Climbing is easy from N over moderately steep slopes and good paths up to Hocheck. From S there is a steep footpath with partially easy climbing (UIAA I) from Wimbachgries to the S-summit, which is scenic because of its spectacular and wide view.
From E lead the celebrated climbs through the Watzmann-Ostwand, the E-face of the south summit, which is one of the highest rock walls in the whole Alps (the old name is Bartholomäwand). But also the northern part of the E-face (less famous) offers fine climbs, primarily the Wiederroute.
The W-side of this mountain is titanic, amorphous but in most parts passable. It is, however, not recommendable to climb because of difficulties of orientation, vast quantities of scree and the absence of interesting climbing problems.
It's almost not worth mentioning, that the view from the summit is the best panorama of the whole area: all surrounding mountains are visible, valleys, woods, lakes and villages are located deep below you. It's simply staggering. ...
But Watzmann is more than a brilliant summit: the surrounding massif of slightly lower mountains is very beautiful to climb: Kleiner Watzmann ("Watzmann's wife" 2307 m/7568 ft), 5 (of the 7) "children" - see the Watzmann legend! - belong directly to the Watzmann massif. Hirschwiese (2114 m) and Grosser Hachelkopf (2065 m) are wonderful summits of an inferior crest, the first often visited, the second hardly ever.
Also an other side crest in SW ( Griesspitze 2255 m) is practically never trodden.
The Watzmann Group has opportunities for everyone: the hiker, the "serious" mountaineer, the climber and the ski mountaineer - all get their money worth! Grosser Watzmann is indeed not a lonely mountain but really a worthwhile summit. All the other noted summits and corners of this great region are rather backcountry.
Ostwand was climbed in its northernmost part in 1868. True first ascent however was made in 1881 as Johann Grill ('Kederbacher') succeeded to climb from Eiskapelle to the South Summit. Kederbacher (1835-1917) was the first authorised mountain guide in Germany. He studied the face with a telescope from Gotzenalm and found a route through the giant-wall using the huge rock bands in the heart of the wall. Today Kederbacherweg is one of the favored climbs through the E-face. Later he was over 22 years the first maintainer of Watzmannhaus hut.
During the fourth ascent of Ostwand (1890), the first fatal accident took place as Ch. Schöllhorn fell 50 meters into the moat of the big firn field in the lower part of E-face. The point of accident is from that time later known as Schöllhornplatte. After the accident guides were officially forbidden to climb on Ostwand. The forbid was in force until 1909. From then on over 100 people have died on this part of the mountain.
Nowadays Ostwand is not considered technically extremely difficult in climbers standards. The mere scale of the wall however makes it challenge enough for most climbers.
In the following years they found several climbing routes in this mountains, partially difficult and hard climbs. Not until 1947 - many difficult and extreme climbs in the Berchtesgaden Alps were known at this time - found J. Aschauer and H. Schuster the easiest "climbing-path" through the big wall: the Berchtesgadener Weg
A Cabin was build on Hocheck in 1898. In the same year some steps were cut in stone and rope protections were placed. Thus Watzmann became one of the first via ferratas in the Alps: the great Ridge traverse through all 3 summits. In the sixties they intended to build a teleferic to Watzmann-Hocheck: this ideas collapsed fortunately - so remained Watzmann (in contrast to Zugspitze) a mountain for hiker and climber.
At Grosser Watzmann and the whole Watzmann Group lead numerous interesting routes. Here would be mentioned only the most important of them. Details for all routes you'll find in the AV-Führer Berchtesgadener Alpen (see below).
Normal ascent from Wimbachbruecke or Hinterschoenau to Hocheck via Falzalm, Watzmannhaus (5 - 6 h)
Traverse of the summit ridge with three summits Hocheck - Mittelspitze - S-Spitze (~ 2 h)
Normal descent (ascent is possible but not recommended) from S-summit to Wimbachgries (Wimbachgrieshuette) (2.5 - 4 h)
These 3 joined are the well recommended, wonderful and great Watzmann-Ueberschreitung (ridge traverse). It's marked, partially a footpath, very long (12 - 14 h from Wimbachbruecke to Wimbachbruecke - recommended overnight stay in Watzmannhaus). These routes are the only one on Grosser Watzmann for non-climbers. But you must be a safe hiker and free from giddiness, there are short climbs UIAA I-II.
Watzmann Ostwand (E-face): most famous a) Berchtesgadener Weg (80 m UIAA III, mostly II and easier) and b) Kederbacher Weg (20 m UIAA IV-, otherwise II - III). There are some other (and harder) routes through the E-face (e.g. Salzburger Weg, Muenchner Weg, Frankfurter Weg, details see climbing guides). The celebrated and dreaded Big-wall has his difficulties not in technical requests but in orientation, the mere scale and objective dangers like rockfall, unexpected weather change and such events.
Furthermore there are some interesting climbs in the E-face of Hocheck, worthwhile for very experienced climbers is also the long S-ridge (Schoenfeldschneid) with UIAA IV (with all gendarmes), otherwise II-III (2 km, 700 m).
