The Bergmähderweg nature trail starts in Brandberg, a small village to the east of Mayrhofen. If you arrive by car there are free parking spaces in the village centre. Alternatively, there is a regular bus service between Mayrhofen and Brandberg. An information board at the start of the hike - the Thanner guesthouse – shows the route over the “Hoamfelder” (local farming fields) around the farms themselves to the Kolmhaus. Setting out from the Thanner guesthouse, a small footpath crosses the steep mountain meadows. During harvest time hikers are treated to an insight into the traditional methods of cutting the grass on the steep mountain side.
Book tip: “Naturpark: Kulturlandschaftsweg Brandberg” – is interesting reading for those who want to learn more about the Bergmähderweg. The book is available in Brandberg’s Gemeindeamt (village hall), the Naturparkhaus Ginzling or from the nature park guides.
Farming on steep alpine meadows
Hermann Thanner, who lives in Brandberg, gives us an insight into the tradition of mowing alpine meadows: “Cutting the grass on steep hillsides high in the mountains is a real challenge. In the past, times were hard and farmers fought for their survival. They had no choice but to mow the meadows by hand in order to make hay. Nowadays, the situation is quite different. Specially designed mowers make cutting the grass on the hillsides much easier.” However, these machines are expensive and many farmers choose to invest in other, more level, fields than to bother themselves unnecessarily with steep hillsides. This has caused a new problem: scrubland. “Increasingly, meadows are left to grow wild because it’s no longer worth the effort to farm them. The old traditions of harvesting the grass by hand will soon die out”, predicts Hermann Thanner, who has got rid of his own steep meadows. “Young famers don’t have the motivation to master this difficult work. It’s a shame because I remember how much I used to enjoy mowing the steep meadows.”
A hike through a fields of magnificent flowers and an array of plants
Shortly after the steep meadows, the path leads along an approximately 700m long asphalt road to the Weiler Frodls farms. The difficult part of the hike begins here as the climb gets steeper with an approximate gradient of 33%. At this point it’s important to pace ourselves to make sure we can reach our destination. Fortunately, there are several benches to rest on along the way. The views and the diverse flora and fauna are simply breathtaking:
– Stylolites: a phenomenon in carbonate rocks, mountain formation causes cracks in the rocks.
– Plants: discover rare plants such as the cobweb house-leek, white stonecrop or the alpine juniper, as well as a variety of orchid species and cranberry bushes.
– Animals: If you keep your eyes peeled you may see cattle (usually the breeds Brown Swiss or Fleckvieh) as well as deer, eagles or chamois. You might even see some marmots as you get closer to the Kolmhaus.
Well earnt lunch at the Kolmhaus
Having completed the final 800m of the trail at a gradient of around 22%, we reach the Kolmhaus at an altitude of 1,840m. We sit down to a hearty lunch and, of course, a mountaineer’s schnaps! In the midst of the beautiful cultivated landscape above Brandberg we enjoy stunning views over the mountains of the Zillertal Alps. As the waiter clears our plates he tells us of about a possible extension to our hike; “The next time you come up here you should continue to the Brandberger Kolm peak at 2,700m. The view from there is really fantastic!” Good to know and I’ll bear it in mind for my next hike. After breathing in some more of the fresh alpine air, we turn back for the descent to Brandberg. Berg Heil! (mountaineer’s greeting).
Facts about the hike:
Start: Gasthof Thanner in Brandberg
Destination: Brandberger Kolmhaus
Duration: 3-4 hours
Terrain: steep path through alpine meadows and forest
Accessibility: Free parking in Brandberg; by bus from Mayrhofen
Huts en route: Gasthof Thanner, Kolmhaus
Highlights: up to 15 different types of orchid
Expert tip from Hermann Thanner: The ascent is on the sunny side of the mountain so leave early to avoid the midday heat. The Bergmähderweg is also a perfect route for mountain bikers.