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30 Alpine pastures await you - hiking trails

The schistose and gneiss ridges of the mountains of Pfunders stayed a lonely and for most mountaineers unknown region situated between the overcrowded three thousands of the main Alps in the North and the worldwide known Dolomites in the South. Except of the outer limits their peaks are only seldom mounted even though the view presents you a magnificent panorama from the “Tauern” to the “Ortler” and also they offer you some passages where it is possible to pursue your own way. Untouched landscapes of raw stones, stony shoulders, green flanks and Alms with the presence of nearly no human life are the special attraction of these mountains. A decent pathway allows you to cross the mountains over some days and opens this landscape to mountain enthusiasts who love the wild and lonely side of the mountains. This is the high altitude hiking trail of Pfunders.

It is not always possible to use existing trails and pathways when covering the distance from Sterzing to Bruneck in an altitude of over 2000 meters. The orientation in terrain where there are no trails is ensured by marks in the form of white dots within a red circle and stone figures. It was also not possible to exclude exposed passages, which especially applies when crossing the extremely steep grass slopes of Pfunders. The long distances between the few refuges and very simple alpine huts, weather changes with the formation of fog near the central crest as well as exposed terrain turn the transition of the mountains of Pfunders into a real mountain adventure, requiring experience, to be free of giddiness and good fitness and condition. It is possible to encounter snow until end of July and also from mid September on. Descents to the valley, like during bad weather conditions, are possible on the whole trail within three hours and are marked.

Equipment for the hike (optimal duration: 1 week) has to pay credit to the character of the terrain and has to include next to the understood rain and coldness shelter and good shoe profile a sleeping bag for the huts, a flashlight, hiking maps and a compass. Telescope hiking poles are especially efficient when crossing steep slopes and during descents. Who wants to live from Alm-products can shorten his provisions list. The season is defined by the opening time of the three refuges “Brixner Hütte”, “Eisbruggjochhütte” and “Tiefrastenhütte” to the time from end June to mid October even if most passages can also be hiked in late fall, if there is no snow yet. For the description of the trail the route from Sterzing to Bruneck was chosen because the very long day-hike of Bruneck is easier to do as a descent. It is also possible to do the hike starting in Bruneck.

The first hiking day
starts with the ascent through forested valley flanks to “Lärchenwiesen” and Alms, to a ridge way and the crossing of the “Sengesspitze” (Summit) and the descent to “Simile-Mahd-Alm” for the night. From the train station in Sterzing it is a 30 minutes walk on the road to Wiesen (960 m) where the trail head is located right at the city limit at the “Wiesner Hof”. Who wants to make up some altitude and an hour of walking can take a ride on the paved road to the “Wendelhof”. Shortly before reaching the farm in a left turn the high altitude hiking trail of Pfunders diverges to the right (Mark and Information table). Passing through forests and meadows you reach the ridge near the viewpoint “Gschliessenegg” (1670 m). The trail leads below the slopes of the “Zwölfernock” and in-between the “Pfitschertal” valley to the left and a view over the farms on Partinges into the Eisacktal valley to the “Plitschalm”. Crossing above the alpine hut on the ascent you reach a new refuge, the “Trenser-Joch-Bivouac” (2000 m) with 8 sleeping spaces and now fireplace as an emergency refuge. At the “Jagerjöchl” (2136 m) the trail changes to north east, crosses the southern flank of the “Höllenkragen” and continous to the “Trenser Joch” (2212 m) with some derelict huts (4 hours from “Wiesen”). About 100 m after the huts diverges a ahortcut to the “Simile-Mahd-Alm” (“Waltersteig”, only for trained and secure hikers, 30 minutes). The original trail crosses the “Sengesspitze” (2268 m) and follows the slightly ascending and widening ridge until a mark shows the descent (to the right) to the “Simile-Mahd-Alm” (2011 m, 1.30 hours from “Trenser Joch”, over night stay). In the slope above the Alm you have to watch for the marks as cow trails may lead you wrong. Instead of descending to the “Simile-Mahd-Alm” it is also possible to follow the ridge to the north and reach the “Sterzinger Hütte” (mark on a stone) which is only sometimes farmed. From there it is possible to mount the “Wilde Kreuzspitze” following trail # 2, or to reach the “Brixner Hütte” via the “Sandjoch” (mark 17).

