The Daumen Group of the Allgäu Alps is probably the best known and most frequented subgroups of the whole range. Easily accessible from three sides (though with long approaches on two of them) the ridge between Breitenberg and Rubihorn is part of any Allgäu tour program. Main culprit is the three stage cable car from Oberstdorf to Nebelhorn which makes the latter summit as crowded as Zugspitze on a fine summer day. But Nebel stands for fog and sure enough I have often seen the ridge shrouded in clouds. To the west there are only low hills and mountains, the Allgäu Prealps, and since most of central and northern Europe is located in the west wind zone wet clouds tend to condense on the first high ridges they encounter.
Despite the crowds around Nebelhorn the Daumen Group offers good hiking and climbing possibilities. Mainly the ridge between Nebelhorn and Großer Daumen across Westlicher and Östlicher Wengenkopf is traversed by a difficult ferrata, Hindelanger Klettersteig with everything the ferratisti enjoy: vertical climbs onto exposed towers, long ladders, high hanging bridges. The Klettersteig is a 4h affair but obviously very crowded since it starts at the cable car station on Nebelhorn.
Großer Daumen - and it is time to finally mention the mountain featured on this page - is the highest summit of its group. Like all the other mountains of the group it is composed of "Hauptdolomit", main dolomite, a rock variety very similar to the one you find in the Dolomites (that would be "Schlerndolomit"),. However it is light grey and lacks the red inlays you find in the Dolomites and tends to be more brittle. To cut it short it's a rock type between limestone and proper dolomite.
Großer Daumen is a typical summit for the Allgäu Alps. There is an impressive north-west face which drops at 75° angle into the Retterschwang Valley below. To its southern side however it rises more or less smoothly out of the Koblat plain. There are several ascent routes which all combine in the two cols west and east of the summit. From there the ascent is not difficult but far from a simple stroll. Close to the summit the trail gets narrow and exposed and I remember having to overcome my vertigo (which I had back in 1994) to reach the summit cross. I'm not sure how I would rate this section today.
More popular than the summit are the lakes to its south. There are three - Koblatsee, Laufbichlsee and Engeratsgrundsee. With their easy access route along the Koblat plateau they are favourites of the picnicking crowd. In winter Großer Daumen is a popular ski tour destination. Ascents usually start from the second cable car station of Nebelhorn or from Giebelhaus (see Getting There).
Getting ThereTrailheads for Großer Daumen are Oberstdorf and Hindelang - Hinterstein. You can reach them from the closest international airports at Munich and Stuttgart:
Both cities are connected by motorway A8 (notorious for traffic jams). Almost in the middle between the cities at Ulm there is a motorway intersection (Kreuz Ulm) with A7, which you need to drive in southerly direction. At Kempten take A980 west, which ends after a couple of miles/kms where you have to switch to B19 south. The road takes you Sonthofen where the approaches for the trailheads split. For Oberstdorf just go straight on to the end of the valley. For Bad Hindelang and Hinterstein switch to B308 east. Shortly before you reach Bad Hindelang a southern valley opens. Follow the side road which leads into it. From Hinterstein a bus can take you all the way to Giebelhaus, a alm / restaurant located directly beneath the Daumen summit to its south-east. A little up-slope you find Schwarzenberghütte which you can use for overnight accommodation. Giebelhaus is closed at nights (thanks to Mathias Zehring for the info).
Both Sonthofen and Oberstdorf can also be reached by train. See here for the train connections.
Red TapeThe whole Daumen Group is part of the natural preserve "Naturschutzgebiet Allgäuer Hochalpen". The usual rules apply - don't disturb wild animals, don't collect any plants, stay on the marked trails. Dogs should be kept on leash. These rules seem to be rather outdated when you see the brouhaha around the Nebelhorn cable-car stations. But remember, that parts of the group still are remote and can be solitary.
You have to take into account parking fees at the trailheads. Allgäu is a touristically very developed region.
When To ClimbGroßer Daumen can be climbed all year round. Hiking season is June though late September. In winter the summit is a very popular ski tour destination.
CampingYou can choose between campgrounds, farm holidays, vacation homes and hotel rooms on most of the sites of the Allgäu villages. Here's a selection:
Mountain ConditionsAll of the towns and villages of Allgäu have their web sites, most of them with weather information and live cams. Here is a selection
Maps & BooksMaps
- Allgäuer Alpen / Kleinwalsertal
Kompass Map WK 3
- Alpenvereinskarten : Allgäu-West
- Allgäuer Alpen und Ammergauer Alpen Alpin
- Allgäu 1 - Oberallgäu und Kleinwalsertal