Lofer: Another Verdon in the Austrian Alps

Mountain views, solid grey limestone and lots of well-secured climbing. If you feel the call of the mountains, but you’ve only got sports experience, then head down to Lofer.

Lofer (or Loferer Alm) is a limestone rock area in the Austrian federal state SalzburgerLand. The local climbing style there combines sports and traditional climbing. Which means it’s also described as “Verdon style” – after the well-known French canyon. The long multi-pitch routes are ideal for climbers interested in mountain climbing, as well as for sports climbers with stamina, who are looking for something beyond topping out beautiful single pitch routes and would like to climb farther. 

Lofer is not so well-known as Verdon – and all the better for it! It’s definitely worth visiting. On every route you’re rewarded with astonishing views. The crystal-clear mountain air also comes with the price of the experience. 

Czech stamp at Lofer 

This area has been isolated for a long time. Only a few people from abroad knew anything about it. And most people in the know were intimidated. The routes were unsecured and dangerous, so accidents were frequent. All these things definitely changed in the 80s, when this marvellous Austrian region was discovered by Fidelius Scheidhacker, Fritz Amann and Josef Brüderl. They revealed its big potential, and so opened a new chapter of well-secured routes with quality belay points. The famous climber Alexandr Huber followed in their wake.  

Over the last decade, Jan Kareš (the Czech pull-up record holder) was also a frequent visitor to Lofer, drilling routes. At present, there are more than one hundred multi-pitch routes at Lofer, about ten of them created by Jan Kareš and his buddies. “I finally returned to Lofer in autumn 2019, this time with Honza Hrnčíř. With each photo I’d seen of Lofer I was getting more and more excited to be there,” says Honza Kareš. His most recent contribution to the climbing at Lofer is the route Franco Columbu 7a.  

100 x 100 metres of joy 

There are about one hundred routes spread across the whole area, with difficulties from 6a to 8c. It’s similar to the climbing at Verdon, because most of the routes are technical on vertical or slightly overhanging walls. Only exceptionally do you encounter real overhangs. Another similarity is the access to the area by rappelling.  

Honza Kareš’s routes can be classified as medium difficult – so far ranging from 6c to 8a. All of them are very well secured with good bolts, there are chains with carabiners at belay anchor points, and you can also usually find a big stone for changing shoes at the entrance area. You will find Honza’s routes in the area by their names – easily recognisable from the Czech climbing world (a list of all routes put up by Honza Kareš is at the end of the article). 

The most suitable time to visit Lofer is during spring and autumn, when the temperature is optimum for climbing and the sunshine won’t not burn you alive. 

How to get to Lofer and where to stay 

Drive out of the town Lofer along the narrow road to Loferer Alm. There is a toll charge for this road, about 10€. You can pay this fee together with your bill at local restaurants. Park in front of the pub Gasthof Schönblick. Here starts the route southbound to Lachfeldschneid. After 15 minutes you come to a marsh, where you turn right up to the saddle, then left across a damp alpine meadow and then straight on to the south, across a thin forest, up to the edge of the cliff. It will take you about 30 minutes to get to the rappel point. However, don’t expect a comfortable walk – the terrain is wet and slippery and best crossed in daylight. But the access to the area is really worth the effort! At this place you can leave any surplus gear and rappel either over towards the east, or the west, along the Graues Buch path. For abseiling either route you will need two 50 m ropes. 

If you follow the advice above and visit Lofer during spring or autumn, you will avoid the main tourist season. So for accommodation you can use your own car, which you can park at the parking lot in front of the last gate at Gasthof Schönblick (47.607425, 12.649744). Locals aren’t very keen on wild camping, so I don’t recommend this option. You can also stay overnight in any of the nearby mountain huts. However, you should make a reservation in advance. You can try the nearby accommodation at the Alpin Gasthof, Müllerkaser or the Berg-Hotel-Restaurant. If you can’t find free place in any of these apartments, don’t stress – there are many other possibilities in Lofer itself.  

All Honza Kareš’s routes at Lofer: 

Léňa 6c – very popular, well-balanced and well-secured route in 6 pitches, quite long compared with neighbouring routes 

Street Workout 6c – 100 metres of climbing in 5 pitches (the fifth pitch is the last, classified as a 2) 

Danko 7a – second pitch is the hardest, classified 7a, the others are easier 

Louda 7a – vertical, power route with four pitches, classified 6b, 6c+, 7a and 6b+ 

Franco Columbu 7a – most recent route from Honza Kareš 

Brexit 7a+ – endurance route that moves zigzag over the area’s central wall 

Pája 7c – five pitches of climbing classified 6b, 7a, 7c, 7b+ and 7a+ 

T.T. 8a – 120 metres of intensive climbing in 6 pitches, with the first being the hardest  

Lezec.cz 8a – a route of escalating difficulty in 4 pitches, classified 6c+,7b, 8a and 8a 

Armin 8a – vertical route of 4 pitches, classified 8a, 7b, 7c and 7b/+ 

Photo: Jan Kareš Climbing Team