The painful loss of altitude on the descent to the Alm is accepted for the great landscape experienced on the second hiking day. From the “Simile-Mahd-Alm” it is possible to descend to Mauls on the marked trail # 2.

The second hiking day
already brings you some hights of the high altitude hiking trail of Pfunders with the experience of the “Wilder See” (lake) and the ascent of the “Wilde Kreuzspitze”, which is with 3132 meters the highest point of the mountains of Pfunders. Two hours after leaving the “Simile-Mahd-Alm” you are standing upon the “Sengesjoch” (2620 m) overseeing the harsh landscape with the lake between rocky peaks and stinted grasslands. On the very short distance (4 hours) between the “Simile-Mahd-Alm” and the “Brixner Hütte” one should not miss the opportunity to ascend the “Wilde Kreizspitze”. At the “Rauhtaljoch” (2800 m) you can leave your backpack and change from the marks of the high altitude hiking trail onto the marks 18-20 which will lead you on a steep but good way to the summit. After one hour you are standing at the southern summit (3125 m) and savour a magnificent panoramic view. Also the northern summit, which is a little higher, is reachable in just a few minutes. After returning to the “Rauhtaljoch” you descend to the north through the “Rauhtal” while passing by a small glacier on the left (mind the marks and watch for glacier gaps!) and soon reach the flower fields of the wide “Pfannealm” and the “Brixner Hütte” (2300 m), 3 hours from the “Sengesjoch” including the ascent. The refuge of the section Brixen of the AVS is administrated by the fraction Mühlbach. Descent to Vals (mark 17) possible in 2 hours. If you want you can ascent to the “Wurmaulspitze” (3022 m) (2 hours, only for experiences and secure hikers). From it’s summit you can oversee a major part of the high altitude hiking trail of Pfunders.

The third hiking day
leads you through the loneliest passage of the mountains of Pfunders, where over night places are rare. Crossing the 2610 meters high “Steinkarscharte”, you reach the wide and broad end of the valley of “Weitenberg” within 45 minutes from the “Brixner Hütte”. From the pass you can ascend via very steep grass slopes the 2709 meter high “Pfannespitze” within 30 minutes. On a stony pathway you descend towards the “Weitenbergalm” and leave the mark # 19, which leads to Dun and Pfunders, after about 250 meters altitude to the north. This is followed by one the most beautiful passages with a view of the mighty mountains on the northern ridge: “Grabspitze”, “Felbe” and “Rotes Beil” and the scenery of the mountain silhouettes in the east. You pass around the “Weitenberg” valley in about 2200 – 2300 meters altitude before you face the ridge in the north east to ascent to the “Kellerscharte”. During this crossing of “Weitenberg” you are sometimes bound to an orientation with the help of stone men and marks in this terrain without trails and pathways. After 1.30 hours (from “Steinkarscharte”) it is possible to reach the 2439 m high “Kellerscharte” which is the passage to “Engbergtal”. From the wide grasslands of the “Kellerscharte” slope opens up a view over the “Engberg”, which is a stony plateau framed by rocky ridges. Only on the south east slope, right below yourself are some grasslands: this is the “Engbergalm”. If you are tired or surprised by bad weather you can directly descend the 300 m in altitude over the grassy slopes to the alpine huts and in case of emergency spend the night there. The next day you find the trace of the high altitude hiking trail again if you follow the end of the valley. Following now again the high altitude hiking trail you walk on till you reach about 2200 m, right there is the start of the ascent to the “Dannelscharte” (in the east). Above a very steep break off you cross and reach a small terrace in steep terrain, here you will find a bigger stoneman. A few meters of descent to some glacier grindings and a nearly flat slope crossing lead you to the serpentines of the “Dannelscharte” (2347 m). After 1.15 hours from the “Kellerscharte” you are standing on the passage into the “Weisssteintal” valley. The locals also call this valley “Eggerseite”. In the east you can see the huge stone plates of the “Magersteinwipfel”. Cliffy ridges and below them steep Alm slopes limit the valley to the southeast. It is possible to descend to the “Bodenalm” and to Dun in Pfunders within 1.30 hours. The high altitude hiking trails marks leave the pathway to the valley below the “Dannelscharte” near the northern limit of the plateau and lead on an exposed shepherds’ path (secured) to a small pulpit (right below the so-called “Platte”). From there you can oversee the magnificent plateau of “Weissstein” with it’s saw-like ridge in the northeast. The “Hochwart” (3045 m) grows out of the ridge at its origin. The “Geisscharte”, which is the destination for the next day, is the only passage through the opposite ridge. For most mountaineers the distance from the “Brixner Hütte” to this place here should be enough (5 hours), especially as the distance to the next refuge, the “Eisbruggjochhütte” still is about 4 more hours. For the night there is a bivouac below the pathway which you can reach on the descent next to a watercourse after passing through a wooden gate (descent: about 150 meters in altitude). The bivouac “Walter Brenninger am Weissstein” (2150 m) was built in summer 1977 by volunteers of the section Brixen who have reconstructed an old sheep barn and has sleeping space for about 8 people.

