1. History of the Kaunerberger Wasserweg
Although the south oriented slopes in the villages Kauns and Kaunerberg are fertile, the local population suffered over decades from crop failure because of water shortage as this area belongs to the few with the lowest amount of rainfall in Austria (rainfall less then 600 mm/year). This resulted in closing of farms accompanied by massive migration of locals in the first half of the 20th century.
After the Second World War it was decided to build a 12 kilometer long irrigation system fetching water from the “Gallrutt Gletscher” (Gallrutt glacier) and leading this water via a channel and two tunnels along the mountain slope towards the village Kaunerberg. This water could then be used to irrigate the fields, orchards and gardens.
The required capital was funded by the Marshall Plan (officially named the European Recovery Program – ERP), an initiative of the United States after the Second World War to help rebuild the Western Europe economy. The “Kaunerberger Wasserweg” is the only project within the Alps realized with funds from the Marshall Plan.
Building the irrigation system took place from 1947 to 1954 and was at that time an engineering masterpiece. It created opportunities for the local people to generate an income after the war. Since then the “Kaunerberger Wasserweg” assured the irrigation of the fields and orchards of the Kaunerberg and Kauns villages for over 50 years.
The water flows through two tunnels in the rock, open and covered gullies (made from quarry stones) and basins downwards. Along the channel the water is mainly being distributed via sprinkler systems.
This irrigation system is nowadays called the “Kaunerberger Wasserweg” (Kaunerberger waterway). Other name still used is the “Kaunerberger Hangkanal” (Kaunerberger hanging channel). The map below shows the route of the “Kaunerberger Wasserweg”, including nearby mountain cabins and the beginning and the end of one of the tunnels; the “Gallrutt stollen” (Gallrutt tunnel).
2. The Gallrutt tunnel
The longest tunnel of the “Kaunerberger Wasserweg” is the Gallrutt tunnel with a length of 995 meter, which was built in 1950 to overcome a mountain peak.
The width of the Gallrutt tunnel is roughly 2 meter and the height about 1.8 meter. It is allowed (own responsibility) to walk through this tunnel when it is not closed, which mainly happens in spring when the snow is melting. The tunnel is also used to carry food and drinks to the Gallrutt alm, as there is no road going to this hut.
Today, the slope channel is the most important part of the “Kaunerberger Wasserweg” and is one of the main attractions of the Kaunergrat nature park.
2. The hiking trail
The hiking trail starts at at the Falkaunsalm, which can be reached by car. Nearby the Falkaunsalm a trail following the “Kaunerberger Wasserweg” is picked up. This trail is followed till the entrance of the Gallrutt tunnel, which we pass (if not locked). From the other side of the tunnel we walk to the Gallruttalm. From there we walk back to the Falkaunsalm via the Dr. Angerer high level path.
2.1 Starting point
Drive by car from Wenns (Pitztall valey) via Piller to Kauns. From there drive into the Kaunertal valley towards the village Kaltenbrunn. From there drive upwards to the Falkauns alm.
Parking is possible nearby the trail towards the Gallrutt stollen or little bit further at the Falkaunsalm.
How to get there by public transport?
2.2 The Kaunerberger Wasserweg trail
The hiking trail starts at a path from the Falkaunsalm straight down to the woods below it. After some 200 meter descend a path is crossed which follows the “Kaunerberger Wasserweg” towards the Gallrutt tunnel.
2.3 The Gallrutt tunnel
It is possible to walk through the almost 1000 meter long Gallrutt tunnel if it is not locked, which may happen in spring during snow-melt or in dry summers if water is required for irrigation. To pass the tunnel pocket lamps are required and water-proof shoes are recommended. Instead of electric lights torches are really atmospheric, but you should bring them by yourself as the box at the tunnel very likely will not contain torches as can be seen in the photos below from summer 2014.
The height is about 1.8 meter so that most people can walk upright or slightly ducked. Be aware that the height fluctuates now and then! Halfway the tunnel there is a small side tunnel providing a great view to the Kaunertal.
- There is no light in the tunnel; bring your own light or get them at the Naturparkhaus.
- Wear solid footwear as the tunnel bottom is not completely smooth.
- Claustrophobic persons should not pass the irrigation tunnel.
- In dry periods when water is required for irrigation or in spring with a lot of melting water the tunnel is closed, do not try to enter it! Information with respect to closure of the tunnel can be requested from the Naturparkhaus.
2.4 The Gallruttalm
Die Gallruttalm (1.980 m) können Sie nur zu Fuß durch den Gallruthstollen oder über die Falkaunsalm erreichen.
2.5 Back to the Falkaunsalm
From there we walk back to the Falkaunsalm via the “Dr. Angerer Panoramaweg”.
2.6 Turn-by-turn directions
Describe how to get at the start of the trail. Include photos if required
For people used to heights it takes x-y hours to reach the destination. For others it will take zz minutes more. When enjoying the scenery more relaxed, taking photos etc. it will take around xx hours. Going down to the village yy goes much faster; around xx hours including zz minutes break for people not used to heights.
3. Recommended maps for this region:
Pitztal/Kaunertal – Mayr Verlag Ötztaler Alpen – Kompass Wanderkarte Blatt 43