Her Majesty, the Queen of Karwendel
Some call Kaltwasserkarspitze the “Queen of Karwendel”.
Other call it “Arrogance in stone”.
Well, queens sometimes have to be arrogant.
Standing in the very center of Karwendel
, southeast of Birkkarspitze
, the highest Karwendel peak and “her king” and west of Rauhkarlspitze
, Kaltwasserkarspitze is the most wanted summit for Karwendel peak baggers. Despite of being the 4th highest peak within Karwendel, Kaltwasserkarspitze looks so bold and keen when viewed from the west or east and you think, this is a must-have summit.
The north face drops more than 1300 m down to Kleiner Ahornboden and the summit block shown an immense upsurge which might be the explanation for the marking as “arrogant”.
But every queen has her soft sides, too, even when being arrogant – sorry for that, ladies – and this soft side is the long and huge south ridge down into Hinterautal, a sort of royal train, dividing the Birkkar valleys to the west from Moserkar valley to the east. This south ridge bears the easiest route to Kaltwasserkarspitze.
The arrogant side of the Queen The soft side of the Queen
Kaltwasserkarspitze belongs to the Hinterautal – Vomper ridge
, the main and highest ridge of Karwendel. The first confirmed ascent was by Hermann von Barth
on august, 15th, 1870. He used the south ridge route for his successful attempt, despite of a heavy snow storm.
Summit view to the northeast
An ascent of Kaltwasserkarspitze is always a very long day. As there is no possibility for an overnight stay (with the exception of an illegal bivvy night) you have to combine hiking with biking to manage this outing as a one day undertaking. The bike route to Kastenalm is about 15 km long, one way! The ascent from Kastenalm to Kaltwasserkarspitze is 1500 m of altitude difference and another 6 km long (south ridge), again one way.
The Queen is not only arrogant, it takes a royal effort to conquer her!
The best trailhead for Kaltwasserkarspitze is Scharnitz
You reach Scharnitz by car
Birkkarspitze and Kaltwasserkarspitze Summit view to Birkkarspitze The old summit register of the late 80th
At the church near Isar bridge take Hinterautalstraße
in southern direction. After the undergrade passing of the railways you reach a huge parking area to your left (fees!). 300 m further on there is another small parking area after the bridge across river Isar to your right.
Scharnitz can be reached with railway, too. See the railway schedule here
For the unusual north ascent to Kaltwasserkarspitze you have to start at Karwendelhaus (overnight stay).
The Karwendelhaus ascent
from Scharnitz uses the long Karwendeltal road up to Hochalmsattel
, the col between Birkkarspitze and Östliche Karwendelspitze where the huge mountain hut is located. MTB is nearly a must (otherwise 13 km walk!).
Hinterautal / Gleierschklamm Hinterautal / Reps summit Hinterautal in early morning
Karwendelhaus can be reached, too, from
Main Routes Overview
Approach Scharnitz – Kastenalm
This is the bike part of the tour.
Starting at Scharnitz parking areas
follow the first paved road across the Isar bridge to Schönwieshof
inn. Bike up the steep ascent, no unpaved, to Gleierschhöhe
, were the forest road to Amtssäge, Möslalm branches off to the right. Go straight on and descend slightly into Hinterau valley
. Follow the good road (number 224
) with a moderate grade up to Isar wells
and to Kaser hunters cabin
Kastenalm Starting point of south ridge route
The forest road goes on to the right to Halleranger Haus.
For the Hochjöchl route
leave your bike around Kaser hunters cabin.
For the south ridge route
go straight on on another forest road which turns right after some 500 m and left again at the Kastenalm meadows. This rather bad forest road enters then Roßloch
. Leave your bike near the confluence with Moserkar valley.
200 m before you reach Kaser hunters cabin / Kastenalm, trail number 225
branches off to the left into Birkkar valley
. Ascend on the trail left / east of Birkkarbach until you reach some springs.
Above those springs, at about a height of 1750 m, a barely visible foot track branches off to the right into Östliches Birkkar
, above and west of the creek coming out of that valley. Follow this foot track and later on off trail, ascending to Hochjöchl
, the lowest point between Birkkarspitze to the west/left and Kaltwasserkarspitze east/right. It is marked as point 2411 m
on the Alpenverein map.
Birkkarspitze and point 2552 m as seen from the summit The chute system (snow) and point 2552 m, the ascent route is the middle chute going up to the south ridge
At the col turn southeast and traverse upward some steep slabs south / below the ridge crest. Follow then the ridge near the ridge crest over steep rocks with some UIAA grade II moves exposed (!!) to point 2552 m
There is a foot track again, ascending southeast below Kaltwasserkarspitze summit block into a system of chutes running down from the south ridge of Sägezähne. Take the leftmost chute
for the ascent; this chute ends at the last notch between Kaltwasserkarspitze summit block and Sägezähne, the uppermost rock bumps of the south ridge.
Follow the easy rocks and some foot tracks in the scree up to the summit.
South ridge route
This can be named the normal route to the summit. It is the easiest route and the most frequented – mind: the summit isn´t frequented at all (see the small summit register of 1987; about 2/3 of the register was full in 2016)!
Unbenannter Gipfel, Moserkarspitze, Kühkarlspitze and Sonnenspitzen as seen from the trail of the south ridge route Kleiner Heissenkopf ( south ridge route; view to Praxmarerkarspitzen (left) and Hoher Gleiersch (right)
Follow the forest road from Kastenalm into Roßloch
until the road touches the scree field of the Moserkar creek
and the runoff out of Roßloch. Look out for a cairn
on the other side of the scree field.
Cross the runoff at the cairn and enter the dwarf pines zones. A trail leads first east then north and starts to climb up a slope called Moserkaregg into woods.
