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Here that? The city mountains are calling!

Helmut Schwarzenberger has all kinds of mountaineering secrets he loves to share. This Rauris-native is fascinated by the many faces of Salzburg City. And he knows its rocky pathways perhaps best of all.

Helmut Schwarzenberger is a laid-back kind of guy – Even when he is dangling off the steep face of the “City Wall”, Salzburg’s very own inner-city, fixed-cable trail for rock jocks, he never stops chatting. Friendly and gregarious, the head of “Friends of Nature Salzburg” is immediately on a first-name basis with everyone. “That’s the way it is with us nature types”, he explains. This sort of alpine camaraderie is also something he grew up with in the mountain world of Pinzgau.

Beginning as an apprentice in the technology field, he worked his way up to become a market economist. But when they posted the announcement for a new executive director at Friends of Nature, he pounced immediately. He’s the first to admit that he misses the mountains of his homeland, but the city of Salzburg also has much to offer climbing fans. The fact that rock climbing is something quite “normal” in downtown Salzburg nowadays has a lot to do with Friends of Nature and the “City Wall”.

Which of the city mountains is your favorite?

The Gaisberg is where I do most of my training. If I have time after the office is closed, I ride the trolleybus to the end of the line and make my way up from there. Friends of Nature also has a hut on the Gaisberg summit: Visiting the Rauchenbühel Hütte is always a great way of combining business with pleasure.

As executive director of Friends of Nature Salzburg, you know Salzburg really, really well. In your mind, where can you enjoy the best views?

From the Gaisberg, of course.

Are there exciting, less well-known places in Salzburg that people should visit?

The City Wall! It fits the bill perfectly! When you are on the “Panorama Ladder”, you experience an amazing rush of emotions. At first, people hang onto the ladder as tightly as they can, simply because they are afraid. But then, when they have made it all the way to the top, they shout out, “Wow, that is amazing!”. And the fact that you have to work hard to get to that point – earn it, in other words – simply adds to the joy of that special moment .

But there are lots of other fantastically scenic spots elsewhere, too. Let’s face it, Salzburg is very beautiful, pure and simple. Here’s one more example: the Stadtalm on the Mönchsberg – they have a small lounge just behind the main dining area, but it has a gigantic picture window. The views are insane! You sit there and can see all the way down to the Getreidegasse.

What does Salzburg offer in the way of rock-climbing opportunities?

Well, the City Wall is at the top of the list! It is categorized as a via ferrata, since a steel cable is permanently installed on the rock face. If you have the right gear, you simply arrive and get climbing! On the Mönchsberg in Mülln, there is also a so-called top-rope route. In this case, only the hooks are permanently anchored. Which means, one person has to climb ahead, while the other belays to insure the lead climber’s safety. Finally, that climber feeds the line through the top anchor and rappels back down. That’s when the actual top-rope climbing can begin. Above Neutor gate, on the Maxglan side, there is also a climb that’s relatively challenging. The key for the entrance gate can be picked up from the Alpine Association.

Have any other recommendations for us?

There’s an outdoor climbing tower in the Itzling section of Salzburg City. However, if you prefer to get out into “real” nature, I’d suggest the Gaisberg. When you set out on the Gaisberg hiking loop from the Zistelalm, you will immediately come to a very long, scenic bridge. Beyond that and behind the trees is a rock face that is really good, and which you can even turn into a full-blown alpine climb if you want.

Our “Friend of Nature” also has one other important bit of news he wants you to be aware of: The City Wall is closed to climbers from 1 March through 30 June, since that is the main nesting season for birds!

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