Climbing Grossglockner (3797 m) – Austria’s Highest
Your first real taste of alpine mountaneering on the top of Austria
“The challenge, the sun, the infinite glaciers and the smell of snow all blend together into one very unique experience on this mountain so sacred to Austrians.”
“I’m heading out for a stroll this weekend” – is what you tell everyone at work. Just a few days later, you amuse curious and jealous eyes with incredible shots from Austria’s roof and attempt the impossible – which is: putting into words the feeling of the challenge, the sun, the infinite glaciers and the smell of snow all blending together into one very unique experience on this mountain so sacred to Austrians.
You do not need mountaineering experience for this peak, but you should have adequate stamina and previous experience on via ferratas or climbing easy rock – just to make sure you don’t get nervous with heights… If you still have doubts about the successful climb, come with us and try yourself out on Grossvenediger, the 4th highest mountain in Austria. It’s more like trekking on a glacier, well, an “exhausting walk”, but you meet almost every difficulty you will have to face on the big brother.
Further InfoA really nice "first alpine peak". It will get crowded on the weekends, so if you can, come on a weekday and ask us for a guide. If the "official" dates are not good for you, let us know. We are quite flexible. The dates between March-April-May are winter ascents, previous alpine experience is a must.
Is this trip for you?
“I had real fears about my first climb. But our guide considered not just his or the fast members’ pace, but ours (the slower ones’) as well. So we all reached the summit cross and got back safely but well worn out. And as soon as I got home, I started to plan my next trip to the Alps! :)”
– Johannes Barington, Brighton UK
Day 1: Hiking to Erzherzog-Johann Hütte, 3451m
Meeting is in the parking lot above Lücknerhaus. You are leaving your car at 2200 meters and need to tackle a vertical of 1250 meters to get to Erzherzog-Johann Hütte, the highest standing mountain hut in the country. This will take you about 5-6 hours. It’s a long way up and you will need to use your crampons to get there. The hut is a nice place to stay for the night and you can get used to the elevation.
Day 2: Summiting Grossglockner, 3797m
You have only 350 meters of vertical to tackle before standing on the peak, but still it’ll be an early rise around 6 AM. Soon after leaving the hütte, you’re looking at a 40 degree snow/firn slope about 50-100 meters in length depending on conditions. After that, it’s easy rock. After easy rock, it’s tougher rock climbing but it won’t exceed Grade II. This means you don’t have to worry, there’s no experience needed; you’ve done this sort of stuff as a kid (yeah, yeah, that was a long time ago..). But, your guide will be belaying you, which will make you feel safe. You first ascend Kleinglockner and descend a bit lower to the saddle between Kleinglockner and Grossglockner, called Glocknerscharte. It’s quite exposed and – as a matter of fact – can be crowded. But no worries, you can avoid it with an early start.
After crossing Scharte, you’re pretty much on Grade II rock all the way to the summit. Take some pics from the “roof of the country” and try to take in the views. The descent is the same way you came up. Walk back down to the parking lot. On your way down, your mind involuntarily begins to plan your next ascent – on a 4000er. May we suggest Mont Blanc right away? You’re definitely fit for it after a successful summiting of Grossglockner.
Equipment and Info
The Grossglockner (3798m) is the highest mountain of Austria. Part of the larger Glockner Group of the Hohe Tauern range, it lies on the border between the Austrian states of Carinthia and Tyrol. The Pasterze, Austria’s most extended glacier, is on the Grossglockner’s eastern slope.
The normal route leads to the summit from two sides of the mountain: From Kals (and Heiligenblut.) Both starting points meet at the Adlersruhe, where the Erzherzog Johann Hut is located. This is the highest mountain Hut of Austria at an elevation 3450m.
The region around the mountain has formed part of the Grossglockner-Pasterze special protected area within the High Tauern National Park. The view from the Grossglockner summit is one of the farthest of all mountains in the Eastern Alps. It ranges out to 220 km or, taking account of atmospheric refraction, almost 240 km. Its view over more than 150,000 km2 of the earth’s surface reaches as far as the Upper Swabian Plateau in the northwest, to Regensburg and the peaks of the Bohemian Forest in the north, to Mt. Ortler in the west, to the Padan Plain in the south, and to Mt. Triglav and the Totes Gebirge range in the east.
In the Alps above 3000 meters, it’s hard to predict the temperatures even a few days ahead. Even in early summer, it can be as cold as -10 Celsius in the morning when you start out from the hut, and as hot as +10-13 on the glacier, with the glacier, which feels a lot hotter with the intensive sunshine penetrating the thinner atmosphere and reflecting back from the snow.