The fourth hiking day
is spent crossing the plateau of “Weissstein”, crossing over the “Gaisscharte” and descending in the direction of the “Eisbruggsee” (lake) towards the “Eisbruggjochhütte”. Ascending across steep grass slopes yoou reach the high altitude hiking trail within 20 minutes and you cross over the plateau on a party green and grassy ridge until you reach big stoneman. Facing the “Gaisscharte” which can already be seen from far away you cross a passage with lots of boulder and with one last steep slope you stand right in front of the narrow entrance to the “Gaisscharte” (2700 m). Compact and steep schistose plates grow on both sides of the passage into the sky. The descent to the east is very steep and had to be secured with steel-ropes. After 40 meters descent you are staying on the plateau of “Obervals”. Again you have to cross a passage of boulder across the plateau, with snow sometimes also in the summer, towards the last ridge before you reach the wide and broad valley of “Eisbrugg”. This ridge is passed by on the south and just coming around it you find your self standing high above the dark waters of the “Eisbruggsee” (lake). On the descent to the “Eisbruggjochhütte” in the northeast you are hiking above the lake and have to ascent about 150 meters to the “Eisbruggjoch”. The described 4 hours of the way lead through terrain with only few paths, the orientation has to be made with the help of marks and stonemen. From the “Eisbruggjochhütte” of the CAI section Brixen you can ascend to the following summits in the main mountain ridge: “Hoher Weißzint” (3371 m), “Niederer Weißzint” (3264 m) and “Hochfeiler” (3510 m). It is also recommended to so a short trip to the “Napfspitze” in the south of the “Eisbruggjochhütte” from where you have a view into the southern flanks of the just mentioned 3000ers. (1 hour from the refuge).

On the fifth day
you should reach the “Tiefrastnerhütte”. Past the lake you follow trail # 13 which leads to Pfunders via Dun (2.30 hours) to the “Eisbruggalm” (2154 m). Here the high altitude hiking trail leaves the plateau across a bridge and over some serpentines you reach the altitude of the mountain ridge that limits the valley in the south. At the “Kuhscharte” (2249 m) you can enjoy a fascinating panoramic view of the many ridges and plateaus of the inner valley of Pfunders and you also oversee the pathway to toe mountains around the “Hochgrubbachspitze” in the southeast. Passing through a wooden gate you leave the ridge and descend towards an alpine hut from where a small path leads over an exposed grass slope into the stony gorge of the “Valzarertbach” (creek). At about 1950 meters altitude you cross the creek and ascend on the other side to the grassland of the “Gruipa-” or “Grafalm” (2222 m). The rocks of the “Schwarzer Riffel” (2742 m) grow cliffy out of the ridge and above the “Gruipaalm” a little bit less refusing the “Dengelstein” (2698 m). For the distance from the “Eisbruggjochalm” to the “Gruipaalm” you need about 2.30 hours.

