Hands up: Who’s heard of Grossglockner? No? It’s not surprising; it doesn’t make the list of mountains for discussion over the dinner table very often. Nevertheless, you should have heard of it. Grossglockner is on a par with Mont Blanc when it comes to prominence within the Alpine mountain range. It’s the highest mountain in Austria at 3,798m, and Pasterze, the biggest glacier in the country, lies at its base. And if you’re the active, outdoorsy type, there is so much to do on this mountain.
The first ascents of Grossglocker were a little earlier than many other Alpine peaks. History assumes that an unofficial exploratory climb ended with the first summiting of the mountain by the Klotz brothers Martin and Sepp, who had been charged with doing some groundwork for an official climb. The official climb happened in 1800, resulting in a summit cross being installed at the highest point. Many decades later, William Adolf Baillie Grohman realised that there was still a challenge to be had in the form of a winter climb of Grossglockner, which he accomplished in 1875.
If you are wanting to summit Grossglocker, be aware that it is not an easy route than just anyone can wander up. This mountain calls for experience, stamina and fitness, and an ability to use and handle climbing gear. There are several routes up to the summit, the most usual going via the Erzherzog-Johann hut which ascends at a 35 degree angle. Grossglockner can be climbed in one long day or broken up over two or three (recommended for more inexperienced climbers). For the more experienced thrill-seekers, there are more challenging climbs such as couloir ice climbs which ascend at up to 70 degrees. If you feel like adding something more to your climb, there is the possibility of climbing the smaller, neighbouring Kleinglockner and skiing down from there. There are ten huts on the mountains for climbers breaking their journey and resting their limbs.
Hiking and Biking
Hiking, biking and trekking on and around Grossglockner is a great way to see the mountain and the views it affords without risking your life getting to the top. Summer is the time for this, when the paths are clear of snow and the landscape becomes green and friendly once more. You can stretch hikes here out over several days if you fancy a challenge, and venture onto the glacier, or just stick to day trips.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is one of the most popular Alpine passes, with panoramic views and serpentine twists and bends which show off the scenery from all angles. The High Alpine Road is only open in the summer, from the beginning of May until the beginning of November (full dates and times here www.grossglockner.at/en/service), as in winter the ice often makes it impassable. As well as being popular with tourists and visitors, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is sometimes used for races, such as the Giro d’Italia bike race, for which it has been on the itinerary twice, including 2011.
To visit Grossglocker whether for climbing, views, trekking or the Alpine Road, the nearest towns are Heiligenblut am Grossglockner and Kals am Grossglockner. Heiligenblut is the more spacious and more popular choice for visitors to Grossglockner, not least because it lies at the end of the High Alpine Road, but Kals is known for its excellent mountain guides if you want to climb Grossglockner. However, if you are on a skiing holiday and prefer a resort that is geared up for skiers too, then Kaprun, Zell am See and Bad Hofgastein are all within easy travel distance.