During my birthday weekend we visited Bad Hofgastein where my brother was attending an emergency physician course. With all the mountains around, we definitely had to go for a hike.
And not even without an aim: thanks to a brochure we stumbled upon a local equivalent of the Hungarian Blue Trail called the Salzburger Almenweg. The Almenweg is a 350 kilometre long circular route divided into 31 stages from one alpine hut to the other. Alm translates to alpine pasture, land covered with grass suitable for grazing animals.
A notable difference from the Blue Trail is that rewards are tiered and even completing just one stage already allows the purchase of a hiking pin showing the gentian flower, the symbol of the Almenweg.
Labeling the routes differs as well. Instead of signs on the bark of trees often poles painted in Austrian white-and-red are planted to show where the route goes. Also, there are fewer signs in general than in Hungary; only when it is not obvious which way to go is there an indication of some sort. Crossroads are clearly marked with yellow arrows also indicating the estimated time required. Despite the tourist map we had proving to be pretty inconvenient—it showed the mountains in isometric 3D, which may look nice but makes it hard to gauge distances, for one—the signs were so clear we never lost our way.
We planned to complete Stage 9 of the Almenweg which meant first climbing from Bad Hofgastein (859 m) to Biberalm (1734 m), its starting point, then crossing over to Schlossalm (2070 m) and take the ski lift back down. “Romance of low- and high-alpine huts” is the tagline of the section, but more on that later.
Even though the forecast only showed rain the first part of the ascent was completed in undisturbed sunshine. Soon after starting the actual Almenweg leg, though, rain started to pour quite suddenly. The earth, wet enough as it was, soaked completely very soon making the trails slippery and muddy. Also the alms are not just for grazing animals in name: we’ve passed many sheep and cows. Especially the latter tended to excrete all over the path too and it became hard to tell what was mud and what was something entirely different… maybe that’s the romance part that was promised?
I have to admit though, the rain added a great atmosphere of adventure to the hike. We’ve been enjoying ourselves tremendously despite the fact that unfortunately we couldn’t complete the planned route. The kind owner of the Fundner Heimalm—about halfway into the stage—informed us that we won’t catch the last ski lift ride down so we decided to walk back to the town instead. It still took more than two hours from there and we were soaked through.
Luckily the tourist office had a very relaxed attitude towards checking the stamps. Having the one from the starting point, Biberalm, was enough.
Now, of course, I want the diamond one, for completing the whole route.