It's a popular promenade summit, this Gartnerkofel. No wonder, it rises above a high mountain pass and from the pass over half of Gartnerkofel's slopes also in summer a chair-lift operates. But it offers more than just an easy and short walk-up. A broad panorama of course, but more also in terms of outdoor activities.
The ascent over its NW ridge is a nice, very easy climbing route. In winter, despite of one of the biggest ski arena (Nassfeld) in Carinthia nearby, the tour ski descent from the summit is still a pleasure. And if you have the logistics and decide to ski down towards the north, you already have a real tour. In summer, for a real hiker, the ascent from Moederndorf parking place, 612 m, through Garnitzenklamm (canyon), on Kuehwegeralm (1480 m), Kuehwegertoerl (1914 m) and by the NW ridge to the summit would be one of the finest in the region – due to its variety, big elevation gain and at the end already easy climbing details. Finally in the north towers of Gartnerkofel harder climbs are also possible.
As a curiosity - the summit also has its Slovenian name: Krniške skale. Not so long ago also the lower part of Zilja valley was partly populated by Slovenian people. The geography of this small massif is seen on the map below. The summit has two heads. Towards the North many ravines are falling, separated by wild rocky ridges. The NE ridge consists of three towers, named Gartnerkofeltuerme, the NW ridge is similar, but more compact. It sends three ravines towards Nassfeld, between them rises an interesting tower, called Wilderturm. South of the main summit a separate ridge is stretching in the W-E direction. On the other side of the saddle there's first the Suedgipfel (South Peak), 2154 m. A rocky ridge is then going towards the E and finally reaches Kuehwegerkofel, 2136 m.
North of Gartnerkofel there is a nice 6 km long gorge, through which Garnitzenbach (creek) drops some more than 500 meters. Nature in this gorge is really beautiful. Cute cascades, waterfalls, ponds, more than 200 m high walls on both sides, plenty of flora and fauna. As the gorge is situated on the Permian-Triassic boundary in the Carnic Alps of Austria (Gartnerkofel-Region), the variety of rocks in the gorge is very big. The trail through the gorge was built already in 1891 (first part), rebuilt in 1900 (the whole gorge) and is now regularly maintained.
For the hike through the gorge you would need some 2:30 h-3:00 h, plus some 2:00 h for the return. Of course you can shorten the hike at any of its four stages. It is worth to mention that the last part is more demanding. Even if well protected, some passages are exposed and require a safe step. Also the hike is not recommended after a very heavy rain, because it can become dangerous. Price: 2.5 EUR for adults.
Otherwise the geology of this area is very diverse. While the upper rocks are made of Schlern Dolomite (some 228-237 million years old), lower layers of rocks (specially on the southern side of the massif - mountains: Meledis, Pizzul, Auernig, Corona, Carnizza) are of Carbon-Perm sedimentary rocks.
In 1799 F. X. Wulfen discovered on the slopes of Gartnerkofel an endemic flower, now named after him. In Alps this is the only place where it can be found. Otherwise it grows also in Montenegro, Albania, Syria and Himalaya. Early in summer (in 2006 it was on July 2nd) each year a day of wulfenia is held. On that day you can see people wandering around in groups, doing some amateur botanizing.
For a broader view see: Carnic Alps – Eastern part.
As the most obvious starting point Nassfeld Pass / Passo Pramolo, 1530 m, can be reached either from the Italian or from Austrian side. If coming from Italy, we leave the Udine – Tarvisio highway in Pontebba, and drive from this town towards the north. If coming from Austria, we turn near Villach towards the West and drive into Gail/Zilja valley. Just after Hermagor/Mokrine you leave the regional road and take a road, which ascends the pass towards the south. On this side of the pass in winter there is a broad ski arena – with many cable cars and chair-lifts. It is referred as Nassfeld ski arena or Sonnenalpe ski arena.
When reaching Nassfeld Pass / Passo Pramolo you can drive up the hill by a mountain road till Plattner Haus, 1625 m. From there the summit can be reached in 1:30 h. And there's yet another option. From below the pass (on Austrian side) a chair-lift can bring you up the hill till the altitude of 1880 m. To the summit there is only some 45 min walk-up.
