ÖTZTAL TREK / ROUTE 1 (Stages 1 - 5)
Route: Ötztal-Bahnhof – Dortmunder Hütte – Schweinfurter Hütte – Winnebachseehütte – Amberger Hütte – Hochstubaihütte
Ötztal Trek’s Route 1 is the easiest to hike and presents relatively little in the way of technical challenges as the trails are usually ice-free. Stage 4 (Winnebachseehütte – Amberger Hütte) and Stage 5 (Amberger Hütte – Hochstubai Hütte) require alpine experience. Both stages have an exit point at its beginning, allowing you to descend to the valley.
Stage 1: Ötztal Bahnhof (704 metres) – Marlstein – Mareil – Dortmunder Hütte (1,949 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 1,485/230 metres, walking time: 7.5 hours, highest point: 1,949 metres, distance: 18.2 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
Begin your hike from the village of Ötztal-Bahnhof along footpaths, dirt roads and singletrack trails. Despite such a rugged and alpine setting, the trek to Dortmunder Hut is most agreeable and presents relatively little in the way of technical challenges. Along the way you will ramble through some great stands of evergreens and cross a tiny hamlet en route to a lovely high moor lake, the Brandsee, and eventually reach Ambergersee lake, which makes a fine place for a refreshing swim. The trail continues toward “Sattele” to Marlstein and Mareil, where you could spend the night. If you are feeling more energetic, you can explore the Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Weg trail and gain another 200 vertical metres on your way to the Dortmunder Hütte in the resort of Kühtai.
Stage 2: Dortmunder Hütte (1,949 metres) – Schweinfurter Hütte (2,028 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 855/772 metres, walking time: 5 hours 30 minutes, highest point: 2,777 metres, distance: 10.6 kilometres, difficulty: intermediate
From the Dortmunder Hütte on the outskirts of Kühtai, the trail takes you up to the lovely Finstertal reservoir with its worthwhile 149-metre-high dam. From there, proceed to the Finstertaler Scharte ridge, the highest point on this hike at an elevation of 2,777 meters. From the top, you will have sweeping views that include the Wildspitze mountain, North Tirol’s tallest mountain, and beyond. On the descent from the ridge you will ramble across wide open alpine pastures along a murmuring brook. A series of switchbacks will take you down to the Schweinfurter Hütte that is located at the intersection of the Horlachtal and Zwieselbachtal valleys.
Stage 3: Schweinfurter Hütte (2,028 metres) – Winnebachseehütte (2,361 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 843/513 metres, walking time: 4 hours 40 minutes, highest point: 2,868 metres, distance: 10.1 kilometres, difficulty: intermediate
From the Schweinfurter Hütte, the trail heads into the scenic Zwieselbachtal Valley past the Zwieselbachalm hut. The dirt road ends at an elevation of 2,150 metres and turns onto a path that scrambles up a talus field and requires some route-finding and endurance. Go in the summer when the trail running atop Zwieselbachjoch ridge is snow-free and ice-free, offering fine views of the Zwieselbachferner and Grießkogel glaciers. On the steep and rocky descent from the ridge you will traverse talus slopes on your way across Winnebachkar cirque to the Winnebachsee Hütte.
Stage 4: Winnebachseehütte (2,361 metres) – Bachfallenferner – Amberger Hütte (2,136 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 500/730 metres, walking time: 4 hours 15 minutes, highest point: 2,361 metres, distance: 9.4 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
From the Winnebachsee Hütte, this trail vigorously climbs the upper reaches of craggy moraines in switchbacks, passing Ernst-Riml-Spitze mountain. If you have the skill and equipment - and maybe even an experienced guide - you can scramble up the section to reach the ice of Bachfallenferner glacier. Bringing crampons and an ice axe is highly recommended for crossing the glacier. The scramble section up to the summit of Gaislehnscharte ridge requires basic climbing skills and adequate gear. From the either side of the ridge, the trail zigzags down to Schrankar cirque and into Inner Sulztal Valley on its way to the Amberger Hütte, the finishing point of this stage.
