Ken Roberts - - Climbing

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  • VF Austria + Germany klettersteig (11aug-11sep) : Dachstein (Irg, Westgrat Koppenkarstein, Skywalk, Anna, Der Johann, Schulter-Anstieg, Rundkluft-Anstieg, Hoher Dachstein)
    + Postalmklamm, Mittenwalder, Karwendel, Leoganger, Pidinger, Mandlgrat / Hoher Göll, Watzmann

see also:  more Europe stories | public discussion | more on Europe

VF - via ferrata / klettersteig in Austria + Germany

2011 aug-sep

what's here

Dachstein overview

11aug : posted to UKClimbing forums | GPX file

Dachstein mountains gave me two great days of high-mountain Via Ferrata climbing -- for me at least as good as the Dolomites.

Since it was so hot down south in the Dolomites, I decided instead to start in the north (and closer to the MUC airport) at Ramsau am Dachstein in the Steiermark region of Austria. . GPS approx latitude/longitude : (N47.450 E13.617)

First day I climbed around the Koppenkarstein (east from top of the main glacier lift): four VF routes (German "klettersteig" = KS) : Irg KS to top of the Koppenkarstein (2863m), descend Westgrat KS, then down part of Hunerscharte KS, then climb Sky Walk KS up to top station of lift, and took the lift back down to parking.

One of my best VF days ever (and I've done like 40 in the Dolomites), based on: quality + variety of climbing (especially options for free climbing moves with hands + feet directly on the rock, using cable for protection only), quality + variety of scenery (including nearby large glaciers), variety of terrain overall, and ease of access.

Second day I started low at the Sued-Wand hut (1871m) and climbed first the Anna KS then hiked + scrambled a ways, then climbed Der Johann KS up to the Seethaler hut (2741m), then across a short section of glacier and up the Schulter-Anstieg KS and Rundkluft-Anstieg KS to the summit of the Hohe Dachstein (2995m), highest in this mountain group. Then a long walk on a groomed trail on the glacier to the Hunerkogel (2687m) top station of the main glacier lift, and rode the lift back down to parking.

Guidebook: I used many good ideas and info from the guidebook (Klettersfuehrer Oesterreich, by Jentzsch-Rabl et al, AlpinVerlag 2010) -- well worth owning for exploring hundreds of routes outside the Dolomites.

Altitude: The via ferrata climbs mentioned of the Dachstein on this page are at higher altitude, so most people will want to have a strategy for acclimatization, which might require being there some days in advance. I've heard that the Dachstein region also has some lower-altitude via ferrata climbs which perhaps could be done while waiting for acclimatization process.

GPS approx latitude/longitude first day:

  • parking at bottom station (1690m) of main glacier lift : (N47.4503 E13.6170)

  • top station (2690m) of main glacier lift on Hunerkogel peak : (N47.4680 E13.6263)

  • tunnel with ladder through west ridge of Koppenkarstein : (N47.4663 E13.6319)

  • bottom start of Irg klettersteig : (N47.4659 E13.6452)

  • summit of Koppenkarstein peak 2863m : (N47.4663 E13.6404)

  • Hunerscharte pass 2600m: (N47.4673 E13.6279)

  • start of Skywalk klettersteig -- not accurate at all : (N47.4671 E13.6273)

GPX file for my first day in Dachstein in 2011 -- just a rough outline, not much detail, not much accuracy. Also includes some waypoints from the second day.

Irg klettersteig + Koppenkarstein Westgrat (Dachstein lift)

11aug : posted to UKClimbing forums | GPX file

Way more details than you ever wanted . . .
I drove up the toll road to the main parking lot (1690m) for the glacier lift. GPS approx latitude/longitude : (N47.450 E13.617) The lift started operation surprisingly early.

approach to Irg climb

Reaching the bottom of the Irg climb is already a varied alpine adventure of its own, with alpine challenges and alpine hazards. Specific alpine equipment and skill + experience + judgment in using them are often required. Some climbers might also need the security of a rope belay by an experienced alpine climber at some points on the approach route.

From the top station of the lift on the Hunerkogel (2687m) I walked the obvious path north down to the glacier then roughly east down the groomed trail on the glacier -- which was kind of slippery early in the morning - (wish I'd brought some light crampons) -- then a short ways south or southeast on the glacier off the groomed track -- to near the Hunerscharte (2600m).

