The north walls of Rosskuppe and Hochtor
Just below the mighty north wall of Hochtor a high larche is guarding our bivouac place. This is the only small flat place for two persons far around as these mountains are steep and their slopes are rugged. This time we are in a perfect peace. No music from some neighbouring hotel, now cows with bells, no people at all. Still - every now and then high above in the walls, a stone losens and flies aimlessly down towards the valley. It's such a small chance that our heads would be a target. In case of a storm there's a small rocky roof nearby. But below it it's uncomfortable and there's hardly place for two. We didn't need it. The night was calm and dry.
Tired of wandering around I hardly decided for this tour. Luckilly Jasmina put in more energy and we set off towards Danube river. Fearing traffic jams we drove by side roads to Admont. There Jasmina came with a fine logistic plan: we shall leave bicycles in Johnsbach, ascend Hochtor (2360m) from the other side, from Gesaeuse, cross the mountain and in return descend with bikes. Although late, the manoeuvre is done in a short time.
The parking place by Enns river, on the bottom of Haindlkar, is on the altitude of only 600m. Besides the standard equipment for sleeping (no tent this time), the rucksack is loaded additionally with a rope. We don't walk up fast, but at the hut on 1121m we are sweatened through. Lacking guests we are kindly welcomed from the hut's terrace, but it doesn't help. We still have an hour and half of the day and we want to do some more altitude. Only we don't know where the route will overcome the vertical walls of Hochtor massif. They look unpassable.
The path goes towards the East, we ascend through dwarf-pine and soon start looking for a bivouac place. Nothing. Only steep slopes, sharp gravel and unpleasand bushes. We ascend a whole hour, here are already the last larches and above there will be only rocks. We turn from the path on a shoulder, going up towards the Hochtor wall. It would be possible to sit by any of the larches, but there's no place to lie down. Finally some 50m higher we find a nice place, probably arranged by climbers. We eat a little and it's already night.
The map of Hochtor and its marked routes
We are waking up when below on the path the first mountaineers appear. This is what happens when you sleep too comfortably! At 7 a.m. also we descend into the ravine and start the tour. Peternpfad goes first over steep screes, then up into a ravine and more and more often you need to use hands for the climb. The route is marked, but not artificially secured. We are looking forward to a UIAA II degree climb, so the poles go on rucksacks - mine, of course. The ravine below Roßkuppe soon becomes hardly passable and the route escapes left above it, into the open face. The depth below feet increases, climbing requires more and more care and my rucksack is again playing equilibrium jokes with me. There are some quite exposed places. As other mountaineers are following, we must be careful not to losen rocks. It is still impossible to estimate where the route will exit above. Then it crosses on an exposed, flat grassy edge, from which we have a great view down to Gesaeuse valley. Into rocks again! Hard details follow, we can not hurry, but it is encouraging how we gain altitude and how reliably the marks are leading us over the best passages. Then, just below the top of the wall the route goes again left around the edge and by a comfortable ledge exits on Peternscharte, 2040m. Very nice!
Here's where I deserved a breakfast. Some 15 minutes we are sitting on a fine grass. The weather is not the most perfect one, but through high clouds also the sun is shining. The four mountaineers who were in the wall all the time attempting to overcome us, now reach the notch. Also they will go over Dachlgrat, so we leave them to pass by. We detour the first rocky tower by a passage on the left, gain some altitude and we are already below Roßkuppe. Again we climb over a rocky step and go around the summit. There we realise that we'll have to descend by a very steep ridge down on Dachlgrat. After a few meters we find ourselves on the edge of the wall and as it is on the main ridge, the place is really exposed. On the right there's full 800m of a vertical abyss and climbing down the UIAA grade II for us is not pleasant any more. Shall we rope-up? We don't. Jasmina proposes a little detour on the left, but then we'll need to come back right. Finally we make it. We find some good holds, with time you also get used to depth and by a tiny ledge we cross back on the main ridge. Only some 40 more meters of climbing down and we reach the beautiful Dachlgrat.
Below Rosskuppe Dachlgrat
This ridge is a true landmark! The complete compact limestone plate was carved by water in thousands and thousands channels. The ridge is just enough steep that you can still go by it upright - on the right the great abyss, on the left the big carved plate. Unfortunately the sun is stubbornly hiding, that's why I'm not much occupied by photographing. The next ridge summit is detoured again on the southern side and we reach the scree field below the main summit structure of Hochtor. Those four mountaineers are just in the middle of the wall and we see them how they crawl on one place - by a ledge, high above a steep wall. What will I do there with my big rucksack, with poles sticking out of it like antenes on Sputnik satellite? Climbing again, this time directly upwards. Then one of the ledges, going towards the right, becomes more and more narrow. And it goes below a low roof. There's a similar passage on Monte Pelmo - 'Passo del Gatto'. But there it was not obvious to get down on your knees. Here it's a must. A very unpleasant feeling! No holds, the rucksack bumping on the roof, you proceed by centimeters and take care for a balance. Jasmina is already over, asking me to pass her a camera and repeat the bizzare scene. No, that will not happen! Finally I can raise up, we can continue with the climb, soon reach the fore-summit, descend in the notch and join the mass of mountaineers who came up by the SE approach. Jasmina is surprised how much time we spent for the climb, but agrees that it was a nice one.
The long descent and the 'mooning' for young families and a dog
Hochtor from Hesshuette
The normal descent goes first by the SE ridge, then turns down into the East face and continues over some rock steps more or less directly down. We catch up a few mountaineers and a man close to 40 years makes a nice gesture. When surprised he turns back, and sees that a woman is overtaking him, he comments: "Yes, the youth is allways faster". And then Jasmina can not be stopped any more. A light rain starts, but before we reach Hesshuette, the sky clears completely again and the sun is shining with its full force. In the crowd on the terrace I'm looking for Jasmina, and she is looking for me - with a big cold beer! How happy I am to see them both!
The descent to Johnsbach is very nice. The world is like on our Bohinj mountains - the path descends slowly over mountain meadows, through deep forrests and by rocky walls. Finally it reaches the sunny meadows above Koelblwirt. In the shadow our bikes are faithfully waiting. We are some 300m higher than the main Enns valley, and we have a fine asphalt road down. Just before the confluence with Enns we intend to refresh for the last time in the small river. In taking down sweatened clothes Jasmina is much faster than I am, of course. She is already rushing into the water when she turns around, seeing a joyful dog, approaching up the stream. And thera are two young families coming by the path on the other side. The water is too cold to dive into it completely, so Jasmina decides only to turn around, doing a very discrete 'mooning'. Soon we stay alone and we can peacefully take a bath.