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The Mountain Cleaners of Salzburg

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Harness, rope, helmet and mountain boots – those are the unusual working utensils of the mountain polishers in Salzburg. During the 365 days of the year a small group of brave men make sure that the citizens of the town are safe.

Working over the city’s rooftops

Above the rooftops of Salzburgs

You can spot them from afar. Day after day they hang on their harnesses on the steep walls of the local mountains Mönchs-, Kapuziner- and Festungsberg. But are they doing up there, high above the rooftops of Mozart’s hometown?

The “Bergputzer” of Salzburg have an extraordinary job and probably a rather unique vocation: They free the local mountains of loose rocks and emerging roots. They cut down trees in steep scarps as well as take care of rockfall and avalanche protection. During winter they cut back perennials and remove dangers icicles. Overall, they take care of roughly 300,000 m² rock and remove about 50-80 m² of loose rock throughout the year.

Urgent need for professionals

But why is there a need for such an occupation in the “Mozartstadt”? The answer to this lies in the immediate proximity of Salzburg to the mountains. The rock walls of Mönchs-, Kapuziner- and Festungsberg protrude from the old town. They represent a unique and spacious green space, but they pose dangers for the inhabitants and houses of the town.

Full equipment is necessary at the rock walls

In 1669 Salzburg became the victim of a catastrophic rock avalanche. Back then, massif rocks fell from the steep walls of the Mönchsberg and buried the Markuskirche, the “Seminarum Alumnorum” as well as the Lieb-Frauen-Chapel and 13 houses. The misfortune also caused the death of 230 people.

Before the accident, sporadic checks of the local mountains did take place. A document already mentioned mountain polishers for the first time in 1574. After 1669, the work was intensified. At first, the “polishing” of Salzburg’s local mountains only took place every couple of years, after another rock fall in 1778 annually and by now on 365 days every year.

Over the centuries and spontaneously set up by a brave group of citizens at the beginning, a new profession was formed: the mountain cleaners. A troop usually consists of people that rappel from the top and “clean” the rocks, two people holding the ropes to secure and lower the “cleaners” as well as two people on the ground two secure and clean the area.

Mountain cleaners at work

A roundtrip through the city? No problem!

While the people in the city stroll through the streets and alleys, the mountain polishers hang in their harnesses and ropes, yell orders at each other and thus make sure that life in Salzburg can go on as usual. Regardless of wind and weather, they protect the citizens as well as the city from harm while putting their own lives at risk – So while you are in Salzburg you should look out for them! Maybe you can spot one of them during your city walk or a mountain tour of one of the local mountains.

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Outdooractive Editors User
Alisa Wiggers
Updated: July 01, 2019

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Lena Wiesler 
July 17, 2015 · Outdooractive Editors
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