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Mountains ablaze

Traditions in Saalfelden Leogang

Tradition is very important and must also continue to be preserved. An old local custom, the solstice bonfires that illuminate the mountain ranges of Pinzgau each year at the astronomical beginning of summer.

Countless firepits in Steineres Meer and the Leogang Mountains are then lit and light up the night. The tradition dates back to pre-Christian times, with fire was meant to simulate and invoke the sunlight. In this way, meadows and fields would be ensured growth and fertility.

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Unique spectacle - the mountains ablaze

THE PINZGAU MOUNTAINS shine in time for the astronomical beginning of summer.The highlight is the burning of a huge edelweiss that flares from a snow pit in Steineres Meer.

Around 21 June in the region Saalfelden Leogang St Peter a particularly sought-after man, because in the Christian world, he is attributed with control over the weather. Each year, he is prayed to asking that the summer solstice be a starry sky. Because that is when the Pinzgauer Mountains offer a unique spectacle: the mountains ablaze.

Countless solstice bonfires are lit on the surrounding mountain ranges. This tradition dates back to pre-Christian times. The flames lit in the highest mounts were meant to invoke sunlight in order to ensure the countryside growth and fertility.

What is so impressive about the “Night of Illumination” that shines down from the mountains to the valley is the result of long preparation. One who has indulged in this custom for years is the experienced mountaineer Klaus Wagenbichler: “The fuel the fire is made of is candle stubs that we collect throughout the year. They are mixed with wood chips and have to be taken up the mountain. Some firepits are situated in extreme alpine terrain and approach to them with heavy packs takes hours.”

The centrepiece is the ca. 100 m-wide and 180 m-tall Edelweiß that, together with over 800 points of light, is lit in the snow pits between Persailhorn, Mitterhorn and Breithorn by the Saalfelden fire brigade. How the men manage to spot the shape of the Edelweiß just right year in and year out remains a secret. Wagenbichler says with a wink: “It’s art pure and simple! To be able to recognise the shape of the Edelweiß as an Edelweiß from the valley takes experience and a lot of intuition.”

The “Alpine Flower” burns until 10 pm. It is often well after midnight until the last flames die out and the Keepers of the Custom begin their descent into the valley or to the nearest hut. The walk back in the dark requires sufficient knowledge of the area. As with any tour, especially at night, there is always the danger of getting hurt. The local volunteer fire brigades, the Alpine Club, the Friends of Nature, and many other volunteers take their risks on the mountain year after year. At the celebration on the Saalfeldner Ritzensee, hundreds flock to admire the impressive result of mountaineering exploits. In midsummer the Asitzbahn in Leogang opens its doors even at night, taking eager onlookers up the mountain and thus offering an impressive view of the surrounding “Mountains Ablaze”