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ULTRA RUNNING | 24.04.2019 | Klaus Gösweiner (Dynafit Athlete)

Crossing Austria: ultrarunning across Austria

Two crazy people, two exceptional athletes, two ultrarunners – Klaus Gösweiner and Markus Amon took on quite a task with their Crossing Austria project: 500 kilometers and 20,000 meters of climbing from the lowest point to the highest point of Austria. To jump to the punchline: They did it,… but they suffered some and experienced quite a bit over seven days. Klaus Gösweiner recorded his thoughts after a bit of time:

The biggest victory of a unique friendship

I stand side-by-side with Markus Amon on the summit of Grossglockner, which with its 3,798 meters is the highest point in Austria. My heart beat pounds in my ears, my tormented legs are in pain – and yet…. I feel nothing but pure happiness! Behind us lie 750,000 steps that we clicked off in our trail running shoes over seven days across 500 kilometers with 20,000 meters of climbing – from Austria’s lowest point (Apetlon, 114 meters). Supported by a 13-person team, we ran from the Burgendland up to the roof of the Alpine Republic. Here is our story.

Day 1: Flat is boring, but necessary

 

Apetlon (Burgenland) to Puchberg am Schneeberg (Lower Austria) – 85k; 1,100 meters of climbing; 9 hours, 30 minutes:

It is Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. The darkness is our companion as we set off at 5:45 a.m. from the lowest point in Austria to start “Crossing Austria.” The strong wind makes the first 12 kilometers to Illmitz more difficult, but there was enough time on the ferry across the Neusiedlersee lake to loosen up and to enjoy the sunrise.


Next up we are off toward Mörbisch on the next 73 kilometers with 1,000 meters of climbing. With the slogan, “Flat is boring, but necessary in order to reach the mountains,” we get to Puchberg am Schneeberg after 9.5 hours at 3:15 p.m. That morning the Schneeberg Run had taken place. A short interview at the medal ceremony, and off we go to rest in the Schneeberghof hotel.

Day 2: Endless mountains

 

Puchberg (Lower Austria) to Seewiesen (Styria) – 78k; 5,100 meters of climbing; 14 hours, 20 minutes

The second day of Crossing Austria is already in a class of its own. Across Schneeberg, Rax and High Veitsch, our route leads us toward Seewiesen. Thankful for the awesome weather, we start out at 6 a.m. from Puchberg and after two solid hours we reach the approach to the Schneeberg summit, then a technically demanding trail leads us back down into the valley to Weichtalhaus.

 

After a short rest and fueling up, off we go again across Höllental, the lightly traveled Gaislochsteig (short via ferrata), over Rax where running is mostly not even possible because of the massive amount of pine vegetation, and down into the valley past Altenberg on Rax. There, our team awaits us after some 6.5 hours of running.

We get over Knappensteig in a good hour and continue on to Neuberg an der Mürz, followed by the final, very long climb to the top of Veitsch which we pull off with superb weather. Along the 20 kilometers remaining to Seewiesen, we have a very steep downhill from Teufelssteig. The final 10 kilometers we tick off with our headlamps, reaching Seewiesen in 14 hours at around 8:15 p.m., indeed somewhat worn-out.

Day 3: Two mountain marathons, one after the other

 

Seewiesen (Styria) to Kaiserau (Styria) – 88k; 4,700 meters of climbing; 16 hours, 0 minutes

The third day is set to again offer us a good challenge. At 6 a.m. straight up, we head out by the glow of our headlamps toward the summit of Hochschwab. Sunrise half-way along to the summit is amazing and motivates us for the rest of the day. We reach the Hochschwab summit after a solid two  hours and the descent takes us to Häuslalm and then farther to Sonnschienalm. At the foot of the Frauenmauer, between Polster and Präbichl we head into Bergbaustadt Eisenerz, where 48 kilometers with 2,000 meters of climbing still await us.

Due to worsening weather, what should be pretty simple terrain turns into a challenge. We run through Radmer in a drizzle, but the storm catches us quickly as we pass Neuburgalm and into Bergsteigerdorf Johnsbach. On the approach to the Mödlinger Hut, the rain lets up a bit and, as our headlamps light the way, we sense that the temperature is dropping considerably. In Flitzengraben, the storm opens up again, and we reach the top Klinke Hut in heavy blowing snow. The last downhill of the day we knock off worn out but at a good pace, and we reach our day’s goal in Kaiserau after nearly 16 hours of running time.

Day 4: An ordeal for Markus

 

Kaiserau (Styria) to Ramsau am Dachstein/Türlwand Hut (Styria) – 88k; 1,500 meters of climbing; 13 hours, 30 minutes.

