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Powerful Beauty: Exploring Kaprun’s High Mountain Reservoirs

Yesterday was an awesome day of hitchhiking from Salzburg to Kaprun! Check out our account. It was freezing in our tent last night but we are super excited today because we are heading into the mountains to see the Mooserboden alpine dams and reservoirs. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks with incredible turquoise waters, hiking and exploring is the name of the game today.

Up bright and early

Up bright and early we head to the local Spar to grab hummus and bread, some veggies and a bunch of snacks, and then to the bus stop. We catch bus 660 and get off at the last stop: Kaprun Kesselfall/Alpenhaus (It costs us about €3.60 each 😱). Just around the corner is the ticket office for the dams. Originally we wanted to hike up the trail to the dams. It’s about 600M up but we want to check if it’s still good to hike so we ask at the ticket office how the conditions are and they say it’s slippy and icy. We are gutted as it super expensive to take the bus up, €21 each! However, we don’t want to take any risks – if you read about our accident on Dachstein then you will understand why! More information here.

We make an executive decision to pay and go up. We don’t want to miss it since we’ve been looking forward to this for a while. It turns out we totally could have walked, there was no snow below the dams, and once you are there, there is a road to walk up and down. Oh well.

To get to the top is not a simple process. First you get on a bus and go through a long tunnel. Then you get off the bus and get on to some weird incline lift that takes you up 400M which was a pretty cool addition. Nice to peek over the edge and enjoy the alpine views!

Once you get to the top of that you are funnelled on to another bus which takes you all the way to the top reservoir, next to the dam wall. At this point you are free to explore.

The high reservoir is made up of two walls with a small peak in the middle which separates the two. The above photo is taken from the peak. It is quite hard to climb the path as it is snowy and icy but the view is totally worth it. The scene is far too big to fit in my camera lens so make sure you bring a wide angle lens!

Damnnn fine view

Looking over the full lower reservoir to the valley below

This is the view from the middle of the high dam looking over the lower one to the valley below where Kaprun is.

Winding road leading up to the higher damn wall of Mooserboden surrounded by snowy mountains

Above you can see the road leading up to the high reservoir. This shot is taken from around half way up the peak separating the two walls. We also spotted a marmot here so keep your eyes peeled for these adorable little critters!

We take a walk around the damn and find this nice swinging bench to relax on. Considering the amount of snow about it is very warm and the sun is burning bright. Perfect weather to explore up here!

Forgotten history

The Mooserboden reservoirs sit at an altitude of 2040 meters and have a sad history. First building plans were drafted in the 1920’s but it was only during WW2 that they were realised. The Nazi regime forced around 4000 prisoners of war and 6300 forced foreign labourers to construct the dams. The commemorative plaque on the Pagan Church tells you that over 120 prisoners died here between 1940 and 1945. German speakers can find detailed information about the Nazi past of the reservoirs here. After WW2, the dams were finished and became a symbol of post-war reconstruction, and until today many people are not aware of the dams’ Nazi past – Makes it even more important to know and remember history!

Hiking back down to Kaprun

After spending a few hours enjoying the views we embark on the journey down. We decide we will walk on the road until the weird incline lift thing so we can check out the lower reservoir as well. After about 3KM of walking for approximately 1 hour, dodging busses on the road and getting strange looks (we can’t walk on the trails there’s way too much snow) we make it to Fürthermoar Alm where we drop in for a coffee.

Surprisingly they have rabbits in a hutch outside so Caroline is very happy. They yard was full of treats – around the back of the restaurant is this adorable little chapel.

A small cute chapel made from wood and stone surrounded by snow at Stausee Mooserboden

We are about to continue walking when someone pops out of nowhere and tells us that we can’t walk because there has been avalanche warnings – eurgh. There is a bus stop outside the restaurant going back to the lift so we hop on and save arguing. We only wanted to walk along the road so if an avalanche was to come I’m not sure being on a bus would be any better.

The view of Kaprun from the top of the Lächwand elevator
The view from the lift to Kaprun
Caroline enjoying the view on the Lächwand elevator with a waterfall in the background
Caroline on the lift

Upon arrival at the ticket station after scaling the lift and the final bus journey we decide to walk back to Kaprun. There is no snow down here and some trails and a nice river to walk along. We’ll soak up the rest of the day in the nature and save ourselves €7.20 on the bus. It’s another 8KM ‘s walking so we should make it before it gets dark. We can see on the map a lake and a gorge – It sounds pretty beautiful.

Damned waterfalls near Kaprun

Above you can see some water damming contraception – we can only assume something to do with the higher damns – or maybe the walls are to stop rocks, we don’t know but if you do let us know in the comments!

Cows only

Cows blocking the path on a hiking trail near Kaprun

So yeah. We’re supposed to be going through this field. The cows have a different plan. From their scattered positions around the field they all intriguingly start to approach us and within seconds we are completely surrounded, flanked by cows. They have no intention of moooving.

After overcoming the initial moment of what the fuck, some guys with bikes push past us with their bikes over their heads and the cows scatter – sheepishly we follow and the cows don’t even bat an eye lid.