(Later I found out that I could have gone from the lift top station down to the Hunerscharte without walking at all on the glacier -- by using a via ferrata / klettersteig route. This route started where the steel cable is tied to the fence of the main outdoor platform of the lift top station, by the kiosk snack shop. I have not yet climbed this up or down myself, but I talked with two persons who were just finishing climbing up it - they didn't comment on any special difficulty. Still I think it's more interesting to start this tour by walking on the glacier, so next time I'll plan to bring crampons.)

(Warning: There are some special risks to hiking on glaciers, including icy surface leading to slips and long sliding falls, and risk of punching thru into hidden crevasse -- so more details further below under Der Johann klettersteig -- for which travel on the glacier cannot be avoided -- unlike for Irg + Westgrat + Skywalk.)

Since I did not have crampons to make it easier and safer to hike up east or southeast on the glacier, I next got on rock and went roughly east toward the Koppenkarstein by climbing up the Westgrat KS -- mostly easy climbing on or near the crest of the narrow ridge, with great views out over both sides -- one of the best less-difficult ridge Via Ferrata routes I've done so far anywhere.

When I reached the cable suspension bridge (? near the Austriascharte pass ?), I noticed below to the south a cable-protected trail running west-east, nicely cut into the slope. So I climbed back down a short ways, then under the bridge, then south down the slope to that nice trail - (This slope was steep with much loose stone: Next time I'd bring crampons so I could be confident to use the normal glacier approach to avoid that slope). Later I saw that there's a cable-protected route which leaves the Westgrat route just above the suspension bridge, and at first traverses east, then descends south toward the trail cut into the slope -- but when I checked its upper section in the afternoon I found some of the cables were broken or missing.

Next I checked that west end ("Rosmarie Stollen") of that nice trail cut into the slope, found out that it starts at tunnel thru the ridge. The north side of the tunnel is reached by a ladder. I think the ladder is near a supply-lift which is normally reached from near the Hunersharte by hiking up on a groomed trail on the glacier. Note that this trail is mostly in shade in the morning, so it could be rather icy. Next time I would bring light crampons (perhaps even an ice axe), since it looks like starting in the morning with hiking on the glacier to the tunnel is a more interesting start than by using various via ferrata / klettersteig routes to avoid the glacier - (instead save those routes for the return later in the day).

Then I did the obvious thing and hiked roughly east on that trail, which led to a sort of pass, then east down a steeper slope. Lower down the slope had old icy snow with rocks on top, some mud, also some fresher snow. There was a fixed rope down the tricky part -- next time I would grab that sooner higher up. Another use for crampons (perhaps also ice axe) might be if that rope were missing or dangerously old or frayed. Lower down a steep gully, with another fixed rope for assistance.

Next I traversed on scree across a large open half-bowl. Much of the scree had old icy snow underneath. Might be easier to find stable footing if go lower toward the bottom. Then I hiked up roughly east out of the half-basin to a sort of pass -- with a trail sign for the Irg klettersteig.

(I could see two climbers already on the rocks on the face directly above, so I hiked up roughly north toward the wall. But this was a mistake, because those climbers were not on the Irg klettersteig; instead they were doing a free-climb route using their climbing rope for belay. So I walked back down toward the sign, and then found the correct trail . . . )

From the trail sign at the sort of pass, I traversed hiking across the slope roughly east, following an unmarked "use" trail which soon went a little down, but overall gently rose upward toward base of south wall.

Irg KS details

The bottom of the Irg klettersteig / Via Ferrata was marked by a big blue sign. Tough move off the ground (early test if you're prepared to handle what comes later). I went up the Irg route (somewhere around 300 vertical meters) using "free" climbing style, with my hands and feet directly on the rock, not grabbing the cable or stepping on the metal pegs, using the cable only for protection by clipping my via ferrata kit to it. Except for about three traverse sections of two to three meters each where the route traversed across a blank wall, and a couple of sections climbing upward of say three meters. I'd guess I did about 200 meters of free climbing in the difficulty range of French sport 4a to 5c, with many interesting sections around 5a-5c (perhaps some 6a?).

