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Walserkamm, Hoher Freschen, Dornbirner First

Published by Stijn , 29 May 2017, 22h28.

Region: World » Austria » Außerhalb der Alpen » Vorarlberg » Bregenzerwald » Grosswalsertal
Date of the hike:25 May 2017
Hiking grading: T5- - Challenging High-level Alpine hike
Climbing grading: I (UIAA Grading System)
Geo-Tags: A 
Time: 3 days
Height gain: 3350 m 10988 ft.
Height loss: 4200 m 13776 ft.

"Möglichst lange oben bleiben, wo die Aussicht am schönsten ist. Mit spektakulären Tief- und Weitblicken zu beiden Seiten." So says t2star in the latest "4-seasons" Transa magazine. It might as well have been the motto of this 3-day Vorarlberg trek. Not only did we complete the sublime Walserkamm, we then crossed the Furkajoch (where the road is still closed for winter) for an even longer ridge which took us over the Hoher Freschen and along the "Dornbirner First" to the Hangspitze above Mellau. For 2.5 days our altitude kept oscillating between 1600m and 2000m, all the time with spectacular views on both sides.

A quick note about wild camping in Austria: wild camping is generally less tolerated in Austria compared to Switzerland. The exact laws differ significantly from state to state, with Vorarlberg being one of the more tolerant ones. When a police officer at Bregenz station spoke to us on account of our large backpacks, it was not because he was suspicious that we would be up to something bad, but simply because he was curious about our plans and visibly jealous that he could not come along!
Still, it could become problematic to find suitable wild camping spots along our route in summer, when the alps are inhabited and the Freschenhaus is open for business. In any case, you should make sure not to disturb any farmland or wildlife, aim to leave no trace and to be generally inconspicuous. (I've heard a story of some Austrian villagers calling in a rescue helicopter after seeing distress signals in the mountains, which in fact were just the headtorches of some wild campers... That would have been an expensive camp...)

If you don't feel like wild camping, it is still very much possible to do the Walserkamm. In fact, given that it's not so difficult to do the Walserkamm as a day trip, even by public transport from as far as Zürich, I'm surprised that this wonderful ridge has not received more attention on Hikr. By taking the first Railjet train from Zürich, you could be starting the hike high up at Dünserberg Älpele as early as 9.30 (weekends and public holidays). For the return journey, it shouldn't be difficult to hitch-hike from the Furkajoch down towards Innerlaterns/Rankweil (as long as the pass is open, at least), where you have frequent and late public transport connections back into Switzerland. This variation reduces both ascent and descent to a minimum, so that also a hiker with average fitness should have no problem to complete the ridge traverse within a day.

The most important issue when attempting the Walserkamm in one day will be water. Currently, with snow melting away in the flanks of the Walserkamm, water can be found in several places less than 100m below the ridge line. However, in summer, when all the snow is gone, these streams will probably dry up completely and you will have to carry all the necessary water from the start.

Day 1
Dünserberg Älpele - Walserkamm from Hochgerach to Kreuzspitze
5h30, 1150m ascent, 850m descent, T4

A small public bus (quite full on this sunny bank holiday) brings us to Dünserberg Älple at 1pm. Two different routes lead up to the Hochgerach from here. We pick the path (partially marked white-blue-white) that goes via the Rappenköpfle (incorrectly located on the Kompass map, correct on the Swisstopo map). The marked path passes just below the Rappenköpfle summit cross, which can be easily reached from the south-east. The ascent from Rappenköpfle to Hochgerach offers a first section of exhilarating ridge hiking (T4), though there is also a parallel path the avoids all difficulties. Both Hochgerach summits (each with their own cross) are busy with hikers, but as soon as we continue along the ridge, we are on our own.

We follow the beautiful Walserkamm, almost always directly on the ridge, with difficulties alternating between T3 and T4. Snow is unavoidable in a few places, but all the exposed parts of the ridge are dry. The first summit after the Hochgerach is the Hüttenkopf, with its many snow fences. The ascent of the Kuhspitze involves some scrambling. Next up is the Tälispitze, the highest point on the ridge. The ridge becomes quite sharp between the Tälispitze and the Melkspitze. The descent of the Melkspitze also involves some scrambling (one fixed cable). At P. 1766, we briefly leave the ridge to refill our water bottles. We climb the Schäfiskopf (P. 1901) and decide to make a detour onto the Kreuzspitze, which lies just south of the Walserkamm itself. The Kreuzspitze looks so impressive from the Schäfiskopf, that the ascent along the north ridge itself turns out to be almost disappointingly straight-forward (T4 in one place). We descend back to the saddle between Kreuzspitze and Schäfiskopf, where we decide to camp for the night.

Day 2
Walserkamm from Keurzspitze to Pfrondhorn - Furkajoch - Hochrohkopf - Gerenfalben - Matona - Freschenhaus
9h15, 1250m ascent, 1250m descent, T5-

The following morning, we hike back onto the Schäfiskopf to continue our Walserkamm traverse. First up is the summit cross of the Gehrenspitze. The ascent of the Mutabellaspitze involves a few bits of scrambling. From the summit of the Mutabellaspitze, we can now clearly see the crux of the route: a sharp rocky outcrop in between Mutabellaspitze and Löffelspitze. It looks quite daunting, but the ascent turns out to be much easier than it looks. A thin fixed cable (a little old and not entirely trustworthy) leads the way. One needs to be a little careful about loose rocks as well. The climbing itself however is surprisingly simple, T5-. The terrain gets easier again for the remaining ascent of the Löffelspitze. The Walserkamm still retains its alpine character along the undulating Löffelspitze north ridge (with a fixed cable in one place). Many people will end their hike as they reach the Furkajoch hiking path, but to fully complete the Walserkamm traverse, there are still two more summits to bag: the "Serer Falben" (P. 1891) and the Pfrondhorn. Both can be reached without any difficulties.

