Totes Gebirge Attractions
The Totes Gebirge ("Dead Mountains"), the second of the main massifs in the Salzkammergut, has the largest high plateau of any range in the Calcareous Alps.
Bounded on the west and south by the Traun valley and separated from the Dachstein group by the Traun and the wide Mitterndorf watershed, this vast stony waste, furrowed and swallow-holed, stretches out far to the east, where its finest peaks, the magnificently rugged Grosser Priel (2,514m/8,248ft) and the Spitzmauer (2,446m/8,025ft) slope down to the Stodertal in sheer rock walls. Like all the mountains in the Northern Alps, the Totes Gebirge dates from the Triassic period. The basis is formed by the Werfen schists, above these the brittle lower dolomite and above this again a massive covering of much fissured Dachstein limestone. The whole of the eastern plateau consists of Dachstein limestone, and the great rocky peaks which rise above it are merely the remains of a much deeper covering. In beauty and grandeur the Totes Gebirge must rank as one of the most imposing ranges in the whole of the Alps.
Totes Gebirge Plateau
The Priel-Schutzhaus (1,520m/4,987ft) near Hinterstoder is a good rock climbing base and the starting point for walks across the plateau - to the Pühringer-Hütte (1,703m/5,588ft) above the Elmsee (1,670m/5,479ft) in the middle of the plateau and from there either to the two Lahngangseen (lakes; 1,555m/5,104ft) and down to the Grundsee below the southern face of the range, or by way of the Appel-Haus (1,660m/5,446ft) to the lonely Wildensee (1,554m/5,099ft) and from there northward down to the Offensee (651m/2,136ft), near Ebensee (see under Traunsee), in a peaceful forest setting.
The Alm valley road ends at the Almsee (859m/2,818ft), beautifully situated below the sheer northern face of the Totes Gebirge; it has a well-known echo. The mighty northern face of the Totes Gebirge plunges magnificently down to the Almsee, a lake of unforgettable somber beauty.
Mitterndorf Lake Plateau
To the southeast of the main Totes Gebirge plateau lies a lower and narrower terrace, the Mitterndorf Lake Plateau (Mittendorfer Seenplatte), a charming region of beautiful Alpine meadows. In green hollows nestle small lakes (Steirersee, 1,451m/4,761ft; Schwarzensee, 1,549m/5,082ft), mirroring the crags of the Totes Gebirge in their waters, and summer farmsteads and mountain huts are scattered about in the great open expanse, a popular skiing area in winter, when the mountain huts - the Theodor- Karl-Holl-Haus (1,650m/5,414ft), the Tauplitzalm-Hütte (1,620m/5,315ft) and many more - are the scene of lively activity.
Immediately east of the Totes Gebirge lies the Warscheneck group, a smaller but still quite high plateau on the far side of the Stodertal, bounded on the south by the wide Enns valley. Here, too, can be seen, in bewildering variety, the characteristic swallow holes, furrows and collapsed cavities. The highest peak, the broad rounded summit of the Warscheneck (2,387m/7,831ft), can be climbed without great difficulty from Windischgarsten or Spital am Phyrn by way of the Dümler-Hütte (1,523m/4,997ft) or the Linzer haus (1,385m/4,544ft).
A fine view is afforded by the Hochmölbing (2,332m/7,651ft), the long ridge of which can be reached from the south from the Hochmölbing-Hütte (1,702m/5,584ft), near the spa of Wörschach. This plateau is also a popular skiing area, and the run down the Loigistal, on the northern side, is one of the finest descents in the northern Alps. There are a few small lakes in the Warscheneck range, perhaps the most beautiful being the Gleinkersee (807m/2,648ft), above the Windischgarsten at the foot of the Seestein (1,570m/5,151ft).
To the north of the Warscheneck group stretches the long, lonely ridge of the Sengsengebirge, with the Hoher Nock (1,961m/6,434ft), which belongs to the broad Pre-Alpine zone to the north rather than to the Totes Gebirge.
Lying at the foot of the Stoderzinken (2,047m/7,897ft), the holiday and winter sports resort of Gröbming (776m/2,546ft) is also the headquarters of Styrian horse breeding. The parish church (1491-1500) is notable for its richly gilded winged altar (1520), with figures of the Twelve Apostles and Christ Enthroned.
Niedere Tauern - Sölktäler Nature Park
The Stoderzinken (2,048m/6,722ft), which commands extensive views, can be climbed in three to four hours. There is also a toll road (12km/7.5mi) to a parking lot at 1,950m/6,400ft.The park offers several nature trails as well as informative sessions throughout the summer.
Landscape to the South
In sharp contrast to the bleak grandeur of the high plateau and its northern face is the cheerful open landscape on the southern side of the Totes Gebirge range. Here two considerable valleys cut into the mountains, with two attractive lakes, the Altausseer See and the Grundlsee.