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The Ortler seen from the north from the Haidersee.

The Ortler seen from the north from the Haidersee .

height 3905  m slm
location South-Tirol
Mountains Ortler Alps , Alps
Dominance 49 km →  Piz Zupò
Notch height 1950 m ↓  Passo di Fraele
Coordinates 46 ° 30 '33 "  N , 10 ° 32' 41"  E Coordinates: 46 ° 30 '33 "  N , 10 ° 32' 41"  E
Ortler (Ortler Alps)
First ascent September 27, 1804 Josef Pichler
Normal way from the Payerhütte via the north ridge, III-
Ortler from the southeast, from the first ice field on the back ridge, on the right the signal head

Ortler from the southeast, from the first ice field on the back ridge, on the right the signal head

Map of the Ortler and its main climbs

Map of the Ortler and its main climbs

Template: Infobox Berg / Maintenance / BILD1
Template: Infobox Berg / Maintenance / BILD2

The Ortler ( Italian Ortles ) is with a height of 3905  m slm , according to Austrian surveys 3899  m above sea level. A. , the highest point in the Italian province of South Tyrol and the Tyrol region . The heavily glaciated mountain , largely made of main dolomite , is the main summit of the Ortler Alps , a group of mountains in the Southern Eastern Alps . Its first ascent on the orders of Archduke Johann of Austria in 1804 is one of the most important alpine events of that time. Until the separation of South Tyrol from Austria in 1919, the Ortler was the highest mountain in Austria-Hungary . During the First World War , the Austro-Hungarian Army set up the highest position of this war equipped with several artillery pieces . Today the Ortler is one of the most important summit destinations in the Eastern Alps among mountaineers. All routes to the summit are demanding alpine tours , of which the normal route from the north is the most traveled. The north face of the mountain, which is considered to be the largest ice wall in the Eastern Alps, but in which more and more rock is emerging, is also important for alpinism.


Location and surroundings

The Ortler is located in the west of South Tyrol, in the upper Vinschgau , near the border with the province of Sondrio in Lombardy and the state border with Switzerland . It is part of the northern Ortler Alps, more precisely one of the main ridge of the Ortler Alps on Monte Zebrù ( 3735  m ) branching off to the north, which connects the Trafoital with the Stilfser-Joch-Straße and the village of Trafoi ( 1543  m ) in the west from Suldental and Sulden ( 1843  m ) in the east. North of the Ortler follow the Tabarettaspitze ( 3128  m ), the Bärenkopf ( 2852  m ) and the Hochleitenspitze ( 2798  m ) in the ridge , behind which the Trafoital flows into the Suldental at the hamlet of Gomagoi ( 1256  m ). The entire area is part of the municipality of Stelvio and is part of the Stelvio National Park .

The view from the summit includes the Ötztal Alps , the Silvretta and Bernina groups as well as the Adamello-Presanella Alps , the Brenta and the Dolomites . On clear days it extends in the west to the Finsteraarhorn in the Bernese Alps, about 185 kilometers away . The whole area around the Reschenpass and the Malser Haide can also be seen clearly. Adjacent mountain ranges are the main ridge , where next to the Monte Zebrù the Königspitze ( 3851  m ) and the Thurwieserspitze ( 3652  m ) are located, the Fallaschkamm with the Rötlspitze ( Piz Cotschen , Punta Rosa , 3026  m ) west of the Trafoital, and the Lasa Mountains with the Vertainspitze ( 3545  m ) east of the Suldental. All of these mountain ridges are also counted among the Ortler Alps.

The Ortler is the highest mountain within a radius of 49 kilometers, up to Piz Zupò ( 3996  m ). This is located in the Bernina group with the Piz Bernina ( 4049  m ). To get there, you would have to descend to the 1955  m high Passo di Fraele . The gap height of the Ortler is thus 1950 meters. This notch height is only surpassed by 13 other mountains in the Alps.


