The Wetterstein range consists of - generally spoken - three east - west running main ridges which meet and culminate in the Zugspitze summit:
The latter is the southernmost Wetterstein ridge, separated from Mieming range in the south by Gaistal valley. At Dreitorspitzen, this ridge splits up and forms the huge Leutascher Platt with its limitations Öfelekopf in the south and Musterstein and Wettersteinwand in the north.
This southernmost ridge between Reintal and Gaistal bears the highest peaks of Wetterstein range besides Zugspitze: Schneefernerkopf, Wetterspitzen and Hochwanner, which is the fourth highest summit of Wetterstein mountains.
Hochwanner is not a very prominent peak but one of the highest points of this long and huge rock ridge between Schneefernerkopf and Dreitorspitzen. The exposed, rugged and cold north side of this huge wall drops down about 1.500 meters to Reintal valley floor and hosts some of the most difficult rock routes in Wetterstein range. The northern “normal routes” are very long rock climbs with difficulties up to UIAA V+. The sunny and steep south slopes are standing about 1.500 m above Gaistal valley floor. This is the side with the normal route.
The neighbouring summits are Kleiner Wanner to the west and Hinterreintalschrofen to the east, the latter is connected via famous Teufelsgrat (devils arete) with Hochwanner. Exposed Teufelsgrat is an old famous route which requires rock climb abilities up to UIAA grade III in rather bad rock quality. This is why this route is no longer “en vogue” but was in earlier times. It is said that this route is more difficult as the wellknown Jubiläumsgrat.
Hochwanner was first summited by the famous pioneer Hermann von Barth in 1870. Today there are not many hikers going up the steep south side and even less folks choosing another route. The summit register in 2009 dated back to 1997.
Trailhead for the normal route is Salzbach parking area at the eastern beginning of Gaistal. Gaistal is an east - west running valley between Leutasch valley in the east and Ehrwald / Lermoos in the west, thus dividing Wetterstein ranges from Mieming range.
You reach Leutasch
At Leutasch Obern there are signposts to Gaistal. Follow the signposts „Gaistal“ to the toll road station. Pay your fee (until october) and follow the road to its end. There is the parking area Salzbach.
Normal Route Overview
The two normal routes start at Leutasch / Gaistal / Parkplatz Salzbach and unite at Mitterjöchl for the off trail summit ascent.
Steinernes Hüttl route
Follow the forest road from the parking area to Tillfußalm. Take the trail to Steinernes Hüttl. Follow the signposts to Rotmoosalm up to Mitterjöchl. Great scenic trail !
Follow the signposts Rotmoosalm behind the bridge over Salzbach. Pass by Hemmermoosalm and ascend to Rotmoosalm. Use the lefthand trail up to the col between Predigtstuhl and Hochwanner. Traverse the Kotbachkar below Hochwanner to Mitterjöchl.
Follow the meadow subridge which starts at Mitterjöchl to the north and ascend the steep south slopes of Hochwanner. Climb up the scree parts of this ridge - there is a narrow path - until it ends at a 50 m high rockface.
Climb up a chute (UIAA grade I) to overcome this rockface and leave the chute in its upper third to the right (cairns) or bypass the rockface to the west (left hand) and traverse the above mentioned chute to the east.
Traverse now below the steep rock faces of Kleiner Wanner until you reach the summit cirque of Hochwanner. Climb the steep scree slopes to a shoulder righthand of the cirque. Follow the many footpaths directly up to the summit.
Red Tape & Geology
As far as I know there are no special restrictions in this area.
Hochwanner summit consists of Wettersteinkalk, a limestone mainly build up by lime - segregating algae which built up huge algae reefs in the Triassic age. If you sit on the summit rocks you easily will view the fossilized algae detritus on withered stone surfaces.
But there are other interesting geological features which can be recognised during the southern route ascent / descent.
South of Hochwanner and the huge Wettersteinkalk ridge and north of Gaistal there is a chain of subsummits, separated from the main ridge by grassy cols and separated from each other by cirques and steep creek valleys. This part is called Vorbergzug. Between Vorbergzug in the south, build up of Wettersteinkalk, too, and Hochwanner you will find different limestones and marls in different colours: brown, grey, green even red. These are younger sediments of jurassic age (sorry, no dinosaurs), folded to several narrow synclines and anticlines between the two Wettersteinkalk massifs and marking the limitation of two huge tectonic units of the northern limestone Alps: Lechtal nappe (Wetterstein mountains) and Inntal nappe (Mieming range).
This zone of intensely folded rocks is called Puittal zone (after Puittal valley east of Hochwanner). You will best recognise the intense red coloured Radiolarit of jurassic age, a hard stone which consists of millions and millions of monads with silica shells.
Around Wetterstein range are many villages with lots of accommodations of all kinds. The main villages are:
Around Hochwanner there are several mountain huts and Alm huts, which offer food and lodging
Rotmoosalm: Rotmoosalm was in February 2009 destroyed by an avalanche. In the summer months the old hut offers drinks and food. Please refer to Internet information about the upcoming seasons.
Erinnerungshütte, not guarded
Gear, Mountain Conditions & Map
Hochwanner is a hot and exhausting summer hike and a good autumn and - depending on the snow conditions - early winter tour.
The hike up to Mitterjöchl is easy and requires only good hiking gear.
The off-trail route to the summit is steep, in some parts exposed and you should be sure about how to move in such a terrain. If there is snow in late autumn and early winter, crampons and an ice axe are a must. The ascent / descent in snow is much easier than without snow (steep scree slopes) so late autumn and early winter is my favorite season for Hochwanner.
In late winter and early spring Hochwanner can be ascended with skies, too. It is a ski tour for the experienced! Ascent / descent via Rotmoosalm route.
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Number 4/2, Wetterstein und Mieminger Berge, Mittleres Blatt