The large Ötztal traverse with Wildspitze

The large Ötztal traverse with Wildspitze

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 13, 2003

1. Day: Sun. 13. Jul. 2003, From Zwieselstein to the Hochwilde Haus.

Duration 4 hrs. net, Distance 8 km, Ascent 970 m, Descent 150 m, W 2

Panorama Hochgurgl I had already arrived in Zwieselstein the previous day and had spent the night quite comfortably in the "Simone" bed and breakfast, which was well worth the money. The meeting was scheduled for noon in the Neue Post Inn at Zwieselstein. Thus I had the morning free, which I used to have a look-around in the area. The weather was marvellous with blue sky, and the views from Hochgurgl and Hochsölden to the high mountains around were simply overwhelming.   View to ObergurglAt noon I met the mountain guide Wolfgang and the other participants Jürgen, Achim and Helmar who were already at the inn. Thomas arrived little later by bus. After quick refreshments we parked our cars at the stream right next to the "DAV Talherberge Zwieselstein". The bus brought us to Obergurgl, a boring tourist place for winter sports, which one does not necessarily need to visit. We were lazy and used the chair lift to move us up to the "Unterer Bruggboden". Here our mountain hike in fact began.   The Gurgler ValleyThe route { 922 } started gently rising, but soon moved upwards across a short steep stage. After a short while we reached the Schönwies Hütte refreshment place. Many "low shoe tourists" make it as far as this place as well, but we however continued our walk without a break. First the way lost a few metres down to the Gurgler Alpen Hütte. From there it went easily on the level south-westwards high above the Gurgler Ache. Just before the Langtalereck Hütte it rose steeply 50 m, passed a former customs hut and led gently down to a hut. On this stretch we met the only lady in our group, Elizabeth. Near the Hochwilde HausShe had arrived as well the day before, but had spent the night in the Langtalereck Hütte. In the morning she had brought her backpack to the Hochwilde Haus and then descended again to meet us here. Now complete, we rested with a drink in the hut. From here we could identify the Ramol Haus across the valley on the opposite slope. The landlord of the Langtalereck Hütte invited us to leave the backpacks there and offered to send them with the supplier cable up to the Hochwilde Haus. We happily accepted his offer.   The Hochwilde HausFrom the hut the way dropped 100 m and in the valley we crossed the stream from the Langtalereck Glacier using a good new steel bridge. The last piece of the ascent to the Hochwilde Haus began with orbiting the northern edge of the Schwarzen Spitze. During this the route rose steeply and now and then we had to do short pieces of 1st degree climbing. Soon after that the way became flatter, we passed the branch to the Ramolhaus and finally we were on the western former side moraine of the Gurgler Glacier. From here it was only a short distance to the hut, but first we had to climb a short 100 m high steep slope. Then in the late afternoon we reached the "Hochwilde Haus am steinernen Tisch" (2866 m, DAV Karlsruhe)   The hut is typical; comfortable, the landlord very nice and the meal was to be highly recommended. Brilliant! In the evening we saw a beautiful sunset behind the opposite mountain ridge, however it had become noticeably cold already again. Panorama at the Hochwilde Haus

