Morning hike on Kopftörlgrat
Georg and I were planning a weekend o’ fun mountain climbing, but the weather turned out to be rainy everywhere in the alps. We decided to mop up a local standard climb, the Kopftörlgrat, the popular East Ridge of the Ellmauer Halt, going from the Kopftörl (“head gate”) to the summit in a long UIAA grade III+ scramble.
We decided to take a rope, as Georg had done the climb a few years before, and remembered a rather spicy downclimb of a slab, with sharp rocks faaar below! Otherwise, we’d try to solo as much of the ridge as possible.
Leaving Munich at 5 am, we were apprehensive about the weather. Indeed, you simply can’t be caught by a storm up there. We would try to move very fast, and have a hair-trigger approach to abandon the attempt before starting on technical terrain if the clouds were coming in. Initial clouds over Munich appeared ominous, but as we reached the south side of the Wilder Kaiser, the sky was clear…woo hoo!
We hiked quickly up to the Grüttenhütte, and Georg led a crushing pace beyond and all the way to the Kopftörl without stopping. I think I managed to get him to stop once for a picture. We also had a hilarious escapade in the forest after taking the wrong trail. We got tired of losing hard-won elevation on a downhill trail, so we just bashed up through the brush to the right where we knew we should eventually intersect the correct trail. This worked fine. At an isolated place about 10 minutes off the trail on either side we found a cute little birdhouse in what seemed to be a curious private clearing in the forest. We joked that we’d stumble upon some cannibal hillbillies playing highly commercial, cheesy Austrian folk music.
At the Kopftörl, with no sign of clouds, we switched to rock shoes and kept moving. First traversing the south side beneath the crest, then climbing a gully to reach the crest. We dropped to a notch then began real rock climbing on the other side. Clean rock followed, occasionally alarmingly polished, but mostly very nice. We continued up and down, at one point taking two different variants on a rock face. I followed a chimney system on the left, and Georg on the right. His variant had pitons, so it must be the normal way. Then a spectacular “pitch” climbing on the crest with big air on the north side, especially.
We pulled out the rope to descend a slab, then simul-climbed the rest of the way to the summit. I think it took us about 2 hours on the ridge. At the summit, many folks were there from the normal way. We hiked down, making use of the occasional “via ferrata” equipment along the way.
Back at the hut, we were sopping wet from the hot and muggy weather. We definitely needed drinks! Ordering a 1 liter “Maß” of Radler, I was soon in heaven from the thirst-quenching drink. We drank and laughed for an embarassingly long time. Finally we made the quick hike to the car and the expected storm finally broke with violence, at least 2 hours later than expected.
A slow drive home, as the cars had to be very careful in the heavy rain. Thanks Georg!