Großer Widderstein is the highest and most dominating mountain of Klein Walsertal and located at the southern end of the valley. The mountain is formed out of dolomite rock and has a massive appearance from any side.
A “Widder” is the German word for a “ram” and “stein” has the English translation “stone”, so the English meaning of the mountain’s name is “ram-stone” which describes the mountain quite neat.
The Klein Walsertal is a settlement of German speaking mountain farmers that emigrated from the Wallis around the year 1300. Their culture and habits can be seen in a small museum in Riezlern.
The summit of Großer Widderstein offers great views into the surrounding valleys and a look over Bodensee to the west. In clear weather it is sometimes possible to see the German Black Forest some one hundred kilometres away in direction west-north-west.
The first official ascent had been on the 25th of July in the year 1669 by Pastor Peter Bickel.
To the north of the main summit Kleiner Widderstein is located at the height of 2238m.
The best start for an ascent is the end of the public road inside Klein Walsertal. There is a small settling of houses called “Baad” with a parking lot and a bus station. Baad can be reached from Oberstdorf by Walserbus or car. Oberstdorf can be reached by car or train from Kempten im Allgäu. Kempten im Allgäu can be reached by car using Germany’s highway number 7 or by train using Deutsche Bahn (German Rail). The closest airports are Stuttgart and Munich.
Another but harder to reach starting point is Hochtannbergpaß located inside Lechtal as an alternative to the Klein Walsertal. Hochtannbergpaß is the highest point of the local road that crosses the Lechtal. It can be reached via Reutte and Warth from north eastern direction or via Dornbirn from western direction. If someone comes from Austria anyway Hochtannbergpaß might be the more favorable starting point.
Starting from Lechtal the Hotel Adler is located directly at the road and might work as a good base camp.
The normal route starts at Baad (1244m) with a hike up the Bärgunttal in southern direction passing by Bärgunthütte reaching the Hochalppaß (1938m). From there head straight to the east until the summit is directly to the north of you. Turn north and climb up the southface through a canyon. Take care for rocks falling down into the canyon while passing through and bring a helmet. Red marks and metal bolts help your way. After the canyon a gully is reached and after that you get to a basin. Follow the tracks up the west ridge and enjoy surprisingly deep views into the valley. Follow the west ridge over some rocky steps and reach the summit with the characteristic summit cross on top. The summit cross was taken down by a heavy storm in winter 2006/2007 but it should have been rebuilt by now.
Total time from Baad about 4 – 5 hrs for about 1300Hm. There are no real difficulties on the normal route except of some rock climbing in the first degree (I).
After returning from the summit a circle around the massive is possible. Take a break at Obere Widdersteinhütte and decent via Hintere Gemstelalpe into Gemsteltal. Gemsteltal is the second side valley of the Klein Walsertal and runs parallel to Bärguntal in a north-south direction. By going back down through Gemsteltal you will reach the Klein Walsertal at the small village of Bödmen. If you still feel like it, walk your way back to the parking lot at Baad (2,5kms) or take one of the frequent buses.
The normal route can also be done in winter as a challenging ski mountaineering trip. This ski-tour is one of the highlights in eastern Alps ski-touring. If the conditions are good an ascent all the way up to the summit on skis might be possible although it won’t be a bad idea to bring some crampons in the backpack (if needed at some passages).
There are several other possible routes to the summit. Nice rock climbing ascents are the south-west wall or the east-ridge. Especially the rock around Kleiner Widderstein is popular for rock climbing. Easiest ascent to Kleiner Widderstein is via north-ridge and a grade two (II) ascent. Traversing both summits starting at Kleiner Widderstein and going over directly to Großer Widderstein is a grade three (III) ascent. For the following decent the use of the normal route might be a comfortable idea.
A very advisable ski-tour is the crossing of “Karlstor”. Karlstor is the gap between Kleiner and Großer Widderstein at a height of 2.120m. It is accessed from Bärgunttal though a steep and narrow cwm. It’s an impressive cirque with steep walls to the sides. A ski decent falls away sharply and drops down 800 meters of altitude into Gemsteltal. This is only recommended in best conditions at a very low risk of avalanches.