KAT Walk: the catwalk of the Alps
The KAT Walk in the Kitzbühel Alps is a long-distance hiking trail. From Hopfgarten to St.Ulrich am Pillersee in 6 stages. Normally, the 105.4 km are hiked comfortably in 6 days. After all, there are 6,299 meters of altitude uphill and 6,057 meters of altitude downhill.
For the two ultra runners, Markus "Meex" R. from St.Ulrich am Pillersee and Michael G. from Westendorf, the KAT Walk can be done in one day. Both run already for years at the LIEBSTEN over the mountains. Even longer distances than a marathon, 50 km, 100 km are not unusual for the athletes. Both have already competed in several competitions all over Europe. Thus, the KAT Walk was a challenge right on their doorstep for both of them. "The 106 km and 6,000 meters of altitude have long appealed to us," reports Meex. He sometimes uses his lunch break for a "short" run up the Harschbichl in St.Johann in Tirol. With these training sessions, the plan to run the KAT Walk in one day was feasible. Normally, hikers need 5-6 days for this long-distance trail.
The 2 ultra runners report from the long distance trail and their KAT Walk experience in one day!
We, Meex and Michael meet on a foggy morning at 5 am at the KAT Walk Stein at the Salvena in Hopfgarten. The day is just slowly waking up and the fog is still hanging low in the valleys. "Best running weather! A bit cloudy, but no rain! This will be a casual day" I analyze on the first kilometers towards Penningdörfl. On the way to the Haagalm, the morning glow winks out between the fog. The sun can't yet decide whether to come out from behind the clouds. We reach the Lodron mountain peak at 1,926 m in the fog. Thank God we know the area well.
The conditions on the trail do not make it easy for us. Due to the rain of the last days the downhill into the Windau is softened. The trails become small streams and the light trail running shoes sink in up to the ankles. The trail through the forest to the Steinberghaus is a dream for every trail runner. Today we have to be careful! It is slippery and there are only 30 km behind us.
Breakfast in the green
Breakfast is for at the fountain in front of the Steinberghaus, there is a gel and a banana. After that comes already the next mountain. Up to the Hinterkarscharte. On the Labalm we meet the first hikers. Before that only deer, squirrels and a chamois were our companions. And of course the cows on the alp. "The animals, the observations and mountains bring the variety in such an ultra run. It would otherwise be boring to run only along a road."
The joy is great in Aschau, here our caretakers are waiting. We are really spoiled, after 50 km we get dry shoes, socks and the running backpacks are filled up with bananas, bars, gels and carbohydrate drinks. It is already 11:30 and we are 6.5 hours on the road. We feel great, but we know the old ultrarunning wisdom: "The cards are reshuffled on the second half!"
Strengthening and a short break for rest
The sun has decided in our favor, we say goodbye to our supervisors. We turn off for the climb up the Pengelstein. The sweat is now dripping faster and faster from the forehead, the eyes are burning from the mixture of sunscreen and sweat, it is warm and "roasty" due to the high humidity. "As a runner, you don't notice any of this. You put one foot in front of the other and try to let yourself be distracted by positive things, like the landscape," I reveal my tricks for getting to the next mountain even after tens of hours.
At Pengelstein then the difference to the lonely trails in Kelchsau, Windau and Aschau. We curve around like a slalom the excursionists on the Ehrenbachhöhe and turn in a rapid left turn on the Streif Abfahrthinunter. The view of the Kitzbühel Horn is beautiful! And slowly the strains of the day become noticeable. The running style is no longer so round and bouncy, but rather angular. The thighs already hurt from 9 hours of running. And the Kitzbühel Horn is still really far away. "When you are in such a low point, it helps to motivate yourself with small goals," Meex reveals.
When climbing the Kitzbüheler Horn, you can't see the entirety of the mountain in the forest. You can only see as far as the next bend. You distract yourself with conversation and before you know it, you're already at the Alpenhaus on the Kitzbüheler Horn. In the meantime, the sun has also hidden behind thick storm clouds again. It starts to rain, even sleet is there, the motivation is in the basement. We have already walked 80 km, and there is still a difficult descent from the Kitzbüheler Horn to St. Johann waiting.
The slopes are steep and slippery. From the middle station the worst is over and we arrive in St. Johann in Tirol. Here our supervisors are waiting again. Meex and I already look exhausted. At least a short break of 10 minutes! Meex eats a fortifying soup, I have problems with my stomach and take very slowly light liquid food.
The last 20 km are waiting for us!
With motivating words we are sent on the last stage of the KAT Walk. Many thanks again to our supervisors at this point! It is the territory of Meex, here he knows his way around and shortens my time with his stories. At the limestone there is a beautiful rainbow over Ortisei. A wonderful reward for us! Also the Jakobskreuz is already to be seen. I suffer, already for a few hours I can eat nothing more. Where should my body get the energy from? The paths drag, finally, it goes on the last piece downhill. 600 meters of altitude down to St.Ulrich am Pillersee. The last reserves are activated.
Tired and happy
Meex and I run with the sunset in Ortisei. The feelings of happiness come up, Meex's children run the last meters towards us. What a day! After 15 hours and 46 minutes we have reached our goal, the KAT Walk with 106 km and 6,000 vertical meters in one day! Tired but happy, we celebrate with friends and reflect on the long day. We talk about wet alpine meadows, how painful some electric fences can be or about the thunderstorm on the way. After a few days of regeneration we will talk about our next run. Until then we enjoy our success!
A great achievement by the two ultra runners Meex and Michael to run the KAT Walk in just one day. At the same time we would like to thank the Kitzbüheler Alpen for the lines!
This article was originally published in a longer version at Kitzbüheler Alpen.