2. Day: Mon. 14. Jul. 2003, From the Hochwilde Haus to the summit of Hohe Wilde and back.

Duration 3¾ hrs. net, Distance 10 km, Ascent 580 m, Descent 580 m, HT 1

Auf dem Gurgler FernerOn the Gurgler FernerFor this first hiking day we had had a good night's rest. We got up at half past six and after a good breakfast we started at 8 o'clock. Before we really got going, we studied the ascent to the Schalfkogel right across the valley in the west, because this was scheduled for the following day. The weather was excellent with blue sky. From the hut we climbed gently up the side moraine of the Gurgler Glacier along a well marked route ({ 922 }, red/white marks and stone manikin). At approx. 2900 m height we came on to the glacier. This was quite possible to do without our crampons or belt and rope, because the glacier was not at all steep here and totally snow-free. We traversed the glacier over to the northern base of the Mitterkamm.   On the Gurgler FernerHere we did put on our belts, rope and crampons and after a short break we continued as a rope to the broad flat col between Mitterkamm and Annakogel. This we reached quite quickly while the glacier had become a little steeper. The route followed a short descent followed by two short steep stages up to the col between Annakogel and Hohe Wilde. Finally there was another short steep stretch on the north-western neve edge of the Hohe Wilde. We passed a to the south of a tower on the neve and left our crampons and sticks at the entrance to the summit.   Ascending to the Hohen WildeFirst a short pseudo 2nd degree piece (approx. 10 m) was in the offing. Pseudo because it was well provided with good new steel cables. A short section up and down the edge followed before we climbed up a big diagonal rock plate, which was similarly provided with a steel cable and had little chiselled stages too. Finally it was just a short 1st degree piece upwards to the summit (3461 m). By the way, it's Italian name is L'Altissima. Ascending to the Hohen WildeBecause there were no clouds at all in the north, the view from the top was terrific. We could recognise the next day's targets already: Schalfkogel, Fineil Spitze, Fluchtkogel, and Wildspitze as the well as the other big summits of the Oetztaler Alps: Similaun, Hintere Schwärze and Weißkugel. Although the sky in the south over Italy was covered by clouds, the heads of the Ortler group's ice giants in the south-west peeped out of the clouds occasionally.   At the end of my 2003 spring expedition over the Meraner High Mountain trail I had already seen the Hohe Wilde from in the village of Pfelders. Now unfortunately the thick clouds obscured the view back down. If one were to continue to move over to the southern, (and at 3482m also 21 m higher) summit, one could reach the Stettiner Hütte (2875 m) down at the Eisjöchl where the Meraner High Mountain trail crosses. From that summit its just easily 1st degree climbing down to the col with the hut which is also named Eisjöchl Hütte or in Italian: Rif. Petrarca universe All'Altissima.   After a prolonged break we started our return. The descent followed the way up, but the neve on the glacier in the meantime had become quite soft. The lower snow-free part of the glacier had also become quite soft and soggy. In the evening there was again a tasty meal at the hut.  


3. Day: Tues. 15. Jul. 2003, From the Hochwilde Haus to the Martin Busch Hütte.

Duration 6 hrs. net, Distance 11 km, Ascent 940 m, Descent 1320 m, HT 2

The Schalfkogl and its glacierThis day we started 1½ hours earlier than on the previous day. From the hut we climbed 80 m steeply down the moraine's side to the Gurgler glacier. We traversed it over to the northern snout of the Kleinleiten Glacier, which falls sharply from the Schalfkogel. Now an 300 m ascent over a very steep exhausting, nasty footpath followed. It ran partly over rubble, scree or talus. Ascending to the SchalfkoglIn the upper part the way surprised us with ice being under the rubble, which we could not easily recognise. In addition to that the mountain face began to become dangerous by thawing ice and consequential falling rocks. Helmar and Achim were fortunately far enough away, when above us some stones got loose and tumbled down between them and us. That was a close shave! At approx. 3100 m height, on the rubble at the edge of the glacier we put on our equipment and had a short break.   Ascending to the SchalfkoglWe then traversed the Kleinleiten Glacier ascending southwards towards the Kleinleiten Spitze. After a while we turned left, crossed some larger crevasses and ascended westwards straight up to the Schalfkogel col. Here another short break followed. We left our backpacks at the col, in order to ascend to the Schalfkogel summit. Because the neve was too steep to climb we detoured into the rocky edge, which we ascended with mostly easy 1st degree climbing. Descending from the SchalfkoglBefore we reached the summit we traversed a nearly level football-pitch wide area of rubble and after ascending a last neve edge we finally reached summit of the Schalfkogel (3540 m). Because it was yet again a marvellous day, we enjoyed the nearly cloudless 360 degree outlook up there. To the west and north we saw the other summits of the Oetztaler Alps, in the east far away we could see the Stubaiern giants. Even though most of the South Tyrol was covered with clouds, the higher summits of the Ortler group were visible at the horizon in the south too. What a panorama!   Ascending to the SchalfkoglAfter short time started the descent. While descending we used the neve pieces because we were much faster that way. Down at the Schalfkogel col we grabbed our backpacks and climbed down the west side of the col. This part needed to be handled with care because the face was very steep and the soil was quite sandy, riddled with rocks and furthermore some were even loose. Unfortunately we did not reach the glacier northern Schalfferner, since due to the low snowfall the glacier's surface was too far down. Wolfgang threw a rope, with which we climbed 20 m down the mountain face one by one and after that further on down the upper very steep part of the glacier: We then ended up slightly above the end crevasse of the glacier so a big stride in the soft snow was necessary to avoid falling into it. That was not too easy and Achim accidentally "plumbed" the depth of the crevasse at on his attempt. (At least it was chest-deep! ; -). From this point the route was different to that drawn on the map (as I mentioned earlier). We went through the increasingly soft snow towards the SW and at approx. 3150 m we turned to the NW. 100 m further down we left the glacier to the north and we then made a 200 m arduous descent over a screeish, very slippery former side moraine of the glacier down to the Schalfferner.   Panorama on the Schalfkogl summit   Beim Abstieg vom SchalfkoglMartin Busch HütteWe continued descending down the snow-free, soggy part of the glacier, where at its snout was the spectacle of a beautiful large glacier mouth. For a short while we continued to go down the valley on the right bank of the stream before we reached a "bridge" (two boards) to cross the roaring torrent. From there we still followed the valley downwards except for two small uphill steep stages (each 50 m). From the last one we were already able to see the Martin Busch Hütte on the opposite slope. However it was only reached after we had climbed down more than 100 m and again 200 m steep uphill. Before we really reached the hut we went 200 m along at the edge of a most impressing flume through which the melting water of the Marzell glacier was roaring down the valley. Finally we traversed the last good bridge and went again above the flume along to the hut, which we finally reached after nearly 10 hours in total. In the evening it rained a little but we hoped to have another beautiful day the next day.


