Johnsbach im Gesäuse
an alpine Arcadia
Is there a climbing paradise? If so, then it probably lies in the Gesäuse, or to be more precise: in Johnsbach. And this is not only because of the moving mountaineering cemetery, the crosses and memorials of which read like anthology of classical Alpinism: this is the last resting place of Fritz Schmid, but also of Gustav Jahn and Hubert Peterka. Hundreds of names fill the list of accident victims, which has been kept since the year 1810, far more than the number of residents now living in the village. Perhaps an opportunity to pause for a moment and reflect that the mountain experience even today still has a serious side to it.
The “university of mountaineering“ – this title has been held by the Gesäuse since the 1920s, when the then young and wild people from the Vienna and Graz climbing scene devoted themselves to the “last remaining problems“, of which there were quite a few in this area. One of these was the Dachl-Rosskuppen intersection which was conquered in 1936, and you can read about this in the guide literature as follows: “Out of the crevice an extremely difficult climb through the vault of a chimney towering up, with few grips, at the end of which you hang, freely suspended above the uppermost and completely smooth bulge, so far out until you just reach the first two very small grips with your fingertips and climb, extremely difficult (close to the absolute limit of falling) to the left into the short channel and upwards where it is difficult to stand, 20 m.)…”
Attempts to repeat this failed many times, and it took another 12 years before this route was conquered a second time…
On the other hand: after the huge mass of rock that positively smashes together above the head of the visitor on both sides of the Enns when entering the “Xeis“, you really do enter the Johnsbachtal through a gate hewn from the rock. Directly after this the valley opens up. A friendly meadow is bordered by small groups of houses, the rocky mountains that were so threatening before now seem to be like a protective fence around an alpine garden of paradise.
Even the insignia of globalisation that are unavoidable in other places seem to be left behind in this valley: the village shop is not part of a retail chain, house façades and gardens manage without decorations from garden centres, and only one farm almost shyly has a mass of telecommunication antennae