Hiking with a dog
„With four legs I would also be a lot faster“, exclaims a hiker, as we overtake him on our ascent towards the Hohen Penhab. He looks at me and adds: “And if I were younger at any rate”. With “four legs” the hiker is referring to my furry companion on four paws, who answers to the name of “Pirie”. And he is absolutely right: a four-wheel drive is easier to get up the mountain. Pirie demonstrates to me on a tour of the Zwölferkogel summit just how it is for a dog with four-wheel drive function. It is pretty impressive!
Hiking with a dog is fundamentally different to walking without one. With a dog you are not alone, but there are other important factors to consider when out with your four-legged friend. As well as standard equipment, a hiker with a dog must also remember the following: dog collar or harness with a lead, a muzzle and a “poop bag”, as well as sufficient water and provisions. And most importantly: do not forget the doggy treats. With all these bits and pieces in the rucksack we head towards the Zwölferkogelbahn and climb into the gondola and enjoy the ride. The muzzle remains in the rucksack. Thanks to the JOKER-Card the lift ride for me, as well as Pirie is free of charge and we are able to take in the views together. At the top the sun is shining and magnificent views await us. Pirie pulls on the lead in the direction of the Zwölferkogeltreff, which was actually a stop planned after our hike, but she wants to go now. I wonder who she takes after…
One summit, one man, one dog
But before a well-deserved break for refreshments after a hot day in the mountains, we have to climb up towards the summit on four paws and two legs, via ridges and past mountain lakes. From the top station, we can see the summit of the Hohen Penhab (2.113 m). We continue along a gravel road, enjoying extensive views to the west whilst warming up our legs, some hairier than others. After the short descent, we start the relatively easy climb to the summit. From the signposts and pastures, we can tell that we are in a territory where there are cows. A hike with a dog in Alpine pastures should be enjoyed with caution and some basic rules adhered to: Do not walk the dog through the cows, instead give them a wide berth and if you feel there is a chance that a cow might attack your dog, let the dog off the lead so it can run away. The dog will normally be faster than the cow and nothing is achieved by leaving the dog on the lead. (More information about hiking with a dog). Also important: Know your dog as well as your own capability of communicating with your dog. After six years I know my dog pretty well. I know that she doesn’t cause problems and attracts little attention. In addition, she doesn’t show interest in hunting, listen to my commands and is right by my side when need be. We don’t need any whispering from Cesar Millan.
At first, I keep her on the lead until it becomes evident that the cows around the Hohen Penhab are back to the valley after their summer vacation on the mountain and I release her but keep the lead close at hand. At the same tempo, I follow the nimble climber, but time and time again she is slightly above me, occasionally looking back at me with an expression as if to say “Come on old man. Hurry up”! At this point, we overtake the sprightly hiker from earlier in the day and after a few metres, reach the summit cross of the Hohen Penhab where make an important stop so Pirie can drink water, something essential for all dogs. We are blessed with a magnificent panoramic view of the surrounding Hohen Tauern mountain range, along with the Watzmann mountain in Germany.
The ridge walk from the summit takes us southwards offering a tremendous view of Hohen Tauern. On the marked hiking trail, the views are simply stunning and one has the feeling of being as free as a dog left off the lead. The views are the reward after a sweaty climb to the summit. Nature calls and Pirie finds a nice place to do her business, just a few metres away from the trail. With “Poop bag” in hand, I make sure everything is cleaned up nicely. For the rest of our hike, I have the pleasure of carrying the bag which I have ensured with a knot, is tightly sealed. This is how every dog poop should be cleaned up, especially in the mountains and Alpine pastures! Now, I have even more to carry. What you would not do for your dog…
After a short while, the trail takes us back in the direction of the Zwölferkogel. If both human and dog are motivated and fit enough and have enough water and provisions, it is possible to continue along the Panorama Trail to the top station of the Schattberg. We turn in a southerly direction turn left at a crossroads along a slightly downhill gravel road. Just under the Seekarsee lake, there is an opportunity for my thirsty four-legged friend to drink some water. The Schattberg comes into view and after a couple of minutes on a gravel road, we take a narrow marked trail through bushland back towards the Zwölferkogel. An alternative route would be to walk along the gravel road on which there are some small streams. Only a short space separates us from the top lift station and the Zwölferkogeltreff and the panoramic terrace which is situated in the shade. Without even having to ask, Pirie is given a dog’s bowl with water. A dog-friendly hike and a dog-friendly stop: What more could one ask for! Of course, doggy treats are offered as a reward.
For animals a cooling down period is a must
At the Zwölferkogel, we take the last lift down. After an action-packed day on the mountain, we finish off with a walk along the promenade alongside the river Saalach. Pirie is a real water rat, but only like the water up to her tummy. She trudges along in the cold water and I look like a drowned poodle. Once her paws have cooled down nicely, we walk on together, always keeping an eye on the pedestrians and bikers. Mutual respect for others is always important, especially when walking with a dog and there are oncoming bikers. Pirie feels at home here in Saalbach and with a smile on her face, we make our way home. Pirie spends the rest of evening snoring under her blanket. It’s a dog’s life!