Ascent of Hochkönig on 2012-10-14

Climber: Martin Richardson

Date:Sunday, October 14, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:9649 ft / 2941 m

Ascent Trip Report

I set off from the Arthurhaus (1503m) on track 430 which as far as the Mitterfeldam hut heads off in the opposite direction to the Hochkönig summit.The track then unambiguously heads for Hochkönig - although there were times when I had difficulty finding the track in fresh snow (more about that later).
There were a pair of rock climbers just about to start up the near vertical wall of what looked like from below a very high pillar of rock called Torsaule. As I ascended higher on the trail it wasn't long before I was looking down at the summit of Torsaule.
And, after an hour or so the trail became increasingly covered with fresh snow and no evidence anyone else had gone before me. Thankfully, as it is also a ski trail, there were poles marking out the route for most of the time. However, there were some awkward steep and slippy rocks at times. In the end - and especially on the descent - I avoided some of these obstacles by tramping through the deep snow around the rocky areas. With my fingers crossed that I wasn't going to fall through into a sink hole, stream bed or, worse, glacial lake.
In the sunshine, I could see the Matrashutte that is right on the summit of Hochkönig. Great, I thought, I had still plenty of time to get there - and there will be a view.
Then I found the ladder marked on the map only 200 metres distant from the summit. As you will see from the picture below the ladder is half-buried in the snow. That wasn't so much of a problem, it is the next steep bit where there is a chain to help get on to a platform on the right. The ladder is in the shade all day and therefore quite icy. It took me quite a while to sort myself out and then cut/kick my own steps to the platform.
In any guide book, you usually get the advice that mountain weather can change very quickly. For most of the day I had enjoyed blue skies above, although there was a cold southerly breeze and I could see clouds building up on the mountains to the south. In the time it took me to complete the final 200 metres those clouds arrived on this mountain. I didn't hang around, I didn't want to be caught in a white-out - and if it meant more snow I didn't want my ascent footsteps to be filled in. And, anyway it was now past my planned turn-round time. So, I didn't have my hoped for cup of tea - indeed, I didn't even bother to check if the Matrashutte was open or not.
As it happens, the clouds settled above the summit level and there was no precipitation of any kind (until the following morning).
The climbers were still high up on Torsaule as I passed by - despite the chilling wind and no sunshine. The chamois I saw in the morning were still feeding happily. I made it back to the car park, before it got dark - after a ten hour hike on the High King.

For pictures and context, see my blog 'Went up a hill and came down' at:
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