About sunrises and shallow water in the Karwendel

A grey deck of low clouds fills the Isar valley as I start hiking from the little village of Fall (773m) at the Sylvensteinsee (750m) reservoir in the Vorkarwendel, the first mountains in Germany at the northern rim of the Alps south of Munich. Through fog and with the remnants of last days snowfall on the ground, I reach a small alm south of Grasköpfl (1753m). Time for a short rest stop. Modest sunrays are temporary shining through the slowly lifting clouds.

Karwendel 201105Climbing through the forest above the little village of Fall with the remnants of last days snowfall on the ground.

Somewhat later I reach the summit of Scharfreuter (2102m), the most northern +2000m summit of the Karwendel. A few chamois and a grouse, still wearing its white wintery coat, are wandering around the summit. The views on the higher peaks in the south should be fantastic from this mountain. A short glimpse of Östliche Karwendelspitze (2537m) through the clouds is all I get to see. Scharfreuter marks the border between Germany and Austria. I’ll continue my trip in the Austrian mountains for the next days.

Karwendel 201105Signing the summit register on Scharfreuter (2102m).

A long and strenuous ridge walk follows during the afternoon with a lot of grazing chamois next to the path. In the evening I finally descend from the Plumssattel (1669m) to the bottom of the valley at Große Ahornboden (1100m) and the night falls when I get to sleep under the tarp in the forest.

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Bivy in the forest at Große Ahornboden (1100m).

The clouds have completely dissolved the next morning and I can admire the beautiful views on the mountains in the valley head.

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The Große Ahornboden (1100m) in the morning with the north face of Spritzkarspitze (2606m) lit by the first sunrays.

Over a vague path I climb to the Gramaisattel (1834m) to ascend Sonnjoch (2458m) from there. The last part to the summit cross takes me through hard snow. The views on the northern wall of the main Karwendel chain are well worth it.

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The north faces of the mountains in the Hinterautal-Vomperkette seen from Sonnjoch (2458m).

Back at the Gramaisattel (1834m), I continue my way to the Lamsenjoch Hütte (1953m) over Hahnkamplspitze (2080m). The hut is still closed for the season but the winterraum is accessible. I decide to climb over the Lamsscharte (2270m), the lowest point in the rocky ridge of the main Karwendel chain.

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Crossing long snow fields towards the Lamsenjoch Hütte (1953m).

With ice axe in hand and later on crampons under my trailrunners, I attack the snow covered slope in the shadow of Lamsenspitze (2508m) to reach the rock face under the Lamsscharte. An easy cable route leads me through the rock face.

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Climbing over the cable section to the Lamsscharte (2270m).

The Lamskar at the opposite side of the Lamsscharte is almost everywhere covered with a thick snow cover but it’s easy walking over the snow. Temperatures hardly rise high above freezing during the day now and the snow doesn’t become really soft at all. I decide to climb Lamsenspitze already during the evening. The cable section through the couloir in the south face of the mountain is still partly buried under the snow, but I can reach the summit fairly easy after all. The views from the summit are great in all directions. I definitely need to come back here at sunrise! Fortunately I can find a little piece of ground free of snow where I can pitch my tarp and lay down rather comfortably back down in the Lamskar. Good night!

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Bivy in the Lamskar between the thick snow cover at about 2250m with the last sunrays hitting Hochnissl (2547m).

At the end of the night I awake to climb to the summit of Lamsenspitze again. When I reach the summit cross the sun has just risen above the horizon. Just in time! Alpenglow appears on the mountains. These are the moments I love so much on a summit.

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Sunrise on the summit of Lamsenspitze (2508m).


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West part of the main Karwendel chain in the morning sunlight seen from Lamsenspitze (2508m).


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The snow covered Lamsenkar seen from Lamsenspitze (2508m). Find the tarp!

A long and strenuous descend follows through the Zwerchloch. The path is steep and a few times secured with cable sections. A large group of chamois wanders around in the steep valley and shows me their equilibrium skills.

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Chamois on the rocks in the Zwerchloch.

After a short and steep climb secured with cables and ladders to ascend out of the canyon of the Zwerchbach, I arrive in the forest of the Vomperloch. This valley is whithout any doubt the most beautiful valley of the Karwendel and it’s a very wild valley too. The small path winds itself through the forest with multiple cable sections each time a gully appears on the slope. The mountain Hochkanzel (2574m) dominates the valley. There aren’t much valleys in the Alps that I like so much walking through than the Vomperloch.

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Arriving at the long scree bed on the valley floor of the wild Vomperloch where the Vomperbach disappears underground for a while, Hochkanzel (2574m) overlooking the valley.

