Rock climbing in the Hochschwab

The Hochschwab region is ideal for rock climbing medium/long routes, the cliffs offer up to 400m vertical on grades from 3+ on, (rock climbing grades converion tables) making it a perfect place for people who want to start climbing longer routes and for the experts who want to challenge themselves on the steep water gutters carved by the rain and melting snow. The scenery is quite varied, ranging from a windy pass in a canyon-like narrow valley, to a more alpine area with pastures and a wide open view. The beauty of this area also lies in the fact that the Hochschwab is a bit out of the way, the Südwand being only accessible by foot, the scenery remains untainted by too many buildings or roads.

Hochschwab is in Styria (Steiermark), about 2 1/2 hours from Vienna, the time depending on which area you intend to climb. The guide book we use divides it in 10 different areas, but not all are described as our book was a general one for the Eastern part of Austria. I am not sure a more detailed book exists as we have looked for one for a while now and haven't found any. There are plenty of resources on the internet though. See below...

The area is popular with hickers and climbers in the summer, ski tourers and ice climbers in the winter. Apparently some routes become quite crowded on nice summer weekends, but we were lucky as the forecast wasn't the greatest and our route, the Himmelsleiter, felt only our foot prints and pinches that Saturday.

Our guidebooks describes mainly routes on the Hochschwab Südwand (south wall) and this being the area where we climbed, this is the one we will mention and give info for.


There are 2 main possibilities for lodging, the Voisthaler Hütte and the Schiestlhaus (right next to the summit of the Hochschwab itself)

Voisthaler Hütte: about 2 1/2 hours hike from the village of ... the hut is nicely perched on a rock outcropping just at the exit of the canyon-like area. The hut is quite big with the options of sleeping in the few main areas or getting a more private room. In the summer it is necessary to reserve in advance: 0664 51 12 475, the tel number mentioned in the guide book is an old one and doesn't work anymore. Dinners, breakfast, snacks and alcohol of all kinds are served, but the friendly hutmaster makes sure that at 22h00 everybody respects the quiet time. From there the hiking time to the Südwand is about 1 hour. It is recommended not to leave too late to get to the hut, as it is in the enclosed part of the valley, and when night falls, it will become difficult to navigate and find the hut, especially on a cloudy night. The hut closes at 22h00 and you will not be allowed afterwards. Some routes in the Karlmauer and Westlichster Edelpspitz area are right next to it.

Schiestlhaus: The hut lies almost at the summit of the Hochschwab, a 20-30 minute hike will bring you to the summit, but to get to the hut you will hike quite a long time, depending on where you come from. For climbing the Südwand, it is ideal though as it lies on the summit and you just need to hike down to the base of the climb and then climb back up to your temporary house.

Bivouac: it is also possible to bivouac at the foot of the Hochschwab Südwand.

Guidebooks and links:

The guidebook we use is the Genuss-Kletteratlas Oestereich Ost from Kurt Schall, Reini Moser (July 2000, 320 pages, approx. 25 euros). It is a book dedicated to the easier climbs in the Eastern region of Austria, and so only has a bout 40 pages on Hochschwab, an area that would definitively need a book by itself. There might be one but we haven't found it yet. For more info on routes in the area: : They have topos and route descriptions of routes all over Austria, even some of the new one in Hochschwab that are not in any guidebook.