The Grünstein loop is a wellknown wonderful ski hike traversing through the western parts of the Mieming range, the Grünstein subgroup. Normally the ski route does not touch summits - nevertheless there are some summit climbing possibilities for the strong hikers among us.
The Grünstein subgroup is a huge, U-shaped mountain ridge, open to the north, with Seebensee and Dachensee, two beautiful mountain lakes in the very heart. Ehrwalder Sonnenspitze, Wampeter Schrofen, Marienbergspitze, Grünstein, Griesspitzen an Tajaköpfe are the main summits.
The loop starts at Biberwier, goes up to the south slopes of Grünstein, circles Grünstein to the northeast, traverses Drachenkar to Tajatörl and ends in an endless downhill fun through Brendelkar and the Ehrwald skiing area. It requires a full days ski hike, about 1.750 meters of altitude difference - without any summits !! - and has some joyful ups and downs. You need good weather and good snow on south, east and north slopes because you are dealing with different slope exposures. And the avalanche conditions should be checked very carefully because being on the loop it is nearly impossible to avoid dangerous slopes! In my opinion avalanche grade 3 warning or higher is a no go for this adventure!
Normally you start from Biberwier, a little village south of the Ehrwalder valley basin. Use the parking area near the Marienberg cableway valley station, south of Biberwier on the road to Fernpass.
As the loop ends at Ehrwalder Alm cableway valley station, which is about 1 km east of Ehrwald village and about 4 km from the trailhead, you may use two cars, if possible, or look up the schedule of the bus services.
First part of the loop is the ascent from the trailhead (1040 m) to Marienbergjoch (1788 m). You have to use the ski slopes of Marienbergjoch to gain hight. As you have to start early there are normally no problems with skiers. Follow the broad ski slope up to the end of the first section of the cableway (1200 m) and then up to a ridge (1640 m) with a restaurant. Follow the ridge to the southeast until you reach the second section of the cableway and Marienbergjoch.
The ascent offers some nice views to Bergltal and Hochwannig, west of Marienberg and another great ski hike in the Mieming range.
The second part of the Grünstein loop is the traverse of the southern slopes of Grünstein up to Hölltörl (2127 m). You leave the skiing area of Marienberg and climb up in the direction of a broad chute between Marienbergspitzen and Grünstein. After arriving at the top of a little ridge below the beginning of the chute you can see Hölltörl to the east. Traverse the slopes of Arzbödele in the direction of Hölltörl until you reach the saddle. There is normally a good skitrack so you won´t miss the right direction.
Take a break, Hölltörl provides wonderful views in southern directions.
The third part is pure fun: downhill the broad chute east of Hölltörl.
It is a 300 m descend into Gamsanger at the end of the Höllreisse, a moderately steep chute which leads up to Grünsteinscharte (2263 m).
After you finished your first downhill fun get ready for the Höllreisse ascent (fourth part of the loop).
In springtime you will know why it is named Höllreisse: the hot spring sun will give you hell while ascending about 500 m of altitude difference to Grünsteinscharte.....
From Grünsteinscharte you have to ski down for about 100 m and then climb Tajatörl (fifth part of the loop). The first meters may be rocky due to low snow conditions so you might have to climb down some icy rocks before getting back on your skies again. If there is enough snow you can start downhill directly from the notch. After about 100 m downhill you reach the skitrack from Drachensee / Coburger Hütte to Taja Törl, the next aim to the east. Follow the track up to Tajatörl (2257 m), the traverse between Drachenkar and Brendelkar.
The latter provides the next and longest downhill slope (sixth and last part of the loop). Brendelkar is also the famous ascent (and descent) ski route if you just want to climb Tajatörl and Hinterer Tajakopf in winter.
For downhill skiing you have to use the western / left side of Brendelkar. Don´t go too far east even if there are downhill tracks: they go to Igelskopf or they simply took the wrong route .... you will have another unwelcome ascent if you use the center or the right side of Brendelkar.
There are some nice downhill slopes with short traverses inbetween.
At the end of Brendelkar descent you reach a forest road. Turn right and follow this road swiftly up to a ridge and then down to Ehrwalder Alm and its skiing area. Follow the ski slopes down to the valley station of the cable car.
Essential Gear / Avalanche advices
Full ski hikers gear including avalanche devices.
For avalanche advice and avalanche warnings, contact the Austrian avalanche service first.
The parts of the loop, where avalanches most likely can come down are:
- the southern slopes of Grünstein between Marienberg Joch and Hölltörl.
- the northern slopes of Drachenkar
- the northeastern slopes of Brendelkar
- the Iglskar ascent and descent
If there is a grade 3 warning or higher the Grünstein loop is not advisable because you have to deal with all orientations and slope exposures and normally cannot avoid dangerous exposures.
Summits and additional routes
There are several additional summits and routes for this loop. But remember always: the Grünstein loop is a strenuous day ski hike even without additional summits !!
- easy summit: Höllkopf, 2193 m, maybe some icy rocks, about 20 min from Hölltörl
- difficult route: Grünstein south chute can be made with skies if there are good snow conditions, strenuous, not advisable as part of the loop, should be a single attempt.
From Gamsanger below Hölltörl: before climbing up Höllreisse you can do some additional ascents and downhill slopes: Stöttltörl between Griesspitzen and Wankspitze or the Wankreisse, the western chute of Wankspitze. Both need about 200 m of altitude difference and an additional 1 to 1,5 hours.
From Grünsteinscharte: you can ski downhill the Drachenkar until you reach Drachensee / Coburger Hütte (1900 m) before climbing up to Tajatörl; this means an additional 300 m climb.
From Tajatörl: Hinterer Tajakopf (2409 m) via south ridge by feet (about 150 m altitude difference).
From uppermost Brendelkar: traverse to the right side of it and head for the north - south subridge east of Brendelkar with an steep notch (2097 m). From the notch you may climb up to Vorderer Iglskopf (2219 m, UIAA grade I - II !!). Then head down Iglskar until you reach and traverse the frozen Iglsee. At its northern end you reach a forest road which leads up to the forest road down to Ehrwalder Alm. The Iglskar variation is not easy (steep slopes, some winter rock climbing to Iglskopf).
The best one is:
Alpenvereinskarte 1 : 25.000, Blatt Nr, 4/2, Wetterstein- und Mieminger Gebirge, Mittleres Blatt;
which covers 98 % of the loop. You may need Blatt Nr. 4/1, Westliches Blatt, too, the first part, ascent to Marienberg Joch, is not fully covered by Mittleres Blatt.
Reasons: About 1.700 m of altitude difference; long but easy ascents; downhill starting point at Grünsteinscharte can be tricky
easy ski-hikes with moderate altitude difference, easy routes and simple downhill slopes
Ski hikes for the more experienced, due to higher altitude differences and/or longer and more demanding routes including steep or exposed parts and steeper downhill slopes
Only for experienced ski hikers and mountaineers; high altitude differences (> 1.500 m), long and demanding routes including steep and difficult route parts and/or rock scrambling and/or parts with crampons / ice axe to get on a summit; steep, exposed and / or narrow downhill slopes
The difficulty rating shall give you a first advice about how demanding the ski route is. It is my personal rating. The reasons for the rating are given in the description. They are effective for “normal conditions” like good weather, Normal snow conditions and a moderate avalanche danger. Due to bad conditions (weather, snow, avalanches) a lower grade can tend to be more difficult.