Canyoning in not-so-Trockenbach

Another canyoning trip! This time we added Max, a master student at TUM who’s done a lot of canyoning and even some caving with the (in)famous ULSA in the UK. We drove down to Erl, just inside Austria, north of Kufstein, with an improbably grand theatre for the Passionspiel (foreshadowing).

These friendly young cows crowded around us on the walk up. All they really wanted was to lick the salt of us, and they had a go at the rope as well.

Everything was quiet, so we parked right by the theatre and began the walk up in the sun. We weren’t quite sure of the way, and ended up blundering through a farmer’s back garden, but they were pretty friendly and soon we were on the right track again.

There’s a fair bit of water in Trockenbach (“Dry creek”)

Trockenbach (“dry creek”) has a mixed reputation. In the Riml guidebook, it’s marked as a pretty and fun canyon, but the canyoning wiki has harsh words for it, saying it is repetitive and dull. However, a fb post alerted us that a recent storm had removed much of the slipperiness and dead trees from the canyon, and we thought now seemed as good a time as any to try. As we clambered down into the canyon we seemed reassured by our choice – it was beautiful, with clear water, smooth rock and dappled light from above. We had our traditional picnic, with lots of Bergkase, then changed and dove into the water.

This incredible tree is wedge up on a tripod of other fallen trees. Seems pretty stable.

The first third was relatively enclosed and dark, with close, smooth polished walls and some deeper pools. This was mostly clambering and wading, stopping to take lots of photos. We found a few interesting obstacles along the way, and being 3/4 cavers we turned them into mini caving games, squeezing under or through them.


The highlight of the trip for me was when all the water was channelled into one jet, and we abseiled partially through and partially under it. These are the moments I wish I could capture on camera, abseiling into the maelstrom, head down to create a breath space, battered by the water, and focusing on the rope, your feet, your pack and keeping your sense of direction. Then you’re through and out, spluttering and wiping water from your eyes to see your friends waiting on the other side, laughing and enjoying the canyon.

Another caving game, a small through trip through the rock, accompanied by water.

Max was keen to try out my camera, and took over photography for the second half of the canyon. Here the canyon widened, with large boulders in the floor and even higher walls – on one there were bolts for sport climbing! We made quick progress down, with a few minor abseils and then a lovely wall of limestone with a deep pool below. Max went down to check the depth, and I jumped first. With surprisingly little hesitation, Andrew and Johanna followed, and Max went back up to have a go.

Jump time! Probably 4 m, and you have to clear the rocks just below and land at the edge of the white water.

Below this was a dam which collected smelly water, but fortunately I had a blocked nose and couldn’t smell it. The others tell me it was foul. We swam through and abseiled down the dam to the final abseil point, 30 m above a deep pool. As we rigged the abseil, a crowd gathered, and we were careful to look vaguely competent.

The final abseil, 30 m down into a deep pool, watched by a large group of tourists.

At the bottom we did a few more jumps from the side of the pool, then wandered back to the car. The water below was foul, clogged with islands of organic matter – I suspect this is why Trockenbach isn’t often favoured, and I was glad of the storm!

At the car, we were surrounded by hundreds of Austrians and Germans, all walking to the waterfall. It was slightly awkward to change in these circumstances, but the Germans have a healthy attitude to public nudity. It turns out the deserted theatre had come alive, and a performance of the famous Passionspiel had just ended. We scarpered quickly and found some ice cream before heading home.

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