Mountain Mad and Crystal Seekers
As a child, Markus Hirnböck wanted to be a mountain guide or a crystal seeker. So far, his career as crystal seeker hasn't worked out but Markus has been working full-time for the last 27 years as a mountain guide in the Salzburger Saalachtal - and as well as this, on expeditions in Central Asia. And even though, or perhaps because, Markus has seen so much of the world, he prefers to come back here.
“My grandmother was mountain-mad“, says Markus and smiling, drinks a sip of his coffee. “She was a cook in an alpine refuge and always liked to be out and about in the mountains. I've probably inherited my enthusiasm for the mountains from her.“
We meet the likeable 52-year-old in an inn in Weißbach bei Lofer, just a few metres away from the via ferrata “Zahme Gams“. A little earlier in the day we watched as Markus made his way up the rockface step by step, hook by hook, nimble and agile like a mountain goat. No wonder: Markus is like the father of the “Drei Gämse“. The “Zahme Gams“ (tame chamois) is ideally suited for beginners; the “Weiße Gams“ (white chamois), with a difficulty grading D, requires a little more ability and top via ferrata professionals will get their fill on the “Wilde Gams“, (wild chamois), difficulty E-F. The “Wilde Gams“ is one of the most difficult via ferrata in the whole of Austria“, explains Markus, who was the main initiator and had the idea for the via ferrata. “However, all three are rewarding – the view is simply fantastic“, adds Markus with sparkling eyes.
“First I took the examination to become a certified ski instructor“, explains Markus, who is now the manager for ski instructor training in Austria and is himself a double European champion in formation skiing. “My then-trainer asked whether we'd meet again at the mountain guide examination.“ Markus grins. “Then I immediately chose my career path. It was 1993. First of all I mainly worked for alpine ski schools, then the first regular guests came. And after that, it was a sure-fire success.“
“I don't know why I shouldn't stay here“
He has been with guests on mountains up to 6000 metres, in Central Asia, China, Africa. Some expeditions lasted up to five weeks. “I simply love to be with people in the mountains“, explains Markus. “But it's not top performance, the most difficult and the furthest that counts but simply being on the trail. The variety is the nicest thing for me."
That's why he has been everywhere apart from Antarctica, says Markus. “I enjoy being on the road. But I am always happy when I come home. When I drive back via the Saalfelden valley and see the mountains, that is simply wonderful.“ Markus leans back, drinks the last dregs of his coffee and smiles, “I don't know why I shouldn't stay here“.