The Ortler has a relatively strong structure of numerous ridges , walls and glaciers. The summit itself is only about 20 meters high above the Ortler plateau, a large plateau that slopes north-west towards the Hohe Eisrinne (also Trafoier Eisrinne ) and towards the Trafoital and is covered by the Upper Ortlerferner . Steep rock faces adjoin this glacier plateau on all sides, especially at its eastern boundary, the north ridge or the Tabaretta ridge . This runs over the insignificant ridge Tschierfeck (also Tschirfeck , 3316  m ) to the 3128  m high Tabarettaspitze and breaks off in an easterly direction, i.e. towards the Suldental, with ice breaks to the 1200 meter high icy north face and the Marltferner below . This is bounded in the southeast by the Marltgrat running to the northeast , from which a branch, the Rothböckgrat, branches off in a north-northeastern direction . The east face of the Ortler is crossed by a steep couloir , the Schückrinne , which flows into the End-der-Welt-Ferner below . In the southeast, the partially glaciated back ridge runs over the Signalkopf ( 3725  m ), the Upper ( 3466  m ) and Unteren Knott ( 3212  m ) down to the Hintergratkopf ( 2813  m ). The south-east face is crossed by the Minnigeroderinne , under which the Suldenferner lies. In a southerly direction, the Hochjochgrat leads from the Ortler Vorgipfel ( Anticima , 3845  m ) to the 3535  m high Hochjoch , the transition to Monte Zebrù. To the west of the Hochjoch lies the Zebrùferner , which flows off to the Val Zebrù (Zebrùtal) , which already belongs to Lombardy . In the north, the 3353  m high Ortler Pass separates the Zebrùferner from the Lower Ortlerferner, which flows northwest towards the Trafoital . The northern end of this glacier is formed by the up to 1000 meter high rock upswing of the Hinteren Wandlen , which form the southwestern break of the Upper Ortlerferner. Northwest the rear open Wandlen in the Pleißhorngrat , of the 3158  m high Pleißhorn (di Corno Plaies) bears.


Metamorphic dolomite rock on the back ridge of the Ortler

The summit structure of the Ortler consists essentially of main dolomite , a flat-water sedimentary rock of the Upper Triassic , more precisely the Norium . It has the typical horizontal bank , as it occurs in the nearby Dolomites . In contrast to the rocks there, the Ortler dolomite is slightly metamorphic overprinted, i.e. it was heated under high pressure to around 400 ° C in the Upper Cretaceous about 90 million years ago. According to the interpretation of the geological structure of the Alps that is prevalent today, this happened with the northward shift of the Northern Limestone Alps over the Ortler Alps. In addition to its darker, gray color, the rock is mainly characterized by the absence of fossils , as these were destroyed during the metamorphosis. In addition, the Ortler dolomite is much higher than in any other area of ​​distribution of this rock. After the Eiger , the Ortler is the second highest sedimentary rock summit in the Alps. The Ortler dolomite is therefore subject to frost weathering to a much greater extent than the rock of the Dolomites, which is characterized by weathering by liquid water ( chemical weathering ), and has smoother surfaces and a high degree of brittleness, which makes it less suitable for climbing. Embedded in the banked main dolomite are layers of “calcareous shale” in addition to some several meter thick olisthostromes . Overall, the Ortler dolomite is up to 1000 meters thick, and it is often assumed that an originally thinner dolomite sequence has piled up to such a thickness as a result of multiple thrusts . However, this thesis is still not fully confirmed because the Ortler has still not been adequately investigated geologically. For a long time, geological research was difficult because of the glacier cover. It was only in the last few decades that more rock was exposed as the glacier retreated .

The dolomite is underlain by weakly metamorphic conglomerates , sandstones and gypsum from the Lower Triassic as well as Alpine Verrucano from the Permian . However, these layers are only a few meters thick. They rest on a foundation made of Veltliner base crystalline . Before the Cretaceous, this crystalline had already undergone metamorphoses during the Caledonian and Variscan orogeny , which were more intense. Today it is mainly gneiss , mica slate and phyllite , which shape the landscape up to an altitude of about 2700  m .

Tectonically , the Ortler belongs to the Eastern Alpine nappe pile .

Climate and glaciation

Icefall from the Upper Ortlerferner and avalanches from the north face feed the Marltferner below, which is largely covered with rubble

The area around the Ortler is characterized by a high level of relief energy : Prad am Stilfserjoch in the Adige Valley, only twelve kilometers away, is 3000 meters below the Ortler summit. These extraordinary differences in height mean that different levels of vegetation can be found particularly close to one another. The sub-Mediterranean vegetation, which is represented in sunny, low-lying areas, for example in the nearby Martell Valley , is not to be found on the Ortler itself, but the overall climate of the area is influenced by the Mediterranean climate and is therefore drier and milder than that in the nearby Central Alps , which the Ortler Alps in front of the Shield precipitation on the north side of the Alps. The annual precipitation therefore hardly exceeds 1000 millimeters per year. The snow line is a lot higher than in the central Alps.

