Staff und Goldeck ; two panoramic summits
During this hike you will enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Karavanke and Julian Alps as well as the „Hohe Tauern“ all the way to the „Großglockner“. Since this tour starts at around 6.200 ft. you won’t have to climb too much difference in altitude.
The Goldeck panoramic route
My first day of vacation starts with bright sunshine and I am looking forward to my hike. On the net I have found a tour that would bring me to 4 summits. When I told my friends what I am planning to do they told me to start with only two of them. To make all 4 summits would be a bit too much. After walking the tour I can tell you that it is doable with a good condition and enough time. But the two summits I climbed were just the dose my condition would allow me to do.
First I have to take a short drive to my starting point. A village called Zlan is the starting point of the panoramic route to the Goldeck which will be the first highlight of the day. In order to be allowed to drive this route you will have to pay a toll of 14€ which is really worth it. If you stay longer in Carinthia I would recommend to get a Kärnten Card . This card gives you acces to many sights and you won’t have to pay for using the toll roads. There are quite a few of them in the area that are really worth driving and you will make a bargain.
If you don’t want to drive up the mountain you can also use the gondolas from Spittal and start the tour at the top of the mountain.
The scenic route ends at the parking lot Seetal at 6180 feet not far below the summit of the Goldeck. Why this called Seetal, I don’t know, since there is no lake close by. But you do get a great view of the Karavanke (Slovenia) and the Julian Alps (Italy).
On this day I do get a firework of orange and yellow from the colored larches on top. These colors alone make this hike a very special one. I haven’t seen such an intense coloring before.
Ascending the Staff summit
Right at the parking lot there is a restaurant which is closed at the moment. The building is rather ugly and doesn’t fit into this scenery. Typical 1980’s, big and not really nice. Just opposite they were building a new cabin which will probaly open as of next year. As you can see above they built it in a rather traditional style, so it’ll be more fitting into the scenery.
After a short search I found the first sign leading me to the first summit, the Staff (7270 ft.). On this sign it says that it’ll take me about 4 hours to get there. Did I plan too much for today? Well, it took me only 2.5 hours to reach it.
Fully motivated I do start my tour. The first stretch brings me to the „Kapelleralm“. At the entrance to the grazing land I come across this sign above. It says that this is the starting point of the cows salad bowl and not the restroom for dogs. In a funny way it then explains what harm dogs can do to the meadows. The trail leads along a gravel road which is also used as a service road for the cabins further down the valley. The cattle have been moved to lower elevations already in mid-October. I was lucky, since this was the last day of the gondolas running up the mountain, and the cabins were also closing the next day.
This early in the morning it was still quiet at the Kapelleralm. I won’t come across too many people during the day. But I won’t have the mountain all to myself either on such a beautiful Sunday. Most of the people I meet are locals that make use of the great weather and go for a hike.
And then I get the first complete view of the Staffs summit. Quite impressive. And once more I am astonished by those colors. Spectacular! I just can’t get enough of this fall foliage.
The trail brings me to the Gusenalm sitting on 5700 ft. That means a descent of about 460 ft. before I start the ascent to the summit and means that I will have to climb 1540 ft. to reach the summit of the Staff. I did make higher elevations. At the Gusenalm it is also still quiet in the morning. At least I can see somebody preparing everything for the day. I will stop there on my way back. It looks very rustic and inviting.
From the Gusenalm the trail does descent a bit more into a cool forest. But there still are some clearings offering great views. Suddenly the trail ends and I can’t find a sign showing me where to continue. Did I miss a crossing? My friends lent me a hiking map of the area and I can’t see where I took a wrong turn. So I am walking back searching for a sign and finally I do find it. I probaly missed it because I was admiring the scenery too much.
I leave the gravel road and follow a smooth trail through the forest. It rises slowly along the nothern side of the mountain. This way the ascent is more like a stroll and not too tiring. Since I am walking mostly in the shade I even don’t get hot. But I do have to stop all the time to admire those colorful trees.
Slowly I do gain height and the views are becoming more and more spectacular. I can look over the Goldeck and get a glimpse of the Reißeck at the horizon. The Eckwand would have been one of the 4 summits I would have crossed when I would have hiked the full tour. Starting at the summit of the Staff there is a trail that leads to the Eckwand and the Latschur. On that track you will come back to the Gusenalm via the Siflitzhütte. This is for the next time.
The forest becomes less dense and I am at the bottom of the northern wall of the Staff summit. It’s fascinating to see how the larches are cramping to the rocks and use every niche available to grow. Did I already mention that I really was awestruck by the coloring of those trees? 🙂
Espacially fascinating were those trees that were illuminated by the sun rising behind the mountain. Looks so filigree. The trail was getting a bit steeper but still not really strenous and so I soon reach a vale between Staff and Eckwand.
