The perfectly built road behind St. Johann im Pongau sweeps broadly along the steep slope. We move along so quickly and conveniently these days that you only just notice out of the corner of your eye that on the left side a rocky wall approaches and the road comes close to a dark gorge. So slow down and stop next to the small chapel so that you can enjoy the disconcerting view into the depths of the Liechtenstein gorge.
After another eight kilometres – in the valley that has soon become narrow again – we slip through a short tunnel and have a view – at last – of the small village of Hüttschlag clinging to the slope: the modest church tower and the ancient bulky workshops look almost like toys against the earnest presence of the Hüttschlager Wand. But can rock be as green as this? The afternoon sun chisels out the finest contours of the wall, which sweeps over steep meadows sharply into the skies.
But there is still a good way to go to the head of the valley. Meadows that seem sparse, modest farmyards, a few houses. There is little here to suggest the broad meadow pastures high up, announced only by the umbilical cords of the freight cable cars leading up on the two flanks of the valley.
The roadway comes to an end at the Talwirt. Numerous waterfalls rush over the rough valley flanks. The leys and the now abandoned Seegut form a counterpart of civilisation, as it were, to the dark mountain mass of the Keeskogel. From here you can – in the tracks of the old pilgrimage route to Maria Luschari – painstakingly reach the Arlscharte through the Schödertal, often stricken with flooding and landslides, and continue on to the Carinthian Maltatal.
The community of Hüttschlag forms the head of the valley of the Großarltal, which can be seen as the connecting landscape element between the Hohe and Niedere Tauern mountain ranges. As the most easterly of the Salzburg Tauern valleys, it is also one of the longest (the linear distance between the Arlscharte and Salzach is a full 27 km), with an impressively high confluence step (ca. 200 m) into the Salzachtal.
The ice-age glaciation has chiselled out an impressive trough valley which, due to the dipping rock beds, has a markedly asymmetrical cross-section: in particular from Großarl to the head of the valley, impressive rock walls dominate the east side of the valley, whereas the west side rises in gentle slopes.