der watzmann | a climb along germany’s most dangerous spine
“ Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb “
Our 2-day hike trip over ‘Der Watzmann’ was truly the highlight of our holiday. Although The Watzmann is the 3rd highest mountain in Germany, it is still the most dangerous one of all. As a result, there are still people who lose their lives on this mountain each year due to the dangerous conditions (especially when you are not well-trained or in bad weather). Therefore the passage has been made more dangerous by removing 90% of the cables, to avoid too many unexperienced adventurers going over the Watzmann passage and risking their lives.
In contrast to what you may think, this made it actually a lot safer. The national park authority has done this to scare off people who are not confident or trained enough to overcome this traverse. As a result, the traverse is now a lot more difficult, but also a lot safer. In spite of a lot of people who called us crazy for doing this, we did not let ourself be discouraged. On the contrary; we took our chances, felt good, and decided to traverse the Watzmann.
Nevertheless, it’s a must do, the Traverse of the watzmann
Firstly – day 1 – the ascent to the Watzmannhaus. We started our walk at the parking space close to Königssee. Although the “normal route” to the Watzmannhaus starts at the Wimbachbrücke, we decided to take the long route. Eventually took us 5 hours to get to the hut, but in the meantime, we also took a lunch break of about 45 minutes and of course a lot of photo stops, so let us say we had a 4-hour walk up.
The walk to the hut is beautiful but sometimes steep and when we finally arrived at the hut, we instantly lay down in the grass to relax and to prepare for what was coming our way the next day. Besides, on of the best climbs; Traverse of the watzmann
Therefore, the Watzmannhaus is the perfect place to get a good night’s sleep before you head off to the summit of Watzmann. However, some people even do it in one day and do not need the overnight stay, but we did not want to be bold so we decided to spend the night in the Watzmannhaus. Officially it’s called a mountain hut, but in our opinion, it deserves to be labelled as a mountain hotel. For instance, the sanitary facilities and the rooms are all so clean and comfy that it is a pleasure to spend the night there. In other words, there is more comfort than in most huts. On the other hand, the location and the atmosphere inside are everything you can expect from a mountain hut! Before you sleep, dring a schnaps.
After a good recharging dinner and a traditional Zirben-schnaps to finish the day, we went to bed for a cosy but short night. Although, one of our best nights.
Our alarm went off at 6 o’clock and we thought we were early birds… but nothing could be further from the truth, as we witnessed from our beds some headlights near the first peak (Hocheck). After all, not such early birds as we thought in the mountains 😉
Eventually, we decided to skip breakfast and to start the ascent immediately. At 6.30 we headed off to our first peak and almost 2 hours later we had done the most strenuous part. After all, the first climb to Hocheck for us was the heaviest part, given the fact that it is 2 hours straightforward climb, without any place to rest. To illustrate, we like climbing more than walking up very steep trails, so for us personally, the worst part was done!
The next part is where the ferrata kit comes in handy at some points. Firstly, it is not always possible to use it, because there are large parts of the track where the cables have been removed, so you have to rely on your mountaineering skills and capabilities. Secondly, never count on your gear, and make sure you feel good enough to traverse this spine. But the track going to the Mittlespitze was still doable, except when you’re inexperienced or afraid of heights. For example, the section from Hocheck to the Mittlespitze took us about 35 minutes without any breaks.
After we arrived at the Mittlespitze we started to doubt if we would still make it to the Südspitze, because the path between Mittle and Süd is significantly longer and more difficult than the first part. On top of that, we also had doubts because we had to take the same way back, which turned out to be perfectly possible on this trail because there is not that much traffic. Given these points, it would take us a long time, and we wanted to be down at Königssee before dark. Well yeah, enough blabla, time for action. Eventually, we decided to give it a try and started off the trail to the Südspitze.
Make sure you are free of the fear of heights if you want to reach the Südspitze because the path only gets narrower and narrower and there are less and fewer cables to hold on to. Traverse of the watzmann
But aaaaaaaah FINALLY, arriving at the Südspitze was the icing on the cake, and above all with a postcard-perfect view over the Königssee and the southeastern corner of Bavaria and the Austrian border. But there was more to it than just a fantastic summit. In addition, the panorama over the surrounding mountain range is extremely beautiful and spectacular.
As has been mentioned, we had to go the exact way back over the traverse, passed the hut and then 2000 meters straight down. This is one of the ‘disadvantages’ when you start from the Königssee because the route back to the Wimbachbrucke is shorter. You can also descend the Südspitze to St. Bartholomea for instance, but then you have to be sure to be back before the last boat leaves over there. Obviously, the boats do not wait for latecomers, and they stop crossing the lake around 17.30 – 18.00. Therefore many people discouraged us to take this route.
Going down a steep path under time pressure is often a recipe not only for injuries but also for accidents. Therefore we decided to go for the safe route because there is also no hiking path from St. Bartholomea to Berchtesgaden. If you get stuck there, you have to call the emergency boats and that will cost you €250. The advantage of returning to the Watzmannhaus was that we could leave a lot of our material which we didn’t need on the climb (such as sleeping bags etc.) in the luggage room in the hut for the time being. Traverse of the watzmann
The way down
On our way back we took a rest at the hut for a drink and something to eat, and after an hour, we continued our way down. This was, without doubt, the most difficult part for our upper legs and knees. Due to the fact we had no trekking poles, our upper legs were fully cramped after 2000 meters of descent.
After all, we arrived back down at the Königssee around 18.30. To summarize, we have never been so exhausted and so happy at the same time. Not only did we conquer the Watzmann but also surpassed ourselves by doing this. All things considered, if you intend to visit South Germany, the Watzmann (even if you only go up until the hut or the Hocheck) is definitely worth putting on your bucket list!
Detailed overview of our time schedule
Traverse of the Watzmann | P.S. The time schedules you see on the yellow path indicators are usually overestimated. With this in mind, most of the time we managed to go faster than indicated, so do not be discouraged by the timings on these signs.
↑ ± 1350 meters
08u30: Start of the day at Königssee
Approximately 1-hour break in between to have lunch.
13u30: Arrived at Watzmannhaus (1930 meters)
Walking time: ± 4 hours (stops not included)
↑ ± 900 meters ↓ ± 2100 meters
6u30: start Watzmannhaus (1930 meters)
Walking time Watzmannaus > Hocheck: ± 1h45 minutes
Walking time Hocheck > Mittelspitze: ± 35 minutes
Walking time Mittel > Südspitze: ± 1h10 minutes
15u00: Arrived back at Watzmannhaus + 1-hour break
18u30: Arrival at Königssee
Walking time: ± 9h15 minutes for the entire day (stops not included)
- Helmet !!!
- Via ferrata kit
- Good hiking shoes
- Trekking poles
- Food & enough drinks
- First aid kit