Grossvenediger – first time on glacier

At the end of August 2013 I had great opportunity to climb my first glacier – Grossvenediger. I got really excited about it, but worried as well. Doing something for the first time is always amazing and scary at the same time. For few days I have studied the map, looking at the pictures on web. As the day D was coming closer I was getting more and more excited.

It is mid of 2013 and it seems this year I will have a chance to climb Grossvenediger (3 666 m / 12 028 ft) at the beginning of summer, my first glacier experience.  For various reasons it is postponed till the end of August. Honestly I do not care and really looking forward to the trip with the simple plan – climb Grossvenediger.

Ascent to Defreggerhaus

As always, when I want to go to the Alps, first of all I need to wake up early and spend couple of hours driving thru Austria. This time it is totally the same. Waking up around 5 am, packing few more things and be on the meeting point. It is 6am and full car is leaving Bratislava. It is too early and driver misses the turn to Vienna and we are heading towards Budapest. At Slovakian/Hungarian border I noticed that this border looks different. Few minutes later we are on the right highway and heading to Hinterbichl in Austria. Shortly after noon we are getting out of the car in our destination ready to start climbing.

First couple of meters is extremely easy. We are using taxi service from Hinterbichl to Johannishutte (2121 m / 6 957 ft). If I remember correctly price of the taxi was arround 10 euro for one way. At Johannishutte we are making reservations for the next night and starting real ascent to Grossvenediger. Plan for today is to reach Defreggerhaus (2964 m / 9 724ft), where we spend the night. We have plenty of time till sunset therefore we do not need to rush. Everyone is enjoying the view. It doesn’t matter which direction, all the way around is pure beauty. I am really looking forward to climb my first glacier, to climb my highest mountain. My friends can tell by my tempo. We have passed mountain meadows and in the far we can see Defreggerhaus outlines.

For some reason we lost the path and going to “dead-end”. To reach the path again, we need to go thru steep hill. It is not an easy ascent, the hill is really steep, but there is no other way. Few minutes later, we know today hike is almost over. Sudenly Defreggerhaus shows up few metres above us. I guess it will take another 10 -15 minutes to reach todays destination.

In Defregerhaus there is already a lot of people. Unfortunately I do not speak German, but most used word is Grossvenediger. I am surprised, that there is couple of kids around age 10. Shortly after supper we get ready to go to bed to get some sleep and to be ready for tomorrow.

Grossvenediger summit

Early in the morning, before sunrise all people from lager are awake, preparing themselves for reaching Grossvenediger. I am surprised how many people is ascending to the fourth highest summit in Austria. For me it is hiking event of the year, for them …. who knows. Few meters above Defreggerhaus it is time to get ready for first glacier experience.

Now it is time to use all the equipment, which is in my back pack – crampons, harness, carabiners, rope and ice axe. I am glad, that we have a guy who needs this Alpine trip for his acclimatization before traveling to Asia, who leads us and make sure all of use to get home safely. On the other hand, the path in glacier is like a one way highway. Lots of people is going up and path should be safe.

Walking on the glacier is difficult in one particular thing – climbers within a group are connected by one rope, which means all of them need to walk by the same speed. From the beginning this was most difficult part for me. For unknown reason in some part I was faster, in others slower than the group.  In hour we have reached flat place, where we took a short break. Short refreshment is great idea. Finally I have time to look around and see all the beauty.

In front of us is the last part of the ascent, and we will be on the top. Views are more and more breathtaking, which give me the power to walk. I am so excited. Soon we see the cross on the top. We need to do few more small steps thru the sharp edge.

Here I am, on the top of Grossvenediger, my first glacier hike, my highest point I have climbed so far. View from the top is awesome, amazing, tremendous, great. Thanks to great weather condition there are almost no clouds on the sky. All summits around are smaller for sure, except one – Grossglockner. It is time to start descend to Defreggerhaus, where we left things we don’t need on Grossvenediger summit.

Descent is for me always harder than ascent. It is probably because I know it is end of the hike, I am basically going home or ….. Simply I don’t know. However descent from Grossvenediger is easy and I am walking down with a smile on my face. At least till the Defreggerhaus, where we are having small snack. Our todays goals, beside reaching the summit, is to descent to Johannishute, which is good place to spend the night. Descent another approximately 800 meters / 2 624 feet is not that easy and smile from my face is slowly disappearing. My feet and knees hurts, it is hard to do each step, back pack is heavy. I want to have glass of beer and relax. To have those I need to walk for couple of hours. In Johannishutte I am totally exhausted. It has been decided to spend the night here and I am really looking forward to it.

Next summit?

During supper we are having conversation about how we love Grossvenediger, what was great about it, and planing the next day. The plan is simple. Descent to Hinterbichl, get in the car and drive for an hour until we reach Kals am Grossglockner. From Kals, we go up by car to the parking place (GPS coordinates: N 47 01.377 E 12 41.371) and for a short walk to Lucknerhutte. Maybe the Grossglockner summit see will be a part of my next trip.

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