The high degree of icing on the Ortler can only be attributed to the highest glacier, the Upper Ortlerferner, due to the low temperatures at high altitude. Temperatures of around −40 ° C have already been measured on the summit plateau. The formation of the lower lying glaciers around the mountain, especially the Suldenferner , is more a consequence of the topographical conditions. These glaciers have only small nutrient areas that accumulate precipitation and are largely fed by ice and snow avalanches that descend over the steep flanks. The ice fall from the Upper Ortlerferner can overcome 2000 meters of altitude and endanger the road to Sulden. The road has also been relocated several times due to snow avalanches from the north face of the Ortlern, for example several people died in April 1975. In the flatter terrain below the steep walls, these snow and ice masses can collect to form new glaciers. Due to the ongoing rockfall due to the fragile rock of the Ortler, these glaciers are covered with particularly heavy debris , especially on the Sulden, End-der-Welt- and Marltferner, some of which are completely hidden under rock.

During the advance of 1819, the tongue of the Suldenferner was only "380 paces" away from the Gampenhöfen in Sulden

The retreat of the glaciers after the Little Ice Age differed significantly on the Ortler from most other Alpine glaciers, which reached their peak around 1860. Much earlier, between 1817 and 1819, there was an extremely rapid advance on the Suldenferner, which even threatened the settlement area of ​​Sulden. Apart from a smaller advance in the middle of the 19th century, like the other glaciers in the region, it has since declined almost continuously. Glacier retreat increased sharply at the end of the 20th century . The reason for this is not the stronger melting in the glaciers' consumption zone, but rather the retreat of the nutrient areas up to an altitude of over 3500  m due to the higher summer temperatures. In the lower regions, the thick debris cover protects against melting, so that the glaciers there still reach down to about 2500  m , i.e. about 300 meters lower than on the other side of the Suldental valley. The receding ice has an impact on alpinism on the Ortler, as many classic routes are more difficult and, due to the increased risk of falling rocks, also more dangerous, so that some of them are hardly accessible. The north face, on the other hand, is a little flatter, making it easier to climb: The mighty hanging glacier that dominated the wall until the second half of the 20th century has now completely disappeared.

Flora and fauna

At the foot of the Ortler: Fields and mountain forest near Sulden, behind them moraine debris from the Marltferner, overgrown by mountain pines in the lower regions

The deepest regions on the slopes of the Ortler are covered by spruce forests, agricultural areas can only be found in the valley floors of the Sulden and Trafoital valleys. In the higher regions the population of pines and larches increases, which are often replaced by Swiss stone pine stands up to the tree line at around 2000  m to 2200  m . This tree line is lower than the natural altitude because of the centuries-old alpine farming , but in recent decades there has been a decline in pasture management and thus also an increase in the tree line. Mountain pine belts follow above , especially on the moraine deposits made up of dolomite rubble . Green alder bushes often take their place on crystalline soils . The alpine rose can often be found in the upper regions of the mountain forests and in the dwarf shrub heather above . These heaths and the mats of the Alpine vegetation zone have a high level of species diversity due to the variety of soils and landscapes. The plant community here includes both typical western and eastern alpine species as well as limestone ones that specialize in silicate soils. Particularly rare plants are the leafless and rock saxifrage , the Flattnitz rock flower , the moss bell and the Inntaler primrose . Gentians are common, but edelweiss is rare. The highest-rising flowering plant is the glacier buttercup , in the highest areas only a few mosses and lichens grow .

