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The Donnerkogel Klettersteig | The Stairway to Heaven

The Donnerkogel Klettersteig | The Stairway to Heaven

One of, if not the most adrenaline pumping activities I have done in my travels was the Donnerkogel Klettersteig.

This class C/D Via Ferrata takes you high above the Gosau region of Upper Austria as you climb one of the most iconic mountains in the area.

Not only will you get to experience a Klettersteig adventure as you slowly maneuver your way up the mountain, but you will also take part of the iconic Stairway to Heaven.

Read on for a complete guide on how to take part of this trail for yourself and how to better prepare yourself to get to the top.

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1) Donnerkogel Klettersteig Facts

To get started, below are some helpful details about the Donnerkogel Klettersteig and what to expect up on the mountain:

  • Trail Name: Intersport Klettersteig Donnerkogel
  • Parking Lot Location: Gosausee Parking Lot
  • Cable Car Station: Gosaukammbahn
  • Starting & Ending Point: Gablonzer Hutte
  • Class Level: C/D
  • Duration: 3 Hours Up (Via Ferrata) / 1.5 Hours Down (Hike)
  • Elevation Gain: 470 Meters / 1,542 Feet
  • Grosser Donnerkogel Elevation: 2,054 Meters / 6,739 Feet
  • Opening Months: May – October (based on snow conditions)

Via Ferrata Warning


If you are a newcomer to Via Ferratas and climbing, do not just think to yourself “I can do that, no problem”. Because, if you get stuck or you slip off, you will be risking someone else’s safety to help you out.

Learn More: this Via Ferrata Overview Guide is a must read for those who are new to the world of Via Ferratas

Donnerkogel Klettersteig Intersport Map

2) What is the Donnerkogel Klettersteig

The Klettersteig Donnerkogel is a 3 hour long Via Ferrata that takes you up along the mountainside as you clip in and out of fixed rope sections throughout the climb towards the Grosser Donnerkogel summit.

The trail starts at the Gablonzer Hutte, which is located right at the top of the Gosaukammbahn cable car.

From a logistics standpoint, you will need to make your way to the Gosausee parking lot, take the quick cable car ride up, and then begin the trail just nearby the hut.

From a difficulty standpoint, this is graded as a level C/D. That does not mean the entire route is at a C/D, rather there are two sections graded as such. The rest of the trail is in the A to C range.

While the entirety of the Via Ferrata is pretty scenic as you take in the views of the surrounding mountains and the Gosausee lake throughout the trail, the ultimate highlight is the 40 meter / 131 foot long Stairway to Heaven that gets you from the Kleiner Donnerkogel to the Grosser Donnerkogel.

Once finished up with the ladder section, it is just a bit more to reach the 6,739 foot peak, where you will enjoy 360 degree views of the beautiful surroundings.

And don’t worry, once you reach the top it is just a 1.5 hour hike back down the other side of the mountain around back to the Gablonzer Hutte.

3) Donnerkogel Starting Point & Map

Below are the step by step instructions on how to reach the starting point of the Donnerkogel Via Ferrata.

Gosausee Parking Lot

The first step here is to get to the Gosausee parking lot. You can do so in two main ways – by your own car or by public bus.

By car it is pretty simple – just type in “Gosausee Parking Lot” into Google Maps and you should be on your way in no time.

→ If you are renting a car in Austria, be sure to check out to browse through options. Once on the site, you will be able to filter by price, car type, rental company, and more, to find the perfect car for your trip to Austria.

Public bus is also straightforward. The 542 bus runs throughout the neighboring towns towards the parking lot.

Just get off at Gosausee and you should be good to go. For the latest timetables please visit the local bus website.

Gosausee Parking Lot

Gosaukammbahn Cable Car

After you reach the parking lot, it is just a short walk to the cable car nearby. The cable car is a quick 5 minute ride up to the Gablonzer Hutte.

The round trip cable car costs 21 Euro (small discount if purchased online), with the first ride being at 8:15AM and running up every 15 minutes (the last car down is at 5:50PM in the summer).

Instead of taking the cable car you can also opt for the 1-1.5 hour hike up the mountain towards the Gablonzer Hutte.

If you are looking to save some money or if you want to get an earlier start to the Via Ferrata than this could be a good option for you.

