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The end of October is usually the time for our annual hike up Schneeberg to spend the last night of the hiking season at Fischerhütte, on the top of the mountain. This year we went to Italy instead and so I’ve decided to wistfully write about… all the reasons why you should never set foot on this mountain.
Snow mountain. What a name, huh? The highest mountain in Lower Austria is an absolute must-avoid, for all nature and outdoor lovers. Especially for hikers who live in Vienna who might be lured into the false sense of escapism that this stupid mountain might seem to offer. I’ve been living in Vienna for 15 years but have only been on Schneeberg a handful of times. And there are reasons for it. So, why do I try to avoid it, and why on earth do I keep on going back? Let me reveal my darkest thoughts about Schneeberg…
Disclaimer: If you’re after actually useful information instead of just ramblings, just go right to the facts section.
The first time we hiked to the top we really shouldn’t have. Gale force winds were forecast. We researched online how powerful they would really feel and as always, we trusted the online information closest to our most desired outcome. Which in this instance was totally wrong. The hike we chose went up along the train tracks, mostly through the forest and therefore should have been manageable in trickier weather. When the first people came down from the top and told us that the train had stopped going due to strong winds, we should have reevaluated. Of course we still kept going.
As soon as we emerged above the tree line we were almost blown back down the mountain by the savage, turbulent winds. It had developed into a fully fledged storm, howling across the peaks and taking everything with it that wasn’t securely mounted. We looked up towards the top, and hey, we could already see the hut in the back! How bad could it be? It’s pretty much a road going there all the way now!
Bad. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling of the wind blowing so strong that you can’t see properly anymore. Or when you walk into the hut and are one of two couples who actually decided to go up in the ridiculous weather.
Not content with the fierce winds from the previous day, Aydin attempted to watch and photograph the sunrise from behind Fischerhütte, where there is an incredible view (in good weather). He is met with fog, darkness and the same incessant winds. Winds still so strong that if he wern’t holding on to the cairn with all his strength he might have ended up tumbling all the way back down to Puchberg.
Because that wasn’t dumb enough, we decided to do the same thing again exactly one year later. This time we took a different trail around the back but with the same outcome of feeling like Sisyphus trying to climb the last part of the trail to the hut against the raging winds. To be fair though, few times I’ve slept so well as in Fischerhütte under a cosy blanket, having the dorm almost to ourselves while the storm was singing songs of despairs outside through the night.
Fortunately, the winds died down the next morning and a sublime sunrise unfolded, making up for all the hardships.
Trails on Schneeberg fall into two categories: They’re either roads or death traps. Granted, there are short sections here and there where it’s a lovely little path, winding up or down through forests and hillsides. The trail from the lower to the top train station is quite nice but doesn’t give you any views whatsoever. Continuing to the top you follow a gravel road.
From Losenheim it’s a nice forest path but once you reach the top cable car station you have to decide between Fadenweg and Fadensteig. The former is a gravel road/wooded trail, the latter as joyful to walk as a tight rope. And when I say walk, I mean climb, pull, slide and tread extremely carefully.
We did go down Fadensteig from the top even though it’s recommended to do it the other way around. Foolishly we believed the hut owner when she said it’s not that hard. After having my fair share of experience in the mountains I can wholeheartedly confirm that this is complete rubbish. Was this the most scared I had ever been on Schneeberg though? Hell no.
After one of our storm-ridden hikes up to Schneeberg, we were in the mood for some adventure going back down after the weather had cleared up. And so we took the excellent decision to take an unmarked path down that we found on Maps.me. Absolutely no one could have expected this to end in disaster I thought, as we were wading through a sea of chest-high weeds, and then again when we lost the path going down a scree slope and found ourselves stuck in a forest on top of a 30 meter steep cliff edge with seemingly no way out, pondering whether we should call mountain rescue (again). This, my beloved blog readers, is a heartfelt recommendation to avoid Kuhsteig at all costs. We’ve already made that mistake for you.
Not to sound classist, but let’s be real: It’s not even that high. At least, compared to a standard Austrian mountain. It’s also, sadly, just a bit short of being an ultra-prominent peak. Regardless, that doesn’t mean it’s not brutal to walk up. 1500 meters in a day is something I still don’t very much enjoy hiking. Anything less than that will only have you end up in a forest and that’s an environment that you can get to with a lot less effort in the Viennese woods. Sure, there’s also the option to take the train or the chair lift up if you’re Jeff Bezos or have just sold a kidney. A single ride up with the train will relieve you of 33 euros.
