Canyoning in Ötztal


Group photo at the bottom of the canyon.

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Our guidebook rates all the canyons out of five for both beauty and fun, fun being the number and height of the jumps and slides. In the book, Auerklamm is split into three sections, Obere, Mittlere and Untere, all of which score incredibly highly for fun and beauty. As the end of the week approached, we decided to try and do them all in one day – if we had to bail at some point, we’d simply come back the next day and redo the final section.

So it was that we left Alex and Chris with all of our gear at a bridge at the top of Obere Auerklamm. Rhys and I left the car at the bottom and quickly hiked back up to meet them. The day was cold and overcast, with drizzle, and we were relieved to find Alex and Chris not too cold, but quite keen to get into the canyon.

Rhys athletically avoids the water on this abseil.

Obere Auerklamm isn’t that great to start with. There are lots of fallen trees, and not much to do besides scramble and wade. Chris got something in his eye and we spent about twenty minutes trying to flush it out before he felt better. As the canyon deepens and the walls close in, it becomes truly stunning, even with the light drizzle and grey skies. Soon we passed under the wooden bridge that marks the start of Mittlere Auerklamm, and the adventure truly began.

Another slide, Alex rcarried down by the strong flow.

There are a series of deep pools that can be abseiled, slid or jumped into, often eight or more metres tall. One incredible slide was 15 m long and gave you plenty of time to reconsider your life choices as you hurtled down.

Alex on an 8 m slide which whips you round the corner at the last moment.

The canyon is well equipped due to all the guided groups, with wires to secure the approach to an abseil or jump, and metal rebar hammered into the wall to provide steps. Although it is a bit overdeveloped for my taste, these aids did allow us to make rapid progress.

Rhys derigging the 35 m abseil as Chris and Alex wait. You can see our bright orange rope going alln the way to the top of an image – 35 m is a long way to abseil!

We reached the 45 m abseil, and Rhys chose to rig the wettest route down. I was a bit apprehensive, as we weren’t sure exactly where the abseil went and there was a lot of water. Fortunately, as I got over the lip of the abseil it was clear that you could mostly stay out of the powerful flow, and I enjoyed, the long airy descent next to the water.

Rhys on a combo slide- jump – slide to the lip and then you’re in free fall!

At the bottom we paused for lunch, 3.5 hrs into our trip. We ate our bread and cheese, and a guided group entered the canyon from the side. We let them go first as it was clear they would be much faster than us, even with a dozen or so people. We met another guided group further down – apparently in high season there can be upwards of 250 people a day going through this canyon, and the guides certainly processed their clients efficiently, lowering them down like sacks or pushing them off the jumps.

We were now in Untere Auerklamm (there is significant overlap between the sections) which proceeded rapidly, with short abseils, big jumps and lots of water. Unfortunately, most of our photos are blurred from water droplets, or the poor lighting conditions, so there are no photos of the incredible, deeply scary 10 m jump that Chris, Rhys and myself did, followed by an awesome 8 m slide.

At the bottom of the final abseil, after 7 hours!

Soon we were at the bottom, with a final 25 m abseil to finish off. Most of the guided groups leave before this, but it makes a nice final descent, and then a short scramble back to the car. It had been 7 hours since we started, and we had made it all the way through Auerklamm – what an incredible experience! I would love to do it again one day in better conditions for photography.

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