Watzmannhaus to Wimbachgriesshütte: via the Hocheck (2651m)

We woke up happily to lovely blue skies and the five of us set out at 7:20am for the Hocheck summit. We knew there would be a few snowdrifts on the way but nothing to worry about.

IMG_7680

The first half was probably the steepest, except for the final approach to the summit, and there was only one section with fixed ropes.

Sadly a mist was starting to settle in on the mountain as we climbed, but it turned out to be sensational with the views floating in and out and the challenge of working out our approach.

Jonas, Tim, Andreas and Guido were really good company and I was having such a good time.

Luck was on our side and the sun came out when we reached the summit.

At the top we were amused by 2 younger blokes who’d carried a football up and were taking hilarious photos from the summit. They’d overtaken us on the ascent but it turned out that this was their first bushwalk – impressive! We were surrounded by snow and could see a little across to the Mittelspitze (2713m). The approach looked hairy so I was glad this was as far as we were going today (the route over the top of the Watzmann is a Via Ferrata and was still closed because of snow).

IMG_7717
Mittelspitze in the background

We descended back to the hut where I annihilated a plate of tasty Kaiserschmarrn and we picked up the rest of our gear that we had left behind.

 

Guido and Andreas headed on to the Kührohnhütte and Jonas, Tim and I headed for the Wimbachgriesshütte. It was now around 1pm and we had already done 700m of ascent and descent and now had over 1300m of descent before a 700m ascent to the Wimbachgriess hut. Tim and Jonas both had really heavy kits (they had all their via ferrata gear) and the descent really got to all our knees – but especially to Tim’s. We got caught in a big downpour and heard a lot of thunder but thankfully didn’t get hailed or properly stormed on. Sadly at the bottom Jonas and Tim needed to get some cash out and wanted to take a break and assess how Tim’s knee was doing. I carried on alone knowing it was most likely that they’d have to call it a day.

More wide, boring path followed but I enjoyed looking down over the Wimbach canyon and soon hit the section where you walk on top of the river flowing underground. This section really, really reminded me of walking in NZ last year.

IMG_7756

At the Wimbachschloss Hut I found the football throwing duo. They were hiding out from the rain – who could blame them! We then teamed up and chowed down the final 4km and 400m of ascent.

Arriving at the hut I surprised Marco and Peter who I’d met at the Wasseralm three nights prior. My reward to myself for the day was a large hot chocolate with rum. They definitely had not gone light on the rum :) Another schnitzel for dinner (it was huuuuuge) and we were all ready for bed. What an absolutely sensational day.

Advertisements

Stahlhaus to Watzmannhaus via the Königssee Parkplatz (603m)

IMG_7635
Stahlhaus (Hohes Brett in the background)

Up early, to descend 1300 vertical metres to the carpark to collect my belongings before Frode headed off for his running retreat he hadn’t told me about beforehand, two of the people I’d met the night before kindly offered me suggestions for walks I could do over the remainder of the week. They also gave me their number and offered to assist me in anyway possible, including giving me a lift should I descend on Thursday as they were intending. Their generosity really lifted my spirits and proved once again that there are some really lovely people out there.

IMG_7632
View from the Stahlhaus
IMG_7633
View of the Watzmann (right) from the Stahlhaus

We set out at 7am and took a very boring tourist path down to the carpark. The view of the Königssee with a mist suspended above it was a highlight but the rest was rather boring.

IMG_7638
View of where I would sleep tonight (but I didn’t know it yet)

Once at the bottom I rang around a few huts to get an update on availability (sadly Blaueishütte was booked out) and then hit the supermarket to resupply. I bought a schweinshaxe from the deli section and a carton of ayran and annihilated these in the carpark. Then I locked my belongings up in the ski lockers at the Jennerbahn and was off. It was almost midday and I made a quick detour down the tourist strip of the Königssee to eat a scoop of ice cream (mango) before I faced the mountain before me – a 1400m climb in 25 degree heat.

IMG_7642
Back at the Königssee once more

The first section involved walking up next to the winter bobsled and toboggan run. There was no shade and it wasn’t particularly interesting. I was pretty emotional about the fact that Frode had offered me none of my money back and angry at myself for trusting yet another person. So much so that I was having trouble getting up the bloody mountain. I hit the forest path finally and found myself unconsciously stopping about every 10 minutes. I was just not in the right frame of mind for bushwalking.