Welcome to part two of our winter hiking guide for Carinthia, Austria! We’ve gone ahead and rounded up another 10 snow-covered winter hiking trails. Don’t worry, there are no second rate trails here, absolutely no fillers, without a doubt every single one will leave you awestruck! However, if you haven’t seen it already – be […]
Of all the things we wanted to do while travelling – long distance trekking was one of the most important. We wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and retreat to the nature. To get as far away as we possibly could by ourselves, by our own means. We wanted to challenge […]
It’s cold. It’s raining. Not only is there not a pub open in this god forsaken village, but there is also no traffic in it; understandably I guess. We’re leaving Tragöß and Grüner See for new adventures to Spiegelsee and the surroundings at Schladming. We wave our biker friends good bye as they screech past our […]
Fasten yourself in for a ride – this is a good one. The events of this post take place over one year ago. The 14th September 2017 to be precise. We had planned to take a cable car to the top of Dachstein (the second highest mountain in the Northern Limestone Alps) and maybe hike […]
It doesn’t even look that good. It’s not pointy like the famous Austrian mountains, more like a pile of cow pat, flat on top with a bit sticking out. It’s not imposing, not ragged, not scary-looking, it’s not towering above the other mountains like the majestic leader it ought to be, instead it’s just kind of lying there in-between the other mountains. Slightly higher, sure, visible from afar, of course, but not to the point where I would spot it from Semmering and point to it in awe like I do with Hochstuhl/Veliki Stol when I’m in Carinthia. Schneeberg is like a sleeping giant, its underwhelming shape coaxing idiots like us to underestimate it every single time.
It’s not impressive at all. Just take a look.
It’s no secret that remote areas tend to attract a bunch of weirdos as well – like us nitwits. From our experiences Schneeberg has its fair share of them too but nothing tops the guy Aydin met when he went out after dinner one evening to take photos during the sunset. Up he went to the peak only to discover a guy tenderly hugging the summit cross. Aydin tentatively got closer while the dude was taking selfies with the cross until he was asked to – you guessed it – take photos of the guy hugging the cross in an overtly religious manner. I do wonder if anyone ever got to enjoy a slideshow of these masterpieces.
Things that can also happen to you: A horde of people stumbling down the mountains in sandals, accompanied by brave mountain rescuers because the train couldn’t descend anymore due to weather. Forest fires around Schneeberg causing you to hike extra quickly. Is it Schneeberg’s fault that we’re twats? Absolutely not. But the mountain keeps on making sure that we get to feel it every time.
Schneeberg is easy to reach from Vienna. The train journey to Puchberg am Schneeberg takes about one and a half hours with a change in Wiener Neustadt, and there are quite a few trains going each day. From there you can decide whether to take a route that starts from town (along the train tracks for example) or take a bus to Losenheim. Another option is to take the train to Payerbach-Reichenau and then the bus 341 to Weichtalhaus and ascend Schneeberg from the back. The bus will take you through the beautiful Höllental where you can catch excellent views of the Schwarza river which supplies Vienna with drinking water. Bus and train times are best to be found on the ÖBB website.
The three official routes to the top that we recommend are along the train tracks, up Fadenweg/Fadensteig or around the back up Weichtalklamm. You can mix and match them to vary your routes up and down:
The first one starts in Puchberg and ends at Fischerhütte, with a short detour of the Klosterwappen peak. It’s easy in technical terms but the ascent of over 1500m is not to be underestimated. With 13 kilometres one-way it might be too much to tackle in one day, depending on your fitness level. We do recommend to stay over at Fischerhütte in any case since it’s a lovely hut with spectacular views, especially in the mornings at sunrise. A path description and GPX trail can be found here.
The next trail starts at Losenheim, a short bus ride away from the train station in Puchberg. You can skip the first part of the hike by taking the chairlift up. We’re cheapskates and walked up the slope instead. At Edelweißhütte you’ll find signs for Fadenweg or Fadenstein. Fadensteig is brutal but if you have to do it, we recommend it from the bottom to the top, not the other way around as we did it. Keep in mind that this is a climbing path only suitable for experienced hikers. The other option is Fadenweg, which takes you via a gravel road and then a forest path to the top. Here is a description and GPX trail of the round path.
If you walk up or down via Edelweißhütte, you can also go a longer way instead of walking up the ski slope. For this, you exit the bus earlier, at the stop Wasserfallweg instead of Losenheim. Walk to Sebastianfall, a really nice waterfall, and then via Mamauwiese up to Edelweißhütte. For the way down, just follow the signs to Mamauwiese from Edelweißhütte.
Another interesting option, especially on hot summer days, is Weichtalklamm which starts at Höllental. This is a climbing path with quite a lot of ropes and it can get slippery, thus only recommended for experienced hikers (red mark). The GPX trail is here. (Disclaimer: we haven’t hiked this trail yet).
Fischerhütte is one of the best huts I’ve ever stayed at. It’s cosy, has nice food and great views. You can only book it online via the link on their website.
Don’t be like us and go down unmarked paths – We regretted it. Stay on marked paths and keep in mind that, even though it might not look as sinister as other mountains, this is alpine territory where one should move with caution at all times.