Grossglockner – highest summit in Austria

It is first week of November. Weather at mountains have beed good during the weekend and I was hiking in High Fatra in Slovakia. I enjoyed that a lot. Therefore I start planing what I will do next weekend. It is November so I am clear it is not going to be some high mountains. Still better than sitting at home. Looking on Facebook to see where have been my friends. Maybe someone will inspire me. Of course there is a lot of statuses and pictures. But one of them is extraordinary. Lukas with few friends climbed Grossglockner (3 798 m / 12 461 ft)- highest summit in Austria. They climbed it last weekend and conditions were great. They did it without spending night on hut. Amazing. Going thru picture gallery. Am I able to do it as well?

I am opening online map, checking the route, which they took. I check condition with Lukas in chat and possibilities to spend night. I hike mostly in good weather so decision go/no go is made as late as possible. I am decided, let’s climb Grossglockner. Now I need to find few people to fill the car. Trip will be cheaper. It is time to send email to my friends. I already know who of them will try it with me and who will declined my offer. Long time no answer, I believe they have discussion with wifes. Some answer are nice surprise in good way.

Wednesday morning I am going climbing to Csesznek (Hungary), where I first time fell during via ferrata climbing. Also other important thing has happened. Dusan starts to think about going to Grossglockner with me. Martin and Brano will have some beer tonight. If both will decide to go, my crazy plan can come true. In the evening I am waiting for the answers. We are going to Grossglockner. Five brave man are me, Brano, Martin, Dusan and his friend Maros. I am really excited about the trip. As real atheist I will pray for good weather.

From all different sources on the internet I did my best to come up will following plan. We need to have an idea how far it its, how long it will take, what are the conditions, where we can sleep. This is what I got:

Saturday5:20 amTraveling from Bratislava to Kals am Grossglockner
11/07/201512:00 amHike from Lucknerhuas (1 918 m) to Stüdlehütte (2 801m)
3:00 pmRelax in winterraume in Studlhutte and get ready for tomorrow
Sunday04:00 amLeave the hut and go thru glacier to Erzherzog Johan Hütte (3 454m)
11/08/201507:30 amAfte short break continue to  Grossglockner (3 798 m)
09:00 amGrossglockner – enjoy view
09:30 amDescent to parking place
03:30 pmWe should be at parking at Lucknerhuas (1 918 m)
4:00 pmTraveling home
11:30 pmShould be in bed and get some sleep

During the week I need to get remaining equipment for all of us. On Friday I visit my friend Palo to get most of the stuff. While I am at his place I am doing my best to convince him to join Grossglockner expedition. He finally agrees to join us. Now I need to go home, pack my stuff and back to his place where I will spend night. Logistic in the morning will be much easier this way. Around 10 pm I am back in his place.

Saturday – traveling to Grossglockner

Alarm clock goes on a 4:30 am, it is hard to wake up. I am getting dressed, do usual morning stuff and getting into the car. At 5 am I pick up Brano, few minutes later Martin. At 5:30 am we all met with Dusan and Maros at gas station outside of Bratislava. We split to both cars and hit the road. Thru Vienna, Graz, Villach and Lienz we travell to Kals am Grossglockner village. On mountain road to Lucknerhaus we do not have to pay toll. We have save some money which is great. Lots of cars is at Lucknerhaus parking place (1 918 m/ 6 293 ft). Do we fit in winterraum? There is only 16 beds in Stüdlehütte hut(2 801 m / 9 190 ft). Palo is only one who brings sleeping pad. It is not important right now, we can not change it anyway. I look towards Grossglockner, but it is hidden in fog. I can not see anything above 2 500 m / 8 200 ft. We are leaving parking space around 12:00 am. Hiking sign says it is 3 hours to Stüdlehütte. With heavy back pack it will be challenged to climb almost 900 m / 3 000 ft. First steps are easy, no steep ascent. Later it has changed. Steep part slows us down. After 45 minutes we are at Lucknerhütte (2 241 m / 7 352 ft). Near the hut we are searching for geocache and continue in todays hike. Till small bridge over small stream is path very nice and ascending very nicely. After bridge it is gettin steep. Next flat part let us relax a bit and enjoy Grossglockner view. Fog is gone. View is georgous and Grossglockner summit is stunning. Next steep part goes below cable car, which is used for hut supplies. I see cable car end. Hut must be close. Finally I see Stüdlehütte. I will be there in few minutes.