If the weather forecast predicts a big, Europe-wide cold front with storms (i.e. no chance of being able to climb), then we cancel the trip and postpone it to a later date, agreed on by everyone. Even if good weather is predicted, we can still run into a snowstorm and fog. For the sake of your safety and enjoyment, the guide will turn the group around on the summit bid. That means no summit. This is a decision you have to accept. There is no democracy on guided trips; the guide is responsible for the group’s safety, so he makes the calls.
This is an introductory alpine climb and everyone leading a sporty lifestyle (i.e. exercising 3 times a week for at least an hour, working up a sweat) can manage the climb. You do not need mountaineering experience for this peak, but we recommend to have have previous experience on via ferratas/easy rock climb.
If you want to increase your chances, you can climb with us on Grossvenediger, as a preparation climb. After the Grossvenediger climb (the 4th highest peak of Austria, and also one of the most popular easy 3000-er) you will be well acclimatised, and you will use your ice axe and crampons confidently on the Grossglockner.
There is hardly a better peak to get a real sense of mountaineering on than Grossglockner. However, it is important that you arrive well rested. Spending the night at almost 3000 meters can be uncomfortable. You may get a slight headache or experience minor stomach problems. If you come well rested and drink enough, your chances of getting worn out by altitude are smaller. If you experience any of these signs, let your guide know. He won’t give you pills or anything, but rather send you to sleep – by morning, you’ll be fine! Gaining altitude on the summit climb, you’ll most likely find yourself losing breath often. This is normal, don’t worry. About 3-5% of our clients get headaches or experience discomfort, but it usually doesn’t keep ’em from summiting.
You’ll spend the night before the ascent in Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte – the very highest hut in the country with its 3451m elevation. The food is great. (The price includes ONLY breakfast, but you can order warm dinner for your comfort. The dinner cost around 20€). So is the beer and the wine, but it gets a bit expensive at this altitude.
You’ll be staying in rooms that accommodate 6-10 climbers and sleep in bunk beds, which is your usual setting in huts in the Alps.
- you need to bring sandwiches/energy bars/candy bars for the climb
- bring a 1.5 liter bottle – you can fill it on the way and also in the hut
- you can buy warm food and drinks in the huts
- you need to bring sandwiches/energy bars/candy bars for the climb
- bring a 1.5 litre bottle you can fill on the way
The hut in the season is very busy. So if you want to go for sure, make your reservation at least 2 months in advance, otherwise we cannot guarantee the accommodation for you in Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte. In this case we will suggest another date or an other hut to stay.
The price includes equipment hire, so you need not worry about technical gear. Of course, you may bring your own gear if you prefer, but regrettably, we can’t discount the price of the trip, should you bring your own mountaineering gear.
What you do need to bring is good climbing boots broken in, so they won’t hurt your feet. Not sure if your boots are OK or you want to get your first pair? Read our tips here.
Here is a list that may be helpful to get yourself organised before the trip:
- backpack – 30-40 liters (and preferably equipped with these features)
- trekking socks
- waterproof pants – make sure you treat them with water-repellent prior to your trip
- waterproof jacket/softshell – make sure you treat it with water-repellent prior to your trip
- climbing pants
- two pairs of gloves
- warm hat
- bandana/cap against the sun
- suncream (min. factor 30) and lip balm sticks
- 2 fleece sweaters/vest
- light and thin sleeping bag liner for huts
- climbing boots
- trekking poles
- sandals/running shoes for life in the valley
If you want more information on proper equipment, here’s a detailed guide about the three layers, with specific tips on what to bring (or purchase if you still don’t have them).
You meet the team and your guide around 8-9 AM at Lücknerhaus, Kals am Grossglockner (village). This is the starting point of the Grossglockner climb. Here, you can look at the map!
The nearest airports are: Salzburg, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt
Kals am Grossglockner can be reached best by car.
A12-178-161-108-L26 (coming From Innsbruck/Kufstein)
A10-311-168-108-L26 (coming from Salzburg)
A10-100-108-L26 (coming from Klagenfurt)
100-108-L26 (coming from Dolomites/Cortina(Italy))
If you need a hand in airplane tickets, let us know.
Food and Drinks
Like we said before, you can buy food at the Hut but it is a good idea to bring your own stuff as well. Get some practical advice on Mountain Food so you maximize your performance – here.