Stage 5: Amberger Hütte (2,136 metres) – Wütenkarsattel (3,103 metres) – Hochstubaihütte (3,174 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 1,085/62 metres, walking time: 4.5 hours, highest point: 3,174 metres, distance: 8.2 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
This stage requires excellent glacier skills and suitable gear. Walk southward along the flat valley floor of Sulze. Soon, the route starts to climb the lateral west moraine of the Sulztalferner glacier. Crevasses pose a danger on the section to the foot of Wilde Leck and the Wütenkarsattel ridge; only roped groups with crevasse rescue equipment and expertise should cross. The route continues past a tiny lake on its way to the Wütenkarferner glacier and eventually intersects with the access route that links Sölden with the Hochstubaihütte. From here, the trails runs along a broad and view-granting ridge and gains another 100 vertical metres to reach the Hochstubaihütte.
ÖTZTAL TREK / ROUTE 2 (Stages 6 - 9)
Route: Hochstubaihütte – Hildesheimer Hütte – Siegerlandhütte – Gasthaus Hochfirst – Brunnenkogelhaus
Hiking the Ötztal Trek’s Route 2 is an adventure on many a hikers’ bucket list. It follows historic smuggling trails across the Windachtal nature reserve east of Sölden and crosses the border into Italy’s northernmost province, South Tyrol/Alto Adige, at Timmelsjoch col.
Stage 6: Hochstubaihütte (3,174 metres) – Scharte am Windachferner – Hildesheimer Hütte (2,900 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 640/913 metres, walking time: 4 hours 45 minutes, highest point: 3,174 metres, distance: 8.1 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
From the Hochstubaihütte hut, you will soon reach the aptly named “Himmelsleiter” (literally, “stairway to heaven”), where you climb up a steep section with stone steps, ropes and your hands and knees. The trail then winds down to the Seekarsee lake before resuming another climb after having crossed the marshy Warenkar cirque. The route switchbacks up to a ridge at Windachferner glacier. Walk down to the glacier and follow the trail leading to Jochdohle Restaurant that is located in the heart of the ski resort. From Gaiskarferner glacier, bear south-eastward and pass a rocky ridge on your way down to the Hildesheimerhütte hut.
Stage 7: Hildesheimer Hütte (2,900 metres) – Gamsplatzl (3,018 metres) – Siegerlandhütte (2,710 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 341/527 metres, walking time: 2 hours 45 minutes, highest point: 3,016 metres, distance: 5.3 kilometres, difficulty: intermediate
On this tour, you will revel in the majesty of the mighty Zuckerhütl mountain. From Hildesheimerhütte hut, you will walk down across Windachtal Valley along the Hutnzustieg trail until you reach the Gaiskarbach stream. Cross the moraine of the imposing Pfaffenferner glacier and take the rock scramble up to he Gamsplatzl peak. Leading through large boulders, this section is assisted by a fixed anchoring system of cables. As you climb up, breathtaking views open around you. Catch your breath and scan the horizon. How many of the summits can you identify? Prominent 3,507-metre Zuckerhütl mountain in the Stubai Alps and a seemingly infinite array of Ötztal Alps’ peaks are spread out before you. From the Gamsplatzl it’s a steep descent to the Triebenkarsee lake nestled below the tongue of the Triebenkarlasferner glacier. The final section is a gentle gradient that takes eventually takes you to the Siegerlandhütte hut.