4. Day: Wed. 16. Jul. 2003, From the Martin Busch Hütte to the Hochjoch Hospitz.

Duration 6½ hrs. net, Distance 12 km, Ascent 1140 m, Descent 1220 m, HT 2

Martin Busch HütteOn the trail to the HauslabjochThis morning we again had clear skies but at 20°C it was still very warm. From the hut we first climbed 50 m steeply, but then we continued gently rising towards the valley's end. Below the Sayplatten the way again became steeper and led us to the SW. We crossed the totally snow-free mingy remains of the Tisen glacier and passed the place where the mummy of the "Similaun Man" from the "Hauslab Joch" (British, "Frozen Fritz", American "Iceman") was discovered in 1991 by a German couple. This bronze-age man was injured by an arrow and presumably caught by a blizzard whilst trying to reach South Tyrol by crossing the col about 3300 years BC. Ascending to the Fineil SpitzeHis discovery was an archaeological sensation, because not only the nearly unscathed body was found, but also most of his clothes, weapons and other artefacts. Since 1998 he has been on display in a museum at Meran. 70m south of the discovery point the Italians have erected a monument.   Fineil Spitze and HochjochfernerShortly before reaching the col we climbed a small steep stage to the N and then went further on up to the "Hauslab Joch". Here we had a short break and then left our backpacks to climb the Fineil Spitze. We put on the equipment and got going. The ascent ran cross the Hochjoch glacier at first to the SW and then in an s-movement westwards to the foot of the NO edge of the Fineil Spitze. We left our crampons and sticks there at the first rocks and climbed the edge mostly with beautifully easy 1st degree climbing up to the summit. Up there we enjoyed nearly half an hour enjoying the view in the sun. Again we had a 360 degree panorama to all the other high mountains of the area as well as deep into the South Tyrol. The descent down the edge and on to the Hauslab Joch ran nearly on the route of the way up.   Panorama up on the HauslabjochWe did not really rest at the col but started the descent. It ran through the increasingly soft snow down the right side of the Hochjoch glacier southwards below the Hauslab Kogel towards the NW-edge of the Saykogel. While we traversed the glacier I did not recognise any crevasses in the neve, but I'm convinced there were some. We left the glacier at 3050 m height and soon met the route coming down from the Saykogel. We continued downwards, sometimes steeply and frequently crossing streams. The Hochjoch glacier's stream was crossed to the NW by a solid iron bridge. After a short stretch the way sloped 120 m steeply down into the valley of the Hintereis glacier's stream. Before we reached the hut we, as on to the previous day, had to get over a 100 m high counterrose.  