When I get to winterraum (winter room) Dusan informs me, only two beds are free. I do not care. In the kitchen are wide benches, so I can sleep on them. Anyway I will be warmer in the kitchen. All of us enjoy great weather and amazing views outside. Remaining guys are here as well, it is time to start cooking lunch/dinner. We need to melt some snow. Before sunset we have to set our crampons. In the kitchen we are talking to one Slovak guy. He with his dad and one friend climb Grossglockner via Studlgrat. They are heroes for me. We have lots of questions about conditions of normal route, which they took for descent. It should be without any problems. We enjoyed sunset or milkyway. I havent seen so many stars in long time. I am sure also stars go to mountains as I do. Kitchen gets really full of people. It is hard to find place where to sit. Everyone is cooking something. It is really hot in here. All the smell from different kind of food is mixed together. Palo is not going tomorrow to summit with us, he feels not OK. There is nothing we can do about it. Shortly after 9 pm everyone go to sleep, so we can prepare our “beds”.

As soon as I lay down, I have realized that bench is not that big as I thought. It will be “fun” night. I hate the light which we are not able to switch off. Theres is a timer, so we need to wait. Stupid light. I get som sleep, but I am wake very often. I am scared to fell down from the bench. Besides that Bruno is still turning around and can not sleep. If we do not get some sleep, we will not be able to climb Grossglockner tomorrow. Again I am wake around 2 am. Hope the morning will be here soon.

Sunday – ascent to Grossglockner summit

Some alarm clock goes on. I am really happy about that, despite the fact it is 3:15 am. I got some good sleep, it surprise me a bit. We agreed we will leave in 45 minutes. It is time to dress, get something to eat and prepare required equipment. For breakfast I eat something, no clue what it was, with warm tea, which we have prepared last night. At 4 am guys are not ready. I hate this. At 4:15 I am going out, to make them speed up a bit. Finally around 4:30 we are start walking towards Grossglockner summit. Sometimes it is hard to find hiking path in headlamps light. In snow we got lost. It is hard to find the path. We need to walk in deep snow for a while. I already have some snow in my shoes. At least it wakes me up. 10 or 15 minutes later we are back on the hiking path. It is real hiking highway. Maros is since the hut always bit behind us. He is not going to summit, he did not sleep well. Better for him is to return to hut before we get to the glacier. Only four of us try to reach summit. Path ascend slowly. Before steeper part with put crampons on and we are tied to rope. We are entering the glacier I have to follow best practise fore safety ressons. For Martin and Brano it is first time on glacier. So we have to give them some instructions. Before us and behind us we can see couple of people. We walk between two huge crevasses. It is a nice experience. Above glacier we have short break. Sky is getting orange. Sun will come up shortly. GPS says we are about 3 300 meters / 10 826 feet above see level. Not far above us should be Erzherzog Johan Hütte hut (3 454 m / 11 332ft). It is 7 am and we are at the hut. Sun is already above horizon.

From the hut we can clearly see Kleinglockner (3 770 m / 12 369 ft ). Also I see end of Grossglockner high alpine road, where I have been in the summer. Short break is over and we need to continue. Few minutes we are walking thru flat snow field, but later it gest really steep. Strong wind gives us hard time. Again we are at flat part and wind is really driving me crazy. Now we need to ascent thru extremely steep couloir, which brings to the ridge. I am surprise how easy I can walk here. Everytime I need to be 100% sure that my axe holds in snow properly.

At the ridge real fun begins. We need to climb on rocks and snow with crampons to Kleinglockner (3 770 m / 12 369 ft). I am only 100 m / 330 ft above than anytime before. Hope altitude will not be issue. I also try to drink a lot. I am walking thru narrow ridge to Kleinglockner. I need to ascent only few meters/feet to Grossglockner – highest summit in Austria. When I look from Kleinglockner to saddle which is between Kleinglockner and Grossglockner I am bit shocked. First of all I need to descent few meters /feet. Saddle is about 3 meters / 10 ft log and you need to walk on saddle which is only few inches wider than your shoe. Once I have done this, I have to climb to Grossglockner.

