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Watzmann Berchtesgaden.jpg
The Watzmann, overlooking the town of Berchtesgaden
Highest point
Elevation 2,713 m (8,901 ft)
Prominence 953 m (3,127 ft)
Isolation 15.9 kilometres (9.9 mi)
Coordinates 47°33′19″N12°55′24″E / 47.55528°N 12.92333°E / 47.55528; 12.92333 Coordinates: 47°33′19″N12°55′24″E / 47.55528°N 12.92333°E / 47.55528; 12.92333
PronunciationGerman: [ˈvatsman]
Alps location map.png
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Location in the Alps
Location Bavaria, Germany
Parent range Bavarian Alps
First ascent 1799 or 1800 by Valentin Stanič
Easiest route Scramble

The Watzmann (Austro-Bavarian : Watzmo) is a mountain in the Bavarian Alps south of the village of Berchtesgaden. It is the third highest in Germany, and the highest located entirely on German territory. [1]

Bavarian Alps part of the Alps mountain range in Bavaria, Germany

Bavarian Alps is a summarizing term of several mountain ranges of the Northern Limestone Alps in the German state of Bavaria.

Berchtesgaden Place in Bavaria, Germany

Berchtesgaden is a municipality in the Bavarian Alps of southeastern Germany. It is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km (19 mi) south of Salzburg and 180 km (110 mi) southeast of Munich. To the south of the city, Berchtesgaden National Park stretches along three parallel valleys.


Three main peaks array on a N-S axis along a ridge on the mountain's taller western half: Hocheck (2,651 m), Mittelspitze (Middle Peak, 2,713 m) and Südspitze (South Peak, 2,712 m).

The Watzmann massif also includes the 2,307 m Watzmannfrau (Watzmann Wife, also known as Kleiner Watzmann or Small Watzmann), and the Watzmannkinder (Watzmann Children), five lower peaks in the recess between the main peaks and the Watzmannfrau.

The entire massif lies inside Berchtesgaden National Park.

Berchtesgaden National Park national park in Bavaria, Germany

Berchtesgaden National Park is in the south of Germany, on its border with Austria, in the municipalities of Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden and Schönau am Königsee, Berchtesgadener Land, Free State of Bavaria. The national park was established in 1978 to protect the landscapes of the Berchtesgaden Alps. Headquartered in the town of Berchtesgaden, the park was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1990.

Watzmann Glacier and other icefields

The Watzmann Glacier is located below the famous east face of the Watzmann in the Watzmann cirque and is surrounded by the Watzmanngrat arête, the Watzmannkindern and the Kleiner Watzmann.

Watzmann Glacier

The Watzmann Glacier is one of the five recognised glaciers in Germany. It is located below the famous east face of the Watzmann in the Watzmann cirque and is surrounded by the Watzmanngrat arête, the Watzmannkindern and the Kleiner Watzmann.

Cirque An amphitheatre-like valley formed by glacial erosion

A cirque is an amphitheatre-like valley formed by glacial erosion. Alternative names for this landform are corrie and cwm. A cirque may also be a similarly shaped landform arising from fluvial erosion.

Arête A narrow ridge of rock which separates two valleys

An arête is a narrow ridge of rock which separates two valleys. It is typically formed when two glaciers erode parallel U-shaped valleys. Arêtes can also form when two glacial cirques erode headwards towards one another, although frequently this results in a saddle-shaped pass, called a col. The edge is then sharpened by freeze-thaw weathering, and the slope on either side of the arete steepened through mass wasting events and the erosion of exposed, unstable rock. The word ‘arête’ is actually French for edge or ridge; similar features in the Alps are described with the German equivalent term Grat.

The size of the glacier reduced from around 30 hectares (74 acres) in 1820 until it split into a few fields of firn, but between 1965 and 1980 it advanced significantly again [2] and now has an area of 10.1 hectares (25 acres). [3]

Firn granular snow, especially on the upper part of a glacier, where it has not yet been compressed into ice

Firn is partially compacted névé, a type of snow that has been left over from past seasons and has been recrystallized into a substance denser than névé. It is ice that is at an intermediate stage between snow and glacial ice. Firn has the appearance of wet sugar, but has a hardness that makes it extremely resistant to shovelling. Its density generally ranges from 0.4 g/cm³ to 0.83 g/cm³, and it can often be found underneath the snow that accumulates at the head of a glacier.