The most common large mammal in the Ortler area is the red deer , which is widespread in the forests, but sometimes also on the alpine meadows, and can reach problematic populations due to the lack of natural enemies for the ecosystem. The deer , on the other hand, is a little less represented. Chamois and Alpine marmots can also be found in the mountain forests, but above all in the area of ​​the tree line up to the glacier borders . The mountain hare is relatively rare here, but the brown hare climbs up to the high altitude used for alpine farming. The predominant predator is the fox, the numbers of which are, however, subject to strong fluctuations, badgers and weasels are less common. The brown bear , which has not appeared in this area for a long time, has sometimes reappeared at the foot of the Ortler in recent years. The alpine ibex was probably exterminated in the Ortler Alps in the 18th century. In the Zebrù valley in the Lombardy part of the Stelvio National Park, animals were released again in the 1960s. The population of now several hundred animals is still almost exclusively in this area, in the Ortler area there are only sporadic sightings. Further settlement is expected, however, and the Ortler is considered to be a suitable habitat for ibex. The mammal that climbs the furthest is the snow mouse , which can be found in the glacier regions.

The most prominent representative of the bird fauna is the golden eagle, the symbol of the Stelvio National Park. On the Ortler he can mainly be found in the Trafoital and hunts snow and hazel grouse alongside marmots . The largest bird of prey, however, is the bearded vulture , which can be found here occasionally. The wood grouse and jay , snow finch , eagle owl and common raven can also be found in the alpine regions. In the higher rocks chasing Wallcreeper that Alpendohle comes to the summit before going up.

The reptiles have a special feature as in other alpine altitudes the black variety of viper, the hell Notter . A remarkable invertebrate in the ice region is the glacier flea , which is particularly common on the Suldenferner.

Origin of names, sagas and stories

Edward Theodore Compton: Mountain spirits on the Ortler, seen here from the Hochjoch

The origin of the name Ortler is disputed. The current Italian name Ortles , also in the Orteles variant, is often considered to be older. It could also be found on German-language maps until the 19th century. In the course of his cartographic work, Julius Payer reported that the local population in Sulden used the name Ortler and therefore used it, which subsequently became established in German-speaking countries. The name of the mountain is often derived from the Ortlerhof in Sulden ("Abraham dictus Ortla"), which was already occupied in 1382, and the Ortleralm , also called Ortls , above it. This farm name is said to be derived from Ortl , a short form of the name Ortwin or Ortnit . Another theory, on the other hand, puts the mountain name as older and thus as the origin of the farm name. Etymologically, Ortler could be interpreted as a derivation from the Old High German place with the meaning "tip". The popular name "King Ortler" is documented as early as the early 19th century. The mountain is also often referred to as the “King of the Eastern Alps”. This is due to the fact that the Bernina Group was assigned to the Western Alps until the 20th century and the Ortler was therefore long considered the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps.

The idea of ​​the wild hunt comes from the Germanic religion , which was known here as Wilde Fahr , and which should also have its starting point at the Ortler. In this myth, too, the Ortler is associated with the realm of the dead.

Better known is a later legend in which the Ortler appears as a giant . This is defeated by the Stelvio dwarf and mocked in a poem (“Oh, giant Ortler, how are you still so small ...”) and then freezes in ice and snow. The story of a bear dates back to the 19th century and is said to have escaped from its hunters over the back ridge to Trafoi in 1881. The Bärenloch, a glacier basin below the Tschierfeck, is also associated with a bear in the Ortlereis: it is said to owe its name to the discovery of a bear skeleton at this point.

Bases and routes

Ascent over the Upper Ortlerferner on the normal route

Numerous routes lead to the summit of the Ortler, all of which can be classified as serious alpine tours . Most of these trails, however, are almost exclusively of historical interest and are very seldom used; many have never been repeated after their first ascent .

The starting point of the normal route to the Ortler is the Payerhütte ( 3020  m ) north of the Tabarettaspitze , which can be reached via the Tabarettahütte ( 2556  m ) from Sulden or from the west from Trafoi. From there, the path, partly secured as a via ferrata , leads over the north ridge and then in up to 40 ° steep ice and firn over the Tschierfeck with the Tschierfeckhütte bivouac box ( Bivacco Lombardi , 3316  m ) and the Upper Ortlerferner to the summit. The difficulty is given as III- (UIAA), according to other information II to III +, three to five hours are estimated for the inspection. This route is the easiest and most frequently climbed ascent to the Ortler and is mostly used as a descent route in connection with other climbs.

