Zillertal, Austria

Zillertal, Austria

We spent an awful lot of time in the week we were there discussing where this would rank in a list of the best bouldering venues around Europe. We were up and down on it quite a bit but in the end, came to the conclusion that it was right up there; but it took quite a while to decide.

Bouldering around Innsbruck first came to my attention sometime around 2009 i think, after James Pearson moved to the area following the Walk of Life debacle (I was looking for a news post to explain this for those who weren’t aware what i was on about and found this excellent explanation from the second ascentionist. It’s not what i was looking for, but it so worth the read, i thought i’d share it). It hasn’t really hit the headlines like Magic Wood, Albarracin or some others, but in many respects can certainly hold it’s own. Based around the popular ski destination of Mayrhofen, the infrastructure is already in place: quality camping, bars and internet cafes, restaurants, take aways, supermarkets, it’s all already there. The only thing that’s missing are the good climbing shops but oh well, i think there’s one good one around but it was closed when i was there.

Being an Alpine valley, these are granite crags with customary changeable weather. It’s what you’d expect from an Alpine bouldering venue (if you’ve been) with stunning snow covered peaks, lush meadows and rivers so clear, it’s hard to believe. Crimps, slopers and jugs all make an appearance so there’s fun for all the family. There’s climbing there for all grades too, including plenty for the lower level climbers; something lacking at other places like Magic Wood.

That said, that may be an unfair comment. Zillertal is, typically, several crags under one area-heading. The three largest are Zillergrund, Sundergrund and Ginzling and they’re not exactly within easy walking distance from each other, and these are the three i will focus on. There are plenty of others covered in the excellent Zillertal guidebook for the more adventurous of you but it’s not strictly necessary, as the big three will give most climbers plenty to play with. Assuming the weather holds out!

Again, being an Alpine valley area, most of these crags are in heavy woodland, with the exception to this, Sundergrund, nestling nicely on a small plateau. As such, landings often aren’t great and multiple pads and a spotter or two are worth a thought. If you can manage to combine spotter with a good navigator, all the better as it can be tricky to find your way around.

Each area has quite a distinct feel to it: Sundergrund feels very open to the world, Ginzling sits right next to the village sharing it’s name, Zillergrund hides it’s problems well amongst trees and foliage. It is worth mentioning that the Zillertal proper (tal meaning valley, so in this case, the road leading up to the crags in that valley) is a toll road, and not a cheap one at 7€ a day! We weren’t charged this most days we were there as there was no-one to collect, (probably as it was raining,) but you may be lucky. You are not allowed to camp higher up and it’s a bloody long walk too so you may be stuck spending the cash. Still, it is worth it.

The Areas.

As we’ve already eluded to, there are a handful of places to go and your decision will probably need to take into account the weather as much as anything else. Playing it by ear is tricky, as they’re not that close to each other, or often that roadside, so a little planning is probably wise. That said, if you arrive somewhere and there’s nothing to do, trying somewhere else is do-able, it’ll just eat up your climbing time.

  • Zillergrund Wald. As the furthest crag up the valley, this one probably takes you the longest time to get to from your tent, with a long but enjoyable drive. The walk in is not long to find the first boulders, but as already mentioned, moving between boulders can be awkward and pads and baggage soon become cumbersome. This will ease with the passage of feet, as the paths become more defined so go for it and help the area improve! The rock quality is excellent, although the problems are spaced liberally and often there are only a couple of lines at most present on each individual rock. There are nearly 250 blocs to go at though, spread over two sectors, so you should find more than a days worth to have a bash at. In dense woodland, you should escape the worst of a sudden downpour but it’ll stay damp for a while after.
  • Sundergrund. Park at the Gasthaus, cross the bridge, walk half an hour up the forest track, cross another bridge and onto the obvious plateau and you’ll find yourself in an idyllic spot, with some incredibly picturesque boulders. You’ll probably recognise Moonwalk 7a+ as it appears liberally in the guides and literature of this venue but sadly this is one of very few real quality lines here. The lines are good, just not really breathtaking, which is a shame really, as they’re not that abundant either. That said, if you combine the aspect of the place with the climbing, you’ve got a crag that’s worth a day of your time. Unlike the other areas, Sundergrund is very exposed to the elements so if it rains, you’re getting wet. Be warned and  take a coat. The flip side is it will probably dry quickly on that first sunny day.
  • Ginzling Wald. Not technically in the Zillertal, Ginzling is reached by heading North out of Mayrhofen, neatly avoiding the expensive toll up the other valley. It is literally right next to the village, the first boulder being practically in someone’s back yard, so walk in is almost negligible. The first day we were there, it was mainly as a recce as it was hoofing it down with rain and to our surprise, there was still plenty of chalk everywhere! The boulders are a bit easier to find than Zillergrund too, paths easier to follow and landings often a touch better. While not as many boulders as other areas, this area is definitely worth at least a couple of days.
  • Magic Place. I mention this mainly because Fredrik, my companion, was so psyched for it. It’s a roadside/riverside venue and is a touch dependant on the water level in the river. The first boulder is literally just below the road: a couple of easy traverses on one side, some steep straight ups on the other. There is also another awesome-looking boulder on the other side of the river but we didn’t figure out how to get there and keep our feet dry.

Local Amenities 

As we have already said, there was plenty already around Mayrhofen before the climbers started to visit. In fact, the first time i went there, i was 12 or 13, and not much had changed. People generally speak English too, but best not to count on it so brush up on some German. Most things you could want are within walking distance too and there was plenty we missed in the town so have a bit of an investigate too, these are just some of the places we found.

  • Food. A couple of supermarkets exist in Mayrhofen: Spar in the middle of town, on one of the main roads running up and down the hill, and Spar on the bypass running around the town. Both are well stocked, just depends if you’re by foot or on car. There are also plenty of bakeries and cafes in town if you want something a bit more local or a small shop on the campsite if you find yourself desperate for milk or bread.
  • Climbing Shops. There is one in Mayrhofen selling shoes and guidebooks but the rest of their range is mainly technical mountain stuff. The only other one we found was in Zell am Ziller on Gerlosstrasse but as i say, it was closed for a climbing festival when we went so can say no more than it looked quite good through the window.
  • Accomodation ‒ Campsites. I’ve been looking forward to this paragraph, which should give you an idea of how good this campsite is! It really is luxury camping: a drying room with a warm basement and fussbol table, washing machines and instant hot water when washing up, radio in the enormous showers, pizzeria on site and the table tennis i learned to play on all those years ago. Seriously, it is good and not that expensive. Link here.
  • Cafes and bars. There are plenty in Mayrhofen, although the Cafe Tirol is the one we frequented every morning for the free internet-ready computers. If i go back, i’ll be checking out Mo’s as it looked like a good shout and i wish we’d gone on my birthday instead of the old pub at the top of town. Oh, and there’s a cafe/restaurant/pizzeria on the campsite too.
  • Other handy places.  I noticed there’s a large hospital on the bypass/main road, in case you manage to break yourself. Thankfully, despite everything else that happened to us that week, we didn’t have to go in. I can also inform those English people of you who want to take your dog/cat/ferret that there is a very amenable and affordable vet on Waldbadstrasse.

Relevant blog posts: here (if you’re that bored or psyched).

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