I want to climb Austria's highest peak, Großglockner via the "normal route" (the easiest route). However, I am unsure what I really need for that. Most information advices to use ropes with multiple people, but as far as I can see on photos, there are fixed ropes there:

enter image description here

However other pics look like this:

enter image description here

Basically just poles, presumably with no fixed rope connecting them.

Can I get away with only having via ferrata, ice axe and crampons for this trip? If I need a rope, is there a suitable technique for solo-roping? I don't have any friends who would be up to this and I don't want to book a tour.

  • 2
    Way too much traffic for any solo-roping. Only free-solo possible. – Vladimir F May 17 at 9:25

The Großglockner is one of the most popular high peaks in the Alps. This means that in the summit area, especially between the Kleinglockner and the Großglockner there is a lot of traffic in both directions with little room to pass. To allow for a belay, the belay bars (in the second picture) have been placed. One would just wrap the rope around those bars to prevent a fall of the whole team. As an alternative, a sling could be girth hitched to those bars to create safe points.
The ferrata in the first picture is leading to the Adlersruhe hut (official name Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte). This is not a typical ferrata, it should rather be regarded as a trail secured with ropes at the critical sections. None of those lend themselves to a rope solo technique.

So, can you summit it solo? Textbook style no, as it involves a glacier crossing. However, being such a popular summit, (in reasonable conditions) there will always be a good trail on the glacier, so the risk of a crevasse fall is rather small. The climbing difficulties are rather small but – as always in mountaineering – strongly depend on the conditions. UIAA 2 in good conditions is nothing but if it is iced up, this is a whole different story. And not to forget the traffic you will encounter.
So yes, it is possible to do it solo but if you have to ask for it, you are probably not ready.


You do need a rope party or guide. The climbing is not major, but it is not a via ferrata. From here:

Von der Adlersruh dann weiter Richtung Gipfel geht es über das "Eisleitl", zuerst eben, dann leicht ansteigend bis hin zum Ende des Eisleitls sehr steil hinauf. Dann werden die Steigeisen abgezogen und deponiert (ab Mitte Juli kein Schnee mehr im Normalfall, daher keine Steigeisen). Weiter über leichte Kletterei, Sicherung mittels Seil bei den Standen (einmal umschlagen), bis hin zum Gipfel Kleinglockner. Vom Kleinglockner geht es dann auf das wahrscheinlich anspruchsvollste Stück bezüglich Schwindelfreiheit, die Glocknerscharte. Hier nur gesichert durch das Seil des Kollgen, überschreitet man eine ca. 5m Lange Passage, bei welcher es an beiden Seiten in den Tod geht, sofern man aber trittsicher ist, kein Problem. Anschließend wieder leichte Kletterei auf den Gipfel des höchsten und wohl schönsten Berg Österreichs.

My translation:

From Adlersruh you go further in the direction of the summit via the Eisleitl ["ice slope"!], flat at first, then slightly going upwards until very steep. Then you remove and deposit your crampons (normally there is no snow from the mid of July, therefore no crampons). Forward with easy climbing, belaying with rope at the fixed anchors (one turn) [these are the metal rods], until the Kleinglockner summit. From Kleinglockner it continues to the part perhaps most challenging for those who have no head for heights: the Glocknerscharte. Here, only secured by the rope of your colleague, you trespass a passage of five meters, on both sides of which death is waiting; which is no problem, though, if your are sure-footed. Consequently, again easy climbing to the summit of Austria's highest and probably most beatiful mountatain.

I mean, you're at your own risk and all, but this is a really typical place for stereotypically ignorant tourists needing to be rescued because of, let's say "suboptimal", preparation. Also, expect the place to be crowded.


It sounds like you don't have a lot of glacier expertise yet. If that is the case, I would recommend doing a glacier safety course at an alpine club. That will give you the knowledge you need, and get you in touch with like-minded people (those mountaineering-crazy friends you currently lack).

A few years back I did one of these glacier courses by Alpenverein / Sektion Gebirgsverein and was very happy with it. You can surely find similar courses from other alpine clubs (e.g. Naturfreunde or ÖTK in Austria, DAV in Germany, SAC in Switzerland).

