Thrill seekers flock to the Dachstein Mountains in Austria for a chance to climb a ladder dubbed “the stairway to heaven” than spans 130 feet in the air. But the attraction, while a popular spot for Instagram photos, can also be quite dangerous. And unfortunately, a British tourist became a cautionary tale after plummeting 300 feet to his death.
The name of the ladder, which is run by run by Intersport, is actually called Via-Ferrata—or Italian for “iron path” or “iron way.” It connects the lower portion of the Donnerkogel Mountain to the Grosser Donnerkogel summit, which peaks at 6,740 feet. Typically, climbers are attached to a harness using steel cables, rungs, and pegs; so it’s unclear whether the unnamed 42-year-old was using the proper safety precautions when he fell from the end of the ladder.
Tourist climbing Austria's “stairway to heaven” dies after falling 300 feet pic.twitter.com/17jGEWdhHe
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However, the man was also alone when he fell, and investigators have ruled out third-party negligence, according to the Daily Mail. His body was later recovered at the bottom of the gully beneath the ladder after two helicopter crews and several officers from Hallein Alpine and Abtenau police failed to save him.
The Dachstein Salzkammergut tourism website notes that the Via-Ferrata can only be climbed in good weather conditions and should only be attempted by experienced climbers.
“The Via-Ferrata on the Donnerkogel at the Zwieselalm in Gosau at Dachstein presents amazing and breathtaking views on the galcier of the Dachstein, as well as on the highest mountain of Austria—the Großglockner,” the website states.
In January 2021, extreme athlete Stefanie Millinger performed a routine on the ladder in a ballet costume—at one point, holding on with just one hand without a harness in sight. But for everyone else attempting the climb, hopefully the recent tragedy will be a sobering reminder about the importance of safety.