The path is the destination and the work of a path consultant

Nach 23 Jahren Wegereferent übergibt Richard Vitzthum das Amt an seinen Enkel

Richard Vitzthum was the path consultant for the Austrian Alpine Club in the Salzburger Saalachtal for 23 years. Year after year he ensured the orderly and safe condition of the paths and climbs and spent every minute of his spare time in his beloved mountains.  Now the time has come to pass the baton on to Andreas Vitzthum, his grandson, and to let the next generation take over: a good reason for us to meet with the congenial Loferer and to sum up the previous decades. 

Mr. Vitzthum, many of our readers have probably never heard the term ‘path consultant’. So let’s begin with this question: what does the work of a path consultant involve?

So first of all, the Austrian Alpine Club path consultant coordinates all of the work on the hiking paths and climbs in their local area. Here in the Salzburger Saalachtal there are 250 kilometres between the Diesbach hydroelectric power station and the Steinpass, from the Waidringer Steinplatte to the Sonntagshorn. Every village has its own path warden in addition to the consultant, with whom they are in regular contact. In addition to that, we also coordinate the financial means which are required for the maintenance. During the work itself we have a lot of helpers but of course you still have to monitor and pitch in yourself. Every path has to be walked at least once a year, freed from leaves and grass and checked for damage.  After storms of course, we have to inspect the trails more often. The work begins in spring, straight after the snow melts and continues over the entire summer. One of the biggest projects in recent years was the new signage of the trails.  In total, we erected over 2400 new yellow signs which can be seen from far away. It was a huge undertaking which caused me many sleepless nights.

In spring 2017 you passed on this role to your grandson, Andreas Vitzthum. 

That’s right. I became chairman of the Lofer section of the Austrian Alpine Club in 1994 and began my work as path consultant at the same time. 23 years is enough. Of course, I’ll be behind Andreas, offering him advice and support and helping him wherever possible. It’s great that he has already settled into his new role and is setting about his work with lots of energy. 

What is special about the work as a path consultant?

Alongside the many hours outside in the natural world, it’s definitely the positive reaction of people that gives me the most pleasure. Not just the guests, but many locals praise the good conditions of our paths.

Walking and mountain climbing is currently experiencing a great boom and it is important that people are out and about on good, safe paths.

Why this boom? Why are more people heading out into the mountains?

Because nature is becoming ever more treasured. Austria is certainly a safe country and holidays here are increasing in general. I also see a lot of young people on foot in the mountains which makes me particularly happy, not just walking but also climbing, bouldering and e-mountain biking. It seems to be to do with the search for freedom and time out in the natural world. And as I’ve already said, not just for the guests, but for the locals as well. 

You know your local area, the Salzburger Saalachtal, particularly well, probably better than anyone else. What are your personal top spots?

That’s true, I know the region very well indeed. For me, there are many beautiful places. Every village has its particular highlights. In Weißbach there is the Kallbrunnalm and the gorges; in St. Martin, Maria Kirchental – a wonderful place of power. In Lofer there is the entire Almenwelt with its seven circular hiking trails and in Unken, Heutal with the Sonntagshorn. Every one of these places is very special and always worth a visit. 

A final question. Now that your grandson has taken over your job completely, will you still be out and about in the mountains, or have you seen enough in the preceding decades and prefer to remain down in the valley?

Of course I’ll still hike in the mountains, summer and winter, as long as my health allows. Even today I was out and about. The mountains are a part of my life.

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