Tourist Falls 300 Feet From an Popular Influencer Destination

By: Carissa | Last updated: Sep 29, 2023

The Dachstein Mountains are a breathtaking mountain range in Austria. Located in the Northern Limestone Alps, the Dachstein Mountains have become a popular tourist spot for skiing, hiking, or simply taking an Instagram-worthy snapshot.

Ascending the “Stairway to Heaven” is a popular, yet audacious activity that many thrill-seekers partake in when visiting the Dachstein Mountains. Bold adventurers can climb a ladder bridge that hangs from hundreds of feet in the air. While this pursuit makes an incredible story to tell, it can also have treacherous consequences. A British man recently plummeted 300 feet to his death while attempting to scale the Austrian mountain’s ladder to the sky.

The “Stairway to Heaven” Is a Tourist Attraction

A passionate climber named Malcolm McDonald unfortunately succumbed to the dangers of climbing to extreme heights. According to his family, the 42-year-old was “living his dream” while scaling the well-known “Stairway to Heaven” ladder in the Dachstein Mountains.


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The stairway to heaven attraction sits 300 feet in the air and is part of the Via ferrata Donnerkogel. McDonald, a retail manager, traveled to the mountain range near Salzburg in order to take on the infamous metal ladder that hangs between two mountain peaks.

The Climber Plummeted From 300 Feet in the Air

The Stairway to Heaven spans more than 130 feet and it sits 300 feet in the air.


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McDonald, a native of Northern Ireland, was venturing on a solo climb on September 12 when the unthinkable happened. After experiencing trouble during his ascent, McDonald fell hundreds of feet to a valley beneath the hanging ladder. Emergency services including two helicopter crews came rushing to the scene, but their valiant efforts weren’t enough to save him.

The Fall Was an Unfortunate Accident

After an investigation, the climber’s fall was determined to be an accident and any third-party negligence was ruled out. His body was recovered from the scene after the terrifying fall.


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McDonald’s family is understandably devastated by the untimely loss and they described him as “kind and caring.” The climber’s sister, Alison McDonald, spoke on the family’s behalf to address the accident that claimed her brother’s life. “We as a family are heartbroken by Malcolm’s death as the result of a tragic accident,” she said.

The Tributes to McDonald Poured In

As McDonald’s sister continued to pay tribute to him, she revealed that he had been living his life to the fullest until his unexpected passing. “We are comforted by the fact that he was living his dream in the mountains and had completed the Spartan Trifecta two days earlier,” she said.


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Malcom McDonald’s mountaineering group also paid their respects to their fallen friend in an emotional tribute. “It is with great sadness for all of us this morning to learn of the passing of our esteemed member, Malcolm McDonald,” the group wrote in a statement. They described the man as “always up for a challenge” and explained how he “spent his last moments doing something he loved.”

McDonald Was One of Many Daring Climbers to Explore the Dachstein Mountains

Malcolm McDonald had just finished participating in the Spartan Trifecta adventure race before setting his sights on his next big adventure. He decided to take on the famous Stairway to Heaven, but it would ultimately be his final thrill-seeking excursion.

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According to the promotional website for the Dachstein Mountains, “The via Ferrata on the Donnerkogel at the Zwieselalm in Gosau at Dachstein presents amazing and breathtaking views of the glacier of the Dachstein, as well as of the highest mountain of Austria.” Further details were also provided about Stairway to Heaven, adding that it was “built by Outdoor Leadership with their professional climber Heli Putz.”


The Stairway to Heaven Is a Thrill Seeker’s Ultimate Destination

The Dachstein Mountains’ Stairway to Heaven is a challenge offered to the most extreme thrill seekers.

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The Stairway to Heaven is touted as a “new top attraction on the Zwieselalm for climbing enthusiasts,” on the Dachstein tourist website. While embarking on the climb is an obvious risk, many are willing to take their chances for the thrill of a lifetime. The travel destination’s website also describes the journey as “the ultimate adrenaline kick.”


Climbing the Stairway to Heaven Is a Social Media Trend

A spokesperson for Austria’s Foreign Office confirmed the grim situation regarding McDonald’s climb saying, “We are supporting the family of a British national who died in Austria and are in contact with the local authorities.”

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Despite its dangers, climbing Austria’s Stairway to Heaven is a hot trend on social media. A simple search for the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ brings up thousands of videos with millions of views. Risk-takers aim to defy death while creating thrilling content for their followers.


Too Many Tourists Are Traveling to the Dachstein Mountains

The perilous climb has a moderate/difficult rating and is said to be “not ideal for beginners.” The increase in the number of tourists has frustrated locals of the Austrian village of Hallstatt, who have complained that too many people have ventured to the area on their quest to climb the Stairway to Heaven.

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The small hamlet consists of only 750 permanent residents but according to Mayor Alexander Scheutz, the area gets more than 7,000 visitors daily. Overzealous tourists are eager to take selfies by Lake Hallstatt and the Dachstein Mountains, much to the chagrin of locals.


The Social Media Buzz Is Posing Problems for Residents of the Area

Mayor Scheutz approved placing wooden “privacy screens” in certain areas of the mountains in order to obstruct the stunning views. The best way to deter people from sight-seeing is to block their line of vision altogether.

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Though the wooden fences are unsightly, they are only temporary according to the mayor. “It was just a tryout,” said Scheutz in a statement. “We discussed it in the municipal council. But the plan has now been discarded, there will be no such privacy screen in Hallstatt,” he said.


This Tragedy Serves as a Warning to Other Ambitious Climbers

While climbers attempting to ascend the Stairway to Heaven are encouraged to wear a protective harness, it is believed that McDonald did not take proper safety precautions during his climb.

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As a result, a tragic freefall ensued resulting in his demise. Though he was an experienced climber, accidents do happen when performing such risky tasks. It is believed that McDonald slipped and lost his balance.


Social Media Has Mixed Reactions to Videos of Climbers on the Stairway to Heaven

The Stairway to Heaven is undeniably a striking sight to see, and while videos of climbers have garnered millions of views, they’ve also received mixed reactions.

Source: viralsnare/TikTok

On one video of a woman ascending the infamous ladder, a person commented, “Half of me is like, ‘I’d love to do this!!!’ The other half of me is crying uncontrollably, shaking my head, and muttering ‘nope’ repeatedly.” Another commenter remarked how dangerous the climb was, saying, “One wrong step and you’ll be seeing the real stairway to Heaven.”