In this second post in the ‘Alpine proposal’ series, I continue to explore mountaineering options for my upcoming two-week summer holiday in the lovely Lechtal valley in Austria.
The Großer Krottenkopf (2,656 m / 8,713 ft) is the highest mountain in the Allgäu Alps, a sub-range of the Alps that straddles the border between Germany and Austria. Unlike the Parseierspitze, the approaches to the Großer Krottenkopf are all significantly shorter (16 km round trip), which is a relief. However, the elevation gain is the same (about 2,000 m). I’m no math wizard, but if the Parseierspitze climb is 36 km round trip and 2,000 m of altitude, and the Großer Krottenkopf is 18 km round trip and also 2,000 m, then that must mean… yes, twice the incline gradient. Now that’s more like it.
One of the things that I like about this climb is that there are several traverse options, ranging from the ‘easy’ approach to Class III climbing on the Nordgrat (north ridge). It’s also nice that these two summit approaches come off of the same trail, so technically I could go check out the Class III route, and if it looks too risky for a solo attempt, then I can go back to the trail fork and go the other way.
The adventure begins in the little village of Holzgau. You head up north up the Höhenbachtal valley on the Via Alpina (E5) trail. Interesting aside: The E5 is a long-distance hiking trail that runs 3,050 km (1,895 miles) over the Alps, from Point du Raz in France to Verona in Italy. If you have 150 free days coming up, book your ticket to France or Italy and get going. But I digress…
The first opportunity to reload on calories is Café Uta, where Clair, Emil and I all pigged out on two occasions last summer.
Beyond Café Uta, the recreational hiking crowd begins to thin out as the elevation begins to crank up.
At about 6 km in, the path splits up, with the north ridge trail heading off to the left and the south approach trail switchbacking up to the summit. I would really like to see the north ridge route; the crux is very early in the route, namely the first move, so I suppose if that is doable and the weather conditions are friendly, it might be an interesting choice. As the photos below show, the exposure may be … interesting.
Regardless of how you get there, once you’re on the summit of the Großer Krottenkopf, you’ve got a choice: descend straight south down the ‘easy’ approach and head back to Holzgau (and maybe enjoy a celebratory beer at Café Uta), or take to the Nordrinne (north couloir). This would definitely require an ice axe and crampons.
The advantage of the north couloir descent is the view of the Hermannskarsee lake, whether from above…
Or from its shores.
From here, there are three choices – 1) work your way back to the Höhenbachtal valley and then to Holzgau; 2) head south on the ridge connecting the Großer Krottenkopf to the Jöchelspitze, and then descend to Holzgau; or 3) if you want some more punishment, head east towards the village of Elbigenalp, which is about 16 km and 2000 m of downward trudging. But with great views!
As I’m doing my research on this region, I’ve realized that there is next to no English-language information on any of these hikes. All of the hiking guides are in German, and it’s difficult to get an idea of what you can do because there are just so many hikes and climbs in such a tight space. So I hope this is interesting to those of you who are native English speakers unfamiliar with the Alps in Germany and Austria.