Working with the Seasons
The work is seasonal: Only when the last remaining snowfields on the Rax surrender to the first signs of spring in April and the temperatures gradually climb into the single digits, does Ingrid's season begin. She then clears branches from the trails, sweeps rockfall to the side, refreshes trail markings, and clears trails that have been partially washed away. "In places where we do reach our own limits, we hand the work over to professionals. That's because almost every year, heavily used trails and protected routes are affected by snow load, wind damage and rockfall." Ingrid's designated zone covers most of the Rax massif’s south side. " In Reichenau County, starting from Reißtal, we maintain the Wildfährte area running through the Kahlmäuer, as well as the Bärenloch and the Rax plateau trail systems, the Gradboden alpine trail, the Ochsenhalt path and the Bärengraben trail." By the time the tourist hiking season opens in June, Ingrid and her fellow crew members have ensured that every trail is easily passable. Their job over the summer months is to constantly monitor and maintain the trails. Their efforts are particularly in demand after major storms. "The weather events of recent years have at times been quite severe. We've seen entire hillsides slide away, experienced major rockslides, and seen storms knock down trees and scatter them like a game of pick-up sticks." Closing a trail is simple enough, according to Ingrid. "The harder question is, at what point is the trail safe to use again?" However, in cooperation with property owners, forestry workers and mountain rescue teams, they have always been able to find a solution. "We even had to reroute a trail at one point. That's when you, as a human being, just have to go with nature's flow."