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Watzmann travers

The altitude of 2713 m is nothing special, but even with this height, Watzmann is the third highest point in Germany. Berchtesgadener Alpen central massif consists of three peaks with similar height. On the north of the highest one, Mittelspitze, lies Hocheck and Sudspitze is on the other side. Watzmann east face with its 1800 metres above Königsee lake is the highest rock face in eastern Alps. All this means a travers with stunning views which really worths trying.

Getting there

Less than 400 km drive from Prague makes Watmann a comfortable weekend destination. The highway option passes through České Budějovice, Linz and Salzburg. From Munich or Innsbruck, you also take a highway via Salzburg. Coming frou south means passing Bichofshofen and Berchtesgaden.

The best starting point for Watzmann travers is the parking at Wimbachbrücke by the tourist infocenter. After crossing the river, there is already a signpost for Watzmannhaus. It says five hours of climbing, but we plan to do it much faster.

Up through meadows, woods and rocks

Saturday morning weather doesn’t seem to be much friendly. When looking up, everything ends in a thick cloud hanging above first part of forest. A positive fact is, that we are not going to sweat in a two thousand meters ascend today. We trust the forecast which promises sunny Sunday.

We pass some huts on a meadow full of colorful flowers. In another forest we hike up on a wide gravel road on a side of a valley. Many bikers overtake us. It looks a bit incredible, how easy they pedal the steel hill, until we realise that almost all of them use a battery power. Than we feel envious, when we see all those bikes just hidden in the forest close to the mark “no bikes”. They continue on foot without worries about bikes with no lock. I wish it would be possible in our country.

We pass a meadow with the Unteraschau-Kaser hut and later in the wood, there is a lower station of a service cableway for Watzmannhaus. We have already climbed 750 m. The trail climbs steeper now until the forest opens at the former hut of Falzalm. The signpost here says one hour hike to Watzmannhaus. We have reached the bottom of the cloud, which is running higher as we climb.

Stony trail winds amongst dewy small trees. Steeper parts are reinforced with wooden steps. On a rocky ridge above us there is the tourist hut Watzmannhaus hidden in the cloud. The hut in 1900 metres belongs to the Oestereichische Alpenverein and most of mountaineers spend night here.

Another signpost says, that it takes three hours to Hocheck, first of three peaks. Last one, Sudspitze, should be reached in seven hours and Wimbachgrieshütte hut at the other side in ten hours.

We continue up the scree north slope. The trail is hidden in clouds. So do the curious but shy mountain goats. Then a steep part equipped with an iron rope comes. Afterwads we traverse a sharp ridge. Fog is rising along the east face as if the ridge would be an end of the world. Time to time we catch a glimpse of the Wimbachtall valley on our right, which we are going to hike on the way back.

Few more step and we can enjoy the view from the summit cross at Hocheck. There is a small bivac hut just behind. Wooden cube can accommodate up to six mountaineers sleeping on the floor. For the dinner we can use benches on the wall and small foldable tables. It took us less than eight hours to get here, so we have plenty of time to gaze around and enjoy mountain panorama changing in running clouds.

Three peaks traverse

The forecast was true and wind has blown all the clouds away. Snow capped peaks around us are glittering in the morning sun. Deep below us, still hidden in the shade, lies the water of Königssee. Southeastwards we can see the Hochkönig peak crowned with Matrashaus hut. Almost everything we see from this part of Germany belongs to Austria.

The traverse itself is partly equipped with safety iron ropes. The difficulty of via ferrata doesn’t exceed the grade B. We have brought harnesses with ferrata sets to feel safe, but we don’t actually use them. We didn’t know how much snow to expect up there, but we find just few short frozen gullies to traverse. As we are not the first here, we just put our shoes to steps of somebody else.

After a short descent, we climb to the highest point - Mittelspitze. It takes much less than hour from hocheck. Many hikers turn back here. We continue down again and southwards over a rocky ridge. Sudspitze is a bit further, about two hours hiking.

A stunning view to the south opens. We admire higher peaks capped with much more snow. Among those we know the best are Kitzsteinhorn and Grosses Wiesbachhorn we climbed last season. Even here the temperature is pretty high and we are about to descend.

Long way down and back

Red and white marks lead us through a steep scree slope with boulders. Some iron ropes make the descent easier. What a fun it is to slide down in the wet snow and lose altitude so fast. Relaxing on a meadow below we see a group of mountain goats throwing snow into the air while running down the slope.

Finally down in the valley we feel as in another landscape. We pass a signpost and continue to Wimbachgrieshütte through a low sparse forest. Opposite direction would lead us to Königssee lake over another pass.

Till now, we hiked alone. It changes on the comfortable path below Wimbachgrieshütte restaurant. It seems a favorite sunday lunch destination. We hike around western slopes of Watzmann massif along Wimbach river. Wimbachbrücke parking is not the end for us. Two more kilometers on a hot asphalt road to get to our car. Finally there, we cool our burning feet down in the nearby river.

Next time we would like to come as a one-day fast traverse or, maybe more interestingly, with crampoons and ice axes.


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