|47.39695°N / 11.22219°E
|Aug 30, 2022
|Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling
We had nurtured an ambition to climb the Große Arnspitze for many years, ever since our first summer visit to Seefeld in 2013. When we saw it on our subsequent winter visits – often clad in snow - we decided (sensibly) that it would have to wait for a calm, summers day! I imagined how good the views might be and hoped it would be an easy ascent.
Marie and I got the train to Sharnitz and headed north on the main road towards the German border. It was just after 9.00 am and before we reached Porta Claudia, we cut off left between two buildings to follow the path alongside the river and underneath the new tunnel by-pass road.
We found the track in the forest and headed west along it, passing a German couple who were in front of us.
“It will be a good day if the route stays like this.” I said as we made good time along the track.
Of course, it didn’t stay like that!
The track narrowed to a footpath and the ground steepened and became rougher. Although we were in the forest and shaded by trees from the sun, it soon became really hot. The path found its way through rocks and tree roots, it went up and down and it was difficult for us to get into any walking rhythm.
We came to a fallen tree trunk and sat down to stop for a drink. I looked at the map, it was difficult to work out how far we had come but I guessed we had quite a lot of forest to get through yet. The German couple passed us and kept going. I had a feeling the mountain would be crowded as the weather was good and I had read that it was a popular route.
We set off again, I could see the Germans in front of us some way ahead and at some point, the angle of the path eased a bit and I got into more of a rhythm.
Suddenly, the path just vanished!
I looked around but couldn’t see it. I saw the Germans disappearing through the trees and headed that way but there was no path through.
“Is it over here?” Marie found a feint track to follow but this soon ended too.
“I don’t know where it went.” I said as though it was the path’s fault!
We cast around for a while and finally decided to retrace our steps back down. After around 5 minutes we found it. The path had turned sharp left up a rocky outcrop and I had continued straight on – probably on an animal track!
We resumed the correct course.
The path now started to traverse around the hillside and over much rockier ground before the trees began to thin out. This enabled us to enjoy a bit of a view northwards down the valley and upwards towards the summit.
We scrambled over tree roots, slipped on some mud and were out onto an open slope of grey scree in a wide gully. We were out of the woods after about 2 hours!
Looking up, we could see the grey, rocky buttresses that formed the summit. In front of us, the scree slope was strewn with low growing, dwarf Pine trees protruding from the rocks.
“This looks fun!” Marie said sarcastically, pointing to the path that zig-zagged up the loose scree.
“I think it’s going to be a case of just starting off and keeping going.” I replied a little optimistically.
We did just that.
Surprisingly, we got into a good walking rhythm and made reasonable progress. Ahead, I could see the Germans again.
“Another path comes up from Mittenwald soon.” I said, looking to the right. “I expect there will be a few people on that.”
Then a thought came to me.
“I think we have already crossed over into Germany,” I said checking the map.
The border lies on the east ridge of the Große Arnspitze, somewhere in the forest. Emerging from the trees, the path continues upwards before crossing the ridge back into Austria above the Arnspitzehutte and above this, the summit ridge heads north and forms the actual border itself.
“I don’t think we will have to worry about showing our passports!” I joked.
“I won’t anyway.” Marie replied. “I’m an EU cirizen!”
Behind us, we had good views of the Brunnensteinspitze and its mountain ridge, heading northwards.
We continued up until our path joined the route from Mittenwald and the angle eased. I looked down towards the town but no one was coming along that path, it was around 12.00 noon so I had expected to have seen someone.
We decided to turn right, away from the Arnspitzehutte and a rest.
The path crossed over the ridge and headed upwards, a mixture of loose gravel and scrambling on the broken limestone rock.
Here, it was much steeper again but it meant we could occasionally use our hands to help. The summit was invisible above us and actually further away than we thought.
We reached a rocky buttress and then had to descend slightly and traverse into a gully with a loose path. Going up wasn’t too bad.
“I’m not looking forwards to coming down this!” Marie said.
We scrambled to the top of the gully and were met with fantastic views westwards along the Arnstock ridge with the Arnplattenspitze looking particularly spectacular in the sunshine.
“I think we’re nearly there.” I said as we set off scrambling up another rocky buttress above.
It was useful that the route was marked with red paint splashes although, I wouldn’t have attempted it in anything but good weather.
I reached the top of that buttress and saw a cross on a steep summit ahead. My heart sank, we would have to descend and then re ascend to get to it.
But no, that cross is lower than our path!
A few steps later I realised I was there at the real summit – the cross was on a lower, separate, northern top.
The two Germans were already there, sitting near the summit. I smiled and nodded to them as Marie arrived, it was 1.10pm. Just over 4 hours since we had left the station.
The summit is a narrow ridge with a series of rounded hillocks. We found our own grassy knoll to sit on and admire the view.
It was amazing.
The Arnstock ridge descending westwards into Leutasch was particularly striking. Behind this, the Hohe Munde was in the distance. I could identify the summit of the Gehrenspitze and behind it the huge rock wall of the Wetterstein mountains, the continuation of the Austro-German border.
We could see a long way northward into Germany, both the mountains and the rounded green hills, in the countryside south of Munich. Nearby, beyond the northern top, parts of Mittenwald were visible.
Eastwards, we could see the serried ranks of grey rock forming the peaks of the Karwendel. I wondered how far we could actually see but I couldn’t identify anything past the Pleisenspitze and the Hoher Gleirsch.
Towards the south, Geissenbach and Seefeld were towered over by the Reitherspitze, which was mainly a silhouette as we looked into the afternoon sun.
It was beautiful sitting on our grassy islands atop this majestic, rocky peak and difficult to want to descend.
Eventually we had to make a move.
The German couple waved and left us alone to enjoy the solitude. We waited for them to descend a little before setting off a 1.50pm. Just as we left, 2 men arrived and headed for the top… they were the only others we saw for a long time.
As always, it was much quicker descending although, we had to be careful not to slip on the loose rocks or knock any down in front of us.
Marie descended steadily while I kept stopping to take photos and enjoy the views, then I would have to try and catch up. We were both cautious on the steep ground.
We decided to visit the Arnspitzehutte, a charming refuge in a fabulous setting. Inside it was clean and very tidy, almost like we had walked into someone’s home.
“We could have stayed here!” I remarked.
We left the hutte at 1.50pm and set off back down – we rejected the idea of heading eastwards on path no 853 towards the Hoher Sattel – in favour of our more familiar ascent route.
Heading down, we just had to be careful where we put our feet – I fell over 3 times on the scree but luckily only had a few grazes and bruises!
Around 3.00pm we met the only other couple that we saw for that day. They were heading upwards slowly; the guy had a huge rucksack.
“They are going to be getting to the top late.” Marie remarked after they had passed.
“Perhaps they are staying the night in the hutte?” I wondered. “I don’t think the weather forecast is that good for tonight though.”
We carried on, back down through the forest, it was definitely easier descending in the cooler afternoon.
We reached Scharnitz around 5.00 pm, a round trip of around 8 hours. We had to wait for nearly an hour to get the next train back to Seefeld but it didn’t matter.
We had a lovely day on a great mountain. It was a hard ascent, so I don’t expect to ever repeat it but the views from the top were so memorable.
That evening we had a thunderstorm, the next day it was very cloudy and the mist filled the valley. I wondered if the couple we had passed made it to the top on the day we saw them. If they had left the summit for the next day and spent the night in the hutte they would have missed the fantastic views, I hope they didn’t.