Salzburg Day Three // Untersberg Mountain

You will never guess what I did on my third day in Salzburg? Actually, you probably will because I've not stopped banging on about it since! I will warn you now- this is probably the longest post I've ever written. I'm proud of myself, ok? Untersberg Mountain Salzburg

Salzburg Day Three, or


When we visited in April and went on the Sound of Music tour, the guide pointed out the Untersberg and explained that you can usually take a cable car up. At the time, they were replacing the cables in preparation for the summer crowds and we didn't have enough time to visit anyway but it was at the very top of my list for things to try when I returned. I even bought some new boots and cable car earrings especially! 
Since this was such a weather-reliant activity, I didn't have a particular day planned for it and instead intended to just wait for a bright, clear day. As it turned out, every single day was perfect so I took the earliest opportunity to visit. The first cable car was at 8:30 so I left the hotel at 8am and headed out to find the bus stop. Of course I took a wrong turn and ended up circling the block before stumbling upon it, pretty much exactly where I'd been ten minuted previously. Despite being early, it was already very hot and my heavy boots were not helping matters!
Zeppezauer Haus Untersberg
My wait at the bus stop was less than ten minutes before the bus turned up. Conveniently, the final stop is the cable car station so I just needed to sit on it all the way to the end of the route. As I boarded, I checked out what other people were wearing. Being the unfit exercise-shirker that I am, I was more than a little bit nervous. I expected everybody on the mountain to be wearing proper hiking gear with those mountain walking stick thingies and looking at me as if to say What's she doing here? To my relief, nobody on the bus looked like they were heading off for an Everest expedition so I felt a little reassured.
Untersberg Memorial Plaque
The bus was quite busy so the only available seat was backwards-facing. This isn't something that bothers me and I was quite happy watching the beautiful scenery roll by. After about 15 minutes, while I was taking a photo of the Untersberg out of the window, an announcement came over the tannoy saying Leaving Salzburg City area. Ensure you have a valid ticket for the remainder of the journey. Now, I had my Salzburg Card which, as you will know by now what with my shuttle runs to and from my broken phone, allows for free travel on public transport. What I didn't know was whether they were valid for the rest of my bus ride. Looking back now, common sense says I should have just asked the driver but, me being me, instead I sat there staring at the back of the bus for the last ten minutes, panicking that a conductor was going to board and kick me off in the middle of the Austrian countryside.

