A view from the east showing all three summits of the Watzmann, 2,713 meters!
A view from the east showing all three summits of the Watzmann, 2,713 meters. The red line shows the famous route that Hermann Buhl did on a cold winter night, solo!

Watzmann 2,713 meters!

An September 15/16 Trip Report. Okay, we know the weather is never going to clear off but we'll give it a try anyway!



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The trailhead is located in the village of Ramsau near the mountain resort village of Berchtesgaden. Ramsau is the home of the wife of Hermann Buhl. She still runs a pension there.

Doerte and I left the trailhead, at about 700 meters, to hike the 12 K trail up to the Watzmann Haus at 1928 meters. The trail is easy to follow, and hikers are rewarded with excellent views of the green valley below.

Doerte getting ready to hit the trail! Doerte getting ready to hit the trail. We travelled pretty light since we were staying in the huettes. We are members of the Austrian Alpine Club, United Kingdom section.

The Watzmann Haus sits high on a ridge above treeline at the beginning of the climber’s route to the Watzmann, 2713 meters. The Watzmann Haus has been a refuge for climbers for over 150 years! We shared the Huette with another couple from Leibzig, and a party from Prague. The café was warm and we enjoyed a tea and linzer torte and cheesecake.

The trail approaching the Watzmann Haus! The trail approaching the Watzmann Haus! Even the trail is not for the faint of heart. Soon after this point we were in the clouds, and in the snow!

The weather cleared a bit, and the tough party of three left to do the Watzmann traverse. Risky business in winter conditions with daily storms and snow. The mountain rescue had just pulled a body of the mountain the day before. The Huette warden watched the tough party head up through the Huette window in concern and explained that it was extremely hard to stay on route in such conditions.

Our intended route from the Watzmann Haus! Our intended route from the Watzmann Haus!

The Watzmann is one of the deadliest mountains in Europe, and has long challenged climbers. They Watzmann consists of three separate summits, Hocheck, Mittelspitze, and Sudspitze. The Mittelspitze is the highest. Herman Buhl is famous for his fantastic East Face climb in January, solo, at night! We were planning on the standard route to traverse the ridge of 3 peaks, but it’s still class 5 with fixed protection.

The Watzmann Haus at 1928 meters! The Watzmann Haus at 1928 meters. The white section is the original Huette. It has been added on several times in it's long existance. Doerte and I enjoyed the hospitality of the employees and great food and drink!

With the break in the weather we started up the Hocheck, at 2651 meters. The Hocheck is the first and the easiest of the mountains on the traverse. The break didn't last long and soon we were fighting wind and snow. Doerte decided the Huette offered better conditions, but I continued up to "take a look." Finally within 100 meters of the summit, I decided the snow was too new and too deep, even though the route was in place from the 3 from Leibzig. I was very satisfied to get that high under the late November conditions of early September.

On the Hocheck, at 2651 meters! The Hocheck, at 2651 meters. There are two climbers ahead of me with bivy gear, but it was too steep, the snow too deep, and 6 pm so I bagged it. We'll come back when the weather and conditions are better and try again for Germany's second highest mountain!

The storm blew all night. After our Bergsteigeressen we drank beer and played dominoes near the big warm tile oven. The Prague guys were so tough they opened the window during the night but there was plenty of warm blankets to keep the chill off.

The morning saw even more snow on the ground and even less visibility. We decided to leave the beauty and security of the famous Watzmann Haus and head down to Ramsau.


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