One hindrance on Irg KS to free climbing was the large metal pegs offered to aid footholds in steeper sections. Sometimes I was afraid that even a short fall might result in my hitting one of those protruding metal things with a very nasty wound. (I'm not usually a cable-hauling climber, but I felt there were too many spikes for interesting cable-hauling climbing).

Skylotec Skyrider: Note that there might be several sections on the Irg KS where the steel cable was too thick to allow use of a Skylotec Skyrider disk for superior protection against taking a longer-distance fall.

The Irg KS route finished at a helicopter pad on top of the Koppenkarstein (2863m).

Then I went west along the ridge on the Westgrat klettersteig route, another highlight of the tour (since I love moving along the crest of a ridge), over a couple of peaks and clefts (with several steep + exposed + thoughtful moves) all the way down to the Hunerscharte (2600m).

GPX file for my first Dachstein day in 2011 -- just a rough outline, not much detail, not much accuracy. 

Skywalk klettersteig (Dachstein lift)

11aug : posted to UKClimbing forums | GPX file

I was already at the Hunerscharte (2600m) after climbing down the Kopperkarstein Westgrat KS - (This point could also have been reached by a via ferrata / klettersteig route down from the main platform of the Hunerkogerl lift top station). At the west end of the gap, I found the cable for the Hunerscharte KS route, and went down that (steep in places, with metal pegs to aid feet). Found the sign for the Sky Walk klettersteig, so I turned onto that.

Sky Walk KS details

My memory is that Sky Walk started down a slab in a sort of dihedral, then a long horizontal traverse west (with some interesting free moves). Next climbs up diagonally on somewhat loose rock. Then up a steep (slightly overhanging?) pillar, where I grabbed the cable and used the pegs for aid. Then a long section (say 50-60 vertical meters) directly upward toward a platform on the lift top station. The rock was less than vertical, and it was exciting for me to climb it almost all free (difficulty mostly French sport 5a-5c). Then another steeper pillar (with great exposure to long direct vertical drop) where I used cable and pegs for aid. Finally some more climbing (mostly free) to reach the lift top station. Hauled myself over the guardrail fence and join the other tourists. Overall climbing on Sky Walk KS somewhere around 150 vertical meters.

Overall more sustained steep strenuous sections than Irg KS, and a much larger percentage requiring cable-hauling style climbing.

One hindrance on the Sky Walk klettersteig route to free climbing was the large metal pegs offered to aid footholds in steeper sections. Sometimes I was afraid that even a short fall might result in my hitting one of those protruding metal things with a very nasty wound.

Skylotec Skyrider: There might be several sections on the Sky Walk KS where the steel cable was too thick to allow use of a Skylotec Skyrider disk for superior protection against taking a longer-distance fall.

GPX file for my first Dachstein day in 2011 -- just a rough outline, not much detail, not much accuracy. 

Der Johann + Anna + Hoher Dachstein


Second day in the Dachstein I started low at the Sued-Wand hut (1871m) and climbed first the Anna KS then hiked + scrambled a ways, then climbed Der Johann KS up to the Seethaler hut (2741m), then across a short section of glacier and up the Schulter-Anstieg KS and Rundkluft-Anstieg KS to the summit of the Hohe Dachstein (2995m), highest in this mountain group. Then a long walk on a groomed trail on the glacier to the Hunerkogel (2687m) top station of the main glacier lift, and rode the lift back down to parking.

Great day out in spectacular mountains and snow and blue sky, with interesting-enough climbing (though mostly not free moves with hands directly on rock), variety of situations and dangers to manage. Der Johann is long + interesting, and the Schulter-Anstieg and Rundkluft-Anstieg climbs (in the easy non-alpine conditions I had that day) had interesting non-strenuous moves in nice situations, so I'd hope do them again with Sharon sometime if we had good conditions and stable weather.

Anna KS was mostly cable-hauling VF style (not many free climbing moves for me), and more grassy than Der Johann. My perspective is that it was a more interesting way to get to Der Johann than the hiking trail. Or if someone can't get past the strenuous + intimidating first moves on Der Johann, then climbing Anna could be a nearby alternative.

Der Johann KS is a big and interesting route. Mostly cable-hauling VF style (though some free-climbing possible for me). Great variety to have both the long via ferrata route and walking down on the snowy glacier (fortunately it was warm enough so I didn't need crampons in the afternoon), then the lift available to make the descent easy (though I've heard it's also possible to hike/scramble from the Hunerscharte pass back down to the Süd-Wand hut).

