Kaisergebirge Mountain Range, Tyrol
Wilder Kaiser, Zahmer Kaiser & The Valley in Between

The Kaisergebirge is a mountain range in the Northern Calciferous Alps and comprises of two distinct areas: The Wilder Kaiser (Wild Emperor) and the Zahmer Kaiser (Tame Emperor). The Kaisergebirge is situated in Tyrol, more specifically in the area between Kufstein and St. Johann in Tyrol. The Kaisergebirge is approximately 20 kilometres long in the east-west direction and some 14 kilometres in the north-south direction. Altogether, the Kaisergebirge is approximately 280 square kilometres big. The Kaisergebirge is famous for its rock climbing opportunities. The region that is the most attractive for hiking is a nature reserve.

Ever since the 1920ies, there were proposals to make the area a nature reserve. One of the proto-environmentalists that promoted the idea of stricter protection measures was the local mountaineer Franz Nieberl. The environmentalists′ cause became more pressing and more vocal the more tourism developed: With every ski lift that opened, with every cable car that was built, their pressure became more intense. However, it took until a memorandum was held in 1961 that the Kaisergebirge became officially a nature reserve two years later.

Extent of the Nature Reserve Kaisergebirge

The nature reserve contains all summits of the Wilder and the Zahmer Kaiser; it is 102 square kilometres big and extends over some of Tyrol′s most touristy municipalities: Kufstein, St. Johann in Tirol, Ebbs, Ellmau, Going, Kirchdorf, Scheffau and Walchsee. In terms of altitudes, the nature reserve of the Kaisergebirge goes from 480 metres to 2344 metres.

There is only one cable car in the reserve (at the Brentenjoch), all other lift projects were cancelled for environmental reasons. The Kaisertal valley in the nature reserve was the last inhabited valley in Austria that was linked to the road network: Only in 2008, a private road was built, its use is strictly regulated to locals and certain suppliers. The construction of the road was highly controversial and only permitted because it involves a 813 metre long tunnel.

The Kaisergebirge is known for a high level of biodiversity: 38 ferns, 400 mosses, 236 species of partly rare lichen and 100 species of fungi never fail to excite botanists; the forests are diverse and home to an impressive array of Alpine animal species. There is a little glacier, currently in the process of surrendering to global warming; and a lake in which swimming is permitted, the Hintersteiner See. Several creeks and rivers transport water from the Kaisergebirge.

Some History of the Kaisergebirge & Sport Opportunities

The first settlers arrived in the Kaisergebirge at least 4,000 or 5,000 years ago. In a cave, remains of hunters from the stone age were found. Later, there were people settling in the Kaisergebirge during the Bronze Age, the oldest written record for settlements in the Kaisertal date back to 1430 - relatively late. The name "Kaiser" for the region is much older and can be found in a goods and farm directory written in Kitzbühel in 1240.

In 1611, a written document gives a more detailed description of the Kaisergebirge and identifies the town of Kufstein as the responsible authority in the area. The Kaisergebirge was anything but attractive agricultural land or valuable in any other sense until well into the 19th century. When aristocrats from Munich and Vienna discovered the Alps as a leisure ground, tourism started to develop.

Around 1900, the Kaisergebirge was the preferred playground for climbers from Munich. Many climbing techniques that are used worldwide these days were developed in the Kaisergebirge before WWI. Until well into the 1960ies, the climbing styles from the Kaisergebirge remained influential for climbers all around the world. Until today, the mountain range is considered a particularly good place for climbing. Several parts of the nature reserve are officially designated for climbing and the climbers are still a major group among the tourists that spend their vacations between or on wild and tame emperor.

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Further Reading

Platform on the Kaisergebirge in Tyrol

Official Website of the Skiing Area Kaisergebirge

Official Website of Tyrol