Already last year I decided that Großglockner (3798m), the highest mountain of Austria, will be one of the goals for this year. On my birthday I even got home brewed Grossglockner gipfel beer as a present from one of my friends, so it is safe to say that I was determined to make the summit 🙂
As the summer months passed and the weekend that we had booked for this adventure got closer, we started to look at what kind of knowledge and equipment was needed to do the hike and what we could expect when climbing to the top of Austria. As I am quite adventurous, I was of the opinion that we can do it ourselves, without a mountain guide but after quite a lot of discussion we decided that we would book a mountain guide. I can not take a lot of credit for this decision, but in retrospective I am very glad we came to this conclusion.
We wanted to do the hike during one weekend, because the struggle of having enough vacation days is real and so decided to rent a car. Driving to Kals am Grossglockner, which is the village under grossglockner takes about 4 hours so we left Munich around 18:00 and arrived at Lucknerhaus at 22:15. This was our very first time renting a car so we were a little nervous. After we got out of Munich city everything ran smoothly.
We had booked a night at Lucknerhaus, which is a cozy privately owned hut right were the accent to Grossglockner starts. I can only recommend staying at Lucknerhaus. The staff was friendly, breakfast was good and they offer sauna for everybody who stay there from 15:00! We did not have any time for the sauna, as we met hour guide the next morning at 10:30. Our guide, Renè, was a nice guy who had worked as a mountain guide for five years. He had no problems with communicating in English, which was also nice :).Renè gave us all the equipment that was needed for the hike. And around 10:00 we started our ascent.
We arrived at Lucknerhütte 30 minutes later (notice there is both Lucknerhaus and Lucknerhütte). Form here we had to choose the route to Adlersruhe hütte (Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte).
We did not hike the normal path up to Adlersruhe hütte which more or less crosses the glacier horizontally. The reason for this was that there was a real danger for rockfall from Grossglockner to the glacier. René told us that just days before big rocks had fallen on the glacier path. Therefore we took the path that crosses the glacier vertically on its right side, avoiding placing us right under the steep peak. This kind of information you really only get when hiking with a local mountain guide.
From Lucknerhütte the path first went up a not too steep green hill, which turned into a rocky area, and finally ended in the glacier. Here we put our crampons on. We did not have special mountain boots made for use of crampons, but this was not a problem, because René had also crampons for “regular” mountain boots, which was convenient for us. We did not rope up during the glacier travel. I guess this was not needed as there was no fresh snow and not really many cravassess. In addition our guide had done this hike three times already during the week so I guess he was well familiar with the glacier. There was actually a possibility to avoid the glacier totally and just walk on the side of it. There were some people doing this, but when I asked our guide he said that that was actually quite dangerous as there is a big risk that that rocks could fall from the small mountain wall that runs on the side of the glacier. Therefore we walked on the glacier instead so that if any rocks would loosen we would not get hit.. Again good thinking from our guide.
After perhaps 30 Minutes on the glacier we reached the point where you have to climb a via Ferrata up to the hut. There were no markings so this would have been tricky to find without a guide unless you just follow some other groups. This via Ferrata was actually quite challenging as it was much longer than what I had expected. When I studied the map it seemed to be so short, but in fact I think we used 2 hours before we were at the hut. The climb was really nice, but as you do it on 3000 meters of course it is easier to get exhausted. There were a lots of steel cables and I did not really feel te roped up for this part, but it did not feel like a rope was necessary. Until now we had only been walking in the valley with not much view, so at this point i really wanted to hike slower and to enjoy the view from the ridge and perhaps have another break for food, but as our guide had gotten the information that a thunderstorm was closing in no breaks were allowed. I barely could stop up to take any pictures, and he was really dragging us on the rope all the time urging us to move faster. I guess I understand the reasons, but for me it really destroyed the experience. I felt like a little rain we could handle and the thunderstorms were nowhere to see. I know I know, the weather can change really fast in the mountains and for sure you don’t want to be on a slippery via ferrata during a thunderstorm, but I did not like the rush. So I could not really enjoy that part of the hike much even though I normally love via ferratas. I was just too much dragging on the rope all the time..
We actually made it to the hut exactly the moment it started to rain, so it was definitely good that we rushed as these iron cables get very slippery in the rain. We were at the hut at 15:00. So we only used 4 hours. The hut was already very busy and full of people so I guess most people started very early from the valley.
What can I say about Adleruh hütte? The hut is nice enough, but I did not really feel welcome. They also had this strange policy that you could only stay there if you also had breakfast. As we planned to leave the hut at 4 AM we were not interested in the breakfast, but when I told this to the receptionist he simply told me that you have to pay for it anyway. The breakfast was served from 5:30 to 7:00 which also made it impossible for us the eat it after the summit since we made it down at 8:00. It seems to be a nice deal for them because half of the hut was leaving before breakfast.. Also they take money for water, which tastes quite bad. I mean it is drinkable but I wonder if this was glacier water?? So we ended up using like 10 euros on water. I also wonder if there was something wrong with the food. We all got really gassy stomach after the dinner and I had really problems with getting some sleep because of this. Sleep or no sleep at t 3:45 AM we woke up and tried to sneak down without waking everybody.
