ForewordI haven’t been to glacier-covered mountains since the birth of my daughter. I watched the distant peaks of Hohe Tauern with desire from the Julian Alps whenever I was there and finally decided to visit them as soon as possible.
This „as soon as possible” came in the late June of 2007. I managed to collect a team, consisting of Peti, a student of mine, two friends, Steve and Heni and of course myself. I was watching the webcams of Hochalmspitze for weeks then and saw that the conditions are ideal in spite of the early date.
We wanted to climb the „Queen of Hohe Tauern” on the Detmolder Grat from Gießener Hütte, and to make a round-trip in the neighbouring Reisseck group.
1st day: Budapest – Türkensturz – Gießener Hütte
We departed from Budapest at 5:00 AM, and drove till the first mountains in Austria. As two members of our team was new to the via ferrata technique, we stopped at Gleissenfeld, and introduced them to the cables of the Türkensturz Klettersteig. It is a short, but hard ferrata with difficulty of C/D which is higher than the secured parts on Detmolder Grat, so I thought that if they manage to climb this route, there can’t be any technical problem on the other.
I can offer this short tour to anyone driving near Neunkirchen as it is only ten minutes from the freeway so it can be a sort of pause during a long journey.
Unfortunately I left my camera in the car, so I have only one picture, made after the tour from below.
After this leg-stretching exercise we continued our journey, along the valley of Mur and through the pass of Katschberg (this pass was a big challenge to my 1000ccm car with four adults and all their luggage in it, but finally we managed it). We had really nice weather all day, until we reached our destination, the parking place in the valley Gössgraben. It was around 4:00PM because we had a lot of stops on the way there, taking photographs, visiting toilets and so on.
The way to Gießener Hütte was easy but not too interesting. There is a good 4WD track winding to the house. The marked path follows this track, somewhere shortcutting the curves. The weather which was very promising before the evening, started to change, and by the time we reached the winter shelter of the house (as the hut itself opened a week later only), the sky was totally cloudy and which is worse, the level of clouds was far below 3000 meters.
We settled in the winter shelter, and looked around the hut. I tried to find a place with sufficient mobile network and finally found it on a ridge nearby. Later we named the spot „Telefonspitze” after its purpose. We ate something and went to bed wishing the weather turns nice again.
2nd day: The first attempt
Next morning I wanted to wake up the others at 5:00AM, but when I saw the rain and fog outside, I let them sleep an hour more. Our mood was just like the air outside. Anyway, we packed our rucksacks, had breakfast, and finally the rain lightened a little.
We started to walk in the fog. The rain sometimes stopped, later started again to fall. When we reached the Lassacher Winkelscharte at 2862m, we saw there is no sense of going any further. The peak was in clouds, and I was sure that the rain was turning to snow in the higher regions. Steve and Heni turned back to the hut, while Peti and I decided to turn to southwest and climb the small (it is relative as its elevation is 3016m) peak of Schneewinkelspitze as Peti had never been to a "Dreitausender".
We walked along the rugged ridge and the whole landscape was mystic and unfriendly. Sometimes the fog lifted and we glanced down to the abyss on the northern side of the ridge, later the fog came back and there was a risk of losing each other if we keep a distance bigger than ten meters. Finally we reached the peak, but the only evidence of it was our GPS device and the small box with the summit log on a stone. Otherwise we could have been anywhere in the planet from what we saw in the fog.
We got back to the winter shelter in the afternoon but soon we were invited to the hut itself as its maintainers came up to arrange everything for the opening one week later. We had a strange but good soup made of sausages and a few ottles of beer. Later they wished us good luck to the next day and drive back to the village.
3rd day: The second attempt
Next morning there was a change in the weather: the temperature sinked a little, so the rain turned to snow. Steve and Heni decided to stay at the hut but Peti an I started again. This time we took the other route, going to the eastern ridge of Hochalmspitze. The higher we went, the deeper the fresh snow was. At the end it was very hard to find the markings of the path, we often went off-route, and finally at the altitude of 2700 meters decided to return again. But the way back wasn’t so easy as our footsteps were covered with the fresh snow, and the fog became dense again.
We had some lunch at the hut and everybody had different plans to spend the remaining time of the day. I packed some sandwiches and my camera and decided to go towards the pass of Kaponigtörl and take a glance into the Reisseck group. The path was easy, it went almost at the same altitude for a while, and later started to ascend. The only trouble was the final part before Kaponigtörl, where there wasn’t any real path, just a series of marks through a landscape of big rock blocks. The surface of the rocks was covered by wet snow and it made them very slippery. Finally I reached the pass. My original plan was to go to the Kaponig bivouac, to see if it is suitable for overnighting on a next trip to the area. The bivouac was somewhere beyond the pass, but the other side was the same: the endless field of slippery blocks. I didn’t want to risk of breaking my leg alone on the mountain so I turned back.
The weather started to get better and sometimes I glanced the surrounding giant peaks between the clouds. Finally I got back to the hut.
4th day: The Fallbach Klettersteig
Next morning almost everybody was dumpy. They felt that they came here in vain. What’s more, the weather finally turned really nice, but we had to go back home. We took a few photos and started to descend. Shortly we got back to the car, and decided to visit the Fallbach Klettersteig to have some fun there before driving home.
We drive out of Gössgraben and parked below the waterfall of Fallbach. After paying the entry fee (it was 2,5 EUR and the tickets were valid till the end of the year), we crossed a stream on a slippery tree-trunk called bridge and started to climb. Steve and Heni later turned back, as this ferrata was too extreme for them, but Peti and I enjoyed it really.
After the ferrata we got into the car and drove back home with the wish of a better chance next time.