Mountain Excitement

Evelyn Seeger investigates the bed of a mountain torrent in a form of diving which is all the rage in Austria. Pictures by Jurgen Freund

I must admit, Im a scaredy-cat! I would think nothing about descending 50m down in the sea... but down a rock face In diving gear Its easy. You can make it, said my Austrian mountain guide, Andi Driza, connecting the safety rope.
It had been over 500 dives since my first scuba dive, and I had decided to do something with a bit of kick. Dressed in neoprene, with crash helmet, tank, fins and climbing belt, I was poised above the thundering, algae-green water of a gorge near Hallein, Austria.
That morning, I had received a crash session in rope-assisted climbing with an experienced mountain guide. This afternoon, we had set out to find a torrent.
In sleepy Hallein, 15km from Salzburg, the fountains splash silently. In the often inaccessible gorges in the surrounding mountains, the melting snows swell the rivers into an angry torrent.
Bracing myself against the rock, I make my first tentative push. My feet become entangled with roots, but as I slide into the canyon the rock face becomes smooth - there can be no return. As I near the water, the foam seems to become more agitated. Hanging breathlessly on the rock face, putting on fins becomes a challenge. Finally, I let slip the karabiner and fall into the green torrent. Holding the rope that prevents me from being swept away, I dive close to the smooth pebbles on the bottom. The turbulent water produces millions of air bubbles that circle about your mask and add to the thrill of the current. The torrent swirls me up to the surface, before sucking me back to the bottom. Whenever we ascend, we greet our friends on the bank with a loud Whoosh. This experience cannot be compared with the usual diving in Austrias mountain lakes. For people not wanting to attempt the rock face, the hike down to an accessible entry point is an exhausting one. But for those who dare, floating down this remote emerald-green wild water is the reward.
Guidelines: Safety is a prime concern on combined diving-canyoning trips. An advanced diving certificate is a pre-requisite. An extremely high level of physical fitness is also essential. Drysuits are not recommended, due to easy overheating while descending some of the bigger rock faces. Small 4-litre tanks are used. It is essential to go in the dry season (June-September) when water flow in the gorges is at its lowest.


Details: Club Montee, Franz Joseph Strasse 43, 80801 Munich, Germany. Tel. (00 49) 89-38014123; fax. (00 49) 89-38014127.

Start a Forum discussion on this topic