Gosaukammbahn Hours
Donnerkogel Prices

Gablonzer Hutte

From the Gablonzer Hutte it is just a 10 minute walk towards the official starting point of the Klettersteig Donnerkogel.

Just follow the signs and walkway until you reach the point where you will need to put on the gear and carabiner onto the fixed line.

Gablonzer Hutte

Below is a Google Maps view of the four main logistical points – the parking lot, cable car, hut, and hiking starting point:

4) Where to Stay Near the Donnerkogel

Since we are on the topic of logistics, you may be wondering where to base yourself when taking part of the Donnerkogel Klettersteig.

The whole region around the Donnerkogel has several towns to choose from with some being bigger and others quite small. I would say a few of the main areas within a 30 minute drive would be:

Any of the above hotels would be a great choice when not only taking part of the Via Ferrata but also when exploring what the rest of the region has to offer.

There are plenty more hikes, Via Ferratas, towns, lakes and more to enjoy all around so I would highly recommend spending a few days in the region.

Learn More: Head to the Donnerkogel as part of your 7 Day Austria Itinerary visiting places all over the country

5) Required Via Ferrata Equipment

Before jumping into the Klettersteig Donnerkogel, it is very important to note the required equipment each individual must have when taking part.

As mentioned earlier – I would NOT take part of this particular Via Ferrata if you have no experience with them (unless you are already a skilled rock climber or mountaineer with similar trainings).

There are a ton of Via Ferratas around the region, so I would first try some of the easier ones and work your way up from there if you are a newcomer.

Your other option would be to take part of a guided tour with the Outdoor Leadership team based in Bad Goisern. This way if something does go wrong, you will have an expert right there with you.

Via Ferrata Equipment

As for the equipment though, you will need some essential items:

  • Climbing Harness
  • Via Ferrata Lanyard with Two Carabiners
  • Helmet
  • Gloves (not required but can be useful)

Via Ferrata Kit : Since most people don’t actually own this type of equipment, here is a link to a Via Ferrata Kit that has the three required items included.

I would highly recommend you purchase your own equipment if you are looking to enjoy Via Ferratas during your travels.

If you do not want to travel with your equipment, you can also rent the gear from Outdoor Leadership (same people who run guided tours).

Last I heard, they actually have some Via Ferrata kits at the Hotel Moserwirt in Bad Goisern and costs 15 Euro per day.

Other Hiking Gear

Whenever heading off on longer day hikes, I always recommend being adequately prepared when it comes to the type of gear to bring along.

Check out the below packing list to get you ready for this hike and other hikes in Austria.

Hiking Packing List

In general when it comes to hiking, there are a few main aspects to consider. These includes clothing layers, hiking shoes, hydration & fuel, electronics, and other essentials.

Below in a breakdown of some of the top items, but be sure to check out the Hiking Packing List for a more comprehensive view.

Clothing Layers

Layering is going to be a top consideration when hiking. You will want to be prepared for all sorts of weather so you can be comfortable in different situations. Some items may include:

→ Hiking Shorts
→ Hiking Pants
→ Short Sleeve Shirt
→ Long Sleeve Shirt / Sun Hoodie
→ Mid Layer Fleece
→ Puff Jacket (not always needed)
→ Packable Rain Jacket (Columbia Watertight II)

Note that your layers should be made of moisture wicking material as they are breathable and quick drying.


Having appropriate footwear will also be very important. You will want to have shoes with the necessary grip and support to keep you safe on the trail.

→ Hiking Shoes (Keen Targhee)
→ Hiking Socks (Darn Tough)

Other Essentials

Whether it is hiking gear, electronics, or just some miscellaneous items, here are some other essentials to bring along on hikes.

→ Hiking Backpack (Osprey Talon 22) & Rain Cover (Joy Walker Cover)
→ Hiking Poles (Black Diamond Trekking Poles)
→ Water Bottle (CamelBak Chute or Katadyn Filter Bottle)
→ Portable Charger (Anker PowerCore 5000mAh)

→ Action Camera (GoPro Hero)
→ Energy Bars & Snacks
→ Hat & Sunglasses
→ Sunscreen & Bug Spray

6) Donnerkogel Via Ferrata Weather

Weather is extremely important so please read this section!

Officially the Donnerkogel Klettersteig is open starting around May and closes around October. This will all be based on how fast the snow melts from the previous winter and when the snow begins to fall again.