Above and to the west of the icefield lie the remains of a JU 52 transport-bomber that crashed in October 1940.

The Eiskapelle in summer Eiskapelle.JPG
The Eiskapelle in summer

Amongst the other permanent snow and icefields the Eiskapelle ("Ice Chapel") is the best known due to its easy accessibility from St. Bartholomä. The Eiskapelle may well be the lowest lying permanent snowfield in the Alps. Its lower end is only 930 metres high in the upper Eisbach valley and is about an hour's walk from St. Bartholomä on the Königssee. The Eiskapelle is fed by mighty avalanches that slide down from the east face of the Watzmann in spring and accumulate in the angle of the rock face. Sometimes a gate-shaped vault forms in the ice at the point where the Eisbach emerges from the Eiskapelle. Before entering there is an urgent warning sign that others have been killed by falling ice.

Königssee lake in Schönau am Königsee, Bavaria, Germany

The Königssee is a natural lake in the extreme southeast Berchtesgadener Land district of the German state of Bavaria, near the Austrian border. Most of the lake is within the Berchtesgaden National Park.

Avalanche sudden, drastic flow of snow down a slope

An avalanche is an event that occurs when a cohesive slab of snow lying upon a weaker layer of snow fractures and slides down a steep slope. Avalanches are typically triggered in a starting zone from a mechanical failure in the snowpack when the forces of the snow exceed its strength but sometimes only with gradual widening. After initiation, avalanches usually accelerate rapidly and grow in mass and volume as they entrain more snow. If the avalanche moves fast enough, some of the snow may mix with the air forming a powder snow avalanche, which is a type of gravity current.

In the east face itself is another icefield in the so-called Schöllhorn cirque, called the Schöllhorneis, which is crossed by the Kederbach Way (Kederbacher-Weg). The cirque and icefield are named after the Munich citizen, Christian Schöllhorn, who was the first victim on the east face. On 26 May 1890 he fell at the upper end of the icefield into the randkluft and was fatally injured. Another small nameless snowfield is located several hundred metres below the Mittelspitze also in the east face.


The Watzmann by Caspar David Friedrich, 1824-1825 (Berlin). Caspar David Friedrich 012.jpg
The Watzmann by Caspar David Friedrich, 1824–1825 (Berlin).

From the North

The best climbing period is June through September, in some years October. The easiest route is to follow hiking trails from the village of Ramsau near the small town of Berchtesgaden up to the Watzmann Hut at 1,928 metres, such as hiking trail 441 from Wimbachbrücke. This is quoted as taking four hours, though an experienced hiker can do it in less than three. One typically spends the night there and then climbs to the summit the next morning. The climb from the hut to the Hocheck peak (2,651 m) is quite straightforward, though a head for heights is required on the peak. The Hocheck is around two hours from the Watzmann Hut. From the Hocheck, hikers can return to the hut or continue and traverse to the Mittelspitze and from there to the Südspitze. The traverse is more challenging, at the easier end of UIAA Class II, and very exposed - though permanent cables along the ridge makes the traverse safer. From the Südspitze, most hikers will not return to the Watzmann Hut but continue to descend into the Wimbachgries valley and from there back to Ramsau. One should estimate 12 to 17 hours for the complete circuit, stable weather conditions are essential as drastic weather change on the ridge between the peaks can be fatal.

East Face

Watzmann East Face, rising behind St. Bartholomew's church at lake Konigssee Bartholomae-2005.jpg
Watzmann East Face, rising behind St. Bartholomew's church at lake Königssee

A much more serious and challenging climb is the famous East Face (Watzmann-Ostwand), which rises from the Hirschau peninsula at lake Königssee to the main peaks in a vertical ascent of around 1,800 metres (the longest wall in the Eastern Alps). While the easiest routes through the east wall is rated UIAA Class III, the wall has claimed almost 100 lives so far. Difficulties include the length of the climb, route-finding, and deteriorating weather conditions approaching from west, the predominant direction for weather change in the area, difficult to ascertain from the face. A simple emergency shelter has been erected in the wall. Even experienced climbers are advised to hire a local guide for the wall as finding the route can be challenging.

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  1. "Watzmann". summitpost.org.
  2. http://www.lrz.de/~bayerischegletscher/wmg.htm
  3. http://www.lrz.de/~bayerischegletscher/wmg/wmg_topo.htm