Stage 8: Siegerlandhütte (2,710 metre) – Windachscharte – Gasthaus Hochfirst (1,860 metre)
Vertical ascent/descent: 272/1,163 metres, walking time: 4 hours 30 minutes, highest point: 2,846 metres, distance: 9.1 kilometres, difficulty: intermediate
Check out some local history on this trail that climbs the 2,862-metre Windachscharte ridge. Smugglers once used this trail to transport goods across the ‘green border’ to Italy. Beyond the border, the trail descends to Timmelsalm, a romantic alpine pasture hut. Slightly beneath the hut runs the popular Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road. It’s a short walk to the Gasthof Hochfirst inn that lies directly on this scenic road linking Tirol in Austria to South Tyrol/Alto Adige in Italy. History buffs can take the fork toward Schneeberghaus at Timmler Schwarzsee lake to catch a glimpse of both the history of mining in South Tyrol and the dramatic landscape of the Ötztal Alps’ upper reaches.
Stage 9: Gasthaus Hochfirst (1,860 metres) – Timmelsjoch – Brunnenkogelhaus (2,738 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 1,400/485 metres, walking time: 7 hours, highest point: 2,964 metres, distance: 12.1 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
Starting from the Gasthof Hochfirst, walk up to the roadhouse atop Timmelsjoch col. From there, the trail continues on a moderate grade past beautiful tarns and crosses the glacier scoured cirques of Wannenkar, Rötenkar and Wietenkar before continuing to Wannenkarsattel saddle. Follow the ridge-top track as it leads atop Wilde Rötespitz, the highest point on this walk. From the top, watch a continuous reel of premiere showings starring the glistening white Ötztal Wildspitze peak and splendid Weißkugel peak. If that's not enough to slack your jaw, the lofty Zuckerhütl peak hovering over the Stubai Alps will most certainly captivate you. The trail gently winds to the Brunnenkogelhaus lodge.
Valley descent: Brunnenkogelhaus (2,738 metres) – Sölden
Vertical ascent/descent: 0/1,374 metres, walking time: 3 hours 15 minutes, highest point: 2,738 metres, distance: 6 kilometres, difficulty: intermediate
For the descent to Sölden, either take trail number 171 via the Brunnenbergalm and the Stabelealm huts or, alternatively, head east into the Windachtal Valley and down to Fiegl's Hütte (around 2 hours). From there, take the bus to Sölden. To start the next stage, take the bus from Sölden to Obergurgl.
ÖTZTAL TREK / ROUTE 3 (Stages 10 - 12)
Route: Obergurgl – Langtalereckhütte – Hochwildehaus – Ramolhaus – Martin-Busch-Hütte – Similiaunhütte
Route 3 along the Ötztal Trek explores the upper reaches of Inner Ötztal and has you wandering in stratosphere explorer Auguste Piccard’s and Ötzi the Iceman’s famous footsteps. Intimate ice is what this route is all about: Enter rarefied air as you explore the world of glaciers high above Vent and view them close-up and personal. Moreover, the route works its way south, touching on the Italian border once again, this time via the Niederjoch col and the Similaunhütte hut.
Stage 10: Obergurgl (1,900 metres) – Langtalereck-Hütte (2,430 metres) – Hochwildehaus (2,866 Meter) – Ramolhaus (3,005 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 1,421/324 metres, walking time: 7 hours, highest point: 3,005 metres, distance: 12.2 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
Trailhead of this awesome trek is the village centre of Obergurgl. Keep walking into the valley until you get to David’s Hütte. There, follow the themed learning trail across the old-growth stone pine forest. Passing the Schönwieshütte hut and Langtalereckhütte hut, the trail runs into the Langtal Valley and emerges on the lateral moraine of Gurgler Ferner glacier with a last rise taking you to Hochwildehaus lodge, which provides a perfect rest stop for hikers. Once replete and replenished, retrace your steps back towards Gurgler Ferner. The path drops down on the west edge of the glacier; markings show where you can cross it safely. Iron rungs help get you over rock slabs. Ramolhaus lodge hangs tantalisingly above you, but the steep climb is well worth the effort, both for the views and for the shelter’s welcoming atmosphere.
