Definitely one of the most beautiful hikes I have done in my three (almost) years in Austria.
We began our journey on a Sunday morning at the Pinzgauer Hütte, where we also spent the night before. The hut itself was very nice – extremely clean showers with warm water, cosy bedrooms, delicious (yet heavy) dinner and friendly English-speaking staff.
It’s possible to hike up to the hut from Zell am See, but the option to use Schmittenhöhebahn is faster and more convenient (and seems more reasonable in case of rain). Also, if you plan to hike the Schmittenhöhe before doing the Pinzgau Walk the next day, I recommend very comfortable shoes and some leg training beforehand (it is a lot of walking after all). There are also no other huts throughout the Pinzgauer Walk, so it is worth to pack enough food and water for the whole day.
We spent around 6-7 hours (or 18 km) hiking around some of the most breathtaking landscapes in this part of the Alps.
Starting off at around 8:30 in the morning, we were surrounded by thick fog for the first hour of the walk. The landscape looked pretty mysterious (definitely an interesting scenery for any aspiring photographer or a horror movie fan?). Giving it a second thought, maybe it was not fog, but clouds (is there a difference)?
Anyway, for a good few hours we were completely alone. There were barely any other hikers on the trail, one reason for that could be that most people start the hike from the opposite direction towards Zell am See.
We met a lot of cows, though. I have always had a little bit of an irrational fear of animals on the loose, so the first few kilometers were quite challenging. What if a cow starts chasing me, where can I escape? The cows turned out not be really bothered with us and gladly posed to million Milka-commercial style photos.
At one point, we saw a few horses standing at the bottom of a hill. It was quite a surreal moment. Almost made me feel like I am a lone wanderer making my way through the steps of Mongolia… But this is Austria in the end (and the horses are all probably tagged, registered and someone paid a heavy tax to have them there). Anyone jnows how it works with wild animals in Austria?
Having hiked quite a lot in recent years, I found the Pinzgauer landscape particularly impressive. I was suprised how vast yet secluded it seemed. There also barely any other hikers on the trail, which added up to this aura of “exclusiveness”. It was a nice refreshing break from the popular mountain hikes around Salzburg, which attract crowds on sunny weekends.
Even though the overall height difference throughout the 18 kilometers was between 200-300 meters (I think), the trail was going up and down quite frequently. It felt almost like a prolonged interval training session. So we definitely sweat a lot more than expected.
Side note: do not underestimate the sun (even when it’s hiding behind clouds or fog). After a whole day at around 2000 meters above the see level, my face got burned rather badly (nothing better than starting a new work week with your face and neck peeling off…really professional).
After a short but rather strenuous climb up on the final leg of the hike, we reached the east side Schattberg. From there, where took the Schattberg X-press down to Saalbach (and then a bus back to Zell am See). Worth to note that the bus back to Zell am See ran only every half an hour on a Sunday… So plan well in advance!