Going up the hill

Last time I promised that I would explain the route options of Großglockner. As you can guess there are plenty to choose from and I will try to cover what I can. The DAV brochures say that there are around 30 routes to climb Grossglockner, but in reality there only 5 or 6 really different route groups and then its mainly just variations.

The most logical starting point must the the so called accespoints ie. the places where you’ll dump your car and get your gear out. Basically there’s three possible starting points: Heiligenblut am Grossglockner, Kals am Grossglockner/Lucknerhaus and Franz-Josefs-Hoehe. Then there is also Spöttling-Tauer short drive away after Kals am Grossgclockner, but this really gives you only longer access to Stüdlhutte and is not in that sense so popular. Apparently even if you don’t have you own car to shuttle into these places, you can get some mountain action for yourself by using a Walker’s Bus service they have at the Hohe Tauern National Park.

Grossglockner area map

Map of the Grossglockner area. Lucknerhaus is just outside the area on the bottom and left below Lucknerhütte. Heiligenblut is also outside of the image on right side bottom corner.

Of these three or four options probably most popular in mountaineering vise is Lucknerhaus which is accessed via Kals am Grossglockner (there is a pay road going there). Generally the Franz-Josefs-Hoehe is the most crowded as it is the culmination of the high alpine road. From all of these most of the routes are accessible, even though some routes have a lot easier access from certain starting points. From my own perspective the most interesting place is the Lucknerhaus, as it will give best and fastest access to the routes I’m interested.

Lets start with the Heiligenblut

Grossglockner South East Routes

This the “normal” route which they used to climb it for the first time in year 1800

Here you can see perhaps the only sensible route to start from the Heiligenblut. It is the “normal” route, the same route the first persons to climb Grossglockner used over 200 years ago.  A route is often called the “normal route” if it was the first route to top the mountain and usually it is the easiest route to the top in the same, but not always. It starts at Heiligenblut (1336m) and follows up the Leitertal (Leiter Valley) to Salm Hut at 2634m. This section should take about 4-5 hours. Next it will follow the valley side up to Höhenwartkees (glacier) and through the Höhenwart gap into top of the Hofmannskees and follow Salmfield on the ridge side (the section the you can’t see in the picture) up to Erzherzog-Johann Hut at 3454m. This section should take approx. 3-3½h. Then you continue following the ridgeside until the ice turns into rock. Then you’ll hit the ridge (that means you climb onto the ridge) and start scrambling up to Kleinglockner. After that you’ll descend down to Glockner gap and then climb and scramble up to the actual summit. Here at the end are the most technical sections of the climb, but steel cables and poles are now provided as a courtesy by Austrian Alpine Club so that people would flinge less off the mountain. From Erzherzog-Johann Hut it should take 1½-2½h to the summit. This might vary widely as this should be “one of the worst traffic jams in the Alps” as inexperienced climbers bottleneck to the short scrambling descend and ascend sections at the very end of the route. Apparently the situation hasn’t improved much from 1985.

There are some alternative routes to take also. One, for example, is to start further on the Maustrasse (the High Alpine Road that goes to Franz-Josefs-Höhe) from the Heiligenblut at Glocknerhaus. From here you would climb the hill across the valley and cross the Stocker Gap to Leitertal and traverse the valley side to Salm Hut. From there you could pass the Pforts Gap to Ködnitztal and follow it up to Studl Hut, but that would not make much sense unless you plan to climb Studlgrat. Although then you would probably start from the Lucknerhaus instead.

Grossglockner South routes

The routes starting from the Lucknerhaus. On the left is the Studlgrat and in the middle is the “new” normal route via Erzherzog-Johann Hut. On the right is more direct route that forks from Luckner Hut.

Here you can see nowadays the most common routes. Ascend via these routes is shortest and fastest. From Lucknerhaus you could even do the climb in one long day if you have the fit for it.

The most common route is to start from Lucknerhaus (1918m). From here you start up the valley on the paths leading up to Studl Hut (2802m). It shouldn’t take more than three hours to get there just following a service lift cabling above. From Studl Hut the route goes over the Ködnitzkees (glacier) and you should rope up for it as it contains crevasses. Once you’ve crossed the glacier you start rocky climb up to the Kampl ridge on right. You’ll follow the ridge up over some via ferrata type sections all the way to Erzherzog-Johann Hut standing on the ridge above. It should take about 2½ to 3 hours to reach the hut. From here the route is as described earlier.

Another option to the normal route is to go up the Studlgrat. This route is UIAA grade II and III on most parts, but with a short section of IV grade, although the most difficult parts have been secured by a cable and iron footings. The route starts from Studl Hut where it ascends to the start of the Luisengrat and follows it on the western side and at the egde of the Teischitzkees (glacier). Here you’ll pass the Luisen Gap and follow the ridge up to the actual starting point on Studlgrat (see the red circle on the picture above). From here it will be all on the ridge up to the summit. The whole route takes about 5 hours to complete.

Bergsteigen.at has topos available for both the normal route and Studlgrat route available. They are in german, but graphics should be clear enough for understanding.

