Our next video is online: The Montafon in Vorarlberg! Abigail King Inside the Travel Lab visited the region for us. Find out what she experienced there.
“Part of me knows that people are waving at me – and part of me smiles in response. On the other hand, the people waving are a good fifty metres below me on solid ground, whereas only a metal cable about as thick as my thumb separates me from clear, thin air.
This is via ferrata, or klettersteig as it’s called around here. It’s a modified kind of rock climbing whose origins date back to World War One, when soldiers unused to snowy peaks had to fight to the death on the mountains. Nearly 100 years have passed since then and I’m really, seriously hoping that death won’t be involved here.
Lukas, my guide, was incredibly cautious. At least at the beginning. “Are you sure you want to go?” he asked, looking at the scheming clouds overhead. “After all, I mean. It is raining.” Lukas, my dear, I’m British. If I never did anything because of the rain, I’d never do anything.
And so, moments later I found myself stepping into a flimsy harness, strapping on a hat, fumbling for gloves and re-examining both the metal carabiner-like clips and my own sanity.
I’d done this once before, sure, and it was exhilarating in that kind of “wow, that-was-great-but-would-I-really-want-to-do-it-again-kind-of-way.”
Turns out, the answer is a wobbly yes.
Montafon, the quieter area of Vorarlberg in west Austria, loves its outdoors. In winter there’s skiing and snowboarding, naturally, and summer sees the usual hiking, climbing and mountain biking you’d expect to find in the Alps. Yet there are new kinds of adventures available, like this purpose-built klettersteig route and an indoor climbing centre for when the weather moves from unpleasant to downright vile.
When that happens, there’s also käsespätzle, the local cheesy dish to warm you from the inside. I had my first taste of käsespätzle in Schruns, a village so small the receptionist refused to give me a map.
“It’s Schruns,” she told me. “Cross the river and walk past the church and you’ll find anything you want.”
She was right. Despite its size, Schruns does have a lot. Babbling stream, check. Characterful church with domed roof, check. Wellness spa, cafe and museum of local culture, check, check, check.
It also has, as I discover a short while later, clinging on for dear life, a purpose-built klettersteig within driving reach of the town.
Actually, klettersteig has that perfect blend of adventure. The harness and clips should save you from serious harm should the worst arise. Yet most of the time it gives those untrained in mountain climbing (aka me) a taste of scrambling up that slippery rock. A foothold here, a reach there, a mind over matter exercise all the way through.
“Look down,” says Lukas at a certain point. Two words I try to ignore. “Look how high you are and how far you’ve come.” Knuckles whitening, I do look down. That’s when I see the people waving. “Want to really give them something to look at?” he asks. “Abseil down from here.”
It’s Montafon. Why on earth not.
Abigail King is a freelance writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. She has circled the globe twice, camped in the snows of Kilimanjaro and Patagonia and tracked down tigers, turtles and panda bears. She’s then had a hot shower and embraced the city life of New York, Rio, Paris and Tokyo.
She blogs about unusual journeys at Inside the Travel Lab
Tags: Hidden Treasures