I am getting closer to the summit. The view to the north into the Tauern and the Nock maountains is getting more spectacuar with every step. It’s beautiful up here. On rare occasions I do hear or see other people. A bit further down in the woods I heard a dock barking. I will meet him and his master later. At the end of the vale a sign leads me to a short piece of a rocky wall. This is a bit tricky to clamber up.
The trail leeds right through these rocks and there is no safety rope. But don’t worry you will always find a foothold. It takes me just a few minutes to get through. If you don’t want to climb these rocks you can also continue in the vale to the Eckwand ridge and walk from there to the Staff.
Finally I do reach the ridge. To the left I will reach the summit of the Staff and to the right would be the trail of the 4 summit tour. When I look into the Hohe Tauern I can see a white point at the top. That’s the Großglockner. The view is literally breathtaking. How far you can see from here! And I am still not at the summit. From here on you should only continue if you are not afraid of heights and sure-footed. The last bit to the summit leads over a narrow edge.
Just below the summit I come across this hole in the rocks and get a glimpse of the Gusenalm. And then it’s done. I have conquered the Staff and am standing at an elevation of almost 7300 feet with a breathtaking panorama and a deep blue sky. This is always an exhilarating moment. Even more with such a panorama. And how was that? 4 hours to get here? I made in 2.5 hours to the summit.
Crossing the Eckwand ridge to the Gusenalm
While I am on top of the summit I might as well take the time for a snack. This enables me to soak in the view a bit longer. At one point I do have to continue my hike. I still have quite a bit to walk and am planning to climb up a second summit. Descedning from the Staff I follow the trail I came up till I reach the sign for the Eckwand ridge.
So I follow the trail along the ridge of the Eckwand. This must be part of the 4 summit tour. I am astonished to still find a gentian in bloom this late in the year. My friends later tell me that is not a late bloomer, but an early one.
At the next sign I shortly consider to take the longer hike. But first of all, I do feel a bit tired already and then I still want to climb to the summit of the Goldeck (which I could omit) and most of all I am planning to take other tours on the next 2 days. I guess this won’t be my last visit to the region.
So I return to the vale from where I ascended the Staff. This would be the path you’d have to take if you don’t want to climb over the rocks. The trail leads straight through the meadow and is easy to walk since it’s a very soft ground. On top it is not too steep.
Again I reach this beautiful autumn forest and get the impression that the colors are becoming brighter in the afternoon sun. In the past I didn’t like fall too much since it is followed by winter and most often is rainy and cool. But with this weather! Just great, if not picture perfect.
Soon I do reach the Gusenalm. It is very busy meanwhile. The host is very friendly and soon I feel like being amongst friends. Those who arrive greet everybody and the ones leaving wish a good time to the rest. That’s one of the things I like about being in the mountains. No matter what you are down in the valley here it is at a first name basis and very friendly tone. You talk to people you would never meet outside the mountains. Would be great if this feeling could be transported to the everyday life. I admit that I would have to start with me.
So I look back to the summit with some melancholy and enjoy a non-alcoholic beer. When I ask for a second one the host tells me that he ran out of it. This cabin will also close for the season the next day. I could spend more time here but the last ascent of the day is calling.
Theoretically I could walk the same road back that I came this morning to get back to my car. Instead I am climbing a path that runs a bit above the road. And here I come across some curiosities like this tree trunk above. Looks a bit like one of those birds from dinosaur ages. The path doesn’t bring me straight to the summit of the Goldeck but first back to the Kappeleralm. This is now also rather busy.
A steep path leads from the Kapelleralm another 980 feet in height to the Seetalnock. This feels like being the heaviest part of todays tour. But the panaorama makes up for the struggle despite having cherished those views all day.
There is a nice story about the Goldeck. Every ten years wise women clad in white, called the Saligen, build a castle somewhere on this mountain. The name of the Goldeck derives from veins of gold that are runnig through it. But only those wise women do know where they can be found. Those who find that castle are permitted to take as much gold as they can carry. One day a shepherd does find the castle and an old lady promises him his share of gold. But since this man is dutiful he wants to secure his herd first. When he came back to the location where he had seen the castle it was gone. So following your duties by the book is not always bringing you any farther.
I finally reach the northern slopes of the Goldeck. From here I have a great view of the valley of the river Drau and the Nock mountains on the opposite all the way to the 8500 feet high Reißeck. Meanwhile it is late afternoon and when I reach the mountain station of the gondola the last cabin has already left for the valley. During the winter months you can go skiing here at the Goldeck. It’s nickname is sports mountain and there are a lot of possibilities to be active. In the summer months they offer a special ride to see the the sunrise. This must be a cool thing to do.
I have to admit that I didn’t make the last couple of feet to the summit. The tour in the thin mountain air was a bit more strenous then I would have conceded. Along a good gravel road I descend towards the parking lot that is by now almost empty again. What a great tour but now I am looking forward to a nice piece of applestrudel at my friends home.
I hope you liked this post and that you are ready for the mountains now. As always I am looking forward to your comments.