Zehnerspitze from St Leonhard
|Estimated net time||6-8 hours|
There are a few places requiring the use of
hands as you hike south towards the pass at Kreuzkofelscharte, and up
to the pass. All these places are equipped with wire and/or ladders,
making both ascent and descent trivial. There is very little exposure.
The final ~40 vertical metres towards Zehnerspitze starts off with a steep, narrow and exposed ridge. The climbing isn't very difficult since there are very good hand-holds all the way. Also there is a wire here, enough to give most hikers sufficient sense of comfort to take on this climb. As in most cases the descent is slightly more difficult than the ascent.
|Drinking water||Practically no access to running water.|
|GSM coverage||Coverage throughout the route except around the pass.|
|Parking||Several spots for parking a car around trail head.|
|Start height||1440 metres|
|Vertical metres||1710 metres for the roundtrip|
|Trip distance||19.3 km|
|GPS-file||X (.gdb) X (.gpx)|
From Bruneck in South Tirol drive approximately 28 km south towards Abtei/Badia, following signs for "Gadertal"/"val Badia". In Abtei turn left off the main road, following signs for "Santa Croce" and "Hl. Kreuz", and drive uphill for approximately 1.3 km. Find suitable parking, and start walking by following signs for "Santa Croce" and "Hl. Kreuz". You are now on hiking route "7a".
Note that there is an alternative to route "7a"; there is a gondola service running all the way up to around 2000 metres. The first run is at 08:30, the next at 12:30 (summer).
The route follows a gravel road all the way up to the chapel at 2045 metres. From here continue on the route signed towards "Heiligkreuzkofel", route "7". This will take you south, along the foot of the Heiligkreuzkofel massif, gradually gaining height up to the pass where you turn north to continue along the edge of the massif. Before you get to the pass there are some sections that requires the use of hands, but there are both wires and small ladders at these places so there is no difficulty involved. At no point is there any real exposure.
The path along the edge allows for easy hiking, and takes you to the foot of the final "bump" of Heiligkreuzkofel. From here you turn left in order to get to the summit. From the summit of Heiligkreuzkofel you descend back down to the foot of the "bump" in order to continue along the edge towards Zehnerspitze.
The path from Heiligkreuzkofel to Zehnerspitze continues along the edge for most parts, and ends in an approximately 40 metre narrow and steep ridge that must be climbed. A wire has been set up along this section and is indeed useful. This climb offers some exposure, and requires concentration. Going down is definitely more difficult than going up because of some "hidden" places to put your feet when descending. However, the installed wire makes the climb doable for most people.
The descent route follows the ascent.
17. July 2008
We arrived the night before in Bruneck, at Marina and Philip's place. After the delicious pasta was eaten we got the maps out and started to plan my first ever 3000 metre mountain. Marina soon suggested Heiligkreuzkofel, arguing that this was a beautiful mountain and relatively easily accessible. I lost a little interest when I realised that Heiligkreuzkofel was almost 100 metres short of 3000, but a closer study of the map showed that the Zehnerspitze, around 1.5 km hiking to the north of Heiligkreuzkofel, was above 3000 metres, and had a marked route leading to it. Game on!
The drive from Bruneck to trail head at St. Leonhard took me a little less than an hour, and by 07:30 I was ready to start my hike. The weather was what I will characterise as "OK", but with major danger of fog.
My first leg of the hike, up to the chapel at just above 2000 metres was uneventful, and I was please to note that I got there before the first gondola of the morning. Up here I got a good view of both the mountains I was going to ascend, having an almost 1000 metres vertical wall ahead of me. Looking south, in the direction of the path, I got some concerns about how difficult it would be to get onto the massif that both mountains are a part of. But I have learned a couple of lessons from my friend Arnt, and both of them were applied ("if there is a path it is likely that quite a lot of people have done the hike before you", and "worry about difficulties when you actually face them").
Following the path south towards the pass at Kreuzkofelscharte proved enjoyable and quite easy. From the pass I turned north, but by now most of the view was gone due to fog above ~2500 metres. This definitely reduced the joy of the hike, but with my first 3000 metre half-way down my pocket the motivation higher than ever.
At the Heiligkreuzkofel summit the view was minimal, and so it remained along the edge of the massif towards Zehnerspitze. On my way towards Zehnerspitze some animal rushed out in front of me, finding cover amongst the stones. I had no idea what it was, but when I asked Marina and Philip after having got back to Bruneck they could tell me that it must have been a marmot. I spent a couple of minutes waiting in order to try get a photo of it, but it seemed to be pretty shy so I gave up.
When I got to the foot of the steep section up to the Zehnerspitze summit I got other things than fog to worry about or wild animals to focus on; the climbing was going to require its fair share of my concentration for the next minutes! I spotted the wire leading up the steep ridge, so it was pretty obvious what the easiest route was. The first few metres is on the east wall of the ridge, and hence a fall here would at worst injure you. As I got a bit further up the wire followed the ridge itself, so you have a 1000 metre drop to your left. A fall to the left would have only one result. But I felt pretty comfortable, thanks to both the wire and the relatively good hand-holds. At one point I had to do some planning and thinking about what the best moves would be, but I didn't really have any problems. Further up it gets a bit flatter, before you get into a section which is almost like a trench. Then a good bound to get out of the trench, before the easy walk across to the actual summit.
The mountains were still covered in thick fog, so I didn't spend much time at the summit. Also, I didn't want to be cold before I started the climb down from the summit, which I assumed wasn't going to be easier than climbing up.
The first part of the descent was easy, but when I got to the most difficult place where you do the final descent before you move onto the less exposed side of the summit ridge I had to make several attempts before I managed to find a route I was comfortable with. When that was done I had built up a fair amount of adrenaline and was very determined for the last 5 metres or so.
I was now faced with a long hike back down to the car, but I knew I didn't have any difficulties except keeping an OK concentration to avoid any stupid falls or tumbles, so the spirit was high. As I got back to the pass I saw four other hikers, and on my way down along the western wall of the massif I met several groups of people, of different nationalities. One of the groups consisted of five British, with whom I had a short chat (they were doing the same hike as me).
Back down at the chapel it was now pretty lively, I assume as a result of the gondola now in operation. The gondola didn't tempt me, so I walked back to the car. By now the fog had lifted again. This was good for taking photos of the mountain, but a bit annoying since the only period the mountains were covered in fog was when I was up amongst them. Whatever, doing your first 3000 metre mountain is a pretty good consolation. I was therefore almost looking forward to the drive back to Bruneck, and certainly looking forward to the beer I knew Philip was going to offer me when I got back.