OverviewA very nice and popular ascent from a high starting point. Unfortunately some loss of altitude due to descent from Goldeck. This is a nice summer hike, but also a route of must-be-great ski tour (I haven't done it). Great panorama from the top. In summer, the summit can be reached in 3 hours, in winter conditions the ascent time can be the same or a bit longer if conditions are demanding. The summer difficulty would be rated T2 (on the Swiss Hiking Scale), with perhaps one or two details of T3.
ApproachSee the main page of Staff to learn how to get on the Seetal parking place below the summit of Goldeck or by cable car, ski lifts and chair lifts on Goldeck itself. Seetal parking place hosts a ski lift, which is in winter connected with the rest of ski terrains on the western side of Goldeck.
Gusenalm can be reached also from the ski terrains on the western side of Goldeck. You simply follow the well marked path 210 or descend by skis over the SW ridge of Goldeck.
Soon below Gusenscharte (on the western side of saddle) you must deter from the mountain road left, in the SW direction, following the well marked path 210 (good plate there). At first the path goes almost horizontally, or with slight ups and downs, across the NW slopes of Staff. Over nice meadows and through light woods we encircle much of our mountain, finally reaching a meadow, where another marked path (No. 268) deters right - across the slopes further to Kuhalm, below Latschur. But we continue left up the meadow, in the SW direction. By a broad valley we ascend over one or two not steep valley steps and reach a nice meadow just between Staff and Eckwand. On some 1900 m there is the crossroads. The main path No. 210 continues by the valley in the same direction (on Eckwandsattel, away from our goal), but towards the left another marked path deters towards the SE. It soon overcomes a short, some 15 m high rocky step (easy) and then continues comfortably over the slopes on the northern side of the main ridge. Right above us is Mitterstaff, a humble bump in the main ridge. The summer route crosses its northern slopes. It is easy and comfortable, but the slopes get steep. If in winter conditions those slopes are hard or even icy, it is worth considering going on the main ridge and over Mitterstaff.
On the notch east of Mitterstaff the summit ridge of Staff begins. We have now only some good 150 m of altitude to overcome. The ridge becomes more and more narrow. The path mainly follows it and in a few places requires some additional attention. Here one or two passages can be rated T3, and in winter conditions or when skiing, this ridge requires a lot of care and proper equipment. But it's still only a hike up there. In 15 min from the last notch we reach the panoramic summit.
Descent and SkiingIn summer we shall probably return on Goldeck by the same route. The descent by the SE ridge would bring us down on Bucheben (ridge, hut), but from there there is no marked path on Gusenscharte. Still, it is very likely that there is a path across the E slopes of Staff, it may only happen that we would need to do some ups and downs to complete the round tour.
If returning by the W ridge (the approach route) we can prolongue the tour by crossing the ridge all the way over Kopasnock, 2087 m, to Eckwandsattel, 2070 m. But we don't benefit much on that detour, unles if we want to ascend also the summit of Eckwand, with 2221 m even 4 m higher than the summit of Staff.
Skiing would at first go by the W ridge of Staff (carefully there). From the notch I think usually it would be better to continue by the main ridge, so avoiding on a few places steep northern slopes. Only from Karsattel, 2002 m, SW of Mitterstaff, one would turn north and ski down into the valley between Staff and Eckwand. Then you continue skiing by the valley back towards the NE. Below it depends on conditions whether to return on Gusenscharte by crossing the slopes (woods there) or to continue by skiing a bit more down by the valley and then ascend right on the saddle.
Winter return on Goldeck depends on where we want to go. For the Seetal parking place we must ascend again those 300 m by mountain roads. For Goldeck ski terrains we can ascend the SW ridge of Goldeck and slide over it.
Essential GearFor summer hike: Only good shoes and poles.
For winter ascent: Ice pick and crampons.
For ski tour: Usual ski tour equipment, ice pick and crampons.