OverviewHohe Geige is the highest mountain in the Geigenkamm, a long ridge in the northwestern part of the Ötztal region. The views are outstanding, both from the summit and along the various routes.
Being the highest, the mountain still has a few small glaciers. While mainly covering the upper northwest, northeast and east sides, there is also a small remnant in a bowl high on the southwest. As if to emphasize the melting process, a small glacial lake has formed at the southwestern edge of this bowl.
There are several routes to the summit, but, despite its name, the normal route is not always the best one: depending on the route conditions, especially the amount of snow on the normal route, the west ridge may well be safer.
The normal route is 'only' steep and exposed hiking, with the occasional use of hands to negotiate some boulders. No glaciers have to be crossed. Some of the rock is loose, and to avoid rockfall danger, it's best to stay close together. However, the main potential problem is that, even well into summer, high up on the route a couple of very steep snow fields may cover the trail and need to be traversed. In these conditions, the normal route is more dangerous than the west ridge.
In comparison, the west ridge requires a few climbing moves (UIAA grade I/II), but the rock quality is fine. Being on the ridge, there is no rockfall danger. It is slightly more exposed. There may be some snow on the ridge early in the summer, but normally not on the steep parts. In conclusion, if you can deal with the exposure and are not averse to a bit of scrambling, you'll probably like the west ridge better. You can always follow the normal route on the descent to compare the two for yourself. That's what I did.
The road into the valley is a dead end, and the valley entrance lies in the north, just south of the town of Imst. Plangeros can be reached by public bus, Imst by train. To be precise, the train station lies south of Imst, right at the entrance of the Pitztal valley.
About 200m further is another junction. The clearer trail, turning left towards the north, leads to the base of the west ridge, but the normal route continues to the east at this point. If you can't read a map, a hard to miss sign post makes this clear.
Continue east by northeast along the trail in the now somewhat smaller valley, still ascending gradually. The trail makes a slow turn to the north, and, after traversing a scree slope, reaches a green ridge. By now you're approaching the 2800m mark.
Occasionally you'll need to negotiate a few boulders or a small rock steps. Mostly it's fine, but be wary of loose rocks. Higher up, it gets quite steep. The trail solves this by traversing, but there are a few gullies to cross, and if these are still filled with snow, you'll have to traverse a very steep snow field. For less experienced hikers, it's advisable to tighten a rope across, because slipping will have very serious consequences.
At this point you can finally see the summit, due northeast. A snow and ice filled bowl with a small glacial lake lies ahead, between you and the summit, and unless its frozen, you have to go around it. Consequently, there are two ways to continue from here: The slightly longer but easier route goes to the right, following the western ridge and eventually turning left to the summit. The final bit is on the south ridge.
Alternatively, skirt the lake on the left and then scramble your way up large boulders to the summit.
From the Rüsselsheimer Hütte to the summit takes 3 to 4 hours. With snow on the route, you need to be careful on the descent and it won't be all that much faster. If you start very early, you can make it from Plangeros and back in a long day, but I recommend spending a night at the refuge before the climb: you'll get somewhat used to the thin air, and the food is excellent!
Essential GearSturdy footwear is essential. With a lot of soft snow, even gaiters may be useful.
Unless all members in the party are experienced in alpine terrain, bringing a length of rope is not a bad precaution when there is snow on the route. I brought my ice axe and plunged it deep into the snow for added security while traversing the steep snow fields. Hiking poles can be useful as well.