The first moves on Der Johann are very strenuous: A climber who reached the start ahead of me, but then gave up on doing the climb after failing to get up through the start.

That loop would have been a plenty great day for me. The summit of the Hoher Dachstein had never been on my list of climbing goals.
But then it turned out that (unexpectedly) the VF routes to the summit were completely free from ice or snow, and I found a less dangerous route across a short section ungroomed on the glacier, and checked the rock moves, so I also went to the summit of the highest peak in the Dachstein group.

warning 1: Getting from the top of via ferrata Der Johann to the top station of the lift or to the Hunerscharte descent trail requires a long section of walking on the glacier. Although there is often a trail on the glacier which is often groomed by a machine to attempt to make it suitable for walking, sometimes the track becomes hard ice and very slippery (especially in the morning and the evening and night) -- in which crampons and/or ice axe might be required to walk with reasonable safety (otherwise could take a long deadly slide, with wounds from irregularities and protrusions on the ice).

warning 2: Also the groomed trail does cross crevasses (deep cracks in the glacier), and while the management tries to choose a route and maintain the trail to minimize the risk of punching through the surface and falling down into a deep crack underlying), but sometimes it could still happen -- especially on a very hot day.

But there's normally much more risk of falling into a hidden crevasse if try walking outside the groomed track.

warning 3: Getting to the start of cable of the Schulter-Anstieg klettersteig is tricky and has some special risks. One risk is the need to cross a section of the glacier outside the groomed track. The glacier has crevasses in it (deep cracks), which might be hidden by a thin layer of surface snow, which could collapse when one of more climbers steps on it, leading to a deadly fall into the deep crack. So the bigger danger is often from crevasses which are not visible. This actually happened to someone the while I was climbing, and there was a rescue attempt with lots of people and a helicopter.

When I was there on a hot sunny day in late August 2011, there were several crevasses visible across the shortest way from the groomed track coming from the lift top station to the base of the rock buttress which has the via ferrata Schulter-Ansteig cable route. If a crevasse are not too wide, sometimes you can carefully step across (but there are unexpected dangers to this), provided you can see it. But on other days or other conditions or history in other months or years, these crevasses would not have been visible to someone walking there -- but resulting in the same deadly fall when stepped on.

A route which had very few crevasses (almost none) across it visible on that day was the direct straight line between the Seethaler hut and the base of the rock buttress, so that's how I did it. The next problem is that (like most glaciers in the European Alps), the glacier snow meets the rock lower nowadays than it used to decades ago. So there is more rock exposed between the glacier snow and the bottom of the cable section. So the distance you could fall before reaching the cable is longer than it used to be. And it turns out that the lower section of rock newly exposeds has harder climbing moves (unprotected by cable) than the older climbing in the upper section closer below the start of the cable.

My memory is that there was at least one unprotected move at difficulty approx French sport climbing 5a, and some more moves at difficulty somewhere around French sport 4b. Total climbing unprotected by steel cable say 30 meters (though in the upper section there might be some pegs or old fixed rope to offer some protection. So I climbed up it free solo, and then after going to the summit of the Hoher Dachstein, climbed down it free solo. (Surely if I had fallen or if a rock hold had broken, I would have been seriously injured or dead). Next time if I were with Sharon I would bring a rope to give her a belay from above (and possibly try to use it to abseil / rappel when coming back down).

Most people did not do that. Instead they continued hiking up on the glacier (with no groomed track) around the north side of the buttress, then scrambled up a dirty gully to reach the steel cable somewhat higher above its bottom. This avoids the danger of the exposed unprotected climbing, but increases the chance of punching through into a hidden crevasse in the glacier.

warning 4: Going from the Seethaler hut to the summit of the Hoher Dachstein is a high alpine route which has some special risks beyond those of most Via Ferrata routes -- it normally has snow and ice which require crampons and/or ice axe and skill and experience and judgment in using them. If you're not sure you have that skill and experience and judgment, hire a qualified mountain guide.

