Tour of the Wilder Kaiser, Part 1
Wilder Kaiser is the perfect hiking getaway for a long weekend, also very late in the season. It is located in Tirol, at the northern end of the Inn valley, right next to the German border. It is very easy to get to by public transportation as well as your own car. Easy to reach and close to several towns like Kufstein and Ellmau, yet rugged and demanding with lots of variety. Nice!
A couple of years ago I looked for a place I could go for a proper mountain tour in an extended weekend, very late in the season. The place had to be quick to reach, preferably public transportation and low enough to not have been snowed in, yet.
Going to and from the Alps via the Inn valley, I had passed the city of Kufstein and the Wilder Kaiser sitting right next to it numerous times but had never stopped. After some research I was convinced Wilder Kaiser was just what I needed.
I was drawn by the Kaiserkrone – around Wilder Kaiser in 5 days I only had 3 full days and on the evening of my 4th day I already had to fly home. I adjusted the Kaiserkrone to fit into 3½ long days.
So, I flew to Munich Airport on Wednesday evening, took a train to Kufstein and then walked around Wilder Kaiser on my adjusted Kaiserkrone, and was back at the airport to fly back home on Sunday evening.
My trip was very late in the season between October 12th – 15th. In fact, it was the last weekend that some of the huts were open. That time of year the weather could have been terrible, but I was lucky to have sunshine every day. Hiking in just a T-Shirt that time of year is not very common.
About Wilder Kaiser
The Wilder Kaiser mountain range, or Kaisergebirge, is in Tirol, right next to the German border. It is neither isolated nor remote. Quite the opposite, the city of Kufstein is right next to it on the west side and St. Johann in Tirol on the east. On the south there is the famous town of Ellmau. From the mountain you can see the world-famous ski resort, Kitzbuhel.
Even on the mountain, you are not far away from civilization. While you will lose some of that isolated feeling of being in the middle of nowhere you will be able to get off the mountain easily if needed.
Late in the season not being isolated is not a bad thing if the weather suddenly turns sour and you need to get off the mountain.
That said, this is not a mountain to be taken lightly. There are several Klettersteig (Via Ferrata) that go up to the many summits, and there’s plenty of altitude difference to make a you sweat seriously when walking or climbing up. If you want challenge, there’s plenty available. But there’s also easy walking
The highest summit in Wilder Kaiser is the Ellmauer Halt at 2344 meters (7690 ft) and there’s around 40 other summits in the range. As far as the Alps go, the Wilder Kaiser range is a relatively low one. This makes it accessible late in the season and you will not need to worry about altitude sickness.
I chose Kufstein as my base mainly because it is so easy to reach from Munich Airport. A train ride from the airport is only about 2 hours and you only need to change trains once at Ostbahnhof in Munich. The trains run often, about once per hour during the day. Check out the schedules on bahn.com.
When in Kufstein, there’s plenty of hotels to choose from. I stayed in Boutique Hotel Träumerei #8 by Auracher Löchl which is located right below the Kufstein Fortress, in the old part of town. It was very nice, I thought, and reasonably priced for the quality – at least that late in the year.
With about 20000 inhabitants, Kufstein is the second largest town in Tirol, after the Tirolean capital Innsbruck. If you’re into wine at all, you’ve probably run into Kufstein’s probably most famous product: The Riedel Wine Glass. I have been a fan of them forever!
Interesting sites in Kufstein include the town itself and, of course, the Kufstein Fortress which is the most notable landmark you will see if you drive by the city without stopping. Information about the town in Wikipedia.
Wilder Kaiser Day 1: Kufstein to Gaudeamushütte
I woke up at the Boutique Hotel Träumerei #8 by Auracher Löchl very early since I knew I had a very long day ahead of me and wanted to get a head start. I packed my gear as usual and was probably first in line to get breakfast. Breakfast was excellent.
My plan was to take the Kaiserlift up to save some time and energy getting up to the mountain. I wanted to make it all the way to Gaudeamushütte which I expected to take around 10 hours of walking.
I would have walked to Gruttenhütte but it was closed for repairs at the time. Grüttenhütte would have been probably about an hour closer but since it was closed, I didn’t have much choice.
Weather was strikingly beautiful with sunshine and blue skies. Having come from dark and cold Finland this was exactly what I needed.
Up the Kaiserlift with a Schnitzelsemmel
I knew there would not get lunch on the way since I was going to enjoy some Via Ferrata action and take a short cut up the Widauersteig. This is a Klettersteig / Via Ferrata, steep path with secured cabling in place that runs from near Kaindlhütte up to the Scheffauer peak at 2111 meters of altitude.
Knowing this, while still in Kufstein I went to a local MPreis and got myself a Schnitzelsemmel. This is a sandwich with a proper wienerschnitzel inside. Great lunch for the trail if you eat it the day you bought it!
