Climbing 700 m above the Abyss: Stairway to Heaven in Austria – This ladder is NOT for Beginners!


“My legs are shaking and I’m really nervous.”
“I’ve never done this before.”
“The higher I come, the shakier it gets.
And I really shouldn’t fall, because that
would really hurt.”
My day begins early in the morning, at the
Donnerkogel in Upper Austria.
The cable car takes you to the Kltettersteig.
At an altitude of some 1500 meters it is just
a 20 minute hike.
Mountain guide Heli Putz shows me how to use
the safety gear to secure myself.
It’ll be connected to my harness with a simple
knot.
The big object near the harness should help
cushion my fall, if I take a tumble.
I attach myself to the steel cable on the
rockface using carabiner hooks.
“The simpler it is, the easier it is to control,
the more safe.
So keep it simple and stupid we say.
When we move on a fixing like here, we do
it one by one and lock it like this.”
“Now it’s my turn!”
“Please!”
“One hand is on the cable and the second does
the job.
Ok?”
I’ve been climbing for many years and gone
up a few ‘Klettersteigs’.
And that’s a good thing, because this route
is NOT for beginners.
You must be sure-footed and not suffer from
vertigo!
This isn’t the place to fall!
“The carabiners will slide all the way down
to the next fixed position where the anchor
is.
And you have a lot of speed and then they
brake you immediately.
It is a very hard impact before the security
system absorbs the fall.”
“So you get hurt quite severely?”
“I am sure you get hurt badly.”
“So I’ll take care today.”
“Trust yourself.”
“Yes, I am trusting myself.”
And then we come to the stairway to heaven!
“Ok, so this is where you want me to walk
up?”
“Exactly.
This is a part of the Klettersteig.
I think the main part.
That’s what we are here for.”
“Any tips, tricks, hints?”
“Stay focused on the foot steps.
Normally your eyes are going to the danger.
Your eyes will always follow: Hey, it’s super
high!
You have to switch a little in your brain.
OK, stay focused on the handle bar and on
the steps.”
“Everything easy, hopefully.”
Creating the ladder was Heli Putz’s idea.
He not only designed it, he also installed
it.
“The challenge for me is to make something
very interesting that involves the nature.
And it makes no sense to build a very hard
Klettersteig.
For me it’s more interesting to build an easier
one which is more attractive.
The ladder was a pretty cheap and simple idea
in a perfect place.”
“Up the ladder.”
“It’s quite shaky.”
“Down there the gorge is 700 metres deep.”
“I really shouldn’t fall.”
“Looking far up is not a good idea.”
“Looking down is not a good idea either, so
I don’t know where to look.”
“Yes, I’ve done it.”
“So I’ve survived the ladder.
I don’t know what comes next.
But one thing is very clear: I have to go
up to the top to the cross, because I can’t
stop right now.”
But the hardest part is yet to come: this
really steep part over a pretty narrow ridge.
I never imagined it would be this tough!
The final stretch to the summit is however
a bit more relaxed.
And, for my efforts, I’m rewarded with a stunning
view over the Alps.
“Perfect.
Good job man.”
“Yes, I’m here!”
“Ok, but one simple question: The way down
is the same way we went up?”
“It’s a good point to ask here at the summit.
Of course we can go down the same way.
But here is a nice walking trail.
It’s just a foot path.
So we don’t need the harness any more, we
don’t need the helmet any more.
Take a rest here and we’ll walk down together.”
“Thank you very much!”
“Once again: good job, Axel!”
Exhausted, but exhilarated, I enjoy the peace
and quiet 2-thousand meters up!

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