We know you must be wondering what wimps we are, right? Well, let me tell you about a little experience I had with cows back in the UK a few years previous.

I was out with my two little sisters Lola & Emie on bikes in the fields behind my fathers house – the girls were 10 & 12. We crossed into another field (on the road, mind you), with some cows in it which we thought nothing of. We got on our bikes and started riding. The cows were curious. They started to approach. At first we think nothing of it but then they get closer. More start to appear, there must have been thirty of them at least. One of the girls got scared and turned around so we all went back to the gate but when we got there the cows had dispersed and retreated a little. The field didn’t look so intimidating anymore and the girls plucked up their courage to have another go.

So we ride

This time the cows were faster – they surrounded us. They had a plan. And a backup plan by the looks of it. We sped up towards the opposite side, the gate was in sight. We climbed down from our bikes and before we could even think about what to do next we sensed it. The cows had completely surrounded us. The girls screamed and climbed the gate, abandoning the bikes as collateral.

I soon followed but realised the grass was not greener – there was a bull in this new field. I quickly looked around and scouted the location – to the left was a forest with a fence separating it from the field. The foliage was incredibly dense but there was nowhere else to go so I commanded the girls to climb the fence in to the forest. Once inside, we couldn’t go anywhere, the foliage was too dense, so we chose to wait in somewhat safety.

Meanwhile the cows came closer and trampled the bikes. The only thing to do was to ring our dad. At first he laughed but then he realised the gravity of the situation. He told us to sit tight and he would drive to us, the house was only a 5 minute drive away.

10 minutes later we heard the engine and eagerly peered over the cows to the road to see the car – but so did the cows. The cow at the back no word of a lie turned around and approached the car. It stood in the middle of the road. Appearing to be a calculated move it seemed as if the cow was signalling that this be no business of the car and its passengers. Be gone humans, this does not concern you, it would have said if it could speak – which honestly wouldn’t have been that much stranger.

So yeah, that is why I’m slightly apprehensive regarding cows, they can be cute, but whoever tells me to not worry about cows can get the fuck out.

Autumn paradise

A little further on we arrive at a small lake. Time is running out, the sun is setting and my camera batteries are drained yet we can’t help but immerse ourselves in the beauty for a short while. The serene turquoise waters with the romantic wooden boat house are a delight. The autumn foliage with its spectrum of warm tones adds magnificently to the scene – if it wasn’t for the time we could spend hours here.

If you’re a fan of lakes like we are, check out our article on Grüner See, the magical green lake in Styria.

A small wooden boathouse reflects in Klamsee with autumn coloured trees surrounding

Hours we have not, so onwards we march. The next stage of the hike is a gorge which we are looking forward to. One can never tire of a good gorge walk although we are not sure whether it will be open and whether we will have to pay (most probably) but since we are coming from the back way we wonder if there will be a gate. Maybe it’s just a part of the trail?

Nope. The gorge is closed and there is a gate at the back. It seems our trail forks off and runs adjacent to the gorge but just far away enough for us to not be able to see in to it – Bastards!

The trail runs steeply down through the woods and before long we are at the end of town, back in Kaprun. A short walk and we will be back at the campsite.

FACTS FACTS FACTS

How to get there

The best way to get to Kaprun is either by train or car. It can be reached in under 2 hours from Salzburg or Innsbruck – a bit longer from Vienna. You most probably want to stay in Kaprun or Zell am See.

Bus 660 bring you to to the ticket office for the Mooserboden dams from Zell am See and Kaprun. You can download the current bus time table here. Get off at the last stop, Kaprun Kesselfall/Alpenhaus. In 2017, it cost us €3.60 per person/one way. If you arrive by car, there’s a parking garage at the entrance that looks pretty weird in such a beautiful natural scenery.

A return to the dams from the ticket office is €23,–(Don’t believe the website saying it’s 22), one way €11,50. A shuttle bus will take you to a cool inclined lift, then you take another shuttle bus and you’re free to explore the dams. A more cost-effective solution would be to hike up on the marked trail starting to the right of the Alpenhaus ticket office. It takes about 3 1/2 hours. This blog has some pictures from on the way, looking at it makes us sad that there was just too much snow for us to do it!

The dams are closed in winter and usually open again in May. We went in September and there was so much snow up there, just incredible!

Accommodation

We recommend to book accommodation offering the summercard, see below.

Booking.com

Pro Tip

We’ve got a few recommendations for Kaprun:

There is a mountain roller coaster in Kaprun. Go on it because it is awesome.

Drive on the Großglockner high alpine road if you can. You will see some of the most incredible scenery you ever saw.

Don’t stay on a campsite, stay in accommodation. The campsite was 20 euros, off season, with a camping card. We’ve seen nice accommodations for €30 and if you stay in any accommodation listed here you will get a free Kaprun Summercard.

The summercard grants you free access to the dams, boat rides on lake Zell, access to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier, cable car rides to Masiskogel and the gorge which we didn’t go in. It also gives you free entry to Krimml waterfalls and many other discounts including public transports and the Großglockner road. It’s an absolute bargain and will save you loads of money.

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