Kleiner Watzmann (2307 m/7568 ft)
This shaped summit is more climbing dedicated than his great brother. And he is much more lonesome! Although he has 2 "normal-routes":
N-ridge: a short step UIAA II: the aerial "Gendarm", otherwise steep walking terrain - marked with little yellow points. Very nice! - and
E-ridge with passage UIAA II and much steep grass slopes and easy rocks. Both together are the Kleiner Watzmann traverse, a really wonderful route for experienced hikers.
Furthermore worth mentioning:
S-face ("Griachbandl" - a ledge through a wall one must crawl on all fours)
SW-ridge - and the climbing paradise
W-face: at least a dozen of superfine climbs, the easiest (Alte Westwand) UIAA III+, the other V - VII.
The 5 Watzmann-"Children"
Here you find wonderful hikes and climbs:
Child 1: Easy climb (UIAA I) through the Watzmann-Kar (cirque or coomb between Grosser and Kleiner Watzmann) and via Watzmann-Scharte (see SW-ridge)
Child 2: W-ridge UIAA III- from the upper Watzmann-Kar
Child 3: A nice hike or skitrip
Child 4 (Watzmann-Jungfrau, the "virgin"):Easy climb from E-side or ambitious climbs from W
Child 5: A fine skitrip
Other rises in Watzmann-Group
Worthwhile in first line Hirschwiese(2114 m) with terrific view at Watzmann S-face. A long but easy hike through Wimbachtal (about 4 h from Wimbachbruecke) and Mooslahnerkopf (1815 m), last elevation in the E-ridge of Kleiner Watzmann: wonderful view to the Koenigsse deep under the nice summit (1 h form Kuehroint-Alm).
First, make your way to Berchtesgaden (Upper Bavaria). This little town, lies approximately 150 km in direction south-east from Munich and 25 km in direction south-west of Salzburg, Austria. You can reach it by car (click for directions) or very good by bus (RVO-bus from Salzburg) or by railway . Now you have several possibilities:
No fees or other red tape exist per se, apart from the hut fee (about 15 - 20 EUR, cheaper for alpine club members) and parking fee (about 2.50 - 3.00 EUR/day - you can pay up to 7 days in advance).
The whole Watzmann region lies in the Berchtesgaden National Park, there are certain restrictions given by the park rules.
Kleiner Watzmann ("Watzmann's wife") you climb normally only in summer and autumn. But Watzmannkar (the great cirque between the summits and some of the Watzmann "children" (No.3 and 5) you can reach very good and worthwhile in winter and spring with skis. But you may not underestimate the avalanche risk in this steep and terrific terrain!
Watzmann is situated in the National Park Berchtesgaden. Here camping is in principle not allowed. Good camping areas, a youth hostel and a lot of hotels and private rooms you'll find in the valley of Berchtesgaden:
Tel. und Fax: +43 86 57-2 84
Telefon: ++49 86 52-23 96
Fax: ++49 86 52-6 35 03
Tel.: ++49 86 52-81 64
Fax: ++49 86 52-97 98 31
D-83471 Schönau a. Königssee
Tel.: ++49 86 52-41 40
Fax: ++49 86 52-69 07 68
Jugendherberge Berchtesgaden / Youth hostel
Tel: ++49 8652/94370
Fax: ++49 8652/943737
General Informations, adresses and booking possibilities for rooms and hotels you find here: www.berchtesgaden.com
Otherwise you have good possibilities to stay in the huts:
WebCams and other area information (weather, lodging, events) can be found through the webpage www.wetter-berchtesgaden.com.
At the left side you see a webcam situated over Berchtesgaden on Kneifelspitze. This is a little, low summit with excellent view over the valley, at Watzmann and Steinernes Meer. The webcam is updated all 30 minutes (only during the time of daylight;-)
Comments from SP Member guenni: Illuminates the huge mountain from all sides. Recommendable. Horst Höfler is a well-known mountain photographer. Heinz Zembsch is leader of the "Erste Bergschule Berchtesgadener Land".
Comments from SP Member guenni: Exhausting presentation of the east-face-history. A little bit lofty, but nevertheless worth reading.
Newer editions may be available.
Interwoven with this moubtain is the saga from the barbarous King Watzmann:
Berchtesgaden's Symbol © by sandysmith. Permission granted by the author for use on SP.
The Watzmann massif has come to be known as the symbol of the Berchtesgaden area due to the following legend:
King Watzmann ruled over Berchtesgaden, he hated humans and animals and loved to torment his subjects and torture their animals. Mad hunting parties were his favorite sport and he loved the sound of the hunting horns and the baying of the hounds resounding throughout the forest. His wife and seven children also shared his lust for wild hunts where the sweating horses collapsed with exhaustion and the game was chased to death before being savagely shredded to bits by the hounds.
This madness continued until God decided to punish them. With cries of ‘Off to the hunt!’ echoing from the castle courtyard and hunting horns resounding, the whole family set off with their baying hounds. In the pale light of dawn, the king noticed an old woman with her grandchild on her lap. He spurred his horse on toward them so as to trample them to death. When the farmer and his wife ran out of the hut to bring their dying loved ones inside, the king called the dogs on them till they were bitten to shreds. Smiling, the king, queen and children observed the bloody scene.
Now here they stand, immortalised in rock: the king, his wife and seven children (one speaks today from five children, because two rocks are to unimposing for been counted from mountaineers M.P.) forced to stare down into Berchtesgadenerland.