E-bike tour to the Diessbach reservoir
Up in the Naturpark Weißbach
The damming of the Dießbach on the Kallbrunnalm in the early sixties created a new mountain lake. The picturesque lake’s primary purpose is hydroelectric energy production but it also provides flood protection and is a rewarding destination for walkers and cyclists.
When driving to Weißbach I have often noticed the mighty pipelines on the steep rockface. “Where do these pipes lead? Which body of water serves the power plant where clean energy is produced from the power of water?“, I hope to answer these questions today and have arranged to meet up with Waltraud Lohfeyer from Lofer. Waltraud is a Bike Guide in the Salzburger Saalachtal and she makes a suggestion which is ideally suited to my search for the power plant’s water source, “We’ll take this tour to the Dießbach Reservoir on e-mountain bikes – we’ll complete the circuit and save our calf muscles with fully charged batteries!“
Detour to the Schaustadel in the Naturpark Weißbach
I rent my e-mountain bike directly in Lofer and let Waltraud show me how to use it. To warm up we cycle along the Saalach on the Tauern Cycle Path to Weißbach. The emerald green waters of the river accompany us along the 13 kilometre route to Weißbach. There we see the first climbers on the rock face above the mountain climbers’ village from afar. Climbers are also already moving about on the via ferrata “Zahme Gams“. We ride through the village centre and turn onto the Hirschbichler Road to Hinterthal. Thanks to the electric motor this steep asphalt road is no problem to us. “Hey, we’ll take a short detour to the Schaustadl“, says Waltraud and we take a break here in the Naturpark Weißbach to learn more about the timber industry; traditional timber processing and the old crafts of shingle roofs and Pinzgauer fences.
The flooded Alm
After the informative break we hop into the saddle again. We continue uphill on forestry roads through the beautiful green meadows of the Kallbrunnalm. At the traditional “Kashütte“ or cheese hut we see the proprietor Helga serving the first guests. We cycle on with a promise to call in later. After a short stretch uphill we are suddenly standing in front of the huge expanse of water of the lake and I am completely speechless for the first time in front of this magnificent view. The smooth surface of the water reflects the mountainsides like a mirror. Steep, plummeting rock faces reach down to the water and green fields of mountain pines break up the grey of the rock. Here and there the alpine roses are still blossoming, adding a dash of colour to the idyllic scenery. “The Dießbach Reservoir isn’t that old,“ Waltraud tells me and adds “Over half a century ago this was still an alm pasture and cows grazed the grass. The Dießbachalm was mentioned in records in 1386 and a dairy was situated here.
In 1961 the Dießbach Reservoir was created in this basin and the entire alpine pasture was flooded together with the dairy. The dam is about one kilometre long and is 36 metres high and retains nearly 5 million cubic metres of water.“
From mountain lake to energy
Impressed, I look out over the unfathomable depths of water. This still body of water appears to me to be more an idyllic mountain lake than a reservoir built by human hands. I look around, searching for the prominent pipes which I saw from the car but Waltraud reveals, “The water flows out from the lake via a 1500 metre long tunnel through the rock to the abutment wall and then falls down through the 700 metre long pipe – one of the steepest in Europe. This is how the water reaches the Dießbach power plant and then flows on to the Saalach“. While we cool off our feet in the ice-cold water, I let my thoughts follow the steep descent of the water from this mountain lake, which seems so naturally embedded into the landscape, past the turbines of the power plant and into the Saalach. The panorama is spectacular. The Seehorn and the ridge of the Hundstod smile down on us and in the distance we can make out the Ingolstädter Haus. After a while Waltraud laughs, “My energy reserves are full again, what do you say to calling in at the Kashütte?“
Side Trip to the Natural Bathing Area Vorderkaserklamm
I am ready to leave quickly as my stomach begins to rumble audibly at the thought of cheese sandwiches and elderberry juice. We cycle back elatedly and settle down on the terrace at Helga’s Kashütte. We are served warmly and enjoy the relaxed time-out on the alm. Meanwhile the sun has reached its highest point in the sky and the summer heat is palpable on the way back along the same route to the valley. “Should we take a short side trip to the Vorderkaserklamm natural bathing area? It’s on our way and would be a wonderful end to our water-rich tour. Then we’ll have experienced the perfect mixture of still and sparkling water,“ Waltraud says. I agree enthusiastically as a leap into the cold, clear water of the Vorderkaserklamm is just the sort of thing I love to do. So we cycle past the Lamprecht’s Cave along the Saalach to the natural bathing area and enjoy a refreshing dip there.