• hochgolling
  • 2862 m
  • Primary factor 1124 m
  • Austria
  • Location: North 47.26624, East 013.76067 (GPS on the summit)
  • Difficulty: YDS class 3
  • Climbed September 10. 2016.


How to get there:
Locate the well known winter sports area Schladming, located roughly 100 kilometer southeast of Salzburg. Once you are in the center of the small vllage of Schladming, you should follow signs in the traffic circles to Untertal. This means to drive the main road that climbs the hillside directly south of town. Higher up on this hill you will hit yet another traffic circle where you go left (sign for Untertal). The road descends again and enters Untertal. You should drive as far into this valley as the public road permits. There is a toll booth a few kilometer before the end. I paid (2016) 10 Euro for a parking permit valid for a 24 hour visit. There are several signed parking areas, the last one is pretty large. Park there, location N47.32737, E013.75935, elevation about 1075 meter.
Route description:
Hut climb
At the end of the parking area, a dirt road continues south. Check that the small (standard) yellow sign says Göllinghütte. This sign says that the hiking time is 2 hours, a very generous estimate.
Follow this road as it gently climbs, towards the end of the main valley, ignore side roads. There is one switch-back, later the road climbs more significantly heading towards the waterfall that may be seen further ahead. When this road finally ends, you will see the hut on top of the steeper hill, just to the right of the higher end of the waterfall. The remaining distance is quite short. A good trail leads from the road in several zig-zags up to the hut.
The Göllinghütte has capacity for about 80 people. Dinner is served at 1800, while breakfast starts at 0600. For reservations call +43-676-5336288.
Summit climb
From the hut, a nice trail continues further into the almost flat valley leading directly to the base of the Hochgolling mountain that towers an impressive 1200 meter directly above. After crossing the final, flat and grassy area, the trail tends right in order to climb the only feasible route to the right (west) of the mountain. The trail will take you in many switch-backs to a distinct col, named Gollingscharte, located at N47.27294, E013.75355, elevation about 2330 meter. There is a trail fork here, one trail descends steeply to the next valley. Turning left, a good trail continues into the north slopes of the mountain. This trail soon turns more uphill and gains considerable elevation before the next signed trail fork. The sign here says "Historischer Weg" going right, this is the normal (easiest) route. The left fork says "West Grat, nur für geübte". (only for experienced climbers.) This west ridge route is supposed to be UIAA grade II, most likly (YDS) class 4 (not checked!).
The normal route continues its traverse of the north slopes while gradually climbing higher. Short sections of very easy scrambling (easy YDS class 3). The crux of this route is a more vertical step, 2-3 meter high. This very short section has been equipped with iron steps. Climbing it may be easier slightly further to the right, but without using the iron steps, this may be a short (YDS) class 4 section.
Following the red and white paint will guide you higher and slightly more steeply to the top of the main (west) ridge. The two routes merge at this point. What remains is a short walk along the superb top ridge to reach the summit. The summit cross is located about 20 meter further along on a flat section of the ridge, only slightly lower than the highest point.
I left the conference at the Smolenice Castle at noon, when the program had finsihed. Driving back to my intended climb in Austria was not totally easy, as I missed a turn on the autobahn to Bratislava, this cost me about 30 minutes. Next, I also made a navigational error when transferring from the autobahn that connects Vienna with Graz, to Hwy. S-6. I still arrived at the trailhead around 1700 and was ready to hike at 1705. The signs said 2 hours, but the road was quite nice and easy, I arrived at the hut after 1:15. Dinner was about to be served so no waiting time at all. The hut got full on this Friday evening with perfect weather forecasted for Saturday.
I was up at 0530 and got a nice breakfast at 0600. Ready to hike by 0640, I was the first person up along the trail that leads into this upper valley below Hochgolling. This valley is indeed quite impressive, a completely flat area where it ends, then 1200 meter straight up to the summit of Hochgolling.
There is only one reasonable place where a trail could climb out of this place, slightly right, up towards the west side of Hochgolling. The trail was nice, I could see the sun hitting the terrain higher up. I walked up to the very narrow and good-looking col called Gollingscharte arriving there around 0815. I decided to make a short rest, and take some pictures before moving onwards. I thought it would be good to take the west ridge route, but felt that I should not do this solo, since I really did not know how difficult this route might be.
Just as I prepared to leave, a younger, strong looking hiker, his name was Michael, appeared. We exchanged a few words, then I continued uphill with Michael following about 50-100 meter behind. When I reached the trail fork, I sat down to rest and wait for Michael. When he arrived I suggested that he come along on the "west grat", but unfortunately, he told me that he felt that the normal route would be more than sufficient for him on this day. He told me that only last year, he had been taken out from a mountain hut by helicopter due to dehydration and general bad condition.
OK, I realized that I should stick to the normal route and Michael followed not too far behind. Michael had mentioned his encounter with the helicopter and while I still thought about his story, a helicopter came buzzing in at low elevation. It stopped on the next small ridgeline and hovered there for a while, then it flew off, descending to the valley.
I continued and quite soon, the helicopter came up again, this time with a rescue man hanging from the end of a wire. As I approached the spot where the chopper lowered its man, I wanted to believe that this was a practice/training session, but of course, it was not. A man was on the ground and I immediately realized that he was dead and that he had been dead for several hours. Blood on the nearby rock showed that he had hit the ground right here. I moved ahead circumventing the spot and made a brief stop at a reasonable distance uphill.
The body of the dead was moved into a bag, the helicopter then lifted personel and the bag off the ground and flew back down towards the valley.
The last time I hit upon a dead climber in the mountains was high on Aconcagua in 2002, it is good that such incidents are in fact, rare. I later learned that the dead man was 47 years old and that he was together with 3 other friends, but that he had gone off by himself to climb Hochgolling. His friends stayed at Gollinghütte and reported him missing when he did not return late evening. A rescue was initiated and they located his body just before dawn, this Saturday morning.
I knew nothing about this, and being the first person on the trail, bumped directly into this, just about the same time as the police helicopter arrived to pull him off the mountain. If I had not stopped at the Gollingscharte and at the trailfork, I would have arrived even earlier at the scene of the accident. My thoughts go to his family, possibly wife and children, this was indeed a very sad event. What exactly happened is likely to never be known. He was lying in an area that was not very steep. It seems to me unlikely that he had fallen from the top of the ridge (the west grat route) and landed precisely at the normal route. Alternatively, he may have tripped, then fallen just a few meter, but hit his head on a rock and been killed in a most unfortunate "small fall", that one might normally survive.
Affected by the brutal reality, and reminded about the small gap between life and death, we continued up the last part of the route, arriving (somewhat delayed) at the summit at 0955. The final summit ridge is quite nice, no difficulties, but one certainly feels the big drops on either side. The weather was nice and we wanted to stay around for quite a long rest. the big and well known Dachstein captured our view to the north. Two glaciers were in plain sight to the south-south-west.
Gradually, more people arrived. They all seemed quite happy with being on top and several parties took long breaks. After 1:45, at 1140, it was finally time to leave and start our descent. Michael and I stayed together and we were back at the hut at 1330, quite a good rate of descent.
A bowl of soup and a weissbeer rounded off this part of the day, there is a very special atmosphere on the terrace of these Austrian alpine huts. We rested about one hour, then began our final descent to the lower valley and our cars. The return hike took 55 minutes, I would have ample time to drive back to Unken where I had reserved my third night at the B&B place.
Since this was my final evening, I ordered the "surf and turf" from the menu at my third dinner in the restaurant near the church in Unken. I took my head torch along and therefore no problems when walking back to the B&B place after a long and memorable day.