Early season adventure on the south face.
Descending the West Ridge of the Schüsselkarspitze, June 2009.
The Schüsselkarspitze is the premiere rock climbing mountain in the Wetterstein Range, possibly rivaled only by the circ of peaks in the Oberreintal just to the north. It's south and south-east faces are lined with famous climbs from the last 100 years, many of them emblematic of the most extreme climbing of their respective eras.
In the days of Hans Dülfer, it was the Herzog-Fiechtl route that drew admiration. It's still a fine climb today, employing two classical pendulum traverses. Stout Grade VI climbing was being done by the 1930s with the astonishing Peters/Haringer route, and then the Direct South Face (UIAA Grade VII) by Aschenbrenner/Rainier in 1939. The 1980s saw climbs of grade IX being put up by adventure climbers like Heinz Zak ("Leben im Sonnenschein").
In Hermann Buhl's
magnificent book, "Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage,"
he devotes a chapter to the Schüsselkarspitze, describing his repeat of several of the peaks most famous climbs on the beetling overhangs of the South and Southeast faces. Under a photo of the mountain, taken from the interesting Erinnerungshütte cottage, he writes "I visited the Schüsselkarspitze in the Wetterstein Range again and again. Everything a climber can ask for is to be found on its South Face."
Indeed, there are excellent cracks (though very sharp inside!), corners, overhangs, faces, smooth slabs and slabs with "wasserrillen" (water runnels), and as Buhl already celebrates in his book over 50 years ago, sounding something like a modern climber, a curious lack of chimneys.
The routes have every kind of protection regime as well. The gamet runs from entirely bolted sport climbs (though the bolts may have an "alpine" spacing) to almost completely self-protected climbs. I say almost because the majority of climbs will have either pitons or bolts in place for belay stances.
The peak was first climbed via the North Flank in 1894 by Schuster and Moser. This route is not popular today, offering rather loose and unappealing climbing. If approaching from the north, it's better to make for the Wangscharte and then follow the West Ridge.
Getting ThereFrom the Wangalm
- Begin hiking at the village of Klamm in the Leutasch Valley. In about 500 meters you have the chance to stop at either the Wettersteinhütte or the Wangalm Hütte (1753 m) for a rest. Continue up to the Scharnitzjoch (2048 m) where the Schüsselkarspitze rages above you a bit east of north. To reach the Wangscharte
, starting point for a climb of the West Ridge
, continue on trail north along a grassy crest until cliffs of the main ridge block the way. A narrow climbers path leads left a few dozen meters to the starting point to climb up to the Wangscharte. The rest of the routes on the south and southeast faces of the mountain are on the right.
The lovely Puittal approach.
From the Puittal
- This approach is useful for climbs on the Southeast and East faces, obviating the need to climb over the Scharnitzjoch (pass) and down to the base of the walls. Begin hiking in the tiny hamlet of Lehner in the Leutasch valley. Follow a wide trail north then after crossing bridge go northwest up through forest into the Puittal (valley). At about 1500 meters elevation the route breaks out of the trees and continues gently up the valley with a fine view of the Schüsselkarspitze all the while. To reach routes on the south face leave the trail at about 1800 meters and head north to a small basin below the face. Scree and heather leads directly to the routes (usually starting a bit below 2200 meters elevation).
From the north
- You can reach the summit from the Oberreintal Hütte via a climb of the north face (rarely done, not recommended), or by hiking and scrambling up the Scharnitzkar to reach the Wangscharte. From here, the West Ridge can be climbed to the summit.
Climbing on Bayerischer Traum (Bavarian Dream), UIAA VII-.
The normal way
on the mountain is the West Ridge
, first climbed by Ampferer and Hörtnagel in 1898. With some minor complications, the route follows the West Ridge from the Wangscharte, accessible from the Puittal in the south or the Oberreintal in the north. The difficulty is UIAA Grade III+. Descent is made the same way, usually making several abseils along the way.
I'll list a few
of the more popular and famous routes on the south faces, but I'm only scratching the surface at this point!
Southwest Face "Siemens/Wolf"
- Actually this is a route to the summit of the West Ridge Tower, but it is a famous line and follows the same descent, although quicker if you don't bother to follow the West Ridge higher to the true summit to the east. Grade IV-, 180 meters.
South Face "Locker vom Hocker"
- K. Albert and W. Güllich. A modern classic of difficult crack and slab climbing. UIAA Grade VIII-, 250 meters. Good ability to place your own protection is required!
South Face "Fiechtl/Herzog"
- Grade V+/A0 (all free Grade VI), 320 meters, but 540 meters of climbing due to numerous traverses. First climbed by Fiechtl and Herzog in 1913, a classic climb from the earliest days of "extreme" climbing.
Direct South Face
- Grade VII, 320 meters. By Rainer and Aschenbrenner on June 25th, 1939. Famous and rewarding crack and corner climbing.
Southeast Face "Peters/Haringer"
- Grade VII-, 400 meters. Famous and popular climb offering sustained difficulties in vertical and gently overhanging cracks and corners. This route has been equipped with bolted belays and several bolts per pitch, though some nuts and cams are still necessary.
Heinz Zak has equipped an abseil route straight down the south face. It requires double 60 meter ropes and comfort with long stretches of free hanging rappels. See the Panico Wetterstein Süd
book for more details.
The summit bivy hut.
The Wangalm Hütte
(1753 m) is a good place for an overnight stay, allowing you to climb several routes on the Schüsselkarspitze, the Scharnitzspitze and other peaks. To reach it, see the "Getting There" section and the Wangalm approach notes.
Only a few minutes away from the Wangalm Hütte is the Wetterstein Hütte
(1717 m). It is accessed the same way.
On the summit of the Schüsselkarspitze is a tiny bivouac hut. It has at 4 bunks with blankets, but no stove or fuel.
Stefan Beulke, Wetterstein Alpenvereinsführer.
- up-to-date rock climbing guidebook to the southern part of the Wetterstein mountains. Highly recommended for days spent on the Schüsselkarspitze.
Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage
- Hermann Buhl. As mentioned above, this book has an intriguing chapter on the hard climbs of the Schüsselkarspitze and Buhl's experience there.