The Tabarettahütte ( Rifugio Tabaretta , 2556  m ) is the starting point for climbing the north face. The routes through the north face are subject to considerable changes due to the glacier retreat. In some cases, they became easier due to the decreasing steepness, the difficulty and steepness information for the Ertlweg and its several variants are therefore different and range from 55 ° to vertical. Some routes such as the overhanging Direct Hanging Glacier no longer exist. The Holl-Witt-Weg in the west of the north face is considered to be one of the most difficult combined routes in the Eastern Alps, with ice that is V and up to 90 °. The northeast pillar (V +, 60 °) and the northeast wall (VI-, 60 °) run mainly in the rock. The Rothböckgrat (IV, 55 °) can also be reached from the Tabarettahütte.

The K2 hut ( 2330  m ) is located below the Marltgrat and is accessible from Sulden via the Langenstein chairlift , a second lift opens up the lower part of the end of the world for the Sulden ski area from here . The most important route from the hut here is the Marltgrat (III, 50 °), and the Schückrinne (III, 55 °) can also be climbed .

Looking back on the ascent on the back ridge

Another important starting point is the Hintergrathütte ( Rifugio Alto del Coston , 2651  m ) below the Suldenferner. From there the popular route leads over the back ridge to the summit, which has climbing difficulties up to IV and slopes in ice and firn up to 40 °. Further increases of the Hintergrat from are the lower Hintergrat (III, 45 °), the Minnigeroderinne (45 °) with its direct exit variant (50 °), the Südsüdostwand (also Lanner Lead , III, 45 ° -50 °), and the Harpprechtrinne (III, 50 °) to the Hochjochgrat. Apart from the Minnigeroderinne, however, these paths are rarely used.

The Hochjoch bivouac ( Bivacco città di Cantù , 3535  m ) between Ortler and Monte Zebrù is the starting point for the route over the Hochjoch ridge (IV, 50 °). The other routes on this side, such as the southwest ridge (IV, 50–55 °) and the left (45–50 °) and right west wall (IV, 55 °), are of little importance.

The other climbs on the southwest side of the Ortler can be reached from the mountain hut ( Rifugio Borletti , 2188  m ) in addition to the Hochjoch bivouac . In addition to the insignificant south-west face of Pinggera-Tomasson (III, 50 °), the only historically significant but no longer used path of the first climber, the Pichler guide through the Hinteren Wandlen (II, 45–50 °), should be mentioned here. Other routes are the Soldàweg (IV, 60 °), the south-west pillar (V +) and the northern route through the south-west face (IV). The Meraner Weg (III, 40 °) , which is insured in places, is relatively frequent over the Pleißhorn ridge. The Stickle-Pleiß- Rinne (IV-, 45 °) also leads to the Pleißhorngrat, to the east of it are the northwest face ( IV, 50 °), La casa di Asterione (V, 80 °) and Via un battito d'ali (60 ° ) to find. From the Berglhütte you can also take the path over the Hohe Eisrinne, which leads to the north ridge and from there over the normal path to the summit. This path is of little importance in summer, but in spring it is considered the only ski climb to the Ortler summit.

Some important routes on the Ortler: 1 = normal route, 2 = Hintergrat, 3 = Meranerweg, 4 = Hochjochgrat, 5 = Ertlweg, 6 = Marltgrat, 7 = Rothböckgrat, 8 = Holl-Witt-Weg, 9 = Minnigeroderinne, 10 = Pichlerführe, 11 = back channel

Development history

First ascent and other early expeditions

“Ortles Spiz” in the Atlas Tyrolensis from 1774

The great height of the Ortler was known early on, despite the lack of measurements. In the Atlas Tyrolensis from 1774, in which the mountain first appeared on a map, it is recorded as "Ortles Spiz the highest in all of Tyrol". This also made it the highest mountain in the Danube Monarchy .

In 1804 Archduke Johann of Austria traveled through Tyrol and saw the Ortler from the Reschen Pass. He then commissioned the official Johannes Gebhard to organize the first ascent of the mountain. Gebhard arrived in Sulden on August 28, 1804 and promised the local farmers money to find a way to the summit. He was accompanied by the two experienced mountaineers Johann Leitner and Johann Klausner from the Zillertal , who had been selected as the first to climb. The next day they began to explore the route, and by September 13th the men made four more unsuccessful attempts, mostly near today's normal route. The sixth attempt with a traveling harpist who had portrayed himself as an experienced mountaineer but turned out to be a charlatan failed after three days. Gebhard turned down several other candidates who left a dubious impression.

