The Dachstein, in the Salzkammergut, is perhaps the most varied mountain group in the Northern Alps. This gigantic karstic massif, with a steeply scarped north face, consists of a series of mighty peaks 2,000-3,000m/6,600-9,900ft high, sharply profiled; the highest of the Dachstein group is Hoher Dachstein (2,995m/9,830ft). Between the mountains are embedded large glaciers, including the Grosse-Gosau and the Hallstätter glaciers.South of the Salzkammergut (named after the salt (Salz) which has been worked here since time immemorial), on the borders of Styria, the mountain region begins. The Dachstein group, with its limestone peaks rising to 3,000m/9,800ft and its great glaciers, extends into three Austrian provinces - Salzburg and Styria as well as Upper Austria. In its northern foothills can be found the famous Dachstein Caves, one of the province's outstanding tourist attractions.
There are good paths up to the two main huts in the glacier region, the Simony hut (2,206m/7,240ft) near the Hallstätter glacier and the Adamek hut (2,196m/7,205ft) near Gosau, from which the Hoher Dachstein can be climbed, on ice and fairly difficult rock, in three hours; there are superb views from the top.
The Dachstein in general offers plenty of scope for testing rock-climbs. Climbers who want something more than the relatively easy ascent to the glacier plateau can tackle the difficult south faces (including Torstein, 2,948m/9,675ft, and Grosser Koppenkarstein, 2,865m/9,403ft).
Popular with climbers is the jagged Gosaukamm, a rugged chain of Dolomitic type which branches northwestward off the main massif and gives the Gosau valley its characteristic aspect. Below the highest peak, the Bischofsmütze (2,459m/8,068ft), stands the Hofpürgl hut (1,703m/5,588ft), from which a path of moderate difficulty, the Linzer Steig, leads to the Adamek hut. The path continues along the whole Gosau ridge to the Gablonzer Haus (1,550m/5,085ft), on the Zwieselalm near Gosau, one of the most beautiful areas of Alpine meadow in the Salzkammergut.
Auf dem Stein Plateau
Abutting the main mountain massif on the east of the Dachstein mountain group stretches the much eroded plateau known as Auf dem Stein, with numerous swallow holes, on the north face of which, above the Hallstätter See and the Traun valley, lie the two huge Dachstein Caves (Dachsteinhöhlen), the Giant Ice Cave (Rieseneishöhle) and the Mammoth Cave (Mammuthöhle); see Hallstätter See. They can be reached by way of the Dachsteinhöhlen-Haus (1,345m/4,413ft) or from the Schönbergalpe, to which a cableway runs from Obertraun. Both the glacier area and the plateau of Auf dem Stein offer good Alpine skiing. The Auf dem Stein run is served by a cableway from Obertraun (see Hallstätter See), with several ski lifts. From the south a mountain trail (Maut) leads up to the Türlwand hut (1,715m/5,630ft).
In Dachstein, for fit and experienced climbers there are fine mountain treks to be made, both in summer and winter, over the Auf dem Stein plateau to the Guttenberg-Haus (2,145m/7,038ft) on the south rim or farther to the Kammergebirge and the Brünner Hütte (1,747m/5,732ft), on Stoderzinken (extensive views) near Gröbming in the Enns valley.
The most easterly outlier of the Dachstein is Grimming (2,351m/7,714ft), which is separated from the Kammergebirge by the deeply slashed Salza valley. This great mass of rock, the principal landmark of the middle Ennstal, is one of the most imposing peaks in Styria.