Watzmann Family Traverse, Ines Papert & Luka Lindič make possible first winter ascent
On 11 January 2018 Ines Papert and Luka Lindic made what is likely to be the first winter traverse of the Watzmann (2713 m), Berchtesgaden Alps. Papert reports about this east to west climb across the third highest mountain in Germany.
Inspired by the perfect skyline that the Watzmann Family forms, we ventured into the area several times this winter during preparations for our Himalaya expedition. We kept the whole traverse in mind as an optional “training project” for our ambitious goal of the south face of Shishapangma (8027m) in Tibet, which we will attempt this year in April/May, since it promises a long climbing day in the mountains. The fact that we couldn’t find any information whether this traverse had already been done in winter or not made us even more motivated.
The winter started early this season and offered great ski touring in the Watzmann area. With the large amount of snow followed by warm temperatures around Christmas the conditions for powder skiing changed into packed snow, better suited for alpine climbing.
We somehow got the feeling that the most logical direction would be from east to west, starting with the smaller of the 2 main Watzmann summits (Kleiner Watzmann) and finishing on the highest point, Mittelspitze Watzmann 2713 m. We started the climb with the idea of staying as close as possible to the skyline but using the weaknesses in the terrain that sometimes lead you to the left, sometimes to right of the ridge.
From previous knowledge we knew we had to wait for the perfect day to make the attempt reasonable without obvious avalanche risks. The 11th of January promised cloudy skies with good temperatures. Perfect, this was the day to go.
While starting the climb in the dark up the north-east ridge of Kleine Watzmann we still didn’t know which line exactly we would take later in the day, mainly because we hadn't found any information from previous parties who had climbed parts of this traverse in winter.
We reached the summit of Kleine Watzmann at 7:30 in the morning and immediately started descending over the south ridge. We managed to descend this by down climbing; we did one 30 m rappel off the piton we placed.
From there on we continued by traversing all of the five Watzman Kids, mostly across easier terrain where we moved unroped. En route we needed to make several rappels and traverse some very exposed snow ridges. We needed to place all of the anchors for the rappels.
During the descent from fifth child we decided to try to climb to Watzamnn Mittelspitze directly from the ridge, as the lower angled Wieder route looked too dangerous given the snow conditions. We reached the Skischarte at 14:30 and made an hour long break, melting snow for soup and coffee.
At 15:30 we started climbing up towards Mittelspitze. For the first three pitches we still climbed in the day light. From then onwards we climbed in the dark. After 7 more pitches past difficulties up to M5 and steep snow up to 80° we reached the highest point of Watzmann.
We traversed the ridge to Hocheck and descended via the normal route to Watzmann House and continued further on down to our car.
After the ascent Lindič commented "I am still relatively new to the Berchtesgaden area, but as a Slovenian alpine climber I definitely know the history of Watzmann that was written in 1800, by Slovenian Valentin Stanic who did the first ascent of it. When you look from Berchtesgaden to the Watzmann group it shapes a perfect skyline with logical start and finish. When I saw it for the first time a year ago I knew I wanted to try to climb it one day. Since the main summit is very busy in summer it was clear that winter would be the right time to get the proper experience of the mountain. Till now we still haven't been able to find any info about whether the Watzmann Family traverse has been done previously in winter. I almost can’t believe that the most obvious line on the most iconic mountain in a country has not already been done in winter. In Slovenia this would not be possible. Having said that, I was able to see how little activity there is in those mountains in winter and this makes the surprise smaller. I am spending lots of time now in Berchtesgaden area and truth be told I'm very happy there are so few people climbing in the mountains in the winter. I am looking forward to exploring more of these incredible mountains in the future."
Route: Watzmann Family Traverse
Location: Eastern Alps, Berchtesgaden, Bayern, Germany
Route description: north-east ridge to Kleine Watzmann - descent on south-west ridge from Kleine Watzmann - traverse of all five Watzmann Kids - east face of Watzmann Mittelspitze - descent via traverse to Hocheck and normal route to Watzmann House.
Time: 3.45 a.m. - 11.10 p.m. from car to car (Parking lot Hammerstiel Schönau am Königssee ) 19h 25min
Vertical meters: 3458 m
Link: Instagram Ines Papert, FB Ines Papert, inespapert.com, Instagram Luca Lindič, FB Luca Lindič