Stage 11: Ramolhaus (3,005 metres) – Ramoljoch (3,189 metres) – Martin-Busch-Hütte (2,501 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 614/1,119 metres, walking time: 5 hours 30 minutes, highest point: 3,189 metres, distance: 11.9 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
This stage travels from Ramoljoch col into the Niedertal Valley and across scree, boulders and ice to Ramolferner glacier. The trail vigorously climbs atop Ramoljoch ridge, where a fixed anchoring system of cables and iron rungs help get you over the initial rock step, slabs and scree. After Spiegelferner glacier, follow the path down over scree and a short section of glacier onto the morainal heaps. Further below, the path splits and the one to the Martin-Busch-Hütte turns left towards the Niedertal Valley. It’s a gradual ascent over wide open alpine pastures where sheep can be viewed grazing. Eventually, you descend steeply to cross the Diembach stream. The path loses height rapidly and you approach the Niedertalbach stream. Cross it and follow the dirt road across the Niedertal Valley that leads up to the Martin-Busch-Hütte.
Stage 12: Martin-Busch-Hütte (2,501 metres) – Similaunhütte (3,017 metres)
Vertical ascent: 523 metres, walking time: 2 hours, highest point: 3,017 metres, distance: 4.6 kilometres, difficulty: intermediate
Ötzi the Iceman will be your imaginary companion along this trek as you cross the border into Italy’s South Tyrol once again. From the Martin-Busch-Hütte, the path runs parallel to Niederjochbach stream and then rises onto the moraine above Niederjochferner glacier. It levels out as it crosses the snow and you reach the Similaunhütte hut, the old frontier post that is located at an elevation of 3,017 metres atop Niederjoch col on the Italian side of the mountain. It is recommended that only experienced hikers comfortable on scramble routes attempt to summit the pinnacle of 3,599-metre Similaun peak. Mastering the vertigo-inducing exposure and ice-strewn trail requires glacier travel skills and familiarity with ice axe and crampons.
ÖTZTAL TREK / ROUTE 4 (Stages 13 - 17) - In the Footsteps of Ötzi the Iceman
Route: Similaunhütte – Hochjoch-Hospiz – Brandenburger Haus – Vernagthütte – Breslauer Hütte – Restaurant Tiefenbach – Rettenbachjoch – Braunschweiger Hütte
Ötztal Trek’s Route 4 explores the upper reaches of the mighty glacier world that surrounds the resort of Vent. You will wander in the footsteps of Ötzi the Iceman, here, too. Steep, rough, and technical, these routes require excellent glacier-crossing skills and good experience as well as familiarity with ice axe, crampons and climbing ropes.
Stage 13: Similaunhütte (3,017 metres) – Hauslabjoch (3,283 metres) – Hochjoch-Hospiz (2,412 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 455/1,064 metres, walking time: 4 hours 30 minutes, highest point: 3,282 metres, distance: 8.5 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
Starting from the Similaunhütte hut, the trail reaches the Tisenjoch col, where the 5000-year-old mummy of Ötzi the Iceman was found in 1991. The steep and rugged trail across a ridge is assisted by a fixed anchoring system of cables. Having visited the site of Ötzi’s discovery, the trail gains 100 vertical metres on its way atop Hauslabjoch col. Continue by crossing the Hochjochferner glacier and follow this route until it merges onto a footpath that winds down from the Seilkogel mountain. This path drops into the Rofental Valley, where you cross Hochjochbach stream and head on to the stream rushing down from Hintereisferner glacier. A demanding final grunt of 100 vertical metres takes you up to Hochjoch Hospice.
