Heilbronner Weg - the name that makes the hearts of mountaineers and Alpine lovers beat faster. It's one of the most renowned hiking trails in the Alps — a route that's rich in tradition; a route that's highly regarded as one of the most beautiful climbs in the entire Alpine region. The high altitude trail was opened over a hundred years ago in 1899 by the Heilbronn section of the German Alpine Club. At that time, the term Via Ferrata was far from being widely used — and yet many attempts at such a route were made. On the Heilbronner Weg, you'll scramble along narrow paths, along wire-rope railings, over ladders and bridges at lofty heights on the Allgäu main ridge, and get to enjoy what the locals call 'gipfelglück'— pure summit happiness.
The Heilbronner Weg itself leads from the Heilbronner Törle over several peaks to the Bockkarscharte and is only a little over a mile (three kilometers) long. Since there is no cable car to get on and off the rock climb, you will need several days for the hike. We have put together a first-class three-day trek for you, which you can also complete on a long weekend. From Oberstdorf, you can take the bus to Birgsau — the start of your ascent to the Rappenseehütte, your first night's lodging. The Heilbronner Weg awaits you on the second day and the Kemptner Hütte at the end of the stage. The third stage takes you through the untouched Trettachtal down to Spielmannsau, where you can get on the bus again. If you also want to climb from the Rappenseehütte to the summits of the Rappenseekopf and Hochrappenkopf, the trek can be extended to four days. The multi-day tour is around 18 miles (30 kilometers) long and you will force you up — and down — around 6,300 feet (1,900 meters) of altitude — not including the extra trek to Rappenseekopf. Due to the great difference in altitude and the rocky paths, the hike is particularly suitable for Alpine professionals and experienced mountaineers. The Heilbronner Weg itself requires sure-footedness, absolute freedom from vertigo and demands that you come in peak physical condition. If you are interested in the trail but don't think you can do it on your own, you can also master the rock climb together with a mountain guide.
Since the Heilbronner Weg is often walked on and also lies on the course of the very popular Alpine crossing from Oberstdorf to Meran, you should book your overnight stay in a mountain hut in advance. Oberstdorf is very well connected to the local and long-distance transport network of Deutsche Bahn and can also be reached by long-distance bus. Alternatively, you can also find multi-day parking for your own car.
Your first day's journey takes you from the village of Birgsau via the Enzianhütte up to the Rappenseehütte. First, you hike on wide gravel paths, from Einödsbach it then goes on mountain trails through sparse mountain forests and over barren mountain meadows to the milestone.Birgsau, the starting point of the first leg of your hike, can be reached with the RVO mountaineer bus from Oberstdorf. From the small village, you then hike on a comfortable trail through the picturesque Stillachtal. At first, the way to Einödsbach only increases moderately.From Einödsbach the trail runs through the Rappenalptal and becomes steeper and steeper. Above the Rappenalpbach you hike through a natural mountain forest to the Petersalpe, where you can take a first little break.You cross an open alpine meadow and then continue through the mountain forest on. You will climb up in serpentines and hairpin bends and soon reach the Enzian hut, which is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. Here you have made well over half of the climb and you earned a break so honestly.Strengthened it goes on. The mountain forest is now getting lighter and barren until it gives way to completely open mountain meadows. If you have a wonderful view, you continue on up and after a last serpentine path the Rappenseehütte appears in front of you. If you still have reserves, it is definitely worth a detour to the nearby Rappensee. Courageous jump here in the clear water, all others, it is enough to refresh the feet.Then you can settle in at the Rappenseehütte and move into your quarters for the night.The bus 7 brings you from Oberstdorf in a 20-minute ride comfortably to the starting point Birgsau. The timetable can be found at oberstdorf.de/anreise-verkehr/busfahrplaene.html.
