Franz Pult

"A water trail without water is nothing"

Stable, secure and crisis-proof: 1700 km of hiking trails lead through the approx. 65 kilometer long Ötztal valley and towards its scenic mountain peaks. Ötztal's expert trail builders maintain both the steep Alpine paths up to the Ötztal Alps' three thousand meter high peaks and the leisurely walking routes on the valley floor. Our author spoke to one of them about perfect trail maintenance and safety along the hiking routes.

A flexible team in crisis mission mode

Today "Mooserstegle Waalweg" water trail does not carry any water. After heavy rainfalls, Windache mountain brook tore off the supply pipe to the water ditches - the former irrigation channels for the fields down in the valley. The path along the wooden ditches has primarily become a hiking and adventure trail. “We have to fix that quickly. A water trail without water - that's nothing!," says Franz Pult, long-time manager of Sölden's construction yard and the most expert trail builder in upper Ötztal with 47 years of experience.

Our access route via the old cart trail into Windachtal side valley ends abruptly in front of a pile of rocks that crashed down from a huge scree field. "We also must remove that soon but the water has priority," Franz comments. We take the Waalweg water trail on foot. In the forest we meet a three-man construction team that is supposed to make the water flow again. Along their route to the problematic area they chop new channels into the water trail - as the old ones were blocked by rain water and soil.

Umhausen-Niederthai Hiking Waalweg
Vent Hiking

Strong teams for safe trails

Sölden's construction yard, which is also responsible for Vent and Obergurgl, employs 16 trail builders, including locksmiths and carpenters. 17 employees work in the construction yard in Längenfeld. Additionally, Ötztal Tourismus and the German Alpine Club (DAV) have also founded a community for the maintenance of the high Alpine trails. Franz emphasizes: "But we are all one team - and in an emergency or catastrophe, we all help each other, even on weekends." He shows me such a case from the summer of 2019 on a cell phone video. Hikers filmed how a huge mudflow mowed down the bridge over Rofenbach brook and buried the hiking trail. "Of course I drummed up some people right away! And we were able to make the trail passable again in the shortest possible time,” explains Franz proudly.

Mission possible: Crisis-proof cleanliness and safety

Building, maintaining, expanding, improving and preserving hiking trails - these have always been the basic jobs of trail builders. Over the years, however, there have been many more additional tasks: Keeping the summer and winter hiking trails in good condition. Preparing, setting up or exchanging signposts and trail blazers for summer and winter walking trails. Building or locksmithing benches, loungers, bridges, fences and railings. Spreading gravel. Emptying trash cans along the hiking trails. And mowing: “As agriculture in the Alpine area decreases, all trail edges and embankments that the farmers' cattle used to graze must also be mowed now. For this alone, two workers are needed in Sölden from spring to autumn,” explains Franz.

Maintaining playground equipment once a week and making it fit for the TÜV tests once a year has also been the responsibility of Ötztal's municipal trail makers and construction yards. Now in times of the corona crisis, disinfection will become an additional protective measure. Employees of Ötztal Tourismus and Ötztal's local authorities share this important work.

Sölden Summer Waalweg-Mooserstegle
Obergurgl-Hochgurgl Hiking Kippele Alm

On your own in an almost endless vastness

"There are hardly any completely new trail structures, the network of walking paths is really dense enough," Franz Pult states. Quite true but: Wherever you go in Ötztal, you rarely meet large groups or even masses of hikers. Keeping enough distance in corona times is definitely not a problem on the hiking trails. “We have so much space that we often have several routes to reach one destination. For example, Kleblealm mountain pasture in Sölden's Silent Part. Leisurely walkers head towards the hut on a wide forest trail, sporty ones on a steep and narrow footpath,” emphasizes Franz. Whether with or without a crisis, safety on all routes is a top priority for Ötztal's trail builders. When it comes to cleanliness, Franz trusts more than ever in the cooperation of the hikers: “Now that we are talking about personal responsibility again and again, I hope that the hikers are motivated even more to take their rubbish home with them."

Portrait

Franz Pult

Franz Pult

Trail builder Franz Pult retired at the beginning of 2020 in his 48th year of work. He always had his huge work area fully in mind. "I'm from the old school. I just knew what to do where and when.

But of course the construction yards can already call up the entire trail network and the sites of operation on the computer,” he says. His biggest professional challenge was the Vent High-altitude Trail. "We dug eight kilometers by hand," Franz recalls.

After the end of his career as construction yard manager in Sölden, Franz will remain what he was from the beginning: Part-time farmer on his farm in Neder, Ventertal at 1600 meters above sea level. The place where he keeps and cares for the best and most beautiful lawnmowers in the world: Tirolean gray cattle.

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Ötztal promises mountain galore: 250 three thousand meter high peaks, 1600 km of hiking trails, 19 climbing gardens, 8 via ferratas, 12 summer mountain lifts, 100 mountain huts and Alpine pastures and, last but not least, 1600 lovely benches to relax right next to the trails.

Hiking in Ötztal

Everything you want to know about your hiking, climbing or mountaineering holiday in summer and autumn can be found here, including all currently applicable guidelines and protective measures for safe holidays even during the corona crisis.

Guest author: Isolde v. Mersi

Isolde von Mersi comes from South Tyrol's Pustertal valley and lives in Vienna now. As a popular reporter and book writer for Austrian and German magazines and publishing houses, she explores a huge variety of cultural, culinary and naturalistic treasures of the Alpine countries and its people.

She has been feeling at home in Ötztal for many years already as she contributes to the ÖTZTAL MAGAZINE on a regular basis. And she has found many friends in the valley.

Isolde v. Mersi
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