Following the trail, passing by the steep grass slopes of the mountain ridge in the southeast you will reach without much difference in altitude the “Gampesalm” below the “Passenjoch”. Very idyllic Alm grounds open themselves for the hiker and present him with a magnificent view from the “Gitschschupfen” (2317 m), a group of huts on the main mountain ridge, high above the village of Pfunders. Again you will be fascinated by the great view of peaks and plateaus of the inner mountains of Pfunders, as well as of the pathways of the 3rd and 4th day. Before you reach the “Gampesalm” you have to pay attention on the narrow path through the steep grass slopes, especially during wet weather. The “Gampesalm” (2219 m) offers you the possibility to rest and eat before ascending to the “Passenjoch” on the very old passage from Pfunders to “Mühlenwaldertal”. The distance from the “Gruipaalm” to the “Passenjoch” (2410 m) is hiked within 2 hours. At the cross on the “Passenjoch” the high altitude hiking trail changes into the direction of a ragged rocky ridge in the south which will be crossed via the “Hochsägenscharte”. Passing by two small lakes you hike through stony terrain below the rocks of the “Hochgrubbachspitze” towards the “Joch”. At the “Hochsägenscharte” (2642 m) you can see into the valley of “Tiefrasten” where you can find the refuge with the same name (“Tiefrastenhütte”) of the AVS section Brixen. Around the stony plateau some peaks are growing out of the rocky ridges: “Graunock” and “Kempspitze” in the east, “Hochgrubbach” and “Gamsburg” in the western part. If you still got time and enough power before descending to the “Tiefrastenhütte” you can ascend onto the “Hochgrubbach” to enjoy the great view. Not far from the “Hochsägenscharte” the marked way to the summit, which can be reached within 45 minutes, diverges from the trail. On a stony pathway you reach the banks of the “Tiefrastensee” (lake) and along the lake the refuge (2312 m). After this long distance of this day and with respect to the at least same distance on the last day it is recommended to spend a day resting here with the possibility to ascend to one of the summits around there (very nice is the view from the “Eidechsspitze” with 2738 m, 2.30 hours). The distance from the “Eisbruggjochhütte” to the “Tiefratenhütte” is about 6.30 hours; the descent from “Tiefrasten” to Terenten can be hiked within 2 hours.

The sixth and last hiking day
leads out of the “Tiefrasten” plateau onto the ridge running from west to east between the “Mühlwalder” valley and the “Pustertal” valley, the last foothills of the mountains of Pfunders. On path # 23 you descend about 250 meters towards the valley till you get near a small alpine hut where the high altitude hiking trail again faces the slope in the north. At an ample sadgy grass ridge where a small spring originates you hike very steep uphill till you reach a small saddle. You can oversee wide and broad grasslands which are only limited by the mountains in the east around the “Kleine Tor” (Small door). On a nearly flat path though Alm grasslands and a short ascent to the saddle you reach the “Kleine Tor” (2374 m) a passage into the “Mühlwaldertal” valley. The view of the main ridge of the “Zillertaler” mountains is now free and will accompanies you till you reach the “Sambock”. After 15 minutes of walking and crossing at the north slope of the pass limiting “Mutenock” you can also see the Dolomites in the south, from the “Schlern” to the “Dreischusterspitze”. On a high ridge the high altitude hiking trail leads to the east crossing a few elevations from the “Hohe Spitze” (2403 m), over the “Zwölferspitz” (2351 M), “Putzenhöhe” (2387 m), “Grünseespitze” (2438 m) to the highest point, the “Bärentalerspitze” (2450 m, 1.30 hours from the “Kleine Tor”. From the “Grünsee” you can descend to Issing and Kiens following mark 65 and passing by the “Grünbachalm”. From the “Bärentalerspitze” the ridge changes to southeast and finally at the western “Bruggerspitze” (2428 m) right to the south where the last elevation, the “Sambock” (2396 m) before descending to the valley will be passed. The northern ridge to the “Sambock” can be ascended on a partly good, but exposed way, with some passages of rock climbing within 30 minutes from the “Bärentalerspitze”. Across a flat grass hill you hike facing south to the weather cross of the “Platte” (2175 m) and then following path trails through alpine roses descending to the “Geigeralm” (1962 m). Now you cross a swampy grassland and enter into the forest. Here the trail splits up. Mark 66 leads across the “Waidleralm” and after crossing a forest road to the restaurant “Kofler” (1487 m, 2 hours from the “Sambock”). The descent from the restaurant “Kofler” is possible following mark 17 and the “Kirchsteig” in about 45 minutes leading to Pfalzen. Here you can take a bus to Bruneck (hourly schedule). Following mark 66 you descend a little steep through the forest in one hour to St. Georgen (bus to Bruneck every half hour). The distance of the last day from the “Tiefrastenhütte” to Pfalzen or St. Georgen is about 6.30 to 7 hours.

One week of hiking in an altitude of nearly always above 2000 m finally comes to an end. After all, especially taking on the simplest way of life it has brought you a mountain adventure which could only be experienced in aboriginal and lonely terrain, a healing contrast especially for the man from city and industry zones.



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