It is simply not safe enough to attempt the route when the mountain has snow cover, so it will only be open in the summer and surrounding months. With that said though..

While many may choose to do regular hikes in poorer weather conditions – clouds, rain, etc, choosing the particular day to climb the Via Ferrata is essential for your safety.

Under no circumstance should you attempt to climb the Via Ferrata under rainy conditions. This also means that you should not attempt it after a rainfall since the wires can still be wet.

Having a wet wire and foot pegs will make things extra difficult and dangerous.

A second thing to consider is the wind factor. While you would not want to be on the side of the mountain under heavy winds, you certainly do not want to be on the ladder section during high winds. Having the ladder swing at all is not something you want to experience.

» Please check the local weather forecasts beforehand in order to better choose which day will be best for your climb.

7) Klettersteig Donnerkogel Difficulty

There are several sections of the Via Ferrata each with a different letter indication. The general level range has “A” being the easiest and “E+” being the hardest.

As mentioned earlier, there are two sections in the C/D territory. So, you must be comfortable completing those sections as there really is no turning back on this thing.

As for the Stairway to Heaven ladder section, it is actually graded a pretty moderate B. This is because the difficulty level has nothing to do with the height or adrenaline factor.

It just has to do with the complexity of the climbing section. Since it is simply just a ladder, the difficulty is not high.

8) The Donnerkogel Klettersteig

Now that you have a bit more background on the Via Ferrata, I wanted to show some photos of what to expect along the way.

The route can be broken down into four main sections, although you can really break it down into nearly 50 sections by each changing difficulty level.

As much as you may want to ease yourself into the Via Ferrata, it actually starts out more on the difficult side.

This first part is full of everything from an easy A to the hardest C/D. You will also find several B/C and C sections throughout as well.

Below are some helpful photos to see what to expect here along with some images of the surrounding beauty of the area.

Start of Klettersteig
Gosausee Views Klettersteig
Gosau View Austria
Stage 1 Intersport Klettersteig
Donnerkogel Klettersteig Stage 1

Towards the end of the first section you will come across a couple ladder sections before reaching the easiest section of the trail. You will be on all A to B difficulties with just one B/C just before the ladder itself.

This section is all along the Kleiner Donnerkogel, the smaller version of what is to come next.

Stage 2 Kleiner Donnerkogel
Klettersteig Ladder Section
Gosausee Klettersteig View
Grosser Donnerkogel View
Stairway to Heaven View

Now comes the fun part! The Stairway to Heaven, a 40 meter / 131 foot climb from the smaller Kleiner Donnerkogel to the Groser Donnerkogel.

When you arrive at the ladder, there is some room all around to relax a bit, have some food, hydrate and get ready for the last of the Via Ferrata.

You also have the chance to walk the path towards a great viewpoint area, where you can better capture those climbers heading up the ladder.

I spent some time here just enjoying the view and snapping some shots of other climbers heading on up.

Kleiner Donnerkogel
Kleiner Donnerkogel View
Stairway to Heaven Klettersteig Donnerkogel

Once ready though it is time to hook yourself onto the ladder and begin the climb. Try and distance yourself from other climbers as you do not want too much weight on the ladder or want to make it swing too much.

Slowly make your way up as you clip in and out of the ladder and you reach the vertical wall on the other side.

Note: there is actually a route that avoids the stairway if you do not want to take part of this section.

Klettersteig Via Ferrata Donnerkogel
View from Stairway to Heaven

Section 4 of the trail gets a bit difficult again, as right after the ladder you will come across the second C/D section. This will be followed by some B, C, and B/C sections before flattening out to the summit.

Section 4 Donnerkogel Via Ferrata
Grosser Donnerkogel Klettersteig
Stage 4 Grosser Donnerkogel

Once you reach the summit, it is time to take off your gear and enjoy that view!

You will have beautiful views in every which direction as you celebrate completing one of the more special summit routes in the region.

Grosser Donnerkogel
Grosser Donnerkogel Summit
Donnerkogel Klettersteig Summit

9) Hiking Down to the Gablonzer Hutte

Now that the Via Ferrata is over, all you need to do is head on the hiking trail back down to the Gablonzer Hutte.

The trail is just to the other side of where you came up from towards the right. Some sections can have a bit tricky and steep downhill so just watch your steps along the way.

