Last Updated on January 27, 2024 by Joanne
Grossglockner is one of the toughest challenges of the whole European Peaks project. You have to cross a glacier on the way up and the last part is very exposed so securing with a rope is essential. Here all the necessary tips you need for your successful climb. Follow my tips and personal experience from my own climb to the highest point of Austria.
Important information for climbing Grossglockner
Short description of the ascent from Kals am Grossglockner: Demanding multi-day climb on both rock and glacier Essential equipment: Full climbing and glacier gear Best time to visit: June - September (avoid weekends; best September) Fees or restrictions: No Camping allowed: No Nearest accommodation/food supply: Huts Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte and Stüdlhütte Height of the peak: 3,798 m Distance to the top: 9.2 km (one way) Time to ascend from Karl am Grossglockner and back: Typically 2 days (see recommended itinerary below) Day 1: 5-7 hours to Erzerhog-Johann Hütte Day 2: 1-3 hours to Grossglockner from Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte Descend from Grossglockner back to parking lot: 3-5 hours Elevation climbed (one way without acclimatization climb): 1,878 m Water availability on the mountain: Huts Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte and Stüdlhütte Difficulty level: ***** (6 stars maximum) Personal rating of the mountain: **** (6 stars maximum) Beer on the peak: Edelweiss Dunkel ***** (6 stars maximum)
The best route to Grossglockner
The most common route to the summit of Grossglockner starts at Kals am Grossglockner and involves an overnight stay at the Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte. Here’s a general overview of the route:
1. Starting Point: Kals am Grossglockner is a village located in the Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria and serves as a common starting point for climbing Grossglockner. There is a parking lot where you can leave you car and start your hike.
2. Approach to Stüdlhütte: The route to Grossglockner usually involves a hike to the Stüdlhütte, a mountain hut situated at an elevation of approximately 2,800 meters. This hut serves perfectly as a spot for a lunch break.
3. Glacier from Stüdlhütte: The next part of the hike between Stüdlhütte and Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte involves passing a glacier. Therefore, it’s necessary to have proper equipment with you. The Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte is a perfect place for an overnight stay before the final climb to Grossglockner the next morning.
4. Final climb to Grossglockner: The final climb is very steep directly from the Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte. Knowing the route, proper climbing equipment and experience is necessary. If you lack experience or equipment a climbing guide is a must.
Map of the climb to Grossglockner
My story of climbing Grossglockner with practical tips
Grossglockner was another amazing mountain on my expedition European Peaks during which I climbed the highest peak of every European country but it was probably the most challenging mountain for me. After my car accident in Scotland I was sure my expedition was over. I lost all my equipment and I was very depressed. It is difficult to describe the feeling but I was just lying on my bed with negative thoughts about what happened and what could happen. I didn’t have any motivation to do anything, felt hopeless and didn’t know what to do next. Should I just cancel my remaining holiday and go back to work? Should I stay at home for a bit to recover?
Amazing support from family and friends helped me to set out again
People around me couldn’t help me either. I had to make some decision myself. The problem was that I was not able to do that. I was so desperate that I visited a psychologist for the first time in my life. We had a long discussion and the psychologist found out that I actually deep inside wanted to continue and finish the remaining mountains. She found out the most important thing: I hate giving up.
As I said I didn’t even think about continuing after the accident because I was scared about failing and I didn’t want to let others down again. But it was true. I just didn’t want to give up. The meeting brought the right spark for my decision. I would do all my best to continue and to finish the expedition!
On one hand, it was a wise decision. I still had all the tickets booked and many friends were waiting for our appointed climbs. On the other hand: was it even possible? I didn’t have any equipment and almost no money. But I decided to give it a try. I posted on social media that I need help and what equipment I am looking for. The response was amazing. I managed to borrow and rent all the equipment I lost within just 24 hours. Only thanks to my amazing family and friends around me I regained the lost trust and I believed again I can make it. That assured me. I should get back to the mountains.
Grossglockner is one of the most challenging mountains of the European Peaks project
I quickly packed all the new equipment and set out on the trip. Let’s climb Grossglockner! I met my friends Martin and Stefan in Austria and we continued together to the car park at Lucknerhaus. That’s where our two day climb started.
Description of the climb to Grossglockner
At the beginning it was a very easy hike with stunning views. We expected potential difficulties after the hut Städlhütte because there is the beginning of the glacier. However, finding the way was very easy thanks to great visibility. The glacier was quite dirty but at least there were no dangerous cracks. The traverse over the glacier took only about an hour. Then we only had a short via ferrata in front of us and we soon reached the hut Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte.
Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte is a very cosy place to stay. We had a great dinner there and even better beer. Unfortunately, we had no view because clouds arrived. Instead of having views over the fog, we rather went to bed on time. Next morning we had to wake up early.
Wrong weather forecast sent us into a freezing fog
The alarm clock rang at 4 am. Our plan was to catch the sunrise on the top of Austria. We started the climb in the darkness and a dense fog. Unfortunately, this was again a time when the forecast was completely wrong. Luckily, we were not the first ones climbing up so we could follow a path in the glacier. It took us about an hour to pass the glacier and then the true climbing began.
Unfortunately, it was still very foggy so the navigation was very difficult. This time there was even no path so it was even more difficult to find the correct way up. We got lost several times which meant an hour delay. Luckily, more and more people were showing up coming from the hut so it was subsequently easier to follow the correct route.
Due to the delay, we lost the opportunity to catch sunrise on the top but it didn’t really matter. The clouds were still occupying Grossglockner. At least, we were back on the correct route so the climb got easier.
Grossglockner needs traffic lights
Suddenly, the visibility improved a bit and we realized we are already on the final ridge. That time, the first climbers started to return from the summit as well. However, that was the beginning of our worst Grossglockner experience.
It was very exposed on the ridge and there were almost no places where you can pass a climber from the opposite direction. The queues started to form and they became very long in a short while. The administrators of the Grossglockner route should consider building traffic lights there. There were simply too many people. We had to wait sometimes even twenty minutes at a time. The rocks were covered with frost and the wind was getting stronger with every elevation meter. During such a long waiting time you will get cold. We started to freeze.
Finally, the first 30 climbers overcame the narrow passage leading from the top and we could finally continue ascending. Our hands were frozen but the climb let us warm up. Luckily, the top was already not far. We soon spotted the cross on the top emerging from the clouds. In the end it took us three and half hours to reach the summit. Unfortunately, it was still cloudy so we had no view.
If you want to climb Grossglockner avoid summer weekends
On the way down, the situation from the way up repeated several times. Queues really ruined the overall experience of our climb. The worst were some irresponsible groups which refused to wait. Instead they were hurrying up and putting others in risky situations. Next time I would never climb Grossglockner during the weekend again.
After descending about 200 meters, finally the weather improved. The clouds disappeared and we finally had a wonderful view over the largest glacier in the eastern Alps – Pasterze. This view was certainly worth the effort.
Descending with recovered weather was much easier. We soon passed the cabin Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte and had a celebration lunch under the glacier at the Städlhütte. We made it. One of the toughest climbs managed despite bad weather!
Lastly, I would like to thank a lot my climbing partners Stefan and Martin for the best company and especially their climbing experience. Without you I would never get up to the peak!
My tips for the mountain Grossglockner:
- Avoid climbing Grossglockner during weekends. The mountain is extremely busy. I suggest climbing it during autumn when the summer tourists disappear as well.
- The climb is technically demanding. You need glacier experience as well as climbing experience. If you lack any of these two, don’t even try to climb the mountain on your own. Find an experienced climbing partner or a mountain guide.