Hocheisspitze from Birnhorn ski ascent
surely belongs to the “big” Berchtesgaden
summits though it is very well hidden behind Hochkalter
if you make your approach from the north. With the adjacent summit of Kammerlinghorn
and the connecting ridge between these two summits Hocheisspitze builds a huge and high mountain massif which can be best seen from the surrounding mountains and which is rarely to bee seen from the surrounding valleys. Together with its rather remote positions in the Berchtesgaden Alps Hocheisspitze is rarely summited in summer and autumn and a little bit more frequented as ski hike in spring.
Hocheisspitze is the second highest summit after Hochkalter in the Hochkalter subgroup of the Berchtesgaden Alps. It is - together with Kammerlinghorn - the southernmost summit of this subgroup, mostly consisting of a northeast - southwest - running rock ridge with many side valleys and impressive rock cirques.
The ridge between Kammerlinghorn and Hocheisspitze, being the frontier between Austria and Germany and the southern limitation of the Berchtesgaden National Park (see chapter Red Tape), builds the top of the south rock face of the Hochkalter subgroup, looking down into Saalach valley. To the east there is another impressive rockface dropping down into Wimbachgries, the beautiful and wild valley between Watzmann
(east), Großer Hundstod
(south) and Hochkalter / Hocheisspitze (west), thus forming one of the most impressive alpine valleys in the Berchtesgaden region.
To the northeast there is the connecting rock arete to Hochkalter. To the northwest there are two impressive alpine cirques, the Sittersbachtal opening to the north and, separated by a subridge with the summit of Hinterberghorn, the Hintereis
cirque which runs down in more northwestern direction. The normal route to the summit uses this valley.
Impressive spires: Reither Alm / Stadelhorn as seen from near Hintersee (03-05-2009)
Hintersee is part of the Ramsau valley
between Berchtesgaden and Lofer.
You reach Ramsau:
region by using the E 55
highway from Salzburg and the road number 160
(Austria) and 305
(Germany to Berchtesgaden and Ramsau.
From Bad Reichenhall
follow road number 20
to Berchtesgaden and Ramsau.
Coming from München
leave the highway A 8
to Salzburg at the exit Siegsdorf
and follow road number 306
to Schneizreuth, Unterjettenberg
, Schwarzbachwacht to Ramsau.
/ Austria use road number 178
to Schneizlreuth and follow road number 305
Hintersee can be reached on a signposted and narrow road from Schwarzbachwacht, when you enter Ramsau coming from the west or on road ST2099 passing Ramsau village if you enter Ramsau from the east.
Routes & Trails
Summit cross and Birnhorn (03-05-2009)
Hocheisspitze is mainly a winter and spring ski hike mountain so I will mainly describe the normal ski route to the summit. Read the “Mountain Conditions” section carefully, Hocheisspitze can be a very dangerous ski hike !
The trailhead is some 500 m southwest of Hintersee
, there is a big parking area (parking fee required, no overnight camping).
Behind the parking area the road is closed for public traffic because you enter the Berchtesgaden National Park
(see the Red Tape section).
Get on your bike
and follow the road to the southwest into Grundübelau
. The first section is nearly level then there is a first ascent before you reach Engerthütte, a national park hut. After passing the hut there is a steep ascent and another short level part before a forest road branches off to the left. Follow this forest road (moderate ascent) to Bindalm
, where you can leave your bike.
The part Hintersee - Bindalm is about 6 km one way, so a bike comes in handy for that. If you intend to go by feet you have to plan some 3 to 4 hours back and forth to Bindalm. With the bike its about ¾ hours forth and less than half an hour back to Hintersee.
Kammerlinghorn and connecting arete from summit (03-05-2009)
At Bindalm follow - by foot now and normally with you skis attached to the backpack - the steep forest road up to Mittereisalm
. At Mittereisalm (or shortly below) there will be enough snowcover in spring to continue the hike on skis.
At Mittereisalm there is a route junction: to the right is the ski ascent to Kammerlinghorn
, the neighbouring summit of Hintereisspitze. This ascent route uses the lower part of Kleineis cirque and a steep chute leading up to the broad west ridge. This ridge is the way up to Kammerlinghorn summit.