GPS approx latitude/longitude second day:

  • parking at bottom station (1690m) of main glacier lift : (N47.4503 E13.6170)

  • Dachstein Süd-Wand hut 1871m : (N47.4598 E13.6151)

  • bottom of VF Anna : (N47.4666 E13.6092)

  • Mitterstein 2097m - top of Anna KS : (N47.4680 E13.6103)

  • bottom of VF Der Johannn : (N47.4719 E13.6091)

  • Seethaler hut 2741m - top of Der Johann KS : (N47.4736 E13.6126)

  • summit of Hoher Dachstein 2995m : (N47.4755 E13.6056)

  • top station (2690m) of main glacier lift on Hunerkogel peak : (N47.4680 E13.6263)

This GPX file contains these waypoints (though it's focused mainly on Irg KS and other climbs).

Postalmklamm klettersteig


Exciting, exposed, committing in the main gorge VF cable route, with a variety of tricky cable bridges (which Sharon + Ken did on a mid-week day). Very strenuous with some interesting moves in the second (avoidable) cliff VF cable route higher outside the gorge (which Ken climbed, but Sharon avoided by a trail to its left).

GPS . . . approx latitude/longitude:

  • parking : (N47.6626 E13.4593) just below sharp curve #2.

  •  . . . old parking (lower + farther from VF start) : (N47.6704 E13.4608)

  • first steel cable on steep hillside trail : (N47.6601 E13.4584)

  • first cable bridge over gorge : (N47.6598 E13.4574)

  • junction of trails near bottom of 2nd Via Ferrata section (higher outside gorge) : (N47.6579 13.4518)

  • trails reunite above 2nd Via Ferrata section : (N47.6581 E13.4517)

  • leave main klettersteig trail to right + go north to main road : (N47.6595 E13.4491)

  • main road near top of 2nd Via Ferrata secion : (N47.6630 E13.4514)

  • forest road descent from near top of 2nd VF section: (N47.6594 E13.4525)

Parking + Access -- main parking has been moved higher and closer to the first cable bridge (compared with the location shown in the very helpful guidebook). But now the walking access is a narrow (sometimes slippery) trail across a steep hillside.

Gorge VF cable section -- more intimidating + committing than other gorge VF routes we've done -- bottom is a long ways down below the cable route. Much is traversing across one or the other of the very steep walls of the gorge, with the cable for hands and steel pegs or rock or dirt (sometimes muddy) for feet - (seemed more strenuous than we expected from the guidebook). Some sections still a bit wet + slippery about a day-and-a-half after the last rain. Crosses the gorge several times, and each one has a different challenge.

Hike between the VF sections: When hiking up thru the woods to the upper section, note that the first junction in the trails is "false": the trail to the right does not go anywhere relevant to the VF route (but that false trail keeps getting beaten down by so many climbers making the same mistake). At the second trail junction there is an actual sign to avoid the more difficult second section by turning left - (This trail goes way out to the left of the cliff, then rejoins the trail from 2nd VF cable section above it).

Upper Cliff VF cable section -- More strenuous than I expected (seemed a bit hard for the D rating), including some strenuous stances for re-clipping the VF kit to the cable. Variety of situations, with some interesting moves, though overall not as long as some other very strenuous VF routes in Austria + Germany. Now there is an E/F variation on initial part, which I did not try (because I do not believe in "difficulty for difficulty's sake" on VF routes.)

Beyond 2nd section -- the trail continuing roughly northwest beyond the 2nd cable section has a sign for "klettersteig", and we did not see any marked trail leading toward the descent forest road or to the main road. So I guess the organizers intend most climbers to continue on to some other VF cable section or bridge. But we encountered a sign which said "Gesperrt", so we stopped and then found an unmarked trail going roughly north to the forest road and soon in sight of the main road. So Ken descended the forest road which crossed the main road and returned to the main parking area. Sharon went north to the main road and waited, then Ken drove up with the car and met her.

Equipment: -- Short leash or "cows tail" with carabiner highly recommended for attachment to belay loop on harness, especially for anyone of shorter height and reach, or anyone who might need special aid in getting across any of the cable bridges. The key idea of the short leash is to be able to hang the climber's full body-weight from the steel cable, while still being able to reach the cable with both hands. A trick sometimes valuable for crossing some cable bridges. Also very important if you accidentally fall in any near-horizontal section of any via ferrata route - (otherwise it would be very strenuous to get back up to the cable to continue on the route).