  Hochjoch HospitzThe Hochjoch Hospitz, which celebrated its 75 anniversary in September 2002 is a very typical hut. The landlord Wimmler and his family were very friendly and we were accommodated comfortably in double rooms. However just the washroom was rather small with just four places at the "Rush hour", but we successfully organised ourselves with the others. At night it rained again, but this time more than on the previous evening. Particularly of note was the breakfast buffet the next morning. It was very rich and varied. They even offered sheep cheese and olives. Considering that that the hut is only supplied by helicopter they have my compliments! More can be found on the Hochjoch Hospitz in the Panorama magazine of the German Alpine Association (German only).


5. Day: Thur. 17. Jul. 2003, From the Hochjoch Hospitz to the Vernagt Hütte.

Duration 5½ hrs. net, Distance 9,5 km, Ascent 1090 m, Descent 730 m, HT 2

Brandenburger HausThe previous day showed that the glaciers became soft very quickly in the warm weather so the evening before we decided to start earlier this day. From the hut we first climbed steeply up a slope to the N { 902} about 200 m. Ascending to the FluchtkogelWe now were on the Delorette way on which we ascended less steeply towards the Kesselwand. Under the western slope of the Hintere Guslar Spitze the route then again became steeper and ran in parts quite exposed over to the eastern edge of the glacier, which we entered at about 3050 m height.   We put on our equipment and first went with ropes up the gentle incline of the glacier. To our left (west) on the southern foothill of the Dahmann Spitze above the Kesselwand col we recognised the Brandenburger Haus (3272 m) which is otherwise completely surrounded by glaciers. Innumerable bars on the Kesselwand glacier showed the way to that hut. Our way however led us further on to the N across a little steep stage up to the Oberes Guslar col. Here we left our backpacks and set out for the Fluchtkogel summit. The trail started at a gentle incline, but soon became steeper and steeper. Before we a crossed a crest at approx. 3420 m height and the way became remarkably steeper and the neve was replaced by ice. We had to use the frontal spikes of our crampons to get over it. Afterward this most of the climb was accomplished and the trail went nearly on the level to the east. A last slight rise followed and the last stretch was a 100 m walkway on the level over to the real summit.   Panorama on the Fluchtkogl summit   Up there we had a longer break for resting and looking around. Although the sky on this day was partly covered with very dark clouds, fortunately it did not rain and also the view was again exceptional. In the SW was the dominating, huge summit of Weisskugel with the Brandenburger Haus in front of it. Behind it were the peaks of the Sesvenna group and closer the Weisssee Spitze which looked very flat from where we were. In the north, right opposite the Hochvernagt Spitze and a little more to the east was our next day's destination, the Wildspitze, whose summit however was wrapped in clouds.   Descending from the FluchtkogelAfter some time we descended again to the backpack depot at the Obere Guslar col. During the descent at the previously mentioned blank ice piece Helmar had some difficulties because of lack of experience in using his crampons. We held him on a tight rope and so that he did it slowly, but without hurting himself. The summit is easy to reach and not surprisingly parties of hikers had arrived at the col so we were glad that we have had had the summit almost to ourselves.   The route down first steeply crossed some larger crevasses on the Guslar glacier. Here single hikers came to meet us. They were climbing up the glacier totally unsecured despite danger of the crevasses. Greater recklessness would be hard to find! The trail over the glacier became for a while a little flatter so as to run down another steep stage and finally reach the snow-free part. FluchtkogelWe left the glacier near a rain gauge at 2980 m height. From there the way ran well-marked at first partly over talus, and then down the former side moraine of the Guslar Glacier around the mountain foot of the Hintergrasl Spitze. After nearly eight hours we reached the Vernagt Hütte (2755 m), but this time, thank God, without a considerable counterrose. Two hours later it rained again, hard: This did not disturb us, because we were already in the cosy, warm hut. The hosts were nice and the hut again typical, except that the space in the rooms was a rather cramped. On the other hand the sanitary area was big and very clean, but showers were not available.   Vernagt HütteThe hut which had it's 100th anniversary in the year 2001, has been used since about the 1950s as a base for a systematic research of the Vernagt glacier. This glacier is certainly the most analysed glacier of the Alps. There are reports that reach back to the 17th century about devastating floods particularly in the Vent valley and the Oetztal. The reasons for these repeated disasters were the following: Until the 19th century the Vernagt glacier expanded time and again and blocking the other glaciers in the Rofen valley. Sometimes an enormous ice lake formed, "in which huge icebergs were swimming". The day before in the Rofen valley we could see that the old side moraines were more than 100 m high. So one can imagine how much water and ice this might have been. When the dam broke, the large ice lake would suddenly pour into the valley and thus cause the heavy inundations that now and then were even detectable in the city of Innsbruck which is 50 km far away. More about the research of the Vernagt glacier can be found in the "Panorama" magazine of the German Alpine Association (but only in German).


