The Großglockner is the highest mountain in Austria. After my ascent to the Großvenediger, the Glockner should serve as another exercise for my planned ascent of Mont Blanc in 2017. If I’m honest, the ascent of the Großglockner turns out to be different from the ascent of the white mountain. The Großglockner is about a lot of climbing on the rock, as long as the snow has already melted in the summit layers and the rock lies fallow. It proved to be the purest thrill.
Daniel, Tilman and I had planned the tour with a mountain guide in August 2016 over the normal route. Actually, the ascent was supposed to take place on the first weekend in August. However, as a cold front passage was certainly predicted by the weather models, we had to postpone the tour until the following weekend. Two weeks before the Ötztal bike marathon we went to Kals in Austria. We parked our car at the Lucknerhaus at 1920 meters above sea level. From the parking lot one climbs over the alpine pasture way to the Stüdlhütte on 2801 meters. The weather was perfect for a high altitude tour. Plenty of sunshine and warm summers. During our ascent, the Großglockner towered majestically in front of us. At the Stüdlhütte we had an appointment with our mountain guide Christoph. The fact that Christoph (Sokoll) was a former racing bike professional made things especially exciting for me. On the same day we planned to go over the glacier and the via ferrata to the so-called Adlersruhe, the Erzherzog-Johann-hut, which is the highest refuge in Austria at 3454 meters, and to spend the night there for acclimatization. The next morning we should go to the Großglockner. That was the plan. The way to the Stüdlhütte was technically very easy and there were many hikers, of all ages, who ascended to the Stüdlhütte. I generally have a problem with shoes and blisters and so it happened that already half way a thick blister had developed at the heel. We stuck my bladder completely and I hoped that there would be no further problems with it. Arriving at the Stüdlhütte, Christoph wanted to know how long it would have taken us to get up from the Lucknerhaus. He then sorted us into the group “fast” and knitted around the schedule without further ado: we still go to the Großglockner today! In the afternoon and evening there is less activity. From the “traffic” point of view, he was right, because we were later one of the last to reach the summit. But on this day we went from about 450 meters above sea level to nearly 3800 meters, not without consequences.
From the Stüdlhütte we went over stony paths to the beginning of the glacier. There we put on our crampons. None of us had ever walked with them before. So it went in the rope team over the glacier to the via ferrata. Also there I had a premiere, because I had never walked a via ferrata before… and then right at the Großglockner my first one. Crazy. Christoph explained to me how to master the via ferrata. We climbed the via ferrata without any problems. Arrived on the Adlersruhe, we deposited most of our warm clothes, which we did not need during the summer weather. The hut was crowded and at the view towards the summit we saw numerous groups. We climbed over snow to the northeast flank, the steep Eisleitl. There we put our pickaxes into the snow, because from here to the summit only rock was waiting for us. The thin air made itself now noticeable. Headaches and breathing problems became increasingly common with my companions. I was lucky and hardly noticed anything except the “need to breathe more”.
A Glockner ascent is nothing for weak nerves and a lack of vertigo. I command not to look into the depth and to concentrate fully on the path ahead of me. Christoph impressed on us: concentrate, then everything is “quite simple”. Problems only happen if you don’t concentrate. Technically, the easy climbing is no problem, but a lot of mental brain thing. To the left and to the right it goes several hundred meters steeply into the depth. We ran on the short rope and secured ourselves to the existing iron bars. We were met by some groups – mainly from Eastern Europe, which Christoph called “long-rope acrobats”. It was also not clear to us how the mountaineers intend to secure themselves on the long rope if one of them should fall into the depth. Sometimes it was very narrow and it took some time to get past each other. But now we understood why Christoph wanted to do the ascent in the evening. We couldn’t imagine what was going on here for the “rush hour” on the mountain. Finally we reached the Kleinglockner. From there it goes a few meters down to a narrow, snow-covered degree and from there over to the last ascent to the Großglockner. Christoph went ahead with a longer rope distance and I followed. Tilman was in the middle and Daniel was the rearguard. Christoph crossed the grade and secured us on the other side. Now I had to go to the ridge and stay there because Tilman had to descend behind me on the short rope. Again I didn’t look down. On the narrow degree I could not hold on anywhere. My nerves were tense like wire rope. When Tilman had descended, I could finally go on. And already the next obstacle stood before me. A big steep rock plate. Christoph was already above me and asked me to follow. At that moment it was completely incomprehensible to me how I should get up there. Christoph is tall, but I am only about 1.60 m tall. The rock plate was steep, almost smooth and the first kick much too far away for me. Christoph also asked me to come. I stood there like an ox on a mountain. Christoph called again and I put my front teeth of the crampons on the rock. And lo and behold, the sharp teeth clawed into the rock. I didn’t slip, even when I put my foot under full strain. With the hands I had at first no hold and I fully relied on the crampons. I pressed myself upwards and reached with the fingers a narrow gap at which I found some hold. With the second leg I set after. Done. We climbed a few more meters and finally reached the summit cross.
After we enjoyed the view with the last remaining mountaineers on the summit and Christoph had bought a round of Manner waffles, we climbed down the Großglockner again. We felt that the climbing during the descent was sometimes more difficult than the ascent and Christoph reminded us again to concentrate. It is not uncommon for serious mountain accidents to occur during the supposedly easier descent out of sheer carelessness. Arriving at the north flank, we grabbed our ice axes and climbed down the icy steep slope to Adlersruhe. There we had a delicious dinner and a few stories from Christoph about mountaineering and a few from the sewing box to professional cycling. My heels had held tapes. I let them stick the night in the mattress camp as a precaution for the next day. After an early breakfast we enjoyed the sight of the rising sun over the magnificent alpine panorama. Then we climbed over the via ferrata and glacier down to the Stüdlhütte, where we said goodbye to Christoph after a coffee for his next tour. We started our way back over the alpine pastures to the Lucknerhaus.