The problem with the lanyard "arms" of most normal via ferrata kits is that they are too long for this: If you hang with full bodyweight from one or both of the lanyards, then your hands cannot reach the cable above.

Mittenwalder Hohenweg


Sharon + Ken did roughly the northern half of it after taking the Karwendel lift up on mid-week day. Mostly a ridge hike on grass + dirt, with a few ladders and scrambling sections. Pleasant views in all directions, wonderful day to be out on a mountain ridge (with a lift supplying most of the work to get there).

GPS . . . approx latitude/longitude:

  • parking for Karwendel lift : (N47.4381 E11.2706) - [ map ]

Actually we only went as far as the Südliche Linderspitze (something around halfway). At that point Sharon looked south toward the next likely rocky-climbing section and decided it would be too much hiking to get there, so we turned around. I thought the most interesting section on rock to that point was between the Mittlere Linterspitze and the Südliche Lsptze. But the cable went mostly below the ridge-top thru there, so we unclipped and scrambled unprotected up on the true ridge - (being careful to test holds, and stopping our climbing if anyone was on the cables below us -- uncrowded that day).

Fortunately it was an uncrowded day, so there was only a small traffic-jam on the ladders going back the other way (north-bound against the generally south-bound flow) over the Mittlere Linderspitze. Then instead of going back again over the Nordliche Linderspitze (which didn't seem to have so much rock-scrambling), we just took the Heinrich-Noe trail around its east side.

Next we did . . .

Karwendel klettersteig


Sharon + Ken climbed it after taking the Karwendel lift up on mid-week day. Excellent rock, interesting climbing moves. Well-protected, but too short.

GPS . . . approx latitude/longitude:

  • parking for Karwendel lift : (N47.4381 E11.2706) - [ map ]

Excellent rock (surprisingly unpolished for so close to the lift), interesting climbing moves (esp on the traverse section with slopy footholds but positive handholds if found them). Well-protected by cable with well-placed anchors. I climbed it all free, Sharon grabbed the cable for aid in some places - (her comment afterward, "Where was the crux supposed to be?").

Only drawback: Too short. . (made me think about coming back up the lift next time with a rope and quickdraws to check how the rock was on some of the free rock-climbing routes).

After reaching the top of the Westliche Karwendelspitze (2385m), we took the normal route hiking/scrambing (some polished sections, some cable sections) back down to the lift.

Leoganger Süd klettersteig


One of the most interesting + varied strenuous "cable-hauling" style VF routes I've done (without Sharon). I liked the design approach of fairly minimal steel footholds. Very strenuous and technically difficult. I descended by another VF route (Leoganger Nord) also with some exciting steep sections, but not as sustained and with lots more steel footholds. Nice hut nearby for a snack afterward (Passauer hut). Only drawback: Big approach hike (like 1100 vertical meters), but trail is straightforward.

GPS . . . approx latitide/longitude:

  • Parking : (N47.4526 E12.7559) - [ map ]

  • Col where unmarked trail for Süd klettersteig goes off Right : (N47.4728 E12.7539)

  • Leoganger Süd VF cable bottom : (N47.4732 E12.7555)

  • summit Westliche Mitterspitze (altitude 2160m) : (N47.4742 E12.7550)

  • Leoganger Nord VF cable bottom: (N47.4751 E12.7542) 

  • Passauer hut : (N47.4742 E12.7505)

I got lots of good help on finding and doing it from the German-language guidebook (Klettersfuehrer Oesterreich, by Jentzsch-Rabl et al, AlpinVerlag 2010).

Requires very good arm and grip strength + endurance, and excellent technique in footwork and tricks for clipping the protection without expending strength.

Equipment: Highly recommended to have a short leash with carabiner ("cow's tail") attached to harness belay loop ... both for limiting distance of falling down off from cable on overhanging traversing sections, and for resting on a cable anchor point in the midst of a steep section.

Compared to indoor free rock-climbing, I'd say the difficulty of climbing this VF route with full aid of grabbing + hauling on the cable and stepping or grabbing on additional metal holds is around French sport 5b (or UIAA 5+) with some sections fairly sustained - (I say this based on my climbing just the evening before at the Munich Thalkirchen DAV center).

