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Zeit.los Magazin

von Zeit.los Magazin

August 01, 2019


Karwendel Höhenweg: Long-distance hiking amidst giants

Since this summer, the Karwendel Mountains have a very special hiking attraction: the Karwendel Höhenweg. In 6 days you can hike the Karwendel Mountains from hut to hut and enjoy the unique views of the imposing mountains, hut flair and the best Tyrolean delicacies. In the report from zeit.los magazine, you can find out what makes the new long-distance hiking trail so "wonderfully hikeable":

The Karwendel is not a mountain range like any other. Along the Nordkette, which borders the Karwendel in the south, you catch a glimpse of two worlds that could not be more opposite.

Frau Hitt - Karwendel Hoehenweg Etappe

Ms Hitt - Karwendel High Altitude Trail Stage

On the one hand, the densely populated Inn Valley lies at your feet, where bustling activity prevails, and on the other hand, you experience the idyllic mountain solitude of the Karwendel Nature Park, which in many places hardly suggests any human influence. And indeed, large parts of the Karwendel are almost deserted. That's why the mountains are an ideal retreat to switch off and find yourself. To climb up in order to come down.

Hiking makes high

Walking affects our brain activity as well as metabolic processes, the central nervous system and brain wave potentials. Walking stimulates those structures where the reward system is located. Dopamine levels rise. The neurotransmitter regulates signal transmission in the brain and is produced there in the so-called black matter, the substantia nigra. It acts like a kind of endogenous drug that triggers feelings of happiness. To put it more casually, you could say that hiking makes you high. Nature-high. In addition, the messenger substance has a memory-enhancing effect. That's why beautiful experiences stick in the memory for a long time. When the inconspicuous molecule dopamine appears in the right dosage - as it does while hiking - we experience a feeling of lightness. So much for brain chemistry.

Idyll & Variety

Idyllic and varied is the Karwendel Höhenweg, whose starting and end points are in the Olympiaregion Seefeld. The trail opens up the southern part of the Karwendel Mountains and promises to explore Austria's largest and probably most beautiful nature park from the valleys to the summit regions in the course of a multi-day hike - within six days, to be precise. In the Karwendel Mountains, clear mountain streams, steep rock faces, deep gorges and ravines alternate with moors and lush alpine meadows. In order to keep the ecological footprint as small as possible and to eliminate the annoying search for a parking space in the first place, the starting and end points of the long-distance hiking tour are very easy to reach by public transport.

(c)ORS_HeinzZak_Landschaften (33)

Two hikers walk the Karwendel High Trail

The Karwendel High Altitude Trail requires fitness and sure-footedness and, with its length of 60 kilometers, is actually easy to master for reasonably experienced mountain hikers in six day's march. In terms of accommodation after the day's stages, the best conditions await you on the route with its five wonderful refuges, where you can refresh your tired body and rest your head.

Blick aufs Karwendelhaus - Scharnitz

View of the Karwendelhaus - Scharnitz

A long-distance hike in 6 acts:

Stage 1:
The first stage of the high-altitude trail starts at the train station Reith bei Seefeld and leads on 6.5 kilometers and 1,1150 meters of altitude up to the Nördlingerhütte at 2,239 meters. In between, you pass the Schartlehnerhaus. From there, a trail leads over the mountain pine ridge of the so-called "Schoaßgrat" to the first overnight destination.

Reither Spitze bei Nacht, Noerdlinger Huette - Karwendel Hoehenweg Etappe

Reither Spitze by night - Noerdlinger Huette

Stage 2:
On the second stage you really dive into the Karwendel and leave "civilization" behind. Strengthened, you set off from the Nördlinger Hütte in the direction of the Urspattel (2,087 m). Over this it goes to the Breiten Sattel (1,794 m) and then to the Eppzirler Scharte. From there, a trail leads down over the Höllkar, which is filled with limestone gravel, and then in a gentle up and down to the Solsteinhaus, the second stage destination. Those who feel at home in alpine terrain, are absolutely sure-footed and have no fear of heights, can alternatively walk the traverse from the Urspattel along the Freiunger Höhenweg to the Eppzirler Scharte. The rocky sections are secured with ropes, it is advisable to bring a via ferrata set.