Real sports guns start the first stage very early in the morning and are right on this summit tour to the Rappenseekopf and mannequin head. After a rest at the Rappenseehütte you can leave a part of your luggage right there and then climb up exciting mountain paths to these two peaks. Of course, if you do not trust the tour on the first day, but still feel like the two summits, you can plan the hike as a day trip the next day. So your hike on the Heilbronner Weg will be extended to a total of four days.From the Rappenseehütte you first hike across the barren mountain meadow in the direction of Rappensee. At the first junction, follow the signs to the Rappenseekopf. Soon the trail becomes steeper and leads over a huge, rocky Schuttkar.It goes steadily uphill and you quickly gain altitude. Above your head you can already see the steep northern flank of the Rappenseekopf rising into the sky. From the saddle between Hochgundspitze and Rappenseekopf, the trail heads west.In some hairpin bends it goes through the northern flank and then on the rocky but relatively wide ridge to the summit. Up here you will be rewarded with a magnificent view for the ascent. Afterwards, the path will take you over the Hochrappenscharte and then back up to the Großrappenkopf, the second summit on this tour.After you have seen enough here at the panorama, you descend through the steep Schuttkar again to Rappensee. Although the kart looks dramatic, a well-maintained mountain trail leads through it - but you should pay attention to your steps here, as the stones can sometimes be loose.Lastly, you will hike past the Rappensee to your destination, the Rappenseehütte.
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On the second stage is now the actual Heilbronner way. This is namely the insured with ropes and ladders summit transition from Heilbronner Törle to Bockkarscharte. Here you scramble on a narrow trail, cross the famous ladder bridge and climb several peaks - pure mountain adventure. From the Bockkarscharte the trail leads you over the snow field of the Schwarzmilzferner down to the Kemptner Hütte.After a hearty mountain climber's breakfast, you start your hike at the Rappenseehütte. The trail leads you over a barren mountain meadow and then through a breathtaking rock landscape in the direction of Heilbronner Törle. Keep your eyes open during your ascent, as ibex lives in the rocky slopes.At the summit ridge you finally come to a fork. Turn left to Heilbronn Törle, but our route will take you first to Hohe Licht, the highest peak on your three-day hike. Above you can expect a simply stunning view of the Allgäu Alps.From here it goes first back to the junction and then continue to Heilbronner Törle, where you meander through a narrow rock breakthrough. Now begins the most exciting part of today's stage. On narrow paths, over rocky peaks and along wire ropes, you will cross the Allgäu main ridge - a unique experience. Take enough time here so that you have enough reserves for the Kraxel passages.After crossing the Bockkarkopf with its distinctive summit cross, you reach the end of the Heilbronner Weg at the Bockkarscharte. From here the further mountain trail leads through the middle of the snow field of the Schwarzmilzferner, the only glacier in the Allgäu. Even if the way is safe without crutches or crampons, you should complete this section with enough peace.After crossing the glacier the summit of the Mädelegabel still lures, before you follow the mountain path down to the Kemptner hut.
On the third stage, you can let your hike over the Heilbronner way slowly fade away. After your start on the Kemptner hut, however, an exciting section through the Sperrbachtobel awaits you. Here the stream partially bubbles directly over the rock path, which is additionally insured with wire ropes at the steepest points. As soon as the Sperrbach flows into the Trettach, the trail becomes more comfortable and leads you down to the stage goal Spielmannsau. From here the mountain bus brings you back to Oberstdorf.At breakfast at the Kemptner Hütte you can enjoy the view of the mountains of the Allgäuer Hochalpen. Freshly strengthened and full of energy, then it goes to the descent. Below the dramatic summit you follow the Sperrbach downhill towards the valley.First you hike for a short distance over an open mountain meadow, but soon the trail nestles closer to the rock face. Numerous narrow tributaries splash over the slope and over the way to Sperrbach and so the trail can be a bit slippery ever. Watch your footsteps and use the attached wire railings.On narrow bridges, you cross the Sperrbach several times until it flows into the Trettach amidst a sparse mountain forest. Here, the trail is a bit wider and leads you through the forest further downhill.After a while the forest opens again and in front of you in the valley you can discover the village Spielmannsau. The last section leads across open alpine meadows until you finally reach your milestones. Here you can have a rest at the mountain inn before you take the mountain bus 8 back to Oberstdorf.The timetable can be found at oberstdorf.de/anreise-verkehr/busfahrplaene.html.