Mountain marathon: Things are running smoothly again at Lake Traunsee

Mountain marathon: Things are running smoothly again at Lake Traunsee
Mountain marathon: Things are running smoothly again at Lake Traunsee

Wolfgang Dutzler (l.) and Martin Schimpl organize the mountain marathon for the nature lovers of Ohlsdorf and Gmunden.

Completely crazy, said some, quite daring, said others. Thirty-two people set out from Gmunden 35 years ago to walk around Lake Traunsee. Half of them threw in the towel: too long, too difficult, too strenuous. A crazy idea, then? Doesn’t look like it.

Because on Saturday, at three o’clock in the morning, 383 participants will bring light into the darkness. They will have to cover 63 kilometers and 4,500 meters of altitude before the start at the town hall square becomes the finish. It is the supreme discipline of an event that no longer lives only from extremes.

250 young athletes have already registered for the children’s and youth races from 4 p.m. on Friday, and 867 endurance athletes will run the half-distance races between Gmunden and Ebensee on Saturday. And hundreds are lining the route to ensure that those who are struggling don’t get left behind. The mountain marathon is not only one of the oldest events of this format, it has also become a balancing act. Despite the falling course records, the organizers do not want to see it as a pure competition. “But of course we had to and still have to move with the times,” says Martin Schimpl, who is organizing the event for the fourth time together with Wolfgang Dutzler for the Nature Friends of Gmunden and Ohlsdorf.

“It is important to us to maintain the traditional character. We have just as much space for endurance hikers as for fast mountain runners. For some it is about the experience and the feeling of having completed the circuit, for others it is about the time. Both have their place. And we don’t want to become any more professional anyway, that would exceed all capacity,” says Schimpl.

Visit from overseas

The Traunsee Mountain Marathon is – even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside – still an amateur and not a professional event. Those who work for it do so on a voluntary basis. There are 120 helpers this year, plus 30 mountain rescuers from Gmunden and Ebensee and five doctors who hopefully won’t have too much to do.
Schimpl has long since started counting the time he has invested in the mountain marathon in weeks. “But I have taken part so often myself that I know what this event means to the athletes in the region. This feeling is enough motivation for me,” he says. A look at the participants also shows that the mountain marathon has become a brand not only in Austria: three each come from the USA and Portugal, and endurance athletes also travel from Belgium, Great Britain and France. However, they are not among the favorites.

This role is once again being played by Markus Lemp from Schörflingen, who won the last two editions of the mountain marathon by a clear margin and won the vice national championship title at this year’s Linz Marathon. His challengers include Raphael Miks from Vorchdorf and Jakob Hermann from Werfenweng. Hermann has held the world record for altitude in ski mountaineering since January: 24,242 meters in 24 hours.

Hike for a good cause

Even more important than top sporting performances is the event that takes place seven hours after the start of the mountain marathon, although it is more of a hike. The Ohlsdorf and Gmunden Nature Friends are organizing a charity event again this year. The event is supporting a 16-year-old girl from Gmunden who, after a serious brain infection, will spend most of her life in hospital and will require several operations and chemotherapy. The meeting point for the hike (from Altmünster via the Gmundnerberg to Gmunden) is at 10 a.m. on the Gmunden town hall square. The entry fee of 30 euros will go entirely to the affected family.

The route

The mountain marathon around Lake Traunsee leads from the town hall square in Gmunden over the Ortnersteig to the Grünberg. From there, participants run (or hike) to the turnaround point on Traunsteinstrasse and climb up the Naturfreundesteig to the Traunsteinhaus. The route goes downhill over the Mairalm-Steig before continuing to Karbach and from there over the steep Daxner-Steig to the Spitzelsteinalm.

Ebensee: Half time. Then the legs have to be persuaded to complete the climb up the Feuerkogel. After the descent to the Kreh, the route continues towards Hochsteinalm and from there on to Grasberg and Gmundnerberg. Then the finish at the town hall square is within reach.

For all spectators, there will also be a large video wall at the town hall square in Gmunden, which will broadcast the start and finish in Ebensee.

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