There are some Alpine regions that at first come across as being very unspectacular, especially in the peak time of alpine walking in the autumn, when the Upper Austrian foothills of the Alps are often cloaked in a stubborn coating of mist. If you approach the Tote Gebirge through the Almtal on such a day, there seems at first to be little going on. No trace of the landmark of Upper Austria, as people like to call the shining white mass of the Großer Priel. Only the leaden grey of the mist and the cultivated landscape that seems to be unreal, although it is very pretty. The flanks of the valley are covered in thick mixed forests.
The river would certainly look good on commercial television. Like fluid, blue-green glass the water flows over the numerous ancient weirs or rushes away between bushes of alder, unimpressed by the eagerness of torrent control measures. Above the village of Grünau the open agricultural country is finally transformed into a forest of tall trees through which the road hastes, straight as an arrow.
And then comes the big sensation: in the bat of an eyelid the cover of fog is lifted, you cross over a high moor with a view of almost unreal lakes, one last bend and then there it is, the famous head of the valley: the dark rocky mass of the Tote Gebirge is reflected in the glass-clear Almsee: the ring of summits of the “Almtal Sundial“ towers up 1,800 m above sea level.
In order to reach the second highest wall of the northern limestone alps, you must move to neighbouring Hetzau in the east. From the Almtalerhaus the huge ramparts of the 1,400 m high Schermberg north face can be comfortably studied. The Almtalerhaus is also an ideal “base camp“ for this and other expeditions on the north side of the Tote Gebirge. If you want to go even higher you can opt for the breathtakingly beautifully situated Welser lodge. This is the starting point for the Schermberg fixed-rope route and a series of further fixed-rope routes.
Those interested in nature will find an eldorado in Grünau: as well as the Cumberland wildlife park, since 1973 the Konrad Lorenz research station for comparative behavioural research has been established here, specialising in particular on grey lag geese, ravens and ibises, which gave the Almtal the nickname “valley of the birds“.