Moserkar view The K.S. mark at the route junction Ascent to Kleiner Heissenkopf
Follow this trail, it is the route into Moserkar and the summits Kühkarlspitze, Moserkarspitze, Rauhkarlspitze and Unbenannter Gipfel.
When you leave the woods and reach the dwarf pine zone again the trail levels out at a viewpoint into Moserkar. From there on follow the trail for about 100 m and then look out for some red dots
and a barely visible foot track on your left. Turn on this foot track and follow the red dots – after 200 m there is a red “K.S.”
on a rock – into the steep east slopes of Kleiner Heissenkopf. After some easy rocks and zigzags the trail starts to become more clearly and distinct. It winds itself up in endless zigzags and then starts to traverse in southern direction along some inclined rock faces up to a level part between Kleiner Heissenkopf and Großer Heissenkopf.
Großer Heissenkopf Descent marks at Kleiner Heissenkopf - important!! Around Grosser Heissenkopf
This part, about 2000 m high, is crucial if you are descending this route: There are many red dots and a red arrow marking the beginning of this trail. Follow closely these marks when descending! There were many fatal accidents in this area as the south faces of Kleiner Heissenkopf are near perpendicular and you need to reach the trail to get safely down to the valley ground.
Follow the meadow ridge and then the easy scree and rock ridge up to Großer Heissenkopf
, 2435 m and big cairn. The ridge gets more sharp then, follow it over easy rocks into a notch in front of a steep ridge part, which leads easy up to the first of the Sägezähne, several rock bumps within the south ridge to Kaltwasserkarspitze. You reach the first bump over scree, easy rocks and slabs, sometimes left / west of the ridge, sometimes on it. Shortly before you arrive at the first Sägezahn you will have a first view of the still rather distant summit.
Sägezähne Sägezähne ridge Sägezähne ridge
Follow the scree and rock ridge in some ups and downs until it drops down steeply to a notch. Leave the ridge there to your right / east, turn south and descend on a ledge until you can turn north again and follow another ledge into the notch. There are some easy grade I moves before you arrive at the notch.
Ascend steeply back to the ridge crest (grade I) and follow the ridge on good and easy slabs until you arrive at a second drop down to the next notch. Go right / east again and follow slabs and some rocks on the east side of the ridge into the notch.
Traverse of Sägezähne, Kaltwasserkarspitze summit in the background Traverse of Sägezähne First narrow notch with steep ascent to the next Sägezahn (grade I) after the first eastern bypass
Cross the notch to the left / west side and descend 5 m into the chute, running down from the notch into Östliches Birkkar. Leave the chute immediately in southern direction gaining a very narrow ledge which bypasses the last of Sägezähne. You soon will find some cairns on this bypass which ends at the last notch where the Hochjöchl route gains the south ridge.
You can traverse this last Sägezahl directly on the ridge crest, too; then there are some grade III – moves to master!
Ledge system of the western bypass of the last Sägezahn Ledge system of the western bypass of the last Sägezahn Last notch between Sägezähne and Kaltwasserkarspitze
Follow the easy rocks and some foot tracks in the scree up to the summit.
Deep view into Hinterau valley
First eastern bypass with short grade I scramble - south ridge route On the west bypass of the last Sägezahl (grade I / II), view to the south Sägezähne as seen from the last ascent to Kaltwasserkarspitze summit
(only for very experienced ski mountaineers!)
In springtime with good snow cover and secure avalanche conditions:
From Östliches Birkkar (Hochjöchl route) ascending the west chutes directly up to the south ridge (~50° slope gradient!).
Red Tape & Accommodation
Wonderful Papaver sendtneri as seen on the south ridge route
Kaltwasserkarspitze is part of the “Alpenpark Karwendel”
, an important and strictly protected national park.
There is no entrance fee for the park but many regulations to follow.
Please respect the following rules in the National Park:
There is a National Park Information Center
at Scharnitz and Hinterriß.
The parking areas at Scharnitz require a parking fee!
Kaltwasserkarspitze north face as seen from Eng valley Dangerous snake? Surprise on an early morning ascent
Food and lodging can be found at
Camping is not allowed within Alpenpark Karwendel.
"Cairn city" of Hinterautal Summit view to the west with Zugspitze and Seekarspitze
Gear & Mountain Condition
View to the Halltal ridge from Kaltwasserkarspitze south ridge
Kaltwasserkarspitze normally is a summer and early autumn
undertaking. It is in both main routes a long and strenuous outing.
There is no overnight possibility for Kaltwasserkarspitze on the two main ascent routes!
First of all you need a bike to go from Scharnitz to Forsthaus Kasten unless you like to walk 15 km one way.
For the two main ascents you need hiking gear, good boots and lots of water. Belaying normally is not possible so you need no rope or belay items. The rock difficulty never exceeds grade II. Mostly its grade I and scrambling.
A helmet, crampons and an ice axe in early summer, especially for the Hochjöchl ascent is recommended.
The few climbing routes require a rope and climbing gear. The rock is frail and the routes are not very frequented.
Maps & Guide Books
The appearance of the Queen as seen from Marxenkarspitze Kaltwasserkarspitze (left) and Birkkarspitze as seen from Östliche Karwendelspitze
1 : 25.000
Blatt Nr. 5/2
, Mittleres Blatt
For the Karwendelhaus ascents you need:
1 : 25.000
Blatt Nr. 5/1
, Westliches Blatt
Bayerische Topographische Karte
1 : 50.000
, UK 50/51
Landessamt für Vermessung und Geoinformation, München
Kaltwasserkarspitze and Sägezähne Lafatscher ridge as seen from Hinterautal/Kastenalm
Alpenvereinsführer Karwendel alpin
Bergverlag Rother, München
for rock climbing:
Bergverlag Rother, München
(out of stock)
Available only in German