From Mittereisalm straight on (or slightly to the right) there is a steep slope which leads up to the lower parts of Hintereis cirque
. Kleineis and Hintereis cirque are separated by the sharp arete of Kleineishörndl
, which can be seen left of Kleineis cirque from Mittereisalm.
The ski route zigzags up this slope and enters the lower meadows of Hintereis cirque. This is a breathtaking mountain scenery with steep walls and - normally - snowpacked ledges.
Follow Hintereis cirque to the southeast, keeping to the left part of the cirque. The route reaches the summit slopes of Hocheisspitze by traversing the southwest slope of Hinterberghorn, the northern neighbour summit of Hocheisspitze. This traverse is necessary to avoid steep rock faces in the lower middle part of the summit slope. The ski descent can be made left or right of those rockfaces, the ascent is better on the left (= northern) side.
Avalanche slopes (03-05-2009)
At last the ski route zigzags up the summit slope to a notch in the connecting arete Hocheisspitze - Kammerlinghorn (which is a great traverse in the summer / autumn: in parts UIAA grade IV). The notch is directly west of Hocheisspitze summit.
At the notch is the ski depot. Follow the easy arete to the east up to the summit, there will be steep snow, a short exposed snow ridge and some easy rock scramble. The views from the summit with its tiny summit cross are simply overwhelming - if you have good weather.
The ski descent mainly follows the slopes of the ascent. There is the short variation at the lower part of the summit slope mentioned above.
The summer and autumn route is the same like the ski route until you reach Mittereisalm. At Mittereisalm there is a trail leading up to Hocheisalm
which is located north of the lower parts of Hintereis cirque. The trail is north of the ski ascent to Hintereis cirque from Mittereisalm.
From Hocheisalm follow another trail to the south which leads into Hintereis cirque. Continue to the summit slope, the notch and the summit, this is partly off trail.
, the northern neighbour of Hocheisspitze, can be climbed from the notch between these two summits via the southeast arete - it looks like UIAA grade I and maybe II in parts. The tower north of the notch has to be bypassed on the southwestern side before gaining the arete again.
can be reached via the connecting arete, this is a difficult climb with parts UIAA grade IV.
Red Tape & Mountain Conditions
Ski depot at the summit notch (03-05-2009)
Hocheisspitze and the whole ascent are part of the Nationalpark Berchtesgaden, a huge alpine national park. Learn about the national park on its homepage
There is no entrance fee but normally parking fees are required. At each main trailhead there are information panels and / or visitor centers where you can get informations about what to do and not to do and what to respect.
Hocheisspitze can be summited the whole year round. Main season is springtime with good cornsnow conditions.
Be careful: The Hintereis cirque is a huge avalanche
gully !! There are many potential avalanche chutes and slopes to be crossed, traversed and ascended / descended during this ski hike. Avalanche conditions should be very very secure for this hike. Check out my images of the may 2009 ski hike: you will see many avalanches !
Check the Salzburg avalanche bulletin here
Check the Salzburg weather conditions here
For winter you need full ski hike gear and avalanche gear. Crampons and ice axe are normally not required.
For summer / autumn you need full hiking gear and good shoes as parts of the journey are off-trail. For summiting Hocheisspitze ropes and additional climbing gear is not required.
Ski descent in Hintereis cirque (03-05-2009)
There are many possibilities for an overnight stay at Ramsau or Berchtesgaden:
See the homepage of Gemeinde Ramsau
See the Berchtesgaden homepage
There is a camping area
not far away from the trailhead. Overnight camping is forbidden within the national park and at the trailhead parking areas.
Map & Guide Book
Hochkalter from summit (03-05-2009)
Unfortunately Hocheisspitze is not covered by the excellent Alpenverein topo maps, scale 1 : 25.000.
You use best the 1 :50.000 topo map
Bayerisches Landesvermessungsamt München
Hocheisspitze is mentioned in the guide book
Berchtesgadener Alpen alpin
Bergverlag Rudolf Rother, 2009
available only in German.