Silvia is no stranger to endurance activity. A seasoned Ironman triathlete, Silvia’s passion for a sporting challenge gravitated to the mountains six years ago when she moved from her native Germany to Austria.
Silvia is the kind of personality who won’t ever opt for a flat if she can instead climb. She won’t walk if she can instead run. And she certainly won’t take the easy way out if she can instead challenge herself… So the Austrian mountains seemed like a fairly decent and thrilling adversary for someone so motivated to push herself physically.
Natural highs aside, hiking in the Austrian mountains is a terrific way for Silvia to manage the stresses of everyday life. Silvia likes how she can just choose the speed that’s right for her on the day, and then just settle in and find her groove. Once upon a time the weather might have posed a few stresses, especially the rapid changes inherent in alpine conditions, but these days Silvia thinks forecasts are usually “pretty good” and if ever it’s touch-and-go, Silvia will always err on the side of caution and stay home.
We caught up with Silvia to find out more about her hiking in the hills of Europe.
See also: Bora the Austrian alpine rescue dog
What makes hiking in Austria so special, Silvia?
I think Austria is the most beautiful hiking country in the world.
Of course every country has its own landscape beauty, but Austria is just so well-geared to hiking, it is so well organised! Signs guide you to every destination imaginable so that you can find your way without a map. The signs are respectful to their environment and work with it rather than against it so that your stunning view is not obscured, interrupted or spoiled. Trails are very well maintained.
The crystal clear waters from alpine rivers and creeks provide quality potable water and, perhaps most important, alpine huts are found everywhere so you have a variety of accommodation and eating options which really cater to all tastes and budgets. This means you can hike for days without descending into a valley.
Where are your hikes taking you lately?
We’ve had a pretty great summer here so at the moment my favourite hike is in Gargellen. Actually it’s also a trail run so I can decide to do either, or! The food at Schafberghüsli is excellent, and the venue has great views. In about 2.5 hours you can do a loop from Schafberghüsli via Gafierjoch and St. Antönier Joch and back. I like to add the climb up to Schafberghüsli and get at least another 600m of ascending. But I take the cable car back – it prevents muscle soreness from running down!
There are still so, so many places I want to check out, though!
Even in my backyard there are hundreds of kilometres of trails and summits I haven't yet discovered. In Vorarlberg alone, which is where I live, it takes years to hike the trails... And Vorarlberg is not even 100km long and 30-40 km wide, so you get an idea of just how much hiking there is to be done!
At the moment I love to play with the app ‘Peak Hunter’ and collect as many peaks in Vorarlberg as I can get. I will definitely explore some trails within the trail running races I do. But I do a lot of other sports as well and can only squeeze in so much!
What about your weekends? How and where would you spend a great weekend hiking?
A weekend could involve hiking up to a great hut, probably two hours and 1,000m elevation for those who are fit or have plenty of hiking experience. Then you can stop at one of the huts for a terrific and filling lunch, before leaving your luggage and hiking another 1,000m elevation to a summit. Then you head back to the hut in time for dinner and a well-earned overnight sleep.
The following day you might not do a summit but instead go for a long hike of maybe six to eight hours through the trails with a combined altitude of around 1,000, then cable car down and back home for a week of work - batteries for sure reloaded after such great experiences!
For anyone planning a hiking trip to Austria, where would you recommend they go?
Montafon, Bregenzerwald (not as high alpine, but still good), Saalbach (great hotels), pretty much all of Tirol, South Tirol (dolomites), and Kärnten.
What do you pack for your hikes?
It depends for sure on the weather forecast and the duration of the trip. For a one day hike I pack:
Two to three litres of liquid in a camelback.
A jacket as well as a spare t-shirt for a change at the top.
A mobile phone and the rescue numbers are necessary in case of emergency (the rescue number in this area is 144.
And of course some money. If it’s not super warm then I add a hat, gloves and a warmer shirt/ jacket.
If there is a chance of rain then I will also add some wet weather gear.
Finally, if I think there are no restaurants along the way then I will also pack some food.