Attempting Großglockner on your own without A TON of experience is a bad idea. People get injured or die on that mountain regularly, by slipping on ice or rock, or just by getting lost.

  • Is there a Youtube version of those glacier safety courses? At least where I live you have to book one 6+ months in advance which could be too late for OP. – JonathanReez May 17 at 19:59
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    One key learning is how rescue someone from a crevasse, while they are dangling on the rope and trying to pull you in. There is no bolt/anchor between you and the abyss to prevent that. Crevasse rescue depends many factors and is technically complex. The course gives hands-on experience - with external feedback on what to improve. I'm a fan of self-learning, but glacier travel is not the field for it. If you live in CZ, you can do courses from the ÖAV as well. I haven't found an English-language glacier course. I've written them a mail and will update once I get a response. – Christian Aichinger May 18 at 5:40
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    Some years ago my climbing club from the UK had a trip in the Arolla region in Switzerland. We had all lots of climbing / mountaineering experience but little glacier experience. On a "rest " day we asked a couple of Guides who we were friends with to run through some crevasse rescue practice using an actual crevasse. We were paired up and the person at the rear safeguarded with ice screws and a rope with plenty of slack to make it more "real". (continues) – Paul Lydon May 18 at 8:50
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    (continued from above) Even though we were fully prepared for our partner to "fall" into the crevasse, when they did drop in intentionally it was as shock just how hard it was to brace yourself and hold their fall, dig a T slot one-handed and attach the rope to a buried ice axe while bracing yourself with your heels and then sort out a loop of rope to drop down to them so that they could be retrieved. That was certainly an eye-opener and we never crossed a glacier after that unless roped up with three others. – Paul Lydon May 18 at 8:50
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    @JonathanReez "learning" a crucial and complex alpine rescuing technique by watching youtube videos will give you a wrong sense of security and teach you very litte. It could be more harmful than useful for this reason. – henning May 19 at 7:59

Summitpost has a page that describes the normal route. It says it's "PD, glacier 35°, UIAA II." PD is a French grade, peu difficile. UIAA II is a different grading system used mainly in Germany. Wikipedia has an article that discusses the various national climbing grade systems: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grade_(climbing) .

Since I'm American, I have to convert to the system I know, which is the YDS. In that system, this is probably 5.1-5.2, with glacier travel, a need for belaying, and possibly a need for rappelling. So no, the rock climbing isn't something you can do alone. Rope-soloing is not practical for this type of thing. I don't know anything about these glaciers, but if they have deep crevasses, then you may also need to rope up for glacier travel and have other people on your rope team who are competent in crevasse self-rescue.


I did it from the Heiligenblut am Großglockner side a couple years ago solo in early August with just crampons (on running shoes, no boots), ice axe, and a helmet. From that side you only cross some ice above the bergschrund on a glacier (no crevasses) and pass a via ferrata, but its easy and I didn't have a via ferrata kit. Crampons are needed for crossing ice a couple times (again, above the bergschrund) between the via ferrata and the Erzherzog Johann hut and then again on the main couloir after the Erzherzog Johann hut heading up to the ridge. Once on the ridge, there was no snow/ice in early August and its very good rock quality and pretty easy scrambling to the summit. There is, however, some pretty good exposure and lots of crowds. The Erzherzog Johann hut was booked when I went, so did it as a day hike and I believe it took ~15 hours car to car and I stopped for a pretty long while at the Erzherzog Johann hut on the way down to warm up, eat and drink. I also had a very light pack due to minimal equipment, food, and water in my pack.

Here's a link to a good picture of the glacier crossing on Summitpost if you're worried about crevasse danger. You can see its pretty short (just look at the tracks) and then its all rock in late summer until the last hut once you pass this small glacier. https://sp-images.summitpost.org/1008879.jpg?auto=format&fit=max&h=1000&ixlib=php-2.1.1&q=35&s=ef6ab07c3f877f18b52cc9d96ae47a9f.

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