Saturday, September 28, 2019

Guts Required on Grossglockner

Standing prominently above other peaks in the Alps, at 12,461 feet Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria. And of all the mountains we have climbed around the world it is also one of the most technically challenging, on par with Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia and the Matterhorn. The extreme exposure on the high ridge required intense concentration to focus on each hand and foothold. I tried not to allow my mind to wander, contemplating the unpleasant scenarios that would be the result of a fall thousands of feet down bouncing off sharp rocks to the glacier below. Fortunately this wouldn’t likely occur since we were roped together and also had with us a skilled bergfüehrer with many years experience climbing Grossglockner. His name is Toni Sauper and we would highly recommend hiring him for anyone interested in a guide for this impressive peak: (nice photos of the mtn. on this site too) 
Salmhütte at 8,725 feet
Our plan to go to Grossglockner was hatched back in May while climbing Zla Kolata - The Evil Mouhntain in Montenegro with our friend Helga Hengge. Since she lives only a few hours away in Munich, Helga had familiarity with climbing in the Alps and knew about some of the Austrian mountain huts. We decided to take a longer and more scenic route called the Bishop Salm Route, which also happened to be pioneered by the first expedition to climb the mountain in 1799. This is a less frequented route and combined with the late season and the incoming storm, we had the mountain mostly to ourselves. Not wanting a repeat of the weather we endured on Zla Kolatta we stayed at a mountain hut called the Glocknerhaus at the base of the trail at ~7,000’.  

This gave us a chance to start earlier in the morning and get ahead of the forecasted rain and snow. Dark clouds rolled in after a few hours of hiking and a bit of rain fell on us, but we made it up to the second hut, the Salmhütte at 8,725 feet where we took shelter for the night. The snow began to fall as we ate dinner and continued to accumulate as we slept. Luck was on our side as we awoke for breakfast at 5 AM with a break in the storm and we began hiking by 6 heading for our objective, the summit of Grossglockner. It was a spectacular day and the fresh snow gave the mountain a picture perfect powder sugar covered look. The downside of this however made for slippery footing at times with a thin coat of snow over rock, making the exposed sections high up on the summit ridge require even more serious concentration. Luckily there are cables bolted into the rock in many of the precarious spots on the mountain where we were able to clip in for extra protection. All went smoothly and we made it to the top and back down to the Salmhütte by the end of the day without incident. We spent a second night at the hut and hiked out in the morning with great memories of a fantastic Austrian adventure!  
Our bergfüehrer Toni Sauper
Summit of Grossglockner 12,461 feet

1 comment:

D. Balding said...

Congratulations. Always appreciate reading about your latest adventure (and seeing the photos)