Challenge: Hoher Dachstein

Hoher Dachstein, the second highest mountain in the Northern Limestone Alps with an elevation of 2995m above sea level was on Gregor´s bucket list ever since we moved to Austria and through conversations on a long bike rides with our good friend Rainer, which achieved a lot of great results during his active triathlon career and is still very active when he is not developing new features of Deermapper software in his company 🙂 , they came up with this unique idea to make a one day duathlon challenge out of it. Their plan was to cycle from Graz to Ramsau am Dachstein, a holiday resort under Dachstein Massif, have their transition area on Dachstein Glacier parking area and then climb up on Hoher Dachstein. Why would they only decide for a climbing trip, if they can take this to a whole another level and challenge themselves at the same time. 🙂

Me and Rainer´s wife are already used to their adventures together; from their first 300km daily cycling trips and up to this one. 🙂 They challenge themselves and try to help each other with their own experiences, so they are now already a synchronised duo 🙂 !
They wanted to execute this challenge in summer 2015 but the weather conditions were not allowing them to do that and then later on Rainer was already leaving for Alaska with his wife, so they decided to try in summer 2016. They already had a rough plan for the challenge, they only had to wait for good weather conditions, which would allow them to execute it and last September, the weather was looking promising. Rainer was already on Hoher Dachstein in the past and has in general a lot of experiences in the climbing area, so he knew which conditions would be optimal for their challenge.

The plan was to get out of their warm beds around midnight and start with the first part of their duathlon challenge around 1 a.m. by cycling from Graz to Dachstein Glacier parking area, which meant they had approx. 250km ahead of themselves. Me and Bea volunteered as assistants, because it was much easier for them to change and leave their cycling gear in our car and they also did not need to drag their climbing gear on their backs all the way to Ramsau am Dachstein.
We packed their gear for transition area in the evening and then it was bed time for them. 🙂 Good thing is that we live only a few steps from each other, so they almost had the same amount of sleep and no one had to wake up earlier in order to come to the arranged spot on time. 🙂

I set my alarm clock for around 4.30 a.m. and planned to leave at about 5.30 a.m.. I was up ever since they left of course, visited the bathroom x times and set the ringtone on extra loud in case they would need our backup. 🙂 Bea tried to catch some sleep and was probably wondering if I had some extra coffee a day before. 🙂 I was really excited that we were heading somewhere, where we have never been before and for the first time by ourselves. For a young driver like me, that meant a new adventure was definitely ahead of us. 🙂 I had enough time to pack all the stuff guys have left for us and all what we needed for the day.
At 5.30 a.m. it was time to start with our part of the challenge. I thought that it would probably be better if we would arrive to Ramsau am Dachstein a little bit earlier, because I only had approx. time frame from the guys and I knew that on sunny days, the parking area can be packed quite quickly and I was right. 🙂 Gregor called me once along the way, so that I received an update on how they were doing and I called them a little bit before I left the highway near Liezen, to make sure we were ahead of them. 🙂
I was happy to leave the highway after all the tunnels and it was finally time to enjoy some morning foggy views of Dachstein Massif and all the rest Schladming area. Bea slept most of the time while we were driving, so I did not have to make a break, but she did got up as we began to ascent towards Ramsau am Dachstein, as I had to stop and make space for cows, which were accompanied towards the pasture areas. Bea was really funny as she did not have a clue why all of the sudden a bunch of cows were surrounding our car. 🙂 We greeted the farmer and headed towards Dachsteinstrasse toll station, where we got a ticket and then drove for about 6km, till we got to the large parking area.

We arrived around 8.30 a.m. and we were definitely not the first one there. Kind employees guide us to the free parking space and then we got to witness how quickly such large area gets completely packed with cars and buses. Gregor and Rainer were somewhere between Liezen and Ramsau am Dachstein at that time, so we had some time left, before they would get to us.
We enjoyed the beautiful morning sun that was warming us and observed how the cable car was transferring the first visitors and hikers towards Dachstein Glacier. I made a ticket reservation one day before, as it is highly recommendable, to make sure you get a free space in the cable car. I saw that it was possible to use free spaces in the cable car even before booked time, you only had to tell the employee for which time you had your reservation, so they could offer those to other visitors.
Gregor called me when they arrived to Ramsau am Dachstein and said they were making just a quick stop at the grocery store and will then continue towards us. We prepared all their stuff in the meantime, so they would only change quickly and continue with the climbing part of the challenge.
We positioned ourselves in one curve, where we would be able to see Gregor and Rainer in the far distance and slowly we were already able to see some familiar bikes in the distance. 🙂 There they were, just a kilometer away from finishing with their first part of this duathlon challenge. We were sooo happy to see them and Bea enjoyed some salty kisses while they were changing. She was already in her assistant role. 🙂 They arrived around 9.30 a.m., changed their clothes, placed their bikes into the car, ate and drank something quickly, took a photo with Bea and they were already running towards the path, which lead them towards the glacier.