Based on the German-language scale A to E of klettersteig difficulty, I'd rate it E. (One German-language guidebook suggests that it's less than that if use a short leash, but I disagree, since any E-rated klettersteig is easier if use a short leash for resting. Don't think of it as any less than D/E.) Based on the English-language Fletcher & Smith difficulty scale 1 to 5 for Dolomites via ferrata, I'd rate it 6+.

Like on most Via Ferrata routes, there were a few places where if a climber fell, they'd go down a substantial distance before their fall was stopped by a cable anchor point. To avoid this risk, some climbers might prefer to use a Skylotec Skyrider disk, or to go together with an expert climber who can secure them by a rope belay from above.

An alternate way to reach the same summit is to climb up the Leoganger Nord klettersteig. But this route is not easy and has very steep sections. Key differences are that the Nord route has: (a) lots more and larger metal holds on the steep or overhanging sections; (b) overall less of the steep climbing; (c) steep climbing is broken up more by moderate ledges; (d) lots of loose rock on the ledges.

Pidinger klettersteig


Interesting cable-hauling moves, and some nice free moves, in the upper sections. Two substantial hikes between climbing sections. Hut with snacks nearby top. Straightforward walking (or cycling?) access to near bottom of route. Popular with local klettersteig climbers - (perhaps it helps that the normal parking is not far from Autobahn 8).

GPS . . . approx latitide/longitude:

  • Parking : (I did not park in normal place)

  • 1st VF cable section bottom : (N47.7596 E12.8531) - [ map ]

  • 2nd VF cable section bottom : (N47.7586 E12.8503)
    . . . (which also might connects with emergency escape to descent trail)

  • Reichenhaller haus for snacks by top : (N47.7551 E12.8496)

  • Steiner alm for snacks near bottom of descent trail : (N47.7678 E12.8426)

1st section: Rock is not as good as higher up, but some interesting moves. Then some moves on a narrow rock section between (and containing) vegetation (perhaps more interesting if try to many of the moves without grabbing the cable), with some uphill hiking sections. Then a long walking traverse to the west (which if continued would be an escape to the descent trail), at first I missed the start of the next cable section, had to go back and find it. Steeper climbing with some nice cable-hauling, also some nice free moves on rock. Then a long walk descending traverse to southeast. Finish with cable up steep rock, mostly cable-hauling. Then walk a little higher southwest, find junction with descent trail on same side of ridge -- or can then bear Left, continue roughly south + southeast up + over to other side of ridge to find the Reichenhaller haus for a snack (and another big view).

(I didn't do the normal descent, so I'm not saying anything about it.)

Mostly North-facing, so worth having as an option on hot sunny days.

Several strenuous sections, if in doubt bring a short leash with carabiner ("cow's tail") for resting in very steep sections. But not as strenuous as Grünstein (hard version) or Leoganger Süd.

I got lots of good help on finding and doing it from the German-language guidebook (Klettersfuehrer Oesterreich, by Jentzsch-Rabl et al, AlpinVerlag 2010).

Instead of the normal parking and starting approach hike and finishing descent trail, I did a loop from the Inzell side: parked at Adlgass (N47.7739 E12.7965), hiked via Steiner Alm (N47.7678 E12.8426) to the Pidinger klettersteig. After the main climb, a snack at Reichenhaller haus. Then a trail west from below the hut. At first I followed signs for "Bad Reichenhall", then turned off Right when I saw a cable leading upward. Trail marked with paint dots was sometimes on the ridge, more often below on the south side - (I guess the rock on many of the most interesting-looking ridge sections was too loose to make the route up high). It felt wild out there finding my way alone in the middle of the week -- sometimes I missed the route and had to backtrack. Continued west to the Zwiesel peak (N47.7552 E12.8173) altitude 1782m, with some great views. Finally descended farther west (more great views) to a pass, then a trail down the north side back to my car parked at Adlgaß.

Mandlgrat + Schustersteig on Hoher Göll


I climbed these two cable routes along with hiking a longer loop clockwise, on a mid-week afternoon -- but I doubt I would do it exactly that way again -- because there's nowhere near enough good climbing to make all the down-walking impact worthwhile - (though if the purpose is to reach the big view at the Hoher Göll summit, this loop would be a more interesting way to do that -- provided I had a bicycle spotted in advance at the upper Kehlstein parking -- or bus shuttle connection).

