Year of birth: 1987
Lives in: Allgäu, Germany
Occupation: Mountain Farmer
Shoe size: UK 8
“I was almost never in the valley during the summer,” explains Georg Rädler. Now 34, he spent his first full summer up at his mountain hut near Bad Hindelang, Bavaria, at the age of just seven. “I had a glorious childhood.” He reminisces, his brown eyes gazing down at the rustic wooden table. “I don’t think it could have been any better.” Since then, he’s spent his summers up at the Alpine hut every year. While many might dream of summers spent on mountain pastures, living in a hut and taking time out, but never realising the reality of that dream, for Georg that dream is very real. But listening to him describe his life up there, it’s anything but a holiday in the mountains. There’s not much time for romance or dreams when your day starts at 5am. He gathers in the two milking cows and milks them, feeds the calves, and after a quick breakfast goes out to drive the rest of the cows – almost 50 head of rearing cattle – up to the alpine pastures.
Next, comes Georg’s ‘wellness inspection’ for each of them: General physical inspection, checking hooves and a bit of a back rub for each of his beloved friends. “Checking the stock” says Georg, in a thick regional accent. To finish off, he moves the fencing to accommodate the grazing over the coming days. And then there’s some weeding to be done, shrubs to be cut back and rocks and tree damage from avalanches to clear. In the evening, before the sun sets, Georg drives his cattle back from the steeper slopes to the pastures surrounding his Alpine hut. Then, work’s finally finished – in summer that’s at about 10pm. “You get up at first light and head to bed pretty much as the sun goes down.” During that period, he has usually covered around 15 kilometres on foot with 2,000 metres of ascent – a bit more than your average hike in the Alps.
What modern amenities does he have in his mountain hut? “A radio,” says Georg, and laughs. “As of last year, one of the three huts even has a toilet now and a shower.” Cooking now takes place on a two-ring gas stove – before it was over an open fire. Water comes from a spring in front of the hut. Does he feel deprived? “No. Not at all. It’s more like the magic of a simple life.” It’s the way he grew up. As a young herder Georg spent all his time at this hut, and in 2008 he finally leased it for himself. In 2013 he took over from his father the running of the farm down in the valley in Bad Hindelang, which has been in his family for 11 generations.
Does he not get lonely sometimes? “No. I actually enjoy the solitude. It’s really good if you’re forced to spend some time with yourself sometimes.” Often his girlfriend, other young herders or helpers spend time up at the mountain hut too. “And I’ve got the cows too – so I’m never really alone.” And what about any free time away from alpine farming? He meets up with friends or his two brothers to go mountaineering or climbing “as often as I can.” Or they play traditional music and sing.
Watching Georg work, seeing the dedication with which he looks after the Alpine pasture, the grazing, the pathways and his animals, you realise that this is much more than just a job to him. His home area and family are very important to him. And the mountains? “They represent habitat for me,” he says, “in every way.” Mountain farmers like him also tend the land after all. “It’s about maintaining the cultural landscape in the mountains that people have painstakingly nurtured. And using fair means to do so.” Grazing the alpine pastures pushes back long, dominant grasses, allowing more wild alpine flowers to flourish. It’s crucial for biodiversity. If the alpine dairy no longer existed, the landscape would quickly be reclaimed by the mountain trees and shrubs – and the beauty of these alpine pastures would fade. Georg Rädler chose this life and it’s evident enjoys every minute in this natural paradise. “To live in tune with the seasons, and feel the power of nature, I find it fascinating,” he explains with eyes lit up. “And being able to do that with a backdrop like this?”
The best bit about going away is coming back home. I went to western Canada once, ski touring and ice climbing. That was pretty amazing. And Italy, for example – South Tyrol – and I’ve been to France a few times too. But witnessing the cattle coming to the high pastures for the first time in summer and seeing them enjoy the freedom up here is simply beyond words.
Yes. Mountaineering, climbing, ski touring. And I’m part of the traditional Plattler music and dance group in the village. I’m also a volunteer fireman and I play in the brass band.
Kässpatz‘n (cheese spaetzle or noodles) and a beer.
Definitely. It’s actually more of a vocation than a job.
I’d like to control the whole dairy production process, from beginning to end.