IMG_7644
Toboggan and bobsled run

When I got to the intersection with the creek I just sat down and stared at my feet for ages. Eventually I got myself back together – I was in a beautiful spot and should be making the most of it. Eventually I continued up the hill. It was a rather wide forest path at a steep angle that meandered its way up for a few hours.

And then I got my bushwalking mojo back. I didn’t bother stopping at the Kuühroinhütte – I’m not a European after all ;) The vistas were stunning, the single track was refreshing and the ascent up the Falzsteig was good fun.

 

I overtook a number of people in the last 500m of ascent and was at the hut in 3h40m, including all the breaks I’d taken. I scored a good bed in the hut and then ‘retired’ to the terrace for a wheat beer and slice of cake. It tasted sooo good. It was warm and sunny outside with great views of the start of the Hocheck ascent, Watzmann Kinder (Watzmann children – 3 smaller peaks) and surrounds – including across to where I’d slept last night.

 

I wasn’t alone for long – everyone started talking to me and I was invited to sit at one of the other tables to explore my topo together. Funnily enough, everyone else on the terrace (10 or so people) coincidentally came from within a 20km radius of Köln (Cologne) in northern Germany (they were all in groups of 2-3 people too).


I ended up staying out there until about 8:30pm chatting to the guys. A few groups had done the Via Ferrata up the Grünstein. They asked if I’d been up there too since it wasn’t a large detour to tick it off as a bushwalker and the views from there were really good. Geez, I hadn’t even noticed it! I hadn’t taken my map out all day during the walk up – I really must have been in a bad head space.

Almost everyone at our table had a schnitzel (yum) for dinner. Five of us made a plan to walk up the Hocheck (2651m) early the next morning before carrying on with our day plans. I was yet to decide between the Blaueishütte and the Wimbachgriesshütte. Just after 9pm we all met on the terrace once more for a schnapps to toast the sunset (thanks Andreas).

I decided I wasn’t quite ready for bed yet after all so I stayed up chatting to the bartender. He’d studied geography and told me all about the geographical qualities of the route to the Wimbachgriesshütte so I locked it into my plan.

 

Wasseralm to Stahlhaus: over Schneibstein (2276m) and Hohes Brett (2238m)

IMG_7493

We woke up to blue skies, to everyone’s relief. Breakfast was quite something: tasty muesli, fresh fruit (including strawberries) and yoghurt. How am I ever going to go back to “uncivilised” hiking in Australia?

After saying goodbye to all the nice people at the hut it was just Frode and I again; heading first east and then north. I didn’t feel very comfortable walking with him anymore but I made sure to not let it show. I needed to get my stuff back.

Our first milestone was the Hochgschirr saddle at 1949 m. On the way we saw some deer and some people that we crossed mentioned they’d seen ibex but we didn’t see any ourselves.

IMG_7517

We were walking through snow well before we hit the saddle, and would continue to do so for hours, until the final descent to the Stahlhaus – where we intended to sleep that night.

IMG_7518
Marmots again! (Bottom right)
IMG_7526
Hochgschirr saddle (1949m)

The vistas were magical, especially the Seeleinsee with ice still on it. What a treat.

IMG_7543
Seeleinsee

It was surprising the number of groups we crossed who asked us if there was a hut on the way to the Wasseralm for beer and lunch. Had all these people seriously not looked at a map??

We stopped below the Windschartenkopf summit for lunch. I was now watching the clouds forming in the south like a hawk. I didn’t want to be caught up here in a white out like the groups the day before. Sometimes it was hard enough to see where to go through the snow even though we had full visibility.

On top of the Schneibstein I was delighted by the view before me of the Steinernes Meer. Gosh, I’ll have to come back here when there’s less snow and the alpine traverses are open!

IMG_7584

We descended the 500 vertical metres to the Stahlhaus. This was my least favourite part of the day. The rocks were well worn and hence quite slippery and there was mud in between them from all the melted snow. High concentration was needed and the steep descent was really getting on my knees.

IMG_7591
This Aussie will never tire of border crossings! German-Austrian border. Hohes Brett in the back ground. Stahlhaus (hut) at saddle to the left and below (not visible).

We hit the hut at 3pm or so and checked in. I noticed that the clouds off the Hohes Brett had lifted – a mountain that I longed to climb! Who wouldn’t want to stand on top of something called the High Breadboard? I was experienced enough to know a storm would come, but I was certain it was still an hour or two off. I took my chances since I could turn around at any point and started ascending the other side of the Stahlhaus towards my goal (500 vertical metres above me ). I was on my own so upped the tempo to the max.