Stage 14: Hochjoch-Hospiz (2,412 metres) – Brandenburger Haus (3,274 metres)
Vertical ascent: 852 metres, walking time: 3 hours 20 minutes, highest point: 3,274 metres, distance: 5.7 kilometres, difficulty: intermediate
At the end of this stage, you’ll be greeted by a mighty glacier castle: Brandenburger Haus was built on the end of a rock rib sticking out above Kesselwandferner glacier, in the middle of a sea of snow and ice and at an elevation of 3,274 metres. Follow the path behind Hochjoch Hospice and climb a steep tussock slope first. Higher up, on a narrow path on a steep hillside, climb above the spectacular icefall of Kesselwandferner glacier. Once on the glacier, the route should be very straightforward and is marked with poles; roped glacier-crossing techniques are required. It takes roughly an hour to complete this tough section. The final push to the shelter is a rock scramble that is steep, rough and a little bit tricky – but Brandenburger Haus lodge and the stunning views en route are definitely worth it. Once at the lodge, if the altitude has not taken too much out of you, scramble up onto the 3,397-metre Dahmannspitze peak. It’ll take some 30 minutes to nab its pinnacle – sure-footedness and a good head for heights are required.
Stage 15: Brandenburger Haus (3,274 metres) – Fluchtkogel (3,494 metres) – Vernagt-Hütte (2,755 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 250/763 metres, walking time: 3 hours, highest point: 3,494 metres, distance: 5.5 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
From Brandenburger Haus lodge, the trail drops down roughly 50 metres and crosses a boulder field on its way to the Kesselwandferner glacier. Cross the glacier and continue north-eastward to gain Upper Guslarjoch col. From the col, it’s a mere 150 vertical metres to reach the highlight of this walk (in the true sense of the word!): culminating on a 3,497-metre peak named Fluchtkogel, the summit gives a panoramic payoff of jagged peaks and emerald ridges that will leave you gasping for breath. Retrace your steps to Upper Guslarjoch col, from where the trail plunges to the heavily-crevassed Guslarferner glacier. Crossing it, crevasses pose a danger on the section; it is strongly recommended to proceed with caution to protect yourself from such hazards. After that, the trail winds down to the Vernagt-Hütte hut through lateral moraines.
Stage 16: Vernagthütte (2,755 metres) – Breslauer Hütte (2,844 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 337/250 metres, walking time: 2 hours 20 minutes, highest point: 2,862 metres, distance: 6.9 kilometres, difficulty: intermediate
This short stage presents relatively little in the way of technical challenges. Along the way, you'll be rewarded with views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers, such as mighty Großer Vernagtferner and Hochvernagt. Starting from the Vernagt-Hütte hut, the trail drops down into the valley of the Vernagtbach stream. The trail crosses the stream and begins a steady climb to Platteiberg. From there, the route skirts the slopes high above the Rofental Valley and traverses the cirques of Platteikar and Mitterkar. Stop and rest at the latter and admire the views of the sky-scraping Ötztal Wildspitze mountain. Soon you will reach the Breslauer Hütte hut that offers sweeping vistas of nearby glaciers and mountains, including the Kreuzspitze peak, Hochjochferner glacier and Weißkugel peak.
Stage 17: Breslauer Hütte (2,844 metres) – Restaurant Tiefenbach (2,789 metres) – Rettenbachjoch (2,990 metres) – Braunschweiger Hütte (2,758 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 1,080/1,169 metres, walking time: 8 hours, highest point: 3,312 metres, distance: 18.1 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
From the Breslauer Hütte hut, walk past the foothills of Rofenkar cirque on a trail that drops down to the new high trail that runs out above the Venter Tal Valley. Follow this high trail until it merges onto the awesome, the view-granting Panoramaweg trail that links Vent with the mighty Tiefenbachferner glacier. High above the Venter Tal Valley, this scenic trail brings you to Tiefenbach Restaurant at Tiefenbach glacier. After you’ve spent some time resting at this friendly on-mountain restaurant, climb the ski run to gain Seiter Jöchl col. On the other side of the col, the trail drops down to Rettenbachferner glacier. Crossing the glacier requires adequate equipment, skills and expertise. From Rettenbachjoch col, follow the trail signed for Braunschweiger Hütte hut.
