National Geographic : 1961 Jul
Life dangles over an awesome gorge as an "in jured" climber rides a cable between rock towers of the Kalkkogel, often called the Dolomites of North Tirol. A member of the Austrian Alpine Rescue Team, an unpaid volunteer corps, plays the victim in this practice at the 8,000-foot level, a half mile above Senders Valley. Finger of mountain and meadow, the Austrian Tirol juts between Germany and Italy. Many of its chalets perch above panoramic gorges, and castles cling to the brinks of lofty cliffs. Gin gerbread villages rise against steep, forested slopes of the Alps. was briskly sought from Roman times for its strategic passes and in later centuries for the silver and copper in its mountains (maps, above and opposite). And so Tirol assumed an importance quite out of proportion to its size, which is a bit smaller than Connecticut. Max said that one of Tirol's greatest fans was the Habsburger Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor whom historians call the Last Knight. "Tirolers call him the Emperor Max," my friend Max said. "He watched tournaments from over there in the Gothic alcove with the gilded tiles [page 111]. He was a mountain eer, too. He got into trouble on a rock face near Zirl. One story goes that when he could move neither forward nor back nor down, an angel appeared and carried him to safety. Actually it was a gamekeeper." I told Max that he couldn't scare me, that I was impatient to go climb a mountain. So he took me around the corner to the head quarters of the Austrian Alpine Club. Generalsekretir Walter Schmidt-Wellen burg told me what to buy: Windbreaker and plastic rain cape. Wool mittens, wool socks. Rubber-soled boots with chunky cleats like a snow tire. Knickers of Loden, a wool cloth cleverly woven to let air in and keep water out, to be warm in the cold but not too hot in the sun. A rucksack. An umbrella. An umbrella? "I use one myself," said Dr. Schmidt-Wel lenburg. "It packs neatly into the rucksack.