For climbing, the best concentration is near the Kehlstein haus: Over the top of the Kehlstein peak "Eagles Nest" and the first section of the Mandlgrat cable route (not farther than where it crosses from the northeast to the southwest side of the ridge). The views from the Kehlstein might be the best in Germany. Along with the wartime historical significance typically associated with some Dolomites via ferrata routes (different war).

GPS . . . approx latitide/longitude:

  • Parking (near Enzian hut) for the loop route : (N47.6185 E13.0677)

  • upper Parking by Kehlstein : (N47.6128 E13.0417) - [ map ]

Not sure if or when it is permitted to drive a car up to here, so perhaps more likely to get here on the bus from Obersalzberg. It can be reached by bicycle, riding up a well-maintained trail -- lower section dirt, upper section asphalt, long slog not super-steep and perhaps not that interesting. - (I suspect that bicycles are normally not permitted to ride up the Kehlstein road).

  • junction of main Rossfeld scenic road with trail connecting to upper Parking by Kehlstein : (N47.6194 E13.0633)

  • Kehlstein haus : (N47.6115 E13.0421)

  • Purtscheller haus  : (N47.6094 E13.0716)

  • near bottom of Schustersteig cable : (N47.6017 E13.0633)

  • junction of Schustersteig (NE ridge) and Mandlgrat (NW ridge) trails : (N47.6015 E13.0626)

  • Hoher Göll summit : (N47.5940 E13.0671) : altitude 2522m

I started from the Roßfeld panorama loop road near Enzian hut, hiked up past Purscheller hut toward the NorthEast ridge of the Hoher Goell, trail gets into some scrambling higher up. I chose Schustersteig cable route over the Kamin variation -- nice climbing, not especially hard. I then went partway south toward the summit of the Hoher Göll (the rocky trail not very interesing or pleasant hiking, but I've heard the view is worthwhile), but it was getting late so I decided to turn around before reaching the top.

Descended on marked trail roughly near the NorthWest ridge -- rather steep with loose rock. My least favorite part of this loop route. Finally reached one of the cable sections of the Mandlgrat. Discovered that most of the klettersteig does not go near the top of the ridge ("grat"). And the climbing sections are short, with long grassy sections in between. Farther north closer toward Kehlstein haus, some interesting "tunnel" sections closer to top of ridge. Then I climbed over the Kehlstein "Eagles Nest" with interesting rocks and great views, and down to the Kehlstein hut (outdoor eating facilities closed by the time I arrived). Down asphalt sidewalk to the upper parking area, where I saw some bicyclists. Then down the paved trail (saw more bicyclists pedaling up), not steep but went on and on uninteresting. Lower it changed to dirt (well-maintained)down to the main Rossfeld road, and I walked up that to my car.

Watzmann traverse (Überschreitung)

11sep - [ see where on map ]

I did this on a mid-week day in the unusual south-to-north direction (so it might not be a helpful characterization of the far more popular north-to-south direction). My impressions:

  • as an alpine peak traverse, it delivers - (so only in stable weather, and check in advance for snow+ice)

  • if looking for lots of interesting climbing without too much approach/descent, this is not it.

  • not over-protected: had significant unprotected sections where I might have expected a cable.

  • not over-aided: had climbing sections where most other VF routes would had more metal pugs or rungs to aid foot-holds. - (but maybe this is because I was doing it in the "wrong" direction).

  • polished rock in many sections, which was uncomfortable for me, especially going down-ward. (Perhaps this would have been less of a problem if I had been going in the popular direction, since I'll guess there was more polish closer to the popular Watzmann-haus, my direction had more downhill closer to that hut, while the "normal" direction would have most of its downhill far from the Watzmann-haus.

  • some climbing directly on the ridge (which I favor), but most is below the ridge on the west side (more often exposed to wind than the east side).

  • very big approach hike and very big descent -- over 2000 vertical meters (at least two huts along the way). I'd say that's a disproportionate amount of knee-and-ankle pounding for the amount of interesting Via Ferrata climbing moves + situations.

The route is popular -- I saw lots of people out doing it on a mid-week day. I think the reason for doing it is not the VF climbing itself, but the overall achievement of traversing all three summits of a great mountain (the highest completely within the borders of Germany).

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escalade escalades steig steigen

via ferrata: klettersteig cable-protected