Ride a bus from Tiefenbach Restaurant to the base of the Rettenbachferner glacier and walk to the upper car park of the glacier road; this is the trailhead of the climb atop the Pitztaler Jöchl col (2,996 metres). The final push to the summit crosses a glacial field where crampons might be useful. From the col, the trail drops down to the Braunschweiger Hütte hut. It takes roughly 1¾ hours to reach the hut from the base of the Rettenbachferner Glacier. If the trail atop the Pitztaler Jöchl col is closed, climb the Rettenbachjoch col from the upper car park of the glacier road. The final push to the col is a non-technical and easy glacier crossing. It takes about 1¾ hours to reach the hut from the base.
ÖTZTAL TREK / ROUTE 5 (Stages 18 - 20)
Route: Braunschweiger Hütte – Mainzer Höhenweg – Rüsselsheimer Hütte – Luibisscharte – Hauerseehütte – Felderjöchl – Frischmannhütte
Route 5 along the Ötztal Trek offers exceptionally rewarding and demanding tours and gives access to very spectacular alpine scenery. Hiking the Mainzer Höhenweg (Mainz High Trail) requires sure-footedness along with basic technical climbing abilities and gear. The route follows the Geigenkamm ridge, rising between the Pitztal and Ötztal Valleys, and is filled with delights and natural wonders along the way. It is here hikers can watch mountain goats from a safe distance using binoculars.
Stage 18: Braunschweiger Hütte (2,758 metres) – Mainzer Höhenweg – Rüsselsheimer Hütte (2,328 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 857/1,281 metres, walking time: 9 hours 30 minutes, highest point: 3,252 metres, distance: 10.2 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
Alpine, technical and downright demanding! Starting from Braunschweiger Hütte hut, the trail drops into Silbergrube and then starts climbing to gain the first 3,000-metre-plus peak of this stage: the 3,079-metre-high Wurmsitzkogel peak. Next up are Grschrappkogel peak (3,197 m) and Wassertalkogel Peak (3,252 m) with a bivouac, an emergency shelter that sleeps up to 12 people, nearby. From Wassertalkogel, the trail descends through glacial fields. Following some scrambling, the trail continues to the Weißmaurachjoch col and on to Weißmaurachkar cirque. After spending ten hours in a day hiking, you will finally reach Rüsselsheimer Hütte hut.
Stage 19: Rüsselsheimer Hütte (2,328 metres) – Kapuzinerjöchl (2,710 metres) – Breitlehnjöchl (2,637 metres) – Sandjöchl (2,826 metres) – Luibisscharte (2,914 metres) – Hauerseehütte (2,383 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 1,157/1,104 metres, walking time: 7 hours 15 minutes, highest point: 2,909 metres, distance: 11 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
This stage sees hikers tackle a few cols and a tiny glacier. It starts by heading to a wonderful vantage point named Gahwinden. From there, the trail descends through scree fields to Rötkarle cirque and then ascends Kapuzinerjöchl col. Beyond the col, the trail drops down through steep and rocky terrain (there are fixed cables to hold on to for safety) before resuming its climb towards Breitlehnjöchl and Sandjöchl cols. From now on, it’s tough going! From the fork, the trail switchbacks to Luibisscharte ridge. The final push to the ridge is nearly vertical; a thigh burner going up and one that calls for extra caution descending on its other side. The scenery is heavenly, but with many vertical meters to climb and drop, there’s a little hell to pay on the way. Beyond the ridge, the trail plunges to the crevasse-free Hauerferner glacier. The trail between the glacier and the Hauersee Hütte hut has been closed off due to a rockslide – having passed the glacier section, a bypass trail descends next to a rocky knoll. Hauersee Hütte hut is a tiny self-catering, unmanned shelter that is open during peak season only.
