What we did last weekend: from Vienna to the Großglockner
450 kilometres and 9,000 vertical metres – follow Michael Strasser and his friends on an extraordinary journey from Vienna to the Großglockner!
4 friends, 3 days, 2 sports, one goal: from Stephansplatz to the Großglockner
Vienna: a metropolis with about 1.9 million inhabitants, at an altitude of 171 metres above sea level (measured at Stephansplatz) and with an average temperature of 16 to 25 degrees Celsius in June. On the other hand, the Großglockner: Austria’s highest mountain with an altitude of 3,798 metres and an average temperature between 1 (max) and –5 (min) degrees Celsius.
Ok, nice to know … anything else? Well, these two locations are the start and the finish of a very special sports trip done by extreme athlete Michael Strasser, his girlfriend Kerstin Quirchmayr and their friends Kathi and Chris. Guided by the principle „Together we’re strong“, the four of them set out to go from Vienna all the way to the Großglockner – by road bikes and skis, in only one weekend …
What we did last weekend …
450 kilometres and about 9,000 vertical metres lie between Vienna’s Stephansplatz and the summit of the Großglockner. It’s June and while the city is blessed with pleasant early summer temperatures, Austria’s highest mountain is still covered in enough snow for ski mountaineering. Perfect preconditions for this special challenge!
The first leg of the journey starts by road bike. Day 1 sees the four friends cycling from Vienna through the Murtal Valley all the way to Murau and Tamsweg. On day 2, they tackle the steep ascent of Katschberg mountain on their Simplon bikes. At Lucknerhaus in Kals am Großglockner, the asphalt ends. On their Kiaro gravel road bikes , they continue their way up to Lucknerhütte at 2,240 metres above sea level.
Now it’s time to get off their bikes and strap on their skis – the four adventurers will have to cover the remaining altitude difference of 1,900 metres with their touring skis.
Questions and answers about the special weekend trip
Which route did you take?
Our weekend trip wasn’t about taking the quickest but the most beautiful route. We started out on Stephansplatz in Vienna at 06:00 in the morning. The first kilometres through the city weren’t all that spectacular but at least it was early so that we didn’t face too much traffic.
Next up, we rode across the Semmering, through Murtal Valley and all the way to Murau. From there, we continued towards Tamsweg. In total, we covered 293 kilometres and 2,600 vertical metres on that day.
In comparison, the second day was quite short, with “only” 170 kilometres and 2,600 vertical metres. We made our way across the steep ascent of the Katschberg (the north ramp has a length of 5.5 kilometres and an incline of up to 18 %) to Lienz and to the Lucknerhaus at 1,920 metres above sea level. From there, we took our Kiaros up to Lucknerhütte at 2,240 metres above sea level. On the third day, we climbed up to the summit with our touring skis.
What were the biggest challenges along the way?
Michael Strasser: There were four of us on this trip, two couples. Kathi and Kerstin already had some experience with longer distance rides, but Chris was more or less thrown in the deep end. He only rides his road bike from time to time and was not used to spending so much time in the saddle.
Another challenge was to find the right pace: swift but not too fast. What’s more, provisions are an important aspect if you want to cover 300 kilometres in a day. When you get hungry, it’s already too late … You have to eat and drink well before you get hungry or thirsty.
What was the bigger challenge: cycling or ski mountaineering?
Michael Strasser: I would say the ski mountaineering. We were all pretty knackered by this point, and then there’s the altitude. At 3,800 metres, things simply get a bit slow going.
For me, this trip was a wonderful opportunity to support a group. It was not about me getting there the fastest, but about us making it as a group.
During the cycling leg, the others rode in my slipstream and I tried to motivate them with my words. On the mountain, it goes without saying that the more experienced ones help those with less experience.
Why this trip?
Michael Strasser: For me, it’s all about experience you can’t buy with money. If you set yourself a challenge like this and succeed, you can be proud of your success. For me, non-material values like these are much more important than material ones.
Embarking on new adventures
While Kerstin supported her boyfriend Michael Strasser from her car for 85 days around the clock during the ICE2ICE world record, 2019 is all about new challenges tackled as a team. That’s how the idea for the weekend challenge from Vienna to the Großglockner was born.
The four friends succeeded in going from Vienna to the summit of the Großglockner with nothing more than their road bikes and touring skis. They helped each other, they encouraged and spurred each other on when things got tough.
Michael Strasser‘s ICE2ICE world record
With ICE2ICE 2018, extreme athlete Michael Strasser tackled his biggest challenge so far. In less than 100 days, he rode his Simplon Pride all the way from Alaska to Patagonia – across 22,624 kilometres and 169,738 vertical metres. His solo continental crossing by bike was a full success and rightly earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
You would like to know more about Michael Strasser? Find out about his ICE2ICE world record in our blog article!