Garnitzen Klamm (canyon, gorge) can be entered from below from Moederndorf. You turn in Hermagor/Mokrine towards the south and drive till the end parking place on 612 m.
The summary of hiking and scrambling routes, graded by hiking standards. If you know more routes, please let us know.
|Route Name||Marks||Start m||End m||Alt. diff.||Time||Power||Psyche||Orien-tation||Comments|
|1. SW approach||yes||1625 m||2195 m||570 m||1:40 h||1||1||1||Easy walk-up. Good path. Very frequented. You can use a chair-lift till 1880 m.|
|2. NW ridge||yes||1625 m||2195 m||570 m+||2:00 h||2||3||1||Easy climb (UIAA I). No protection devices, very nice.|
|3. Through the Garnitzenklamm||yes||612 m||2195 m||1600 m+||6:00 h||2||3||1||Long ascent. Nice gorge. End part like #2.Tip: Prepare a bike on the Nassfeld pass.|
|4. Nassfeld ski tour||-||1530 m||2195 m||670 m||2:00 h||1||2||1||medium hard ski tour. You can use a cjair-lift till 1880 m.|
|5. Ski tour over Kuehwegeralm||-||1530 m||2195 m||670 m (1600 m)||2:00 h||2||2||2||You ski down on the other side, so think how to come back on Nassfeld.|
|6. Southeast summit||no||1625 m||2154 m||630 m||1:50 h||2||2||1||From the notch between the main summit and the SE summit you gain the notch 2080 m on the ridge of the SE summit and then climb by the grassy SW slope on top.|
1. South-west approach. From Watschiger Alm, 162 5m, or from the upper station of Gartnerkofel chair-lift, 1880 m, to the saddle between the south summit, and the main summit, from there to the top. 1:30 h from Watschiger Alm or 0:45 h from the chair-lift station. Easy, marked.
2. North-west ridge. From Watschiger Alm, 1625 m, on Kuehwegertoerl, 1914 m, and by the ridge on top. 2:00 h, marked, easy climb (UIAA I). Very nice!
3. Through Garnitzenklamm. From Moederndorf parking place, 612 m, through the beautiful Garnitzenklamm (gorge), on Kuehwegeralm, 1480 m, further on Kuehwegertoerl, 1914 m, and by the NW ridge to the summit. Descend on Nassfeld Pass / Passo Pramolo, where the deposited bike is waiting for you! Zoom down to your car! Great tour, combining a beautiful gorge, alpine meadows, easy climb and joyful bike descent. Good 6 hours of ascent, all the route is marked!
4. Nassfeld ski tour. Over ordinary ski slopes from Nassfeld Pass / Passo Pramolo (or by chair-lift). On the upper part the same as #1. From the saddle 2 hours. Medium hard ski tour (only on top a bit steeper).
5. Ski tour over Kuehwegeralm. Start on Nassfeld Pass / Passo Pramolo and ascend the summit like in #4 (2 hours). From the summit ski down by the ascent route only till the saddle between the main summit and the Suedgipfel, 2154 m. There turn left, towards the SE, and ski down the nice valley. Where distinct rocks are splitting the valley, take the left passage (towards the N) and ski down to Kuehwegeralm. From there use a mountain road to ski down in Gail valley. If you don't have two cars, go to the ski arena and take a cable-car up to Nassfeld Pass / Passo Pramolo.
You can see a detailed map (1:50000) on-line on: http://www.austrianmap.at/.
For the usual ascent no hut or camping is needed. Otherwise on the Nassfeld area there are many hotels and private pensions. In Gail valley there's a tourist resort at Presseger See, with an official camping place. The northern ascent is considerably longer. I have no information if sleeping would be possible on Kuehwegeralm. In the middle of Garnitzenklamm there is a shelter, where you could sleep in emergency (high water or impossible escape from the gorge). But it's only one good hour walk from the starting point, so no big use for the mountaineering ascent.
Gartnerkofel can be climbed any time of the season. In winter the upper slopes require some care and a proper equipment. Live cam: here.
Guidebook and photomonography (in Slovenian): V. Pogačnik: Kar na Karnijce. Založba Narava, 2011.