Our guide told us not to pack anything, so we only had to put on our gear. René himself had a small backpack with him and agreed to carry my Grossglockner gipfel beer to the summit 🙂 I had three layers on, wool, fleece and a jacket on and gloves. I needed all these layers because outside it was quite windy. Feeling the wind I was actually afraid that we would not be able to stand on the ridge, but luckily the wind silenced by the time we got to the ridge. From the hut we walked first over the glacier. It was quite steep, but nothing to compared to the climb that waited us after the glacier. Here it was just scrambling. We used our hands and legs as well as we could to climb over the rocks upwards. In the darkness it felt like it the climb would never end, even though I knew it was only 400 hm. Renè went first, found a spot to secure the rope and then told us to follow. He secured the rope behind rocks, because there were no other options (there was only one fixed iron rope on the whole ridge and couple of places where one could use a carabiner) Climbing this 45 degree hill of rocks was even more difficult with crampons on and the fresh snow turned into ice on the rocks when we climbed them. I had most trouble just finding something not slippery to grab onto in order to pull myself up to the next rock. Still, there was only one spot on the entire ridge where I felt uncomfortable. Before the peak itself the ridge goes down a little and there was a thin section where I had to just sit on a rock and slide down. Sliding to the right or left would not end well 😀 but with “summer” conditions that part would not have scared me either. That being said, it is very exposed and there is a reason why we secured ourselves with a rope all the time. One s of us also felt the height sickness a little in form of a headache, so heights is another thing to take into the consideration.
Also on the ridge, our our guide was constantly rushing us and now I started to get really annoyed about this! Because honestly, what was all this rush about? We were on the peak at 6:20 ish and there was no reason to rush what so ever. It seemed to me that the other guides had the same attitude. At one spot I needed more time to figure out how to place my feet and hands to climb further and while I was struggling, one of the other guides who was already on his way down the mountain, started shouting at me that I should not stop up and block the way but keep going! Honestly, is not the guide’s task to keep calm? He shouting at me did not help in any way, that is for sure.
Finally we reached the peak and there were only two other people on it. We stayed on the peak just long enough to see the sunrise in the sky line, celebrate the victory with the gipfel beer and take some pictures. On the way down we could finally get see how exposed the ridge really was. I liked this more. I guess I like knowing better than not knowing 🙂 Generally downhill is always easier for me so it is sad that I often worry about how I will get down during the way up 😦
On the way down we also met a lot of other groups who were now on their way up. This was actually nice because we had to wait and let them pass us in several places which gave me time to enjoy the view more 🙂 After all, I was in no hurry to get down from this majestic mountain!
Back at the hut I had the worst coffee of my life, and decided not to buy anything else and eat my homemade müslibars instead. We left the hut around 9. It was perfect weather. Amazingly the guide still had a quite fast phase and when I asked him, what the rush was about he said that everybody else were passing us so we were slow. He even denied me to have a break to take off my jacket 😦 It was 10:30 and I had no rush to get back to the valley!! But he saw it differently. Anyways, we took the “normal path” down. I am not sure why, I think it was only because it is faster, because the risk of rocks falling on the glacier was still there. At one point we even earned some rocks falling from the wall, so I did actually rush over the glacier 😀
Other than that I did not mind taking this path as we could now take a closer look at the side of the valley. Here we could see the Stüdlhütte and we walked past some nice waterfalls.
Around 12:00 the guide left us, as he told he needed to rush to another assignment that he had the next day (which was not planned, but he had to step in for a guide who called in sick). So René left us and I felt relieved 🙂 at least I could enjoy the last part of the hike in my speed. Not having to rush anymore we took a break at Lucknerhütte. I had finally some proper coffee and a really delicious Apfelstrudel. This was a perfect ending for the adventure.
We were down at Lucknerhaus at 13:00 and back in Munich at 17:00.
All in all I am really happy with the hike, it was a cool experience, we had nice weather and Großglockner made us to push our comfort zone a little. I am also really glad we hired a mountain guide. We needed him on that ridge and we learned a lot from him, the only thing I am not happy about was the constant rushing. I get it, for the mountain guides this is just a regular work day and the earlier they are down in the valley, the sooner they can finish their work day, but for me this was is a once in a lifetime experience that I wanted to enjoy! At least it is now clear to me that I have to take some mountaineering courses so that I can do the hikes I want to do the way I want to do them!
So we had to hire a car, for 3 days, in additional you have to buy a vignette which was 12 euros, you also have to pay a fee for one of the roads/tunnels on the road (2x 11 euros) and you have to pay for the parking at Lucknerhaus/Großglocknerarena (14 euros). In addition we paid 35 euros for a bed in a dorm at Lucknerhaus and 45 euros for the stay (included dinner) at Adleruh hütte.) The mountain guide cost 205 euros per person. So all in all not a really cheap hike. But if you go for a weekend in London you end up paying the same if not more so it is all about priorities 🙂