With the Schnitzelsemmel in my backback I walked over to the Kaiserlift, which is about a 2 kilometer walk North from downtown Kufstein. Once up on the mountain, I mainly followed dirt roads until I reached Kaindlhütte. The number of the path was 814.
It was still early in the morning, so I just took a break there and enjoyed my first Apfelschorle of the trip. That’s apple juice with soda – very good and very refreshing! While enjoying my Apfelschorle, I studied the mountainside where the Widauersteig was to be found and decided on my final plan of going up or around.
The other option would have been to go around the mountain from the western side. This would have been the Kaiserkrone path and more like a walk in the park with some more dirt roads and easy trails. It also would have been a longer walk. I stuck to my plan and headed for the Widauersteig.
From Kaindlhütte I continued on trail number 814 which was easy to follow and gradually ascended towards Widauersteig. Once at the bottom of the Klettersteig the going immediately got tougher.
I had not brought my Via Ferrata gear along and for a brief moment debated with myself if it was a good idea to start the climb up without it. I went and did not have any problems. However, if you’re not used to Via Ferratas, you might want to consider having the gear with you. If you have vertigo, this is not for you.
About halfway up, I encountered a young couple who were clearly struggling with the ascent. Good for them, they were wearing proper Via Ferrata gear. I think they were sort of enjoying it but clearly, they were not very experienced, and their going was very slow.
Lunch from the Backpack
Once I was up at the top, I decided to enjoy my Schnitzelsemmel. The views to the south were phenomenal. It was a clear day and I could see all the way to the snowy peaks of the high mountains in Hohe Tauern. Closer by, there was Ellmau in the valley and the Kitzbuheler Alps before Hohe Tauern. You could almost see Munich in the north west. All in all, a beautiful place to enjoy lunch.
By the time I was done with my lunch, the couple I passed on the Widauersteig still had not made it up. I wondered if they had turned back.
I started my way down, still continuing on trail number 814. After scrambling down some steep parts the path continued east. After some walking, I came upon Kaiser-Hochalm and from there just continued walking east on trail number 823.
There was nothing difficult about this trail but the distance to Gaudeamushütte was still quite long. It was my first day out and the Widauersteig had drained my energy somewhat, so I was getting tired sooner than I had expected. I wish I had bought more than one Schnitzelsemmel.
Eventually I came to the Gruttenweg, which is a dirt road going up to the Gruttenhütte. Gaudeamushütte could be seen but it was still quite far away.
The proper route would go to the Gruttenhütte and from there it would come back down to Gaudeamushütte. However, it seemed like a good idea to me at the time to take the low road and walk down and then back up to the hut.
In hindsight, I would have taken the high road. If Gruttenhütte is open, which of course normally is the case, take the high road and visit Gruttenhütte.
By the time I made it to Gaudeamushütte. I was tired and hungry as hell.
After taking care of the formalities and chugging down a couple of well-deserved beers, the nice lady of the house brought me a big plate of Tiroler Gröstl. One of my favorite Alpine dishes! I gobbled the huge portion down in no time but still felt hungry.
I guess I looked miserable since instead of taking away my dishes, she kindly offered me another, equally large plate of the wonderful Gröstl without me even having to ask. The few people in the room had a good laugh…
After the second plate, some wine and light conversation with the other guests, I was done. I took a shower and went to bed in a room with 4 separate beds (not a dormitory). I fell asleep immediately and did not wake up in the morning. In the morning, a German girl who was stuck with me in the same room did politely let me know that I had snored quite loudly.
Gaudeamushütte was a very pleasant experience!
The 2nd part of this article will explain the continuation of this tour around the Wilder Kaiser and back to Kufstein. Sign up for Gohikealps updates at the end of this article to get a notice when it is available!
What you need for this Tour:
- A proper map. I recommend Kompass Kaisergebirge 1:50.000. It covers the entire Wilder kaiser area.
- Your typical multi-day hike gear. Check here for my recommendations.
- If you’re not sure if you’re properly insured for this type of tour, read this article.
- What You Need to Know Staying in Mountain Huts
- Overview of Hiking in Austria
- 5 Best Airports to Reach the Alps
- The Beginner’s Guide to Hiking in the Alps
Huts & Places Mentioned in this Article
- Kufstein Tourism Information
- Wilder Kaiser Information
- Kaindl Hütte
Tour of the Wilder Kaiser, Part 1 Summary
Wilder Kaiser is beautiful and approachable. I’m personally more drawn to higher mountains but huts close earlier in the season the higher you aim to go. Wilder Kaiser was very easy to get to and offered surprisingly much challenge. You won’t get the sensation of remoteness as in some “wilder” places but for late season or perhaps for less experienced hikers, I can easily recommend it.
Sign up for Gohikealps updates to get notice when Part 2 of this article is available!