Hiking the Austrian Alps

By John Reality, Cambodia, June 2011

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For the uninitiated, the efficiency, collectivity, and organizational
panache with which the vast network of trails and mountain huts in the Austrian Alps are maintained can be positively mind-boggling.

Austrian, German, Dutch and Italian alpine clubs are located
throughout the region, and are linked together by exceedingly
well-marked trails. If you’re committed to adhering to local custom
and sticking religiously to the established paths, it’s perfectly safe
to hike throughout the region without a guide.

Long trails are marked with the red and white striped Austrian flag.
As long as you carry the necessary gear (a sleeping bag, water, and
proper footwear are essential, whatever your plans) then even novice alpinists can chase adventure in the mountains at their own pace and on their own agenda. Take care not to get caught out in the elements unexpectedly and don’t overestimate your ability to cover long distances at high altitudes, for instance.

Travelers expecting to find vast solitude may be sorely disappointed,
as the Alps can be quite crowded in the high season, to the extent
that unlucky latecomers may find themselves sleeping on the floor of
many mountain huts in the event that all sleeping cots and beds are
full. Conditions in most huts are fairly basic and food and drinks,
while meager, can be quite expensive due to the high cost of delivery.

If you’re willing to do without luxuries, however, and pack in your own rations, and provided you don’t mind sleeping shoulder to shoulder with a likeminded stranger, an authentic alpine experience is yours for the taking.

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