The winter closure is still in place on the Furkajoch. However, a snow blower is already at work clearing the road. Some cyclists have already ventured onto the pass as well. We walk along the road in the direction of the Portlaalpe for a short distance to fill up on water. We then try to regain the Furkakopf south ridge in a direct line, which turns out to be steeper than it looks and is not recommended; better to follow the south ridge from the start at the Furkajoch itself. There is some relatively challenging terrain between Furkakopf and Hochrohkopf (T4+). There is still a visible path along the ridge, but it is considerably more overgrown than on the Walserkamm. This continues to be the case on the Hochrohkopf-Altgerachkopf-Gerenfalben ridge. The Gerenfalben north ridge is still partially covered in snow, which means that we have not carried our ice axes for nothing. Alternatively, there would also have been an easier hiking path from Gerenfalben to the Gävisalpe. From the Gävisalpe, we follow the marked hiking path (still covered by a decent amount of snow) to the Matonajöchle. We put down our backpacks here to bag the Matona summit as well. Afterwards, we traverse from the Matonajöchle to the Freschenhaus over considerable amounts of snow (ice axe useful). There is already a group of six in the Winterraum of the Freschenhaus, so we decide to camp outside again to give each other more space. The views from the Freschenhaus over the Alpstein-Bodensee region are fantastic and in fact comparable to the views from the Hoher Freschen summit itself.

Day 3
Freschenhaus - Hoher Freschen - Binnelgrat - Mörzelspitze - Hangspitze - Mellau
8h45, 950m ascent, 2050m descent, T3+ (in current conditions T5- just below the Hoher Freschen)

It's only a short climb from the Freschenhaus to the Hoher Freschen summit, the highest point of our trek. On the other side of the summit, the ridge soon splits into two separate spectacular ridges: the Valüragrat and the Binnelgrat. On the upper 10m of the ridge (shared by both the Valüragrat and the Binnelgrat), a steep patch of snow covers the normal hiking path. The snow can be avoided by staying directly on top of the ridge here, which however increases the difficulty considerably. The climbing is not that difficult and there is a bit of fixed cable to hold on to, but it's very exposed and the best places to put our feet are especially hard to see from above. After mastering this obstacle, the remainder of the Binnelgrat (T3+) does not pose any extraordinary difficulties.

The hiking path passes the Binnelalpe before traversing below the Alpkopf. We leave our backpacks to bag the Alpkopf summit as well. There's a signpost to the summit, yet the ascent is mostly pathless. There's a cross and a bench on the north summit, even though the south summit is slightly higher. After recovering our backpacks, we climb the Salzbödenkopf, or rather the path passes just below the summit, which is occupied by dense pine trees. The 250m of ascent onto the Mörzelspitze is the last larger ascent of our trek. Don't get too optimistic though, because the signpost that says "Hangspitze 1h15" sets a goal that is way out of reach for our weary legs. Maybe they based their timing on the Kompass map, which among others completely omits the not-so-insignificant Guntenspitze/Guntenkopf (1811m) summit, between Obersehrenkopf (misnamed as "Guntenkopf" on the Kompass map) and Hangköpfle... The path over the Guntenkopf towards the Hangspitze is marked white-blue-white, but the difficulties don't exceed T3+. The Guntenkopf has a nice, mildly exposed ridge. The saddle between Guntenkopf and Hangköpfle looks spectacular from above, but is actually not as steep as it looks. The west face of the Hangspitze is still covered in snow, which however has a comfortable steepness and a good consistency to walk on.

All that remains now is a quick 1050m descent towards Mellau. We have to wait 45 minutes for the next bus, which means that there is time for pizza and beer. Then we travel with good connections in Dornbirn and Heerbrugg back towards Zürich.

Hike partners: Stijn

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Comments (8)

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boerscht says:
Sent 30 May 2017, 00h18
Hello Stijn,

congratulation to this amazing hike. I´ve planed the three parts separated in the next few weeks. To combine the Walserkamm and Dornbirner First with a camping Tour is a pretty good idea !

Greetings Adrian

Stijn says: RE:
Sent 30 May 2017, 21h20
Thanks for your comment, Adrian, and enjoy your own hikes!

Kauk0r says: Nice holiday...
Sent 30 May 2017, 12h09
...on the ridge ;). What a great elegant possibility to link all these summits! I did the middle section few months ago, and enjoyed it a lot: *Vom Hohen Freschen am Grat über 4 Gipfel zum Furkajoch. Thanks for your impressions!

Stijn says: RE:Nice holiday...
Sent 30 May 2017, 21h25
I had actually already read your report while preparing for our trek :). Thanks for the useful information and enjoy your hiking summer!

alpstein says:
Sent 31 May 2017, 06h34
Super Tour and Photos!


Stijn says: RE:
Sent 1 June 2017, 08h24
Thanks Hanspeter!

Delta Pro says:
Sent 28 June 2017, 17h05
Great Hike! I should go there too ;-)

Stijn says: RE:
Sent 28 June 2017, 21h56
Thanks Delta! I can highly recommend you to do so :).

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