After a only about four hours of sleep we start the next stage, my home game: From Kaiserau, first down into Paltental to Rottenmann, south of Burg Strechau on the Lassing high plateau. By the time we get to Lassing, we already have a half-marathon in our legs and we take a short rest. After that, we take the fastest way to the paths along the Enns. At this point, it’s clear the wear and tear of the previous days is starting to show for Markus, and we have to throttle the pace significantly. We then have 55 flat kilometers into Haus/Enns Valley. Indeed, this will likely be the hardest part of Crossing Austria for Markus. Here, I am particularly mentally challenged. The slow running causes me problems, too, since I’m not used to it. Somehow or other, we manage it together to my home community of Hauser. We receive a hearty welcome and that brightens our moods again. After a short stay, we take on the last 13 kilometers and 1,000 meters to the Türlwand Hut at the foot of Dachstein’s south face. As we previously discussed, we split up for the first time in Ramsau, and I reach Türlwand Hut after 13.5 hours of running time, Markus just 45 minutes later.

Day 5: A half-meter of fresh snow on Dachstein

 

Ramsau (Styria) to Wagrain (Salzburg) – 41k; 700 meters; 6 hours, 45 minutes

The snow storm on Monday unfortunately doesn’t allow us to do the planned crossing of Hoher Dachstein (2,995 meters). A half-meter of fresh snow and wind gusts of 80 kph would have been too big of a risk. For me, that’s a gigantic disappointment because Dachstein has of course huge significance since Crossing Styria. We try to glean some positive from the reality – the alternative route over the South Face Hut and Bachlalm is relatively simple. Insteaad of 50k with 1,500 meters of climbing, we will “only” face 40k with some 700 meters of climbing . In Filzmoos, we decide that each of us needs to run his own pace. So I reach Wagrain after 6.5 hours. Markus wants to use this day to loosen up his legs a bit and finishes the stage by walking.

Day 6: A difficult decision with consequences

 

Wagrain (Salzburg) to Fusch on Glocknerstrasse (Salzburg) – 67k; 1,600 meters; 8 hours, 30 minutes.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do any more!” announces Markus with a few tears, in front of the team gathered in the breakfast room of our quarters in Radstadt. The walking stages of the previous day unfortunately didn’t have the desired result: Both calves and his feet are quite swollen. He can hardly move. The decision by Markus is inescapable and correct. “Klaus will see this thing to the end for us!” That is Markus’ next sentence, which moves me to tears.

I try to get myself together emotionally with the new situation along the way to St. Johann im Pongau. I give my feelings free rein. Despite blisters I run in part a pace of under 5 minutes per kilometer – I just want to get to Kaprun! After a short way station in Markus’ home community of Bruck in Glocknerstrasse, my feet take wings so to speak to the planned stage finish of Kaprun. Due to my good state, I decide to stay on the Grossglockner Ultra Trail race course from here on out. Which means working through an additional 15k and 1,000 meters of climbing til Fusch an der Glocknerstraße. So for the next and final day everything was worked out on Grossglockner – only that I was on my way without Markus.

Day 7: Unexpected twist – A dream is fulfilled!

 

Fusch (Salzburg) to Grossglockner (East Tyrol) – 35k; 3,900 meters of climbing; 9 hours, 30 minutes

4 a.m., slide into running gear, quick breakfast, 5 a.m. depart from Kaprunerhof to Fusch, 5:30 a.m. start in Fusch. I am totally focused. The first kilometers hurt, but they still zip by and after kilometer four my machinery is running like clockwork. I reach Ferleiten before the sun rises, have a short break and fuel up and head out again toward Pfandlscharte. Half-way up to Pfandlscharte, my buddy, Toni, tells me that there will be no photos or video of this leg if I stick to this pace…. The photographers can’t keep up. Shortly after that we are post-holing through a half-meter of fresh snow and Toni takes over breaking trail. Exhausted but confident, we reach Pfandlscharte. For the first time since the start, we can see our goal, Grossglockner.

At Glocknerhaus, the entire team is waiting for me, including Markus! I am already filled with excitement about seeing my friend Markus! Tears stream down and Markus joins me again at the Stausee lake below Glocknerhaus! Up to Stockerscharte we go, and I let him take over the lead and thus also the control of the pace. We advance at a good clip and at the Salm Hut we meet up with mountain guides Werner and Gottfried who will be watching over our safety. After that we feel free, and we reach Adlersruhe. We pick up the pace and put on crampons at the station. Markus goes ahead with the 7-meter rope, then I go. On the first ice-free rock, we get rid of the crampons and positively fly toward the summit. Forty minutes from Adlersruhe, we reach the summit TOGETHER. Our emotions are overpowering. The summit success TOGETHER on Grossglockner is for me the biggest victory of a unique friendship!

1 Apetlon - Puchberg

85km

1.100Hm

9h30min

2 Puchberg - Seewiesen

78km

5.100Hm

14h20min

3 Seewiesen - Kaiserau

88km

4.700Hm

16h00min

4 Kaiserau - Türlwandhütte

88km

1.500Hm

13h30min

5 Türlwandhütte - Wagrain

41km

700Hm

6h45min

6 Wagrain - Fusch

67km

1.600Hm

8h30min

7 Fusch - Großglockner

35km

3.900Hm

9h30min