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© StefanoZardini

The Kaiserjäger path 1915-17

The Kaiserjäger path is named after the Austrian soldiers who fought against the Italians on Mt. Lagazuoi during the First World War. 
The Kaiserjäger were the 4 infantry regiments of the Austrian army.
From 1867 to 1918, during the Imperial-Royal Dual Monarchy, these military units of the Common Army of the Austria-Hungarian Empire were called k.u.k. Kaiserjäger. 
The German word “Kaiser” means emperor, “Jäger” signifies hunter.
The value of this corps from the very beginning is demonstrated by the fact that the emperor honoured it by granting the use of his name to the corps. This was the only corps of the entire Austro-Hungarian army that could boast of this honour. 

They were dispatched where particularly tough soldiers were needed.
These men, recruited mainly in Tyrol and Vorarlberg, were among the most loyal to the Habsburg Monarchy.
Contrary to widespread perception, they were not mountain troops: like the Italian light infantrymen, they had to learn first-hand to fight at high altitude.

Privatarchiv Johannes Erdmann

The Austrian defensive line in the Lagazuoi area was made up of a system of trenches dug at the Valparola pass, the so called Vonbank emplacement, whose well kept remains are still visible today at the foot of Mount Lagazuoi to the left of the valley station of the cable car.

High up, there were the emplacements of the Sasso di Stria on the one side, and on the other side those of the Lagazuoi ledge. The summit of Mt. Lagazuoi was firmly in the hands of the Kaiserjäger. 

The Kaiserjäger path was built by the Austro-Hungarian troops as a safe access from the pass to the Austrian trenches and emplacements on the summit of Mt. Lagazuoi. 
For two and a half years, the Kaiserjäger climbed the mountain on this steep path, crossing a 10-metre high and 25-metre  long suspension bridge in order to supply the troops stationed on the Lagazuoi. Every soldier in the front lines needed his own weight in food, munitions and fuel every day.  

At a short distance from the Kaiserjäger, the Alpini occupied the Martini Ledge on the south face of the Lagazuoi expanding it into a sort of fortress. All attempts made by the Kaiserjäger to displace the Italians from there failed. Not even the explosion of four Austrian mines on the ledge achieved any tactical result. 

For six months, the Italians laboriously drilled holes in the rock of the south wall of the mountain arriving at almost 40 metres below the Austrian emplacement of the pre-summit (Anticima), at 2668 metres above sea level. They blew up this tunnel with 33 tons of explosives on 20th June 1917.   
This huge explosion changed the morphology of the Lagazuoi and thus the landscape. 
In this way they succeeded in eliminating an Austrian outpost and advancing on the ridge, but even this didn’t bring about substantial results.
The soldiers had to wage a long, unbearable trench warfare until the troops were withdrawn after the defeat of Karfreit.