One of the exciting summer activities that kids can experience in Austria is going to a kids climbing park or Kinder Klettersteig. Klettersteig is a German word for via ferrata translated from Italian as “iron road”. It’s a type of a protected mountain route found mostly in Italy, Austria, and Germany. Ascending a Klettersteig combines traditional hiking with easy rock climbing and doesn’t require a partner or lots of special equipment.
According to Wikipedia, the origins of via ferrata are strongly associated with the First World War, when several routes were built in the Dolomite mountain region of Italy to aid the movement of troops. The modern via ferrata is a steel cable which runs along the route and is periodically (every 3 meters or approximately 10 feet)) fixed to the rock. Using a via ferrata set, climbers can secure themselves to the cable, protecting themselves against the fall. The routes are rated from A – an easy walk where you might be required to hold on to a steel cable for balance (possible without any equipment) to F – extremely difficult routes for experienced mountaineers only. The routes with maps and descriptions in German can be found on Bergsteigen.com.
Anyone with an average level of physical fitness can conquer an easy Kletterstieg. But in Austria the fun starts with the very young. Climbing gives kids the opportunity to develop not only physical fitness skills but also confidence through an exciting sport which is highly supervised. Climbing is also excellent for posture!
In the Alps, many mountain lift operators are building summer parks and playgrounds for kids high above ground with a killer view. We recently visited Kinder Klettersteig (called KidsKletterpfad) in the Kitzbühel Alps on the top the famous Kitzbüheler Horn. The Klettersteig path for kids is 300 meters long with an altitude difference of 80 meters. The maximal height along the route is 2.5 meters so kids can easily be supervised and secured by the parents. Therefore, every kid can experience the excitement of climbing in a controlled environment! To make the passage even more exciting, the kids are greeted by the statues of mountain animals (eagle and marmot, just to name a few) along the path.
The park can be reached from a town of Kitzbühel using mountain cable cars Hornbahn I and II. There is fee to use the lifts (kids under 5 years old free) but entrance to the park is free. For more adventurous, I suggest an approach from the other side of the mountain, from St. Johann in Tirol. Families can take the cable car (also for a fee) all the way up and from there enjoy a medium-difficulty panorama hike to the other side of Kitzbüheler Horn to the Kinder Klettersteig. The route up is about 3 kilometer long with an altitude gain of approximately 600 meters. The hike will take about 1.5 hours on the way up and 45 minutes to an hour on the way down. A stunning view of the Kitzbühel Alps is enjoyed along the entire route!