Odds are you will also come across fellow hikers who will be headed up the mountain. Not everyone can take part of the Klettersteig so this trail gives them an option to reach the summit as well.

Just continue to follow the path down and then enjoy a nice beer at the Gablonzer Hutte to end your time here!

Once all done, take the Gosaukammbahn back down to the Gosausee area, where you can either just head back to the parking lot or you can opt for a cool down swim in the lake itself.

If you go for a swim or not, a visit to the lake is a must!

Fun Fact: you can actually see the Stairway to Heaven from down by the lake area. It is a pretty crazy site to see from down below how high the ladder really is.

Donnerkogel Hike Down

That just about wraps up your guide to the Klettersteig Donnerkogel. I really hope this gives you a better idea on how to take part of the Via Ferrata and what to expect along the way.

And remember – please do not attempt this unless you are fully confident in your abilities!

Be sure to check out the other Austria itineraries and guides up on the site too including:

Feel free to write in any questions or comments below, have fun out there and safe travels!

The Klettersteig Donnerkogel

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Saturday 2nd of March 2024


I'm looking to do this hike in end of May this year. Do you know is the hike will be open?

Thanks Duke


Sunday 13th of August 2023

I don't have much experience with ferratas even though I'm fit and thought I could it to the "Sky Ladder" but still I was looking everywhere for information bcz maybe I will do it next year and this is the most detailed and completed information on what to do and what to expect I have ever seen so thank you very much. You are the best


Sunday 13th of August 2023

Hi Armand - glad it has helped. Hope you have a great time out there


Wednesday 21st of June 2023

Hi Charles, myself and partner are interested in completing this Ferrata in middle of August. We dont have much climbing experience, but have done few belayed climbs at climbing gyms. I am, obviously, most concerned with the two C/D sections. We are physically fit and capable. Do you think you could possibly describe the two C/D sections and what sort of moves / experience is required for them? I believe the section just after the ladder to be the more difficult one, is this correct?

I dont think we are concerned with how "exposed" these sections are, as we are not afraid of that. But more concerned with the difficulty of the climbing in these parts. Any thoughts on this for a non-experienced via ferrata'er?


Thursday 22nd of June 2023

@Christine, I wish we had more available to us in the States! I certainly live in an area with a discrete lack of nature unfortunately. You sound a little more experienced than myself and based on Charles answer below I believe you wont have much of a problem!


Thursday 22nd of June 2023

@Charles, Thanks so much! Your info is exactly what I was looking for. We're considering adjusting our plans slightly to accommodate a Ferrata around the lake the day before. Hopefully this will help us complete Donnerkogel! Appreciate the quick reply.


Thursday 22nd of June 2023

Hi there - from my recollection of it, the first C/D section required me to pull myself up physically on the metal rope (as I am not the tallest person out there). The pegs/rock holds were a bit further out of my reach. If you are taller, I can see how some of these sections may be less difficult as it is easier to reach the holds. The second C/D section was more so intimidating as it comes directly after the ladder. But I did find the first one to be more difficult for me at least.

The great thing about the region, is that you can find many other via ferratas to test out beforehand. If not, I would recommend continuing to practice at the climbing gym. It is very difficult to provide my thoughts given everyone is different. My best recommendations for via ferratas is to simply start easy and work your way up until you feel more comfortable with the difficulties.

Hope you enjoy the trip!


Thursday 22nd of June 2023

@H, I also have this question! Lots of experience at climbing gyms, overall fit, hike lots (from Canada), and really want to do this via ferrata! We're going to do one here in Canada this summer too.


Friday 9th of June 2023

Thank you for the great description! I'm wondering if we can hike to emergency exit at the end of etappe 1 and start the via Ferrata from there to save some time?


Friday 9th of June 2023

Hi Miro - based on the via ferrata map, there does seem to be a couple of emergency exits on the trail. My best educated guess would then mean you could hike to them and start from there. However, I cannot speak definitively about the route to take up and where to get on. Hope you have a great time

vincent Ratcliffe

Wednesday 3rd of May 2023

is there public transport from salzburg to via ferrata


Wednesday 3rd of May 2023

Hi Vincent - yes it is possible but it would require a few steps. You will first need to take a couple trains from Salzburg to Steeg - Gosau. Once you arrive there, you can then get on the 542 bus that will take you to the Gosaukammbahn. The route is around 3 hours or so depending on your connections.