IMG_7593
A view across to the Schneibstein

I could hear the odd storm grumble to the east and I was still watching the clouds from the south coming in. I took note of the path I was walking on and promised myself to turn around at any point where the path could not easily be traversed in the opposite direction if it was raining or storming. Thankfully I never encountered such patches. I was making excellent progress (the sign at the bottom claimed it was 2 h to the top – but I was convinced it was only half this since I’d seen the route from the Schneibstein before arriving at the hut earlier on). I noticed there was another guy coming up behind me, whom I had briefly met at the bottom. He was clearly hesitating to ascend and I hoped he wasn’t ascending simply because I was, but that he had sufficient experience as well.

I made it to the peak in under an hour and the view was amazing. Huzzah. And here I was standing above Mt Kosci once more today ;) A few quick pics and a moment to appreciate Mt Göll and then it was time to descend again.

IMG_7596
Hoher Goell from the Hohes Brett
IMG_7597
The peak is pretty flat – the breadboard name suits it

I did so at lightening speed since I could see the storm getting closer. On the way down I “picked up” the other guy who lost his confidence when I was not above him anymore. He confessed he was only up there because I was! We descended together and only got rained and hailed on (just tiny hail this time) during the last 10 minutes. Win :)

The rain and storm didn’t last long and we saw an amazing sunset. This sunset got almost everyone out of the hut, onto the terrace and exchanging words. What followed was a fun evening of playing cards together until “quiet time” descended :)

At the very end, one of the guys I’d met assisted me in asking the hut staff about places to store my belongings the next day when Frode left. Thankfully one of them knew that the cable car up to Jenner  has ski lockers available year round. I would learn the next morning that Frode had looked up a fancy place to stay in Austria with running tracks and that was where he was headed the next day. He obviously had planned not to hike with me the whole week before we’d headed into the mountains and had not shared this decision with me. I certainly learnt another valuable lesson on this trip for sure.

Kärlingerhaus (1631m) to Wasseralm (1416m)

At breakfast I heard that the Wimbachgriesshütte was also open too (I want to stay at the Watzmannhaus, which was to the west), but Frode was still keen to head east. The weather wasn’t too bad this morning (it’s all relative right). We could see the mountains with very overcast skies and the promise of rain. Not far from the hut we saw a marmot. I’ll never tire of these guys.

IMG_7457

We retraced our steps back to the junction from yesterday (about 2 hours) with a nice stop at the Grünersee (Green Lake) along the way. Frode went for a dip in it! Brrr.

IMG_7465

The next (new) leg was good, even though we were in some fog. There was the odd snow drift to negotiate and the trees coming into the hut were lovely hovering in the mist. Frode exclaimed that it wouldn’t surprise him if we met some German trolls given the setting, and I have to agree with  him. We stood on top of one of the surrounding knolls and took a photo of the view (we could see about 10 metres). We arrived at the hut around 1pm and were happy to put our shoes and things in another drying room.

Frode then told me that after the next night he would take a few days off from hiking. What the ?!?! He’d flown down from Oslo to hike with me for 8-9 days and today was only day 3 together (day 2 of our multi-day trip). Stupidly I’d already given him my share of the hire car costs for the week and I had my non-hiking belongings in the hire car, which was hired under his name. Scheiza. I was further upset by the fact that he was doing this after we went his way that morning – I could have gone in the direction I wanted to go instead but now it was too late in the day for that.

I was pretty hurt and angry and went off for a post lunch wander to try and work out what my next move  would be. I headed up the creek with views of cascades and a waterfall coming out of a cave.

IMG_7483

I stood next to this cave and under a large tree in the rain for about 40 minutes before I could get my emotions in check. I still didn’t know what to do, but I now knew what questions I would ask people I met to try and work out a plan.

IMG_7487

I then carried on walking further upstream and off track, trying to take note of which way I was walking since each direction looked almost the same. I saw deer (including 2 babies!) and just enjoyed having the whole area to myself. This area reminded me of a lot of NZ.

When I arrived back at the hut a number of other groups had arrived (oddly enough, they were all male). I ordered a slice of chocolate-cherry cake (delicious) and chatted to the guys. Everyone else had come from the other direction and some groups had had an adrenaline filled day trying to find their way through the snow in a complete white out along the high route. Their adventurous tales and general conversation turned my afternoon around and improved my mood immensely!