Untersbergbahn Entrance
Thankfully, the bus arrived at the cable car station without the appearance of a conductor so I breathed a huge sigh of relief and hopped off. Up ahead, two girls wearing denim shorts and flip flops were entering the station so my fears about being surrounded by serious mountain types were diminished once and for all. Inside, I grabbed a quick drink from the little shop (and had a conversation about my nails with the lovely lady who worked there and was thinking of getting hers in the same shape) before waiting in line. After perhaps ten minutes, we started boarding the cable car. I just had to scan my Salzburg Card at the turnstile and climb onboard. Since it was only 9am, there were only around ten other people going up the mountain so I had a space right next to the window.
Austrian flag chalk Untersberg
I'm scared of flying so I expected to feel a little nervous as the cable car climbed up. What I didn't expect was the sheer terror of death. All I could think about was the cable snapping and how we would all plummet to our untimely ends. Rather than admiring the view like everyone else, I stared right at the rock face and focused on the peak. When we reached the top, I would be on solid ground. I would be safe. Closer and closer we climbed, until we finally made it to the peak and, woah, ok that's a sheer fricking drop on the other side! What I had assumed was the end of our journey was actually only the halfway point and I thought I was going to cry. I stared at my feet and waited for my inevitable destruction.
Salzburg Hochthron
Of course it wasn't all that inevitable in the end (because, well, I wouldn't be writing this if it was). After what felt like forever, and seeing my life flash before my eyes, we were docking at the top of the mountain and I could finally breathe again. I disembarked, walked out of the station and immediately forgot the trauma of the past nine minutes. The view was absolutely incredible! There's no way I can describe the rich blue of the sky, the sight of the city so tiny that it looked like a model town and the sheer magnificence of the alps surrounding us on every side.
Salzburg view from Untersberg
Initially, I'd planned to head up, have a little look around, maybe a gentle stroll on the flatter paths and then travel back down. However, as I left the cable car station, I could see the cross of the summit and it didn't look too far away so figured I might as well give it a go. I climbed up the hugely steep slope in front of me, making note of the cafe for future reference, and then stopped for a break after two minutes. Sitting on the bench, admiring the view, I watched an old couple stride past me. To be fair, these were very fit-looking older people with full-on mountain hike gear but still. They were at least 60 and if they could do it, I certainly could! Up I jumped and followed them the rest of the way. I just had to get over this hump and then it was a short climb to the summit. I've got this.
Hiking couple
I reached the hump, the hill of the peak came into view and that's when I realised that it was a whole lot more of a climb than I thought! The hump I was currently standing on sharply dropped a good few metres before snaking around to the foot of the final hill, which was the steepest incline I've ever seen in my life. I mean, it's a mountain so I wasn't entirely sure what I expected but there you go. Rather than go in all guns blazing, I sat on a rock and observed other people, to see how they managed it. Because I wanted to be fully prepared for my expedition, I even timed them. Most people managed it in around 10 minutes and the old couple reached the summit in 15 so I figured I could take it easy and get there in under 20 minutes. As much as it intimidated me, I knew I would regret it if I walked away so I heaved myself up and started on my epic journey.
Untersberg summit
You know what? It wasn't bad at all. Yes, it was tiring. Like, really tiring. The climb was a mixture of rocky paths and steps in the steeper areas, with grass banks and large rocks at the side so you can sit down and rest pretty much anywhere. As I climbed up, I passed one lady having a picnic at the side of the path so it's definitely possible to go at a pace that suits you. I took my time with lots of breaks and really appreciated the experience, rather than rushing to the top. As I climbed higher, I became aware of the voices from the peak getting louder and that was great motivation to keep going. When I finally reached it, and put my hand on that great cross, I thought I might cry from the sense of achievement. I'm sure for most people, it's only slightly more challenging than walking to the shops. There were young kids up there and everything so it's hardly scaling Kilimanjaro but since my idea of exercise is walking to the fridge, it was a huge deal for me! 
Im Kreuz Ist Heil Austrian Man Alps
All in all, it took me half an hour from the bottom of the final climb to touching the cross at the top. I'd taken a jacket because, you know, mountains are cold an' that but it was still warm at the top. I was sweating from the climb and didn't even need to put my cardigan on. Of course, this was an exceptionally hot day- I'm not advocating running up mountains without proper clothing. I thought the view from the cable car station was stunning but this was something else! For as far as the eye could see, there was nothing higher than me and it really felt like I was on top of the world. As many photos as I took, I just couldn't capture even a fraction of how majestic it looked from up there. The most powerful moment for me was when I spotted the Leopoldskron Palace and realised I was right at the top of the mountain that had made me so emotional when I stayed there. 
Untersberg ravens
After another half hour, I figured I should head back down. I'd wished I'd taken a book or some drawing supplies with me because I could have stayed up there a couple more hours. Descending was obviously a lot quicker and easier than the climb up but it was also far more stressful! Of course there are no handrails so you're walking down steep steps and slopes with sheer drops at the side of you and that's pretty scary! The rocks on the ground are quite loose too so I was grateful for my pink hiking boots with thick rubber soles and padded ankles! ("Hiking boot" may admittedly be a bit optimistic but they did the job perfectly. They were brand new but so comfortable and I came away with no blisters whatsoever. In fact, they were so comfortable that I wore them the next day too!)
Pink hiking boots
When I reached the bottom, I popped into the cafe for a cold, refreshing drink before getting the cable car back down. Because it was much busier by now, the cable car was crammed full but I preferred this as I was in the middle and couldn't barely even see the windows. As the car started to descend, the operator pointed out the Eagle Nest- Hitler's mountain retreat on the German side. As the cable car pulled into the docking station, I could just see a bus pulling out. By the time I reached the bus stop, however, the next one turned up so I didn't have to wait in the burning sun.
Hiking Untersberg Mountain
First things first, I had to buy an actual valid ticket so I explained to the man (after asking nicely in my best Austrian accent if he spoke English) that I had a Salzburg Card but I needed to buy a ticket back to the valid zone. He looked confused and told me I don't need one. Turns out my Salzburg Card was valid all along and I'd just been panicking for no reason. Standard. Since the number 25 bus goes past the Hellbrunn Palace on the Salzburg suburbs, it made sense to combine the two and visit on my way back. I'll write about that in my next post though because this is already far too long as it is!

Untersberg Cable Car descent
Since I am now your resident mountain guide, here is my advice for climbing the Untersberg:
  • Don't feel like you need the full hiking gear but do dress appropriately. Wear sturdy shoes with good grip, take a jacket and put on sun cream.
  • Pack a bag with bottled water and consider taking a book or sketchbook for when you reach the summit.
  • Don't be afraid to take lots of breaks on your way up (or down). Yes, it might take you a lot longer but it's better to take it slow and enjoy the experience, right?
  • Arrive early. It will be quieter and means you can combine your visit with a trip to Hellbrunn Palace or Salzburg Zoo, both of which are on the bus route back.
  • Don't be put off by your current fitness levels or lack of experience in mountain climbing. It's a lot less intimidating than you would expect!
Untersberg Summit
I can't wait to return to the Untersberg with Rich in tow. We'll next be in Salzburg in December so it's going to be pretty snowy and probably cloudy but it will certainly be an experience, that's for sure! 

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  1. Those views are incredible! Well done on getting to the top! I'd love to do something like this alone - I feel like it's one of those where it'd be nice to have company, yet so good to just be able to walk and bask in your own thoughts.

  2. Well done for making it up there - it looks a little terrifying but I can imagine totally worth it for those incredible views! x


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