Stage 20: Hauerseehütte (2,383 metres) – Felderjöchl (2,797 metres) – Frischmannhütte (2,192 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 567/756 metres, walking time: 4 hours, highest point: 2,797 metres, distance: 7.3 kilometres, difficulty: intermediate
This stage follows the spine of the Middle Geigenkamm Ridge and will take you to three gorgeous lakes in unique settings. The first one is located right beside the Hauersee Hütte hut, after which it is named. From the hut, the trail descends to the Unterer Spitzigsee lake, from where it crosses the Inner Innerbergtal Valley and traverses the slopes above the glacier-scoured Felderkar cirque. A vigorous climb takes you up to the Weißer See lake and continues straight forward through steep and rugged terrain to gain Felderjöchl col. The rock scramble section is assisted by a fixed anchoring system of cables. From the col, the trail drops steeply, then levels out, and continues across Fernerkar cirque below Ploderferner glacier. Under the reign of lofty Griesköpfe peaks, the trail descends quickly and eventually passes gentle pasturelands on its way to the Frischmannhütte hut.
ÖTZTAL TREK / ROUTE 6 (Stage 21 - 22)
Route: Frischmannhütte – Fundusfeiler – Erlanger Hütte – Forchheimer Weg – Maisalm – Ötztal-Bahnhof
Ötztal Trek’s Route 6 has two stages. The latter can be done as a long day hike, but is more easily enjoyed as a two-day trek for it’s downhill all the way to your destination, dropping 2,350 vertical metres. From the Erlanger Hütte hut, the route follows the scenic Forchheimer Weg trail. The combination of stunning scenery and lack of crowds is one of this trail’s most enticing aspects. And those stunning views!
Stage 21: Frischmannhütte (2,192 metres) – Fundusfeiler (3,079 metres) – Erlanger Hütte (2,541 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 1,182/833 metres, walking time: 7 hours, highest point: 3,079 metres, distance: 9.8 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
Tucked in a high cirque surrounded by sky-piercing peaks, the Wettersee lake epitomizes rugged alpine beauty. Reaching this aquatic gem still exacts a fair amount of sweat and grit, though. Starting from the Frischmannhütte hut, walk into Funduskar cirque and head to Fundusfeilerrinne gully. Gaining the Feilerscharte ridge, a fixed anchoring system of cables helps get you over two rock precipices. The actual summit is a 150-metre rock scramble to the top of the 3,079-metre-tall Fundusfeiler peak, a wonderful lookout point - and there's plenty to look out at! Retrace your steps to the ridge and cross scree and talus slopes on your way down to the so-called “Schwarzes Loch”, meaning “black hole”. From there, it’s a gentle stroll along beautiful alpine pastures high above the Leierstal Valley. On good tread, start switchbacking to a tiny saddle, where the Wettersee lake sits in a rugged bowl. From the gorgeous lake, it’s just a few minutes’ walk to get to the Erlanger Hütte hut.
Stage 22: Erlanger Hütte (2,541 metres) – Forchheimer Weg – Maisalm (1,631 metres) – Ötztal-Bahnhof (704 metres)
Vertical ascent/descent: 487/2,333 metres, walking time: 9 hours, highest point: 2,652 metres, distance: 22.5 kilometres, difficulty: difficult
What a workout! This stage is not for the weak of heart, nor the weak of knees. Lots of downhill awaits, with the stage dropping 2,359 metres to the final destination of the Ötztal Trek at Ötztal-Bahnhof. It is more easily enjoyed as a two-day trek with an overnight stay at the Maisalm hut. Start by following the trail from the Erlanger Hütte hut to the Inner Tumpental Valley and the Murmentenkarjoch col. The descent on the other side brings you to the tiny Forchheim bivouac, an emergency shelter that accommodates up to four people. Continue descending along the ridge where Hahnenkamm mountain is circumvented through a scree field to the east. Continue walking along Front Geigenkamm ridge and summit the pinnacle of Mutkopf peak. After enjoying the top, it is time to head down to the Mut Hut (no food & drink), from where a dirt road winds down to the Maisalm hut. This knee-jarring descent takes some six hours to complete. If you want to spend the night here, bookings are essential. The next morning, continue descending into the valley. Having arrived at the village of Roppen it’s a gentle stroll to the trailhead and final destination of the Ötztal Trek, which is the village of Ötztal-Bahnhof.