IMG_7489
Afternoon views from the hut

A lovely and fresh vegetable stew was served for dinner and then we all received a free dessert. The food at this hut was especially good. It looked like I was going to be the only female walker at the hut for the night; then at 7:30pm a group of 3 ladies and 1 guy showed up.

I think hardly anyone slept this night because the soccer club who shown up got completely and utterly drunk and ignored the 10pm “quiet time” hut rule.

Salet to Kärlingerhaus (1631m)

It was a late start for various reasons. We boarded the boat from Königssee at 13:30 and enjoyed a lovely, slow ride down the King’s lake.

IMG_7420

There were sunny spells at the start and the captain told us many facts over our 1 hour journey. The highlight was when the boat stopped by the Eiswinkel and one of the crew played a trumpet, which echoed down the lake.

IMG_7423

Did I mention the rain had just started after a lovely, sunny morning? Alighting at Salet at 14:30 we had 4.5 hours to make the hut by the latest arrival time. The sign told us that it would take about 5 hours and we were carrying kit for multiple days in huts. Time to get moving I guess. Thankfully it wasn’t raining at that moment.

From the ship it looked like the ascent would be straight up the cliff! (Up the Sagereckwand.)

IMG_7429
The route we thought we had to take…

Thankfully, it chose a more leisurely approach. One, which went almost straight up the cliff ;) There were fixed chains to assist with the worst parts and it took us about 2 hours to get up this first section. The views down over the lakes Königssee and Obersee were beautiful.

IMG_7433

Then the rain started coming and going and we could hear thunder rumbling around.

We came across the Grünsee, which looked amazing. It would be even better on a sunny day with a picnic. At some point the rain set in completely, but the atmosphere was still impressive with the peaks around us. When stopped in a bowl-like plateau high up I saw what looked like a deer and its very tiny offspring. What a treat.

On we walked through a few snow drifts as well. I would have loved to have taken more photos but my camera was now tucked away to keep it dry. In only 3h36mins we reached the hut. Aren’t drying rooms such a novelty :)

We had a good feed and I enjoyed standing outside to take in the Funtensee (which holds the record for the coldest temperature in Germany at -49 deg) and Viehkogel (which looks like a mini Matterhorn) and chatting to other walkers. Blue skies were a lovely backdrop after dinner and a nice change to the weather on the walk in. Now to decide where to go tomorrow :)

IMG_7446

Having learnt that the Wasseralm (hut) was indeed open we chose to head east.

Kramerspitz (1985m)

With bad weather forecasted including thunderstorms after lunch we got up early to tick off a peak before lunch and then plan some walks for the rest of the week. I chose the Kramerspitz since it has an impressive south face and I could walk there straight from the apartment. The first section was a bunch of switchbacks on a dirt road up to St Martin’s hut. Then we were on single track wondering how long until we would enter the cloud above us. We stopped when we saw a peak poking out of the clouds and used our tourist map to identify which part of the Zugspitze massif this was (it was between the Alpspitze and the Zugspitze). Then we were up in the clouds on a very steep switch back, which was a good bit of fun. On top of a knoll we looked down onto the next bit of track – a slightly exposed traverse across a gravel slope with the odd snow drift.

Happily, we had good footing all the way. This was followed up with a  small, easy scrambling section before we approached the summit from the north.

We were completely in cloud and it didn’t look like it would lift any time soon so we went up a smaller top on the left and took some photos of each of us barely visible only ~25m away.

We climbed to the top and waited for a little but in the end decided to descend down to the Stepbergalm for lunch.

If the weather improved we’d go back up again. On the way to the hut we had many glimpses of the Zugspitze and surrounding mountains, which looked just as enthralling as the clear views I’d seen of them last week. I ordered the soup of the day and was rewarded with the traditional Austrian (?) soup with savoury pancakes in it. Yum. We sat outside with front seat views fo the Zugspitze and watched a number of groups um and ah about a post-lunch climb to the summit since the rain clouds were coming in. We decided there wouldn’t be a view from the top anytime soon so descended in full goretex and rain down to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Where to tomorrow, I wonder?

IMG_7418
Kramerspitz, as seen from the bottom

Blomberg

We enjoyed a sleep in this morning before heading out for a casual 1.75 Gurtens walk up the Blomberg today. It really was just like walking up the Gurten too!

IMG_7350

A Russ’n (half wheat beer, half sprite) on top while waiting out the spitting rain. Then we walk down to the half-way station and hired a toboggan to whizz to the bottom. Woo!