Zugspitze, 2962 m
A winterly ascent of the Jubiläumsgrat from Zugspitze to Alpspitze.
Climbing the Jubiläumsgrat – one of the most interesting ridge traverses in the eastern Alps – in winter conditions? Why not? In summertime the ridge is a great day climbing tour between Zugspitze and Alpspitze, but in wintertime the tour offers combined terrain and takes usually two to four days of climbing.
We have chosen the beginning of April for the ascent, when the amount of snow has well settled and the risk of overhanging cornices seems manageable. Our tour begins at the barrier on the terrace above the restaurant of the Zugspitze, from where you take the few meters on crampons to the summit. It’s a strange way to start this breathtaking tour at Germany’s highest mountain instead of ending it here. But the view is wonderful and the day promises to be great. So we take a short summit photo and off we go.
Crossing the ridge from the Zugspitze to the Alpspitze offers some advantages and with these snow conditions, it is the best option in my opinion: the first half of the ridge is almost without any belaying option, with climbing difficulties up to 3- UIAA. It’s a good idea to climb this passage at the beginning, when you have enough energy and more power. Except for one or two rappel ankers, the tour has to be climbed completely without any rope protection, otherwise the planned time amount would be significantly exceeded. It takes good nerves to climb on broken rocks and brittle terrain. Because many climbing passages have to be climbed without any protection, I wouldn’t consider the Jubiläumsgrat as a Via Ferrata, but as a serious high-altitude climbing tour, which needs experience in mountaineering and, of course, requires good shape and fitness.
A constant up and down characterizes this very long, high-altitude tour: once you’ve climbed a peak on the ridge, the next peaks are coming up. Along the ridge you climb the Innere Höllentalspitze and the Mittlere Höllentalspitze (2743 m). Our goal is to Grathütterl in about half of the route. We have all the equipment to make us a quiet comfortable night on the ridge. Additionally we have plenty of fresh snow for melting and cooking.
The next day we climb up on the Äußere Höllentalspitze, from which one can experience a great sunrise. The second part of the ridge crossing offers wired protection on the most essential passages, but right now it is mostly covered under snow. The climbing passage up to the Vollkarspitze (2618 m) is probably the steepest of the entire tour. On the way to the Alpspitze we bypass the Hochblassen on its northern side to the Grießkarscharte, from were we climb the final ascent to the Alpspitze.
From the top of the Alpspitze you have a wonderful view over the entire ridge to the Zugspitze. The Jubiläumsgrat is a magnificent tour, but only recommended in perfect weather conditions. Even experienced and well trained climbers come to their limits. But the effort is worth it – the view is fantastic!
Let’s check the location:
April 2nd – 3rd, 2011, together with Dirk Emrich.
Solo speed ascent in summer:
July 21st, 2015 in 3:28 h (summit Zugspitze – summit Alpspitze).
Ferdinand Henning in 1897.
First winter ascent: Karl von Kraus and Karl Wien on March 19th – 20th, 1927.
From Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Grainau, follow the sign in direction Eibsee to the cable car station of the Zugspitze.
Best time of the year:
The tour is accessible all year round, but should only be undertaken on very stable weather! The ridge is very dangerous on bad weather conditions or thunderstorms because it is highly exposed and offers almost no protection!
The partly very exposed ridge has climbing difficulties up to 3- UIAA. The two cruxes are a sleek gully and a short overhang in the western part. It is absolutely necessary to be experienced in climbing without a rope in exposed passages and being absolutely free from giddiness. The ridge is sometimes only as wide as your shoulders and breaks off several hundred meters to the northern Höllental and the southern Zugspitzplatt.
About 8,1 km climbing distance with phantastic views.
Rappel anchors are bolted, fixed ropes on cruxes in the second part (partly under snow).
The only way to escape a thunderstorm is the Brunntalgrat – a ridge to the southern Knorrhütte. It has to be climbed down free (about 1,5 hours). All other supposely good looking scree gullies end on a steep edge, on which numerous climbers crashed to death – be warned and use the only emergency descent at Brunntalgrat!
Climbing gear for winter conditions:
20 m rope for rappeling, crampons and ice axe.
GPS coordinates of the fixed bivouac:
N 47° 25' 15", E 11° 01' 35" (» Google Maps)