woods it became more technical due to the roots of the pine trees. It was not until the last part of the descent (when you cross the logging roads again) that I met 2 other people. The rest of the time I hadn’t met anyone.
What should you pay attention to?
The answer to this question, of course, depends on your experience and fitness. If you really want to be on top of the Pihapper, you better not be alone or go as far as I was before. In any case, do not underestimate this climb because it took me a good 5 hours and 30 minutes to climb and descend this mountain. You have to be in good shape anyway. If you don’t exercise much and have never done anything like that, you better stay away from there. As you can see in the picture above, you should not be afraid of heights. The path is sometimes very narrow and with a steep slope on both sides.
For climbs like this, I certainly bring walking sticks, a camel bag, and energy bars. These 3 small “details” ensure that your energy is maintained. In any case, check the weather before you go. Use there for the Mountain Weather Forecasts site. I do not recommend doing this climb in the rain. Obviously you will not go if a storm is forecast.
But don’t let the climb of the Pihapper scare you too much. In acceptable weather and a good physical condition, you will suffer a bit, but you will also be able to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Anyone who has already climbed some mountains knows the satisfying feeling of standing on top of a mountain. Below you can find some nice pictures to be convinced. Oh yes: you better not be afraid of cows. You can also enjoy the compilation video of my solo trip in Austria under the photos.