Overviewgeographical classification: Eastern Alps > Oetztal Alps > Weisskugel
The Weisskugel (italian name: palla bianca) is the second highest mountain of the Oetztal Alps and the third highest of Austria. And it is the highest point of today's frontier between Austria and Italy.
The Weisskugel is a very impressive pyramide of rock and ice where 4 ridges and 4 glaciers culminate in the western center of the Oetztal alps.
It is not so well known to non-climbers who only think of the Wildspitze. This in spite of the fact, that it can be seen well from the famous mountain road over the Passo Stelvio/Stilfser Joch. Many climbers (me including) who have climbed both mountains think that the Weisskugel is nicer. Therefore it is a very popular tour.
The first climber was Joseph Anton Specht from Vienna on September 30th 1861 together with two or three local guides, among them Leander Klotz who is the first climber of the Wildspitze (credit to the basic alpine history book "Die Erschließung der Ostalpen", Berlin 1894). There had been earlier attempts by austrian soldiers working on triangulation for military maps, but they failed.
2nd ascent by the british climbers Freshfield, Fox and Tuckett on June 24th 1865. Freshfield wrote that the view from the Weisskugel was the nicest of whole Tyrol because you can see mountains and valleys so well.
As also on the italian side locals are native german speakers, the italian name "Palla blanca" is just a translation. "Weiss-Kugel" (Kugel=palla=bowl) is not the original meaning. This is "Kogel" as many mountains in austrian alps are named (as Brochkogel, Fluchtkogel etc.). There must have been a mistake of a mapmaker very early. "Kogel" of course means something round, so name and translation are not that wrong.
Mid July to September is the summer season. In July thunderstorms are likely, later you might have problems with pure ice and stonefalls.
It is also possible with ski in spring from March to May-June.
Camping possible in the Melag valley or in the other valleys.
nearest webcam is the one of the Schnalstaler Gletscherbahn
because of the very hot summer, the normal route via the Hintereisjoch is currently not possible for normal climbers, at least not from east side (Schoene Ausicht/Bellavista hut, Hochjoch Hospiz). The gardien of Bellavista hut has now prepared another route along the east ridge with belay stations, also for abseiling. There are some passages of rock difficulty UIAA II-III and one pitch ice with 40 degrees. You should have a rope with 40 m length and of course an ice axe, crampons, some biners, etc. (found on www.alpenverein.de)
Hintereisjoch can be crossed this year. But above it you have to do a traverse along 50 m on pure ice above the bergschrund which demands experience and good nerves
Routes overview and huts, Getting there
Weisskugel can be climbed from five huts in different valleys. In order to attach photos better, I build separate sections.
The normal route from each of the huts meet at the Hintereisjoch (3471 m). A snow slope leads to the pre-summit and a short rocky ridge (I, but a bit exposed) to the main summit.
No matter which route you choose, all normal routes are basic glacier climbs, I would rate F or PD-. Ice axe, crampons and ropes are definitely needed.
In later summer 2003 this easy route was not possible any more!! (see above). In the following years it was possible, but more difficult as it was before with a section of steep ice
a) Weisskugel hut / Rifugio Pio XI alla Palla Blanca
From the Weisskugel hut / Rifugio Pio XI alla Palla Blanca (2542 m)
in the Langtauferer valley. You get there on the road from Landeck to Merano near the frontier at the Reschenpass / Passo Resia. There it is the first valley to the east.
From Melag to the hut: 2 h
From hut to summit: 4 h
If you are used to steeper glacier climbing and conditions are good I recommend to do the north ridge
which is more direct.
good alpinists choose the NW-face, 350 m / up to 55°. Description in german here
on www.bergsteigen.at. Best time for this flank is from easter to early summer
The hut used to be also open in spring! But in 2010 spring season it is closed.
The italian name of the hut is dedicated to pope Pio IX, who was the most prominent member of the italian alpine club, section Desio, which is the owner of the hut since the 1st world war.
b) Oberettes hut
From the Oberettes hut (2677 m)
in the small valley of Matsch. The valley is more south than a). You leave the main road at Mals / Malles Venosta
From Parking at Glieshof to the hut: 2,5 h
From hut to summit: 4,5 h
hut is closed in spring season
more infos in german about the ascent from Oberettes hut on this website
by some locals of the Vinschgau valley
of the ascent from Oberettes hut from www.almenrausch.at
c) Wirtshaus Schoene Aussicht / Rifugio Bellavista
From the Wirtshaus Schoene Aussicht / Rifugio Bellavista (2846 m) (homepage)
on top of the Schnals valley at the old mountain pass of the Hochjoch. The Schnals valley is shortly west of Merano. Get there on the same road as a) or b).
From Kurzras (2011 m) to the hut: 2 h. It is also possible but more expensive to descend from the top of the Schnalstaler Gletscherbahn cablecar, 1 h.
From hut to summit: 4 h
hut is open most of the year because of the near summer ski resort!
d) Hochjoch Hospiz
From the Hochjoch Hospiz (2413 m)
in the valley of Vent (upper Oetztal). Beginning of the Oetztal is between Landeck and Innsbruck
From Vent (1894 m) to the hut: 2,5
From hut to summit: 6 h over the 7 km-long Hintereis-Ferner (glacier) impressive but perhaps a bit boring
The hut is guided in spring season from mid march to the beginning of may.
e) Brandenburger Haus
You can also use the Brandenburger Haus (3272 m)
in the glacier region between the Kaunertal valley and the Oetztal valley as possible basis;
From Vent (1894 m) to the hut: 6 h, already a glacier climb
From hut to summit: 5 h, you have a to descend to the Route a) from the Weisskugel hut
Hut is not guided in spring season
Maps and books
best map is Alpenvereinskarte 1:25000 Nr. 30/2 Oetztaler Alpen, Weisskugel
, available at DAV lifeAlpin, as linked
The italian side is covered by a 1:25000 map published by Tabacco: Val Senales/Schnalstal
book in german:
by Walter Klier, 13th edition 2002, ISBN 3-7633-1123-8, 38,90 sFr; 22,90 Euro
book in italian:
There is the "Guida dei monti d'Italia" Breonie-Passirie-Venoste volume but out of print... One may find it in Alpine clubs libraries.
book in english:
Ötztal Alps, by Walt Unsworth, published in the West Col Alpine Guides series (West Col Productions, Goring, Reading, RG 8 0AP, Great Britain) a good selection but with no diagrams or photos...you've got to buy a good map. Anyway a quite useful book.
- Weisskugel / Palla Bianca
Report on ascent from Weisskugelhütte on August 01, 2004 (in German), + photos
- Austrian Map online
Online digital maps of Austria (OEK 50, OEK 200 and OEK 500) by the BEV (Bundesamt für Eich- und Vermessungswesen) - in German