I had a reservation for the cable car for around 11 a.m. so I knew I would have to check if we could get to the glacier a little bit earlier. I gave all the cycling gear that guys left into the car, made sure everything was in there, took my backpack and a muzzle for Bea. I already adjusted it to her at home so that we would not waste any time for that there. We then headed towards the register counter and there were already people waiting for the next cable car. Among the visitors who were buying their tickets were also dog owners, which meant a lot of juggling on my part, because Bea of course wanted to say hello to all of them. 🙂 I had to organize our tickets and stay balanced with my backpack, while Bea tried to pool me in all directions, where other dogs were waiting. 🙂 We were really lucky that a few free tickets were still available for the next cable car so I paid the tickets and headed towards the waiting room, where all of Bea´s friends were already waiting for her. 🙂 I paid 37€ for me and 4€ for Bea and if you do not have a muzzle with you, you can also buy it there for 8€. I thought that she would have to wear it before entering the waiting area but all the staff was really friendly and they did not even ask if we had one, because all dogs were very disciplined. I had it in my hand in case if we would need it for the ride itself but it was not needed. The staff only asked us not to carry our backpacks on our backs during the ride due to space, so my biceps had additional work ahead of themselves. 🙂 While I was trying to make enough space for Bea and our backpack, she automatically headed towards the glass, so she would have a better view during the ride, although a couple was standing there. 🙂 They only laughed and let her enjoy the view. The ride lasted for about 6 minutes and the views were absolutely breath-taking, especially when we were getting closer to the high walls of Dachstein Massif.

It was a little bit cloudy when we got to the glacier. I took my jacket and hat out of my backpack and we headed towards the Skywalk viewing platform, where you have 250m sheer rockface of the Hunerkogel beneath your feet. 🙂 We wanted to take a look if we would able to see Gregor and Rainer somewhere in the distance, but it was still too cloudy. I was not sure if dogs are allowed to visit the Ice Palace, Suspension Bridge and Stairway to Nothingness, because we had enough time to visit all of them, but we saw a sign then that said it is not allowed :/ Oh well, then we decided to explore the glacier itself a little bit in the meantime. I checked the condition of the glacier path, which leads the visitors in direction of the Großer Dachstein and Dachsteinwartehütte. It was still quite slippery in the morning and I was not sure if we would be able to hike somewhere in such conditions, because we did not have any crampons or something similar with. I looked what time it was and assessed how much time Gregor and Rainer would need till they would get here according to their assessment and where would be the best place for us to wait for them. The clouds were slowly shattering and I noticed a great place for us in the distance. We went there and were placed right next to the marked path, where guys were going to continue towards the final climb on the Großer Dachstein. From there we could see them coming towards us and we had the possibility to sit on warm rocks and use them as a shelter from the wind at the same time. We headed carefully towards the spot, because the path was very icy and the water was running everywhere. We made us comfortable and Bea took advantage to have a quick snack, before the guys would come. In the meantime, we enjoyed the sun and chatted with a very nice lady from Hamburg, which enjoyed her last day of vacation with her family in the Schladming area. They chose to visit the glacier on their last day, which was very exciting for their little daughter, who was so sweet to offer Bea a part of her apple as a snack. Just a little bit after we said goodbye, I noticed two familiar faces in a far distance, running towards us and it was only 12.30, when I looked at my watch. 🙂 I quickly took all their stuff, which they prepared it for me out of the backpack so they would have everything ready. They were smiling and were happy that they made it safely to the glacier. They changed their clothes quickly and made sure they were warm, because the conditions on the glacier and then later on the top of Großer Dachstein were completely different. I managed to wish them good luck for the next part of their hike, gave Gregor a kiss and off they went, running towards the wall of Großer Dachstein, which waited them in the distance. 🙂

Me and Bea packed all their stuff and organized everything for their finish, so we would not waste any time later on. As the sun was shining so bright, I decided to explore the glacier a little bit, meanwhile guys climb their way to the top. We continued slowly on the marked glacier path, where you have to be extra careful so that you do not step anywhere else than where is marked, as we were able to see some cracks along the way. The snow was soft and we slowly managed to come very close to the wall, where we could observe all climbers, which decided to climb up to the very top of Großer Dachstein that day and I tried my very best to spot Gregor and Rainer. 🙂 We played below the wall and Bea also enjoyed some rabbit for lunch in the meantime. I did not want to miss the guys coming back, so we did not continue to Dachsteinwartehütte. I noticed that Bea was getting a little bit cold while staying in the snow, so I decided to head back to the spot where we met. They would come behind us anyway, so I knew there is not a chance we can miss each other. I sat down on a rock with Bea, placed her on to my legs, hugged her so she was warm and so we waited for the guys to come back to us. I do not know if we waited for ten minutes or so and we were already able to see them running towards us. Oh, that was the best moment ever! 🙂
I knew that they achieved what they wanted and their faces were just glowing, although they had a rough day behind them. I was so proud of them and Bea ran towards them, to give them a “jump kiss”. 🙂

We then headed towards the cabin and Rainer suggested they should have a well-deserved beer and so it was. 🙂 They cheered to each other and I to them with my caffe latte, which was very good by the way. 🙂 We enjoyed the views of the glacier, ate everything that was left in the backpack and as it was starting to get windy again, we moved into the cabin for a little bit and then continued towards the cable car when we got the information that Rainer’s wife was waiting for us with their son and a home cooked dinner. 🙂 I just made sure that the ticket, which I received by the toll station was confirmed, so we did not have to pay any additional parking fee and then we were already on our way down to the parking area. Also this time Bea did not have to wear any muzzle and she was very happy to enjoy late afternoon views of Dachstein Massif together with us.

We packed all our stuff into the car and headed towards Graz around 16.30. We arrived home safely and after a quick shower it was time for well-deserved dinner. We sat down on the balcony and enjoyed the best stuffed peppers and mashed potatoes, which were prepared by Rainer’s wife. We shared everything that happened that day with the other two team members, which will definitely be joining us next time. 🙂 We had a really amazing day and guys are already planning their next challenge for this summer, which will probably take place in both of our home countries, so they are already going international. 🙂

Gregor and Rainer, we are all very proud of you two and are looking forward to your next challenge!

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