Ascent of Hochkarspitze on 2019-08-18

Climber: Jörn Fiege

Date:Sunday, August 18, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:8143 ft / 2481 m

Ascent Trip Report

The Karwendel mountains are famous for their beauty but likewise infamous for their often brittle rock and long access roads - and ascending Hochkarspitze, a summit shared between Germany and Austria, is no exception. Starting point is the huge car park at the South East end of Scharnitz.

From the parking lot you immediately cross the Isar river. Hikers can shortcut via the Pirzlkapelle, a little chapel in the woods, even though this means a little reascent both ways. Mountain bikers will have to loop around a bit, however, this is the only point where they got a disadvantage. The lengthy access to the mountain's base made me swear several times for not (yet!) having a bike myself. Both trails soon merge into a good forest road in the direction of Karwendelhaus.

My estimate is that it is about nine kilometres or so until you have reached the Großer Schafstallboden. Turn left here, also into a forest road. One mountain cabin is located here. This forest road makes a sharp turn right after less than 200m, however, keep going straight along the fence. Soon enough you will see a little gate in the fence - follow through and after that up the obvious trail.

Unfortunately, the "obvious" part of the trail should be history soon. Only later did I realise that I should have stuck more to the left in my uphill struggle whereas I found myself slogging up an endless stream of boulders and rocks in the "three steps forward, two back" movement. Gruelling, in particular when you realise you have veered too far to the right (East) and will need to contour back to the left to reach the wall of rock and grass separating the lower from the upper cirque. This does not pose technical difficulties at all, however, all the stuff is so loose that it is simply imperative to test every single hold. On my way down I would try to avoid this section.

Anyway, once on the upper cirque you cross it to your top right, eventually reaching the ridge that extends directly north to Hochkarspitze. Not stable rock up there but much improved to the lower section. Still, care is required! Some straightfoward UIAA I moves later and I have finally reached the summit. Somewhat to my surprise another climber shows up just 15 minutes or so later - overall, this summit is receiving few visits only. Now I know why!

Quite a long ascent but of course this is just half of the trip. So I retrace my steps to the bottom of the upper cirque, now aiming for the path I had made out from the top. And still I managed to go astray, being misled by animal tracks of the numerous mountain goats in this quiet part of the Karwendel. It is only a 5 meter or so rockwall separating me from the easier sections below, however, the rock is so unstable that I find myself climbing back up several times before eventually making it to the bottom. This was clearly UIAA II, and particularly awkward in view of the poor rock quality. If you manage to find the trail you should never exceed UIAA I though, yet it is obviously not so easy.

From here I dragged myself down to the forest road where I quenched my thirst with the final drops of 3l water that I had carried with me. Needless to say that the way out back to my car got loooong but once there I quickly changed into fresh clothes and headed for the nearest restaurant to fill up. This mountain is not easily earned at all, yet one day I may return and try to find the "proper" trail up the mountain...
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Finally at the top of Hochkarspitze. View towards slightly lower neighbour Wörner (2019-08-18). Photo by Jörn Fiege.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5617 ft / 1711 m
    Extra Gain:328 ft / 99 m
    Round-Trip Distance:15.5 mi / 25 km
    Route:from South (Schafstallboden)
    Trailhead:Scharnitz  3182 ft / 969 m
    Grade/Class:UIAA II
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear

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