News > Bucket List Mountains: The Watzmann, Germany by Dan Aspel
Bucket List Mountains: The Watzmann, Germany by Dan Aspel
The classic Watzmann profile shot: this 2713m mountain really is one of the most beautiful peaks in Europe.
The chances are you know if you like exposure. And if you do, then good news! This blog is going to show you where to get your next big dose of it.
The Watzmann is the centrepiece of the Berchtesgaden National Park, a 210 sq km playground of rock, forest and lake in the Bavarian Alps and tucked into the Austrian border in Germany’s far south-east. At 2713m in height it’s far from the tallest summit in mainland Europe, but that comes with the benefit that you’re unlikely to suffer with the altitude and it’s not riven with glaciers, seracs and other treacherous high mountain features.
What it does boast is soaring summits, severe drops and a Grade 2 scrambling-level traverse to treasure. That’s because the mountain is made up of three main peaks: Hocheck (2651m), Mittelspitze (2713m) and Sudspitze (2712m). By hiking up to the delightful Watzmannhaus hut at roughly 1930m, and spending a peaceful night in its walls, you can set yourself up for a superb day of vertigo-inducing drops and ridge-line tightrope walking between them.
One of the main joys of the route is that it’s not technical enough to require any gear at all (although you could bring a sling and harness for use on the fixed wires at the most vulnerable spots if you felt the need), but it is spectacular enough to make you feel like you’ve done something truly amazing with your day by the time the sun has set.
Clearly this isn’t going to be an adventure for everyone, but if the following pictures inspire a tingle of interest I’d very strongly advise the flight to Salzburg (just 25km from Berchtesgaden town). If you’re the kind of scrambler who’d gladly head up Skye’s Black Cuillin, the spires of Liathach or Glen Coe’s Aonach Eagach then it’s well within your realm. And you can easily hire a local Guide if you feel it might be just that bit beyond your technical experience to tackle alone.
Anyway, enough words. Let’s get on with the pictures.
This being Bavaria, beer, sauerkraut and sausages are not in short supply.
The deep waters of the Konigssee, which borders the Watzmann, extend down a profound 190m. Boat trips run the 7km+ length of this Berchtesgadener Land icon throughout the summer.
The severe face of the Watzmannhaus (1930m), a spacious hut high on the mountain’s shoulder that’s far more welcoming, warm and well-supplied within that its exterior suggests.
The view from the common room window out towards the body of the Watzmann.
The path that begins the main traverse. The summits above are mercifully shrouded in cloud at this point.
Looking down from the Watzmannhaus into the characteristically dark green valley below.
The ridge begins. The route generally follows its crest across roughly 3km of terrain between the three summits.
Great broken slabs at impossible angles - a typical sight on top of the mountain’s back.
Extreme location, casual attitude: Mountain Guide Nina Schlesener and photographer Klaus Fengler not long into the day’s traverse.
The moves aren’t hard… but the exposure is severe.
As with most European peaks, signage abounds.
Looking onward from the heart of the route.
Dropping down a slanting chimney. This small hands-on section is probably as technical as the route gets, and there are no ropes required at all here.
Undulating rock and big views all around - just two of the reasons this route deserves its place on your list.
Without the emplaced ironwork and running cable (akin to a via ferrata route) descents like this would be considerably more intimidating.
The route steepens as it reaches its climax.
The start of the 1400m descent from the Sudspitze to the Wimbach valley.
A playful stroll along a sheer fin of rock - the perfect holiday, surely?
The streams of scree and rubble that make up the Wimbach valley, before the long hike back to town.
Stay safe out there.
Dan Aspel is a journalist and Mountain Leader. You can find him at www.danaspel.com
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