6. Day: Fri. 18. Jul. 2003, From the Vernagt Hütte to the Braunschweiger Hütte.

Duration 7 hrs. net, Distance 19 km, Ascent 1200 m, Descent 1210 m, HT 2

On the Vernagt FernerThis was our last hiking day and the highest summit of this tour, the Wildspitze was on our schedule. As we left the hut early at five o'clock in the morning the temperature was about 2°C and the sky was completely clear: With these excellent conditions we were looking forward to another great glacier tour. Hinterer BrochkoglFirst we went for a while gently up the Vernagt glacier's former west moraine. At a signpost at 2120 m we left the moraine and descended in a north-eastern direction down to the glacier's tongue. This time we had to cross the streams with great care, since the stones in it were mostly covered with ice and therefore very slippery. When we arrived at the glacier we put on the equipment and continued with ropes. The neve of the glacier was still very hard which made the climbing marvellous.   After a short climb to the N we came to a flatter area where our way turned to the NE towards the summit Brochkogel. We climbed a steep stretch, followed by another short, less severe piece. Finally we climbed an exhausting 35° steep neve face 100 m up to the Brochkogel col. Until then we had walked mostly in the shade of the mountains but now we "entered the light". From here we could enjoy for the first time that day the marvellous view particularly to the north. We could have reached the Petersen peak from our position, just with another 50 m easy ascent, but this one was however not on our schedule because we had planned something bigger for today.   The way continued for a while much more easily because it ran almost on the level underneath the NW-face of the Brochkogel. At the broad flat glacier basin between Brochkogel and Wildspitze the view up to those two summits was simply overwhelming. On my first ascent to the Wildspitze in the year 2000 I unfortunately was not able to see much of it. Only after we had passed the N-edge of the Brochkogel the way began to rise gently toward the Wildspitze. It became steeper after the point where it unites with path from the Breslauer Hütte which runs over the Mitterkar col. From there we went approx. 30 - 40° steeply over some large crevasses up to a flatter region where we deposited the backpacks and one each of our sticks.   Panorama on the Wildspitze summit   Der Gipfelgrat der WildspitzeOn the Taschach FernerThe last ascent to the Wildspitze summit began now. It went about 40° steeply up the SW face of the Wildspitze and was partly interspersed with blank ice and rocks. Again Helmar had some trouble because of his lack of experience of using the frontal spikes of his crampons. 20 m below the peak we passed a short, but quite exposed piece. It was necessary to pass a 10 m wide stretch only one foot wide on a 40 m high vertical wall with 1st degree climbing. I loved it, but some others of our group not at all. Finally we reached the already very well visited and not too large southern summit of the Wildspitze (3770 m). There, the past awkward ascent was compensated by a breath-taking 360° panorama. Near the Mittelberg JochThe whole of the Tyrol was our oyster because the Wildspitze is the highest tyrolian mountain and the second highest mountain of Austria. Far, far away in the SE we could see the Hohe Wilde and next to it the Schalfkogel and the Hintere Schwärze. Due S were the Similaun and Fineil Spitze. In the SW on the horizon was the Ortler group and dominant before it was the Weisskugel and the Weisssee Spitze above the enormous, flat Gepatsch glacier. Right next opposite in the W was the Vernagt glacier and above that the Brochkogel and the Hoch Vernagt Spitze. Towards the north the Kauner Grat with the Watzespitze was easily recognisable and on the right side of the Pitztal the Gegenkamm with the Hohe Geige.   After short while, mainly because it became more and more crowded on the summit, we started our descent. At the exposed rock piece and on the first very steep mountain face some of the group again had some difficulties so we descended very carefully. Wolfgang the mountain guide watched out for us very well and in this way we all reached the backpack depot again safe and sound. On the Mittelberg FernerWe then descended by the route up through the glacier's rupture zone with the large crevasses. After we reached the north face of the Brochkogel we left the way we had come up and zigzagged downwards through other crevasses. Later we followed the trail in a bow movement downwards to the NE right to the Mitterar col. All the way down and even on the fairly even surface on the upper Taschach glacier below the Schluchtkogel we jumped over crevasses again and again or went around them. On the tour three years before we had simply marched straight ahead over this surface without recognising a considerable number of crevasses.   WildspitzeWe soon had completed the 70 m ascent to the Mitterkar col and had our first view of the "summer skiing area" of the Pitztaler glacier. To be precise the skiing area didn't exist anymore. We only saw the snow-free surface of the glacier. Thus we shuffled at first gently down the snow-free soggy surfaces of the Mittelberg glacier following the drag lift towards the NE. At the lower end of the Grabkogel we noticed massive building activity. Big machines dug, bulldozed, and broke lines. We left this ghastly place as fast as possible and traversed the glacier to the W towards the Linker Fernerkogel. Here the last counterrose of the route began. It went about 100 m southwards up to the Braunschweiger Hütte (2759 m), which we reached after more than 11½ hours. Because the weather was still good, we again had marvellous views over there to the Wildspitze in the N as well as to the Mittelberg glacier next to it. The ugly region of the summer skiing area is fortunately concealed from the Braunschweiger Hütte by the Grabkogel. Other building activities at the Rettenbach glacier to the east of the hut however could not be so easily ignored.. At the Rettenbach col an enormous wall had been erected, on which a large construction crane had been installed and every half minute a helicopter arrived with new concrete.   Panorama at the Braunschweiger Hütte


