Stories from the mountain summer
Anyone who takes on the challenge of the Zillertaler Höhenstraße high road on a racing bike at the entrance of Zillertal realizes: The breathtaking panorama makes each push of the pedals worthwhile.
Not a cloud above us, a sea of clouds below us, nature’s gifts are plentiful. For days we’ve been looking forward to the adventure of the Zillertaler Höhenstraße high road, and this early morning, its uniqueness could not be more impressive. Where, if not on the wildly romantic mountain road in the Tux Pre-Alps, could the longing for astonishing views be triggered more – hairpin turn after hairpin turn? The mountain road was built in the early 1960s, and the original idea was to make it easier for the farmers to cultivate their alpine pastures. It was only years later that it became clear what a jewel had been created up here. So, because of the panoramic splendour, the road was also opened for tourists.
And they meet each other here in the best holiday mood, preferably on bicycles. Of course, people on motorbikes and cars also seek their way to the promising heights, but it is always a respectful togetherness that turns these excursions into a special experience. And those who want to go hiking off the road will find their joy on the many hiking routes. Small pointer: The Zillertal hiking bus takes tourists to the desired starting points. This allows some to enjoy nature and the distant view, which becomes more imposing with every metre of altitude. While the others pedal away. It is the special sporting challenge that attracts racing cyclists from all over Europe to Zillertal. The Zillertaler Höhenstraße is one of the most beautiful alpine roads in Austria and can be reached via "ve access roads (Ried, Kaltenbach, Aschau, Zellberg, Hippach). Which means: Those who get in the saddle to tackle the adventure on a racing bike can do so on an extensive road network. So even cyclists who only want to tackle certain sections can compose their own pleasure route.
The route itself runs in a strongly winding course along the western slope of the Zillertal valley trough, and large parts are located above the tree line. Lisa and Werni start cycling. The two passionate racing cyclists have known the mountain experience for years. Lisa says: “The Zillertaler Höhenstraße is a pleasure every time. Also because you can challenge yourself in a great environment.” The entire tour covers 53 kilometres and 1,880 metres of altitude, and curve after curve you’re aware that you’re pushing your limits ever farther. Werni tell us as he slowly but powerfully musters the energy for ascending the mountain: “The beautiful part is that the landscape here is constantly changing. That’s motivating.” His secret tip for newbies: “The northernmost ascent begins in Ried. It’s the least frequented in the summer months, you’re practically on your own as a racing cyclist.”
We accompany the couple on an e-bike, still it’s more strenuous than expected. But thanks to the engine, we are faster and can enjoy waiting breaks. The tranquil first kilometres paint a good picture of the life of the people above the valley. Picturesque little houses and meadows with cows evoke one thought: This is where I want to be, this is where I want to stay. After the toll station, which cyclists can of course pass free of charge, the road feels steeper and steeper. For quite a while, we ride next to each without a word, we need the air in our lungs for breathing, not talking. Lisa and Werni are in their racing bike world. Focused on each turn of the pedal. We, on the other hand, enjoy the grandiose vistas, admire vintage cars, and greet mushroom hunters, true to our motto: challenge & chill. But even the ambitious biking duo never miss the fairytale forest passages and breathtaking perspectives of the Zillertal mountains: “That’s the thrill,” Lisa gasps, while staying true to her rhythm.
It is a feast for the eyes and at least as much of a driving force as reaching the highest point at 2,020 metres, below the Arbisjochkopf. The trail leads us past mountain restaurants that enjoy a great reputation not only for the panorama but also for the culinary delights they offer. A refreshment stop is therefore a must for all of us. After the short rest, we continue, but Lisa and Werni do not take the turn towards the wildlife trail. Of course, their destination is the journey itself. Families, meanwhile, are encouraged to take a detour to the 12 interactive experience stations where children can learn all about wildlife. Or to the Murmelland with its adventure playground near the Kaltenbacher Hütte. Up here, happiness is top priority. “For us racing cyclists as well,” says Werni. And Lisa smiles. Because both know very well: The downhill adventure is near.
Image: Tom Klocker and text: Michael Hufnagl
Zillertal magazine Sommer 2022/23
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