An alternative route option for the normal route is to take a path from Luckner Hut at 2247m (do not mix up with the Lucknerhaus which is the starting point down in the valley) on the east side of the valley. This leads up to Mürztal Track which follows the ridge on the right going along the eastern edge of the Ködnitzkees. The path will join again the normal route just before the final stretch to Erzherzog-Johann Hut.

Grossglockner North routes

Routes on the North-East face starting from the Franz-Josefs-Höhe

This used be the modern normal route, but the global warming has dwindled the conditions and route is not as safe anymore as it used to be. Rock and ice falls are a problem here now. Still, it remains climbable. To visualize the warming temperatures on the environment you can just check out how the Pasterze glacier used to look 100 years ago compared to year 2000 condition.

The common route from Franz-Josefs-Höhe starts by crossing Pasterze glacier towards Glocknerkamp. Exit the glacier to Homannsweg and follow it to the Hofmansskees glacier. Cross the glacier by first veering to south and then staight to west and up the glacier to Salmhöhe. Here follow the same route as from the Salm Hut by crossing Samlkamp to Erzherzog-Johann Hut and then via normal route to the top.

If you choose to, you can take alternative path from Homannsweg and go up the rocky Glocknerkamp ridge (also known as Meletzkigrat). This takes you directly to Erzherzog-Johann Hut or to bottom of the Kleinglockner. The route has some easy technical sections with some bolts to secure yourself.

Grossglockner North face routes

The steep techical ice routes on the North face of Grossglockner

The North face of Grossglockner has many steep mixed ice and rock routes. The Pallavicinirinne is probably the most famous ice route in these parts of the Alps.

For all the North face routes you start from Franz-Josefs-Höhe and cross the Pasterze glacier and then continue up Glocknerkees glacier. Follow Glocknerwandkamp on the North side until you reach Glockner Bivuac. This small hut is the base for all the climbs on this side of the mountain.

There you have a few options to choose from; Pallavicinirinne, Berglerrinne or Mayerlrampe being the most popular options. Pallavicinirinne about 50-55 degree of firn or plain ice. Berglrinne is 55 degree and Mayerlrampe being the steepest with 60-70 degree angle. All of these require proper ice climbing gear with axes, crampons and ice screws. So no trekking climbs here. Pallavicinirinne has also been skid down, but this is only for very good skiers and also only when the snow conditions are right.

The Pallavicinirinne and Berglerrinne are bit issued with falling rocks, especially later in the season. The Mayerlrampe is more safer in this sense, but is more difficult to climb altogether than the other two. The best time for all the North face routes is earlier in the season, around May to June, when the couloirs are still covered with snow and the mountain face fozen solid.

This concludes most popular route options on the mountain. Of course there are many other routes as well and multiple variations in addition. You could do the direct North face with 90 degree mixed climb or Südwand on the South face or you could do a full traverse on the Glocknergruppe, but these are not in any rate as popular as other routes and nothing compared to the normal route which could be thronged of people. And as with any mountain there can be routes as many as there are climbers with countless of variations.

In my own perspective the most intriguing route is Studlgrat which would be something different from the normal route and hopefully bit less crowded. Airy ridge route could be something really nice, at least the pictures from the route look great. Another possiblity could be the Südwand on the South face, but this would need more research about the nature of the route. As far as I have understood it would be 40-45 degree of mostly rock, but that probably will clarify as I get to gather more information about that.

The North face routes are undoubtedtly out-of-question for this trip. The summer is too far and the ice and rock walls have melted too much and have rendered the routes unclimbable. You don’t want any ice or rocks dropping on your head, do you? Also I think these routes could be a bit too much for me, at least I would need some guidance to “walk” me through them. Yes, it would be too much for this trip, but for the next trip anything could be possible ;)

I been thinking of buying a guide on the Grossglockner describing basically all the routes, but it will be in German. Don’t know if it matters or not, but it could provide some more insight into what to expect and find in there. If I’m lucky it will give some more information about the South face routes and perhaps about others also I haven’t yet heard of. We’ll see, but first I have to get my hands on the book.

One other thing that I will have to still figure out is what kind of gear and clothing I really need there. You would think that there would be loads of information out there – and yes there is – but then you see in the pictures people with full blown snowplay gear and next thing you see people just jogging out there like this. Figure that out. Ok… they probably aren’t there at the same time of the season or even at the same place, but still keeps you wondering how the things really are.

But that and other questions will have to wait for their answers for a later time. In the mean time I have a few pictures from the first session of the year on rock at Käärmekallio. I was with my wife there in the eve of May Day or Vappu as it is called here (thats the reason for the funny hat btw). It was my wife’s first time climbing outdoors and she did quite a nice job if you asked me.

Finally I’ll list some resources I have used and what you can use to find all this and additional information about Grossglocker

Grossglocker at:

These should get you started and just to show that I’m not just ripping all the information from others without giving anything back, I did a Google Earth kml with all the routes as accurate as I managed to do. Hope you’ll enjoy it.

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