Schönbichler Horn

Our highest crossing on this trip: the 3,134m (10,282 ft) Schönbichler Horn. This section of the Berliner Höhenweg starts at the Furtschaglhaus and ends at the Berliner Hütte, the Grand Dame of the Zillertal huts.




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Elevation Profile
Morning at the Furtschaglhaus with the Furtschaglspitze (left) and Großer Möseler.

The storm from last night dissipated, but the weather still looked a bit ominous. After breakfast we got off to an early start around 6:40 am, as we knew we had a big day ahead.

Furtschaglhaus and Schlegeiskees glacier. The 3,509m Hochfeiler is on the left side of the ridge above, lies on the border with Italy, and is the tallest peak in the Zillertal alps.

The Berliner Höhenweg trail climbed steeply at times above the Furtschaglhaus, more or less following a ridgeline toward the Schönbichler Scharte (the notch below the Horn).

The 3480m Großer Möseler, and the Furtschaglkees glacier. This is the second tallest peak in the Zillertal alps, and lies on the border with Italy.

As we progressed further upward, we became closer to the peaks above and the Schönbichler Horn and Scharte came into view, but we couldn’t yet see the route to the top.

Ascending the Berliner Höhenweg (high route) to the 3,134m Schönbichler Horn on the ridge above. The summit cross is barely visible toward the left. This is the highest point on the 45-mile Berliner Höhenweg.
Allan on the Berliner Höhenweg on the way to the Schönbichler

Further up, the trail switched back a final time to a large cairn, and now we could see the approach to the Schönbichler Scharte following one more long ridgeline to a gully leading up the scharte (notch) with a steep snowfield to ascend below the gully. The trail became steeper and faint at times, but well marked and walkable without much need to use hands.

The Berliner Höhenweg ascending to the Schönbichler Scharte, the leftmost notch in the ridge above.

We slipped on our microspikes to climb the snowfield just below the gully, as a slip and fall here could be disastrous. Above the snowfield in the gully there wasn’t really a trail; just waymarkers to provide direction and cables affixed to the rocks on the left side for support. This section required climbing with hands and feet.

Climbing the final few yards of the Schönbichler Scharte on the Berliner Höhenweg.

Once up the gully, we stood atop the Schönbicher Scharte and savored the view ahead!

View from the Schönbichler Scharte. We will climb down to the ridge below to continue on to the Berliner Hütte which is obscured by clouds.

Unfortunately, clouds were continuing to build and swirl in so the views to either side of the Schönbichler Scharte were somewhat obstructed.

360º panorama from the Schönbichler Scharte (click and drag to pan and zoom)

Climbing up from the Schönbichler Scharte to the peak.

From the scharte (notch) it was a short climb up to the summit of the Schönbichler Horn!

On the summit of the 3,134m Schönbichler Horn
Summit selfie on top of the 3,134m Schönbichler Horn

360º panorama from the summit of the Schönbichler Horn (click and drag to pan and zoom)

A large group of teenagers began to arrive on the summit. They were on multiple rope teams with mountain guides on each. We had taken our pictures and enjoyed the view, so we left the summit and began our descent.

Beginning our descent from the Schönbichler Horn

The steep descent from the Schönbichler Horn to the ridge below was the highlight of the day for me. Climbing down with the aid of the cables was a lot of fun.

Nearly vertical route down the Schönbichler Horn
Descending the Schönbichler Horn
Ridge route below the Schönbichler Horn

The climbing route ended at the base of the Schönbichler Horn on the ridge below, and the hiking trail resumed here.

Ridge route below the Schönbichler Horn

The trail followed the top of the ridge for a while, then descended the side of the ridge. We decided to stop for lunch along the way. For the first time, we bought a lunch box from the hut. Just as we finished lunch, it started raining hard. We quickly put on our rain gear, packed up, and headed down the trail. It rained on and off again for a while, and the trail was slippery in places – especially when on solid rock or hopping across talus. Thankfully there were cables again in a couple of steep and exposed sections.

First view of the Berlinerhütte from the Berliner Höhenweg
Descending the Berliner Höhenweg toward the Berliner Hütte

The trail was pretty steep for a while as we descended down to the lateral moraine left from the Waxeggkees glacier after it retreated above. We stopped briefly for a snack and rest, and the large group of teenagers, adults, and guides passed us.

Lateral moraine from the retreating Waxeggkees glacier, and some sheep on the Berliner Höhenweg.

We continued down to the Zemmgrund valley. Near the valley floor, we passed the large group of teenagers again. We hopped over the Waxeggbach, the creek flowing down from the Waxeggkees glacier, and then a ways further crossed a bridge over the Hornkeesbach. From here the trail climbed up 275 feet to the Berliner Hütte. 275 feet might not sound like much but after an almost 3,000ft climb over the Schönbichler Horn followed by almost 4,000ft descent, I was wiped out and not happy about this final uphill to the hut. But I wanted to get there before the large group behind us (to avoid a long line checking in or getting food), so I attacked this section like a wildman; grunting and swearing as time and again I came up over a rise only to find another hill to climb up. Eventually, I reached the Zemmbach with the Berliner Hütte just on the other side of the bridge! I entered the sonnenterrasse (sun terrace), threw my pack to the ground, and went inside to check-in. The check-in process was more regimented here, insisting on payment up front before giving access to our room (despite my histrionics).

Lobby in the Berliner Hütte

We went up to our room, moving slowly up the stairs on my tired legs.

Lobby stairway in the Berliner Hütte

We dropped off packs in our room up on the third floor,

Our room at the Berliner Hütte

and then returned to the sonnenterrasse for a Zillertal beer and Kaiserschmarrn.

View from the Berliner Hütte of the Hornkees glacier

After enjoying the views, snack, and beers, we went back in to clean up and get ready for dinner.

Dining room at the Berliner Hütte

Once again, I had a delicious Wienerschnitzel for dinner.

The Berliner Hütte and Waxeggkees glacier

After dinner, we retreated to our room to hang out for a while before bed. I was so tired after the big day that I struggled to maintain a conversation with Allan; uttering gibberish at one point as I nodded off in mid-sentence. I would sleep very well tonight.



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