View from Grossglockner summit is amazing. This is the reason why I love mountains, hiking or via ferrata. I have feeling that I can see all mountain ranges from High Tatras on the east to Pyrenees behind Mt. Blanc on the west. Visibility is great. I am really happy because I can nema some of the summits. All the guys who are with me on the Grossglockner, climb with me also Grosses Wiesbachhorn (3 564m / 11 693 feet) during summer. By the way from Grossglockner looks Grosses Wiesbachhorn superb. Far the the west I see big glacier which Grossvenediger summit (3 666m / 12 027 ft). When I look to the valley, where cars are parked, I can not imagine how I can get there today. On the other side, I see Kaiser Franz Joseph Hohe which is dead end of Grossglockner high Alpine road. It is nice and warm here. I would love to sit down here and wait till sunset. I dont mind to be here all day. Of course we do lots of pictures with summit cross. Guys try to solve one multicache by calculating final coordinates. Frankly speaking I dont care. I rather enjoy the view than watching to cell found and calculate some numbers.

Shortly after 10 am it is time to descent. Hardest part is between Grossglockner and Kleinglockner. It is steep and we have to be careful. Some people are impatient and try do get down as soon as possible. Some people still coming to summit. Most of the climbers try to secure them self by the stick which marks the path. During one stop, when I let two Polish guy safely climb up I get shocked. Two guys are climbing almost vertical wall which ends in the saddle between Grossglockner and Kleinglockner. I wonder if I will be able to do such thing. I guess not. At Kleinglockner we do couple of pictures on sharp ridge and keep descending. It goes slow, but safety first. Better to come home in my own car then in black bag used for bodies.

Hardest part is behind us. Now we need to descent on the ridge and thru really steep couloir. Shortly after 1 pm we have a rest at highest Austria hut. To the parking space we need to descnet another 1 500 m / 5 000 ft. It is a lot, but if I image the path, it is nothing dramatic. From the hut we goes thru easy via ferrata, than glacier, which is easy walk. At the end of the glacier I try to memorize all views – valley, glacier, Grossglockner. I still do not realize, I have been there few hours ago. Close to Studlhutte I realize I am tired. Hope I will be soon in the hut, have something to eat and dring. At 2:30 pm I am in the hut.

At the hut I pick I my stuff, which I have left here. It doesnt make any sense to bring sleeping bag to the summit. Hot tea helps me to get better, I eat something small. As soon as I am done I start descending to the parking place. It is totally typical for me. If I am tired and need to get somewhere I do not care about anything else, I just want to be in the destination as soon as possible. During the ascent I notice different path, without snow. I quickly checked the map and it should work. Path goes horizontally for few minutes. At the crossroad I take right turn a start descending. Path is really steep. I am glad, steep part is over. Next flat part gives me space to relax, especially my knees. Again I am at steep descent. It is not fun anymore. Just few more minutes in flat path and I am at Lucknerhutte. Sign says it about 35 minutes to parking place. Last minutes I have to walk on unpaved road. Some parts of the road are steep and my knees suffer a lot. I have to stop two or three times, to give a break to my knees. Steep part is over. Hurray. I start thinking what I will do as first, when I get to car? First of all I will change my shoes for one much more comfortable. Close to the parking place I see Palo and Maros. Hike is over. They are coming to me. Palo asks if he should take my backpack. I can carry it for couple of remaining meters / feet. Both wants to congratulate to me. It is my highest mountain so far. To be honest, currently I dont carre I am in “autopilot” mode and want to get to the car. Few meters from car I aske Palo to take last picture of the hike. Grossglockner is stunning in late afternoon sun. Finally I can change my shoes, change to dry t-shirt. I am glad it is over.

Other guys come to parking place few minutes later. It is not just me who is totally exhausted. All of us are tired, except Dusan. I do not understand how this is possible. On our way home we need to spot at gas station. First of all my car needs some gas, and I need coke (unfortunately do not sell Kofola in Austria). I need to get some sugar. I feel how sugar is waking me up. Shortly before midnight I am at home, having a shower and getting to be totally exhausted.

On monday I am glad I am working in the office. Even walk for lunch to closest restaurant is pain. Anyway it was great trip, and climbing Grossglockner was a great idea. It is something I will remember all my life. During the hiking season it can be difficult to climb Grossglockner, because of a lot of people. Next year I have in my plans to climb 4 000 meter / 13 123 ft summit. So far I dont know, which one. Luckily there is plenty of them in Alps, so I will choose one for sure.

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