7. Day: Sat. 19. Jul. 2003, Departure.

Duration 1½ hrs. net, Distance 2,5 km, Ascent 240 m, Descent 350 m, W 2

Die Braunschweiger HütteNear the Piztaler JöchlBecause Thomas particularly wanted to catch the bus at 9 o'clock at the drag lift station of the Rettenbach glacier we could not sleep late that morning and got going by half past eight. From the hut we went gently down over boulders to the NE where the route turned the corner to the SE and moved steeply up the slope. We had already done a good part of the way when Helmar came into view behind us. He had first thought the descent to Mittelberg in the W was the correct way! On the saddle shortly before the Pitztaler col we were all together again. A last easy 1st degree climb up to the col followed, before we crossed it.   On the other side we had to descend about 500 m wide along the edge of the glacier over blank ice and neve. This presented us again with the previously mentioned difficulties, particularly because we were in a hurry to catch the bus and did not want to put on the crampons for that short stretch. After some time we had crossed it and continued our rush down to the drag lift station but now on a good mountain path.   Panorama up on the Piztaler Jöchl   Rettenbach Ferner As we had already noticed on the previous day there was a lot of building activity on the Rettenbach col. We passed close by the place where the helicopter was loaded with concrete and so it flew clattering several times over us. When we were about three hundred metres away from the station, we saw the bus coming up the road. We speeded up even more and reached the bus stop at the same time as the bus arrived. That was lucky! The bus then took us down to Soelden while we stretched out after that strenuous morning effort. At Soelden we caught another bus and soon after we arrived back in Zwieselstein at our vehicles near the stream. We bade farewell to one another and changed clothes. The weather was still sunny and after a little shopping in the local market I got going on my way home. I opened the roof of my convertible and enjoyed driving home through the sun. Another marvellous week of great high-mountain tours had ended and had left a lot of beautiful impressions with me.



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EastKing - Nov 21, 2005 10:35 pm - Hasn't voted

Trip Report Comment

GREAT PICTURES ON THIS TRIP REPORT!!!!! Thank you for sharing!


magellan - Nov 25, 2005 6:09 pm - Hasn't voted

Trip Report Comment

Excellent report. Plenty of pictures, description, and even some history. Thanks for sharing.

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