Under the huge north face of the Bettelwurf (2726m) I climb over the scree and later on through the snow out of the Vomperloch to the Überschalljoch (1912m) from where I reach the Halleranger Alm (1750m) after a short descend. I collect some water from a little stream and start to climb Sunntigerspitze (2321m) with nice views from the summit to the mountains in the north and into the Roßloch valley deep below. I put my tarp on a rather flat piece of grass between the snow fields.

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Bivy just under the ridge between Reps and Sunntigerspitze with the Gleirsch-Halltal mountain chain overlooking the valley.

The next morning I continue on the ridge to visit the summit of Reps (2159m) and descend to the Hinterautal valley afterwards.

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View into the Roßloch and Moserkar with Moserkarspitze (2533m) while descending into the Hinterautal valley.

Down in the Hinterautal valley the walking becomes less attractive on the wide 4×4 track. I visit the sources of the Isar river in the forest and continue walking in the direction of Scharnitz.

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The Isar river in the Hinterautal valley.

In the evening I climb to the Pleissenhütte (1757m) but the hut is crowded. It’s weekend now and this mountain hut is opened each weekend throughout the year. A lot of people are descending from Pleisenspitze (2569m). I keep climbing to the Vorderkar while I pass all the guests of the hut. The evening passes nicely and quietly as I prepare dinner and go to sleep at sunset. Tomorrow I want to reach the summit of Pleisenspitze again at sunrise.

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Bivy in the Vorderkar under Pleisenspitze (2569m) with the Inntalkette on the horizon.

At 04h50 I get up and start climbing to Pleisenspitze over the easy path. Close to the summit some hard frozen snow fields are unavoidable, but fortunately I can put my feet in the footsteps of the many people who climbed this mountain the days before. A curious alpine jackdaw comes circling around me on the summit. The sun rises above the horizon and the Stubaier Alps and Wetterstein mountains wear their red glow again for a while.

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Wilder Freiger (3418m) in the Stubaier Alps behind Große Solstein (2541m) seen from Pleisenspitze (2569m).


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The northern wall of the Gleiersch-Halltalkette seen from Pleisenspitze (2569m).

I descend the mountain and pass the Pleisenhütte again. Most of the guests are starting their way to Pleisenspitze now. I keep descending to the Hinterautal. Here I walk around the small canyon of the Isar river to see what awaits me when I’ll soon packraft the river. At the Neulegerklamml (1022m) I put in.

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Ready to packraft the Isar river!

The water levels in the river are very low and I hit the bottom several times but the river is much fun tough!

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The Isar river in its little canyon seen from a short rest stop while packrafting the river.

The Gleierschbach and Karwendelbach join the Isar river and the stream becomes wider and less shallow. I continue to Scharnitz. Some bigger drops follow in the village and I almost get stuck on a rock. Several artificial dams are constructed in the river with huge boulders to prevent the river eroding its stream bed. The water is flowing fast and I decide to get out of the river. These drops look a bit to dangerous to me. At the German border I can see some metal rods standing straight underwater between the boulders at each dam. Packrafting the river with these shallow water levels sure isn’t safe at all here. I continue on foot and pass the German village of Mittenwald later on. Somewhat downstream of Mittenwald I decide to blow my packraft and float the river again.

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The Isar river downstream from Mittenwald in Germany. Look how much bigger the river has now become.

Near the village of Krün a large and dangerous power generating dam is constructed on the river so I need to portage. Downstream of the dam the flow rate of the Isar has dropped significantly. A lot of water is diverted to the Walchensee. The river starts braiding a lot now. It’s fun despite the need to get out a few times in the shallowest channels. At sunset I stop the packrafting and find myself a place to sleep next to the river under the stars.

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Stopping with packrafting the Isar river around sunset near the village of Wallgau.

The next morning I put in again but the river becomes more frustrating the further I go downstream. More and more water disappears in the gravel of the wide braided stream bed. The river becomes smaller and too shallow till the time I’m more walking through the river than packrafting. Near the Fischbach Alm I decide it’s better to walk towards the Sylvensteinsee reservoir.

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The Isar river upstream of Vorderriß with the Wetterstein mountains in the background in the upper right corner.

Packrafting or not, the valley remains beautiful all the way. After a long walk I reach the village of Fall again, the end point of this fantastic trip.

Have a look at the Google map of this trip.

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2 thoughts on “About sunrises and shallow water in the Karwendel

  1. Prachtige tocht!

    Interessante beslissing om in het Engels te gaan bloggen. Best begrijpelijk, je tochten (en verslagen) zijn vaak impressionanter dan die van de bekende internationale outdoorbloggers.
    De Nederlandstaligen zijn wel een goeie blog in hun moedertaal armer.

    Succes ermee.

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