Solsteinhaus - Karwendel Hoehenweg Etappe

Solsteinhaus - Karwendel High Altitude Trail Section

Stage 3:
The third day also brings the longest stage of the Karwendel High Altitude Trail. Therefore, it is best to set off from the Solsteinhaus right with the first rays of sunshine. From there it goes downhill in the direction of Möslalm, at the junction in the "Wilden Iss" you follow the Gipfelstürmerweg past the hunting lodge. Via serpentines and a ridge overgrown with trees and mountain pines, you go up to the so-called "Hippen". A short descent, then very steeply up to the Frau Hitt saddle, which is located west of the Frau Hitt - a prominent rock needle. Descending from the saddle, the trail then goes over the Schmidhubersteigt to the Seegrube.

From there you can enjoy a magnificent view over Innsbruck. Then the ascent to the Hafelekarhaus follows, where you turn onto the Goetheweg and follow it to the Pfeishütte. In a way, two worlds meet on the Goetheweg: the rugged Karwendel Mountains and the Inn Valley. If you want to spare yourself the steep climb from Seegrube up to Hafelekar, you can alternatively take the Hafelekar cable car.


Stage 4:
The fourth stage begins where the third ended. Namely at the cozy Pfeishütte. From there, the route goes over the Stempeljoch and the Lafatscher Joch to the Bettelwurfhütte. After leaving the Stempeljoch behind, you reach the so-called Wilde Bande Steig, named after the mountaineering society of the same name, founded in 1878.

Stage 5:
The fifth day is a relatively easy walk to the Hallerangerhaus. From the Bettelwurfhütte, the eagle's nest of the Karwendel, we return to the Lafatscher Joch and from there between Lafatscher, Roßkopf and Speckkarspitze downhill to the Hallerangerhaus.


Stage 6:
The last stage from Hallerangerhaus to Scharnitz, leads in the Hinterautal along the Isar and invites after some more strenuous stages once again really to let the soul dangle and along the turquoise-blue shimmering river to recharge your batteries and to pass in review what you have experienced while walking.


Of course, it is also possible to do the high trail in the opposite direction, but this variant is undoubtedly recommended.

Mountain Culinary
Because an empty stomach is not only reluctant to study, but also goes badly, the Karwendel Höhenweg also has a lot to offer in culinary terms. All huts have committed themselves within the framework of the Alpine Club initiative "So schmecken die Berge" (This is how the mountains taste) to use regional products as much as possible in the kitchen. This also helps to preserve the alpine cultural landscape, which is shaped by the work of industrious mountain farmers.


Packing tips for the Karwendel High Altitude Trail
A backpack that is too heavy is not easy to (er)carry and also has a detrimental effect on your surefootedness. Therefore, here are some helpful suggestions.

For experienced mountaineers, the multi-layer principle applies to clothing, which states that several thin layers are better than a single thick layer of clothing. Since the weather can be unpredictable, especially in the high mountains, you should expect weather changes and be prepared for them. In general, the basic rule for backpacking is to take as much as you need and as little as possible.

Check List:

  • Mountain boots (ankle high)
  • Functional underwear
  • Breathable shirt or shirt
  • Fleece sweater or jacket
  • Weather protection jacket with hood (wind and water repellent)
  • Long pants
  • Hiking socks
  • Cap and finger gloves
  • Spare clothes
  • Backpack (35-45 liters) with rain cover
  • Hiking maps and guides
  • Sun protection (cream, glasses, headgear)
  • Drinking bottle (min. 1.5 liters)
  • Emergency provisions (muesli bars, dextrose)
  • First aid kit
  • Cell phone
  • Grödel (simple crampon form for the shoes)
  • Telescopic poles
  • Headlamp
  • Bivy sack
  • Hut sleeping bag and shoes
  • Washing kit and towel
  • Starter-Kit Karwendel Höhenweg

Tips for long-distance hiking:

Physical fitness, stamina and surefootedness are the basics that determine the route. Before you start, you should study the route carefully: Where are aid stations, huts (check opening times and sleeping places) and possible emergency shelters? Are there passages that are better avoided? And if so, how? Is special equipment required (harness, helmet, crampons, etc.)? Is the chosen route freely passable everywhere? Check the weather forecast before the tour!

Please note!

Alpine emergency number: 140

European emergency number: 112

More information about the Karwendel High Altitude Trail:

Karwendel High Trail

Instagram- Karwendel High Trail

Karwendel High Trail - Facebook

Seefeld- Tyrol's high plateau: Karwendel High Trail

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