Canyoning in Ötztal


Group photo (minus Alex) at the start of the canyon, with the mystery dark canyon access tunnel behind.

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One of the most beautiful canyons I’ve done, on our last day in Ötztal. We drove up the small road towards Kronburg and parked by the bridge. The hike up follows the orthographic right of the canyon, close to the edge, so we could look down and see there wasn’t much water, and there were plentiful ways to abseil into the canyon. Tired after the previous day, we agreed to start halfway down, but after getting there it seemed best to start at the top and do the entire thing.

We were a bit confused by the instructions on how to get to the canyon, and I spotted a tunnel going through a cliff, following the river. It turns out this is an access tunnel for the small dam upstream of our start point and we wandered through it, never fully out of the sunlight outside. Why this isn’t mentioned in the book description is beyond me – it’s a very handy tunnel!

As we changed, disaster struck – Alex had forgotten his helmet. It was a long way back to the car and back up, so he opted to walk back and wait for us. This was not the end of canyoning for him for today, however!

There’s enough wate rto have fun, but it never hampers our progress.

Instead, Chris, Rhys and I started into the canyon. Immediately we were struck by the exciting nature of the rigging. Usually only a single bolt, often set very far back, or very high up the wall. Why was it so strange? We got our answer when we observed the fate of bolts lower down which had been set close to the abseils – smashed and flattened by tremendous forces, these bolts bear witness to the powerful floods that must surge through Kronburgbach, destroying everything in their path and leaving a thick layer of mud high on the walls.

Often there is just a single bolt at the top of a series of small pools, and you abseil down them all.

Slightly awed by this display of the canyon’s power, we pressed deeper into the darkness. At one abseil I had to wait a few minutes for my eyes to adjust to the gloom before I spotted the bolts, hidden under an overhang. The walls pressed in close on either side, and the dark metamorphic rock loomed high above us. Occasionally we would see a foot bridge and wave to the hikers far above. Sometimes they waved back. often they didn’t see us, specks of orange and black far below in the rushing water.

The guidebook claims there are no slides in this canyon, but look! Here’s one! It’s a terrifying one metre and you can see how much fun I’m having.

Although the guidebook claims there are no slides in this canyon, there are several short ones which facilitate fluid motion, and coupled with the many short abseils (34 in total!) there is feeling of constant motion. We rigged efficiently, two ropes and a floating helper to derig and to pack.

Looking up at a bridge high above, and our abseil near the bottom.

The water levels were never high, but some abseils were in the flow and it was nice to be around it – the water doesn’t dominate the canyon, but it would not be the same if it were dry. Some of the bolting was extremely suspect, and we probably did more technical work than in other canyons, backing up bolts for all but the last man, rigging releasable traverses and carefully thinking about rope management.

More downclimbs.

Soon we were at the bottom, but this was not the end. We returned to the car, collected Alex and redid the last quarter so that he could see some of the beauty of the canyon. Then finally, reluctantly, we got changed and drove away, after probably my last canyoning trip of the year. It was an excellent week in which we achieved a huge amount, from high peaks to deep canyons, high water levels to beautiful rock sculptures!

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