The first ascent of the Ortler, picture by an unknown artist on the Churburg

On September 26th, Josef Pichler , known as Pseyrer Josele , a chamois hunter on the Churburg in Schluderns , presented himself to Gebhard. He was able to win Gebhard's trust by offering to ask for a wage only if successful. On the same day he left with Leitner and Klausner. In contrast to the previous attempts, Pichler did not lead the group from Sulden up the mountain, but first to Trafoi and from there the next day to the Untere Ortlerferner. They then climbed the Hinteren Wandlen without a climbing rope or ice ax . Today your route is considered difficult (II-III, 50 ° in the firn) and very dangerous, although the exact route is sometimes doubted. It was rarely repeated later. The reason for choosing such a difficult climb is believed to be that Josef Pichler, as a chamois hunter, felt more comfortable in the rocky terrain and tried to avoid the unfamiliar glacier areas. Between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., Pichler, Klausner and Leitner reached the summit, where they could only stay a few minutes because of the strong wind and extreme cold. After descending the same way, they arrived back in Trafoi at 8 p.m. On October 1, Gebhard reported to Archduke Johann that the "great work" had been completed.

The Archduke then commissioned Gebhard in 1805 to organize another ascent of the Ortler and to find a new way from Sulden to the summit. Again under the direction of Josef Pichler, this time with the help of Johann and Michael Hell from Passeier and an unknown hunter from Langtaufers , a shelter was built near today's Hintergrathütte. Between July and August, the four alpinists climbed the Ortler twice over the "Hinteren Grat". Today this is generally equated with the rear ridge, but it is also suspected that the rear ridge could have meant today's Hochjochgrat. These ascents, during which the path was partially secured with ropes, in order to later enable Gebhard to make the ascent, are considered to be outstanding alpine achievements from today's perspective. Since bad weather destroyed the insurance again and thwarted Gebhard's rise, he temporarily withdrew to Mals . There he learned that the ascent of the Ortler was massively doubted by many people. For the next ascent on August 27th and 28th, mainly to restore the path, he gave Pichler a large flag on the summit, which could actually be recognized from Mals on August 28th. On August 30th, Gebhard, led by Pichler, was able to reach the summit himself accompanied by the Stelvio priest Rechenmacher and thus announce the first tourist ascent of the Ortler. The group spent two hours at the summit, which was used for scientific measurements and searching for a location for a planned stone pyramid. In order to dispel any remaining doubts about the ascent, Gebhard organized the transport of a large amount of combustible material to the summit over the next few days, which was finally set on fire on the evening of September 13th. The fire burned for two hours and could be seen with the naked eye as far as Mals, 20 km away. A few days later Gebhard climbed the Ortler again. The summit should subsequently be made more accessible by building a hut and a permanently insured path. When in 1805 as a result of the Peace of Pressburg Tyrol and with it the Ortler fell to Bavaria by 1814 , these plans were initially obsolete. The Ortler was not climbed for 21 years.

In 1826 a Viennese officer named Schebelka inexperienced in mountaineering again engaged Josef Pichler as a guide. Since the back ridge was not accessible at that time, Pichler chose the route of the first ascent via the Hinteren Wandlen. The summit was also reached via this ascent on August 13, 1834: Peter Karl Thurwieser climbed the Ortler again under the guidance of the now 70-year-old Josef Pichler, who remained on the Upper Ortlerferner, and three other locals.

Late 19th century

Julius von Payer, the discoverer of today's normal route

After Thurwieser's ascent in 1834, the Ortler remained unclimbed for the next 30 years. Two attempts to reach the summit via a new route through the Stickle-Pleiß-Rinne near the Pleißhorngrat failed. Most of the well-known alpinists during this time concentrated primarily on the four-thousand-meter peaks of the western Alps; the failure of the few ascent attempts during this time is attributed to the local guides' lack of alpine knowledge. In 1864 the English mountaineer Francis Fox Tuckett came to the Ortler Alps with EN and HE Buxton and the two Swiss guides Christian Michel and Franz Biner . After climbing the Monte Confinale and the Königspitze, among others , they tried a new route from Trafoi over the Hohe Eisrinne and reached the summit of the Ortler on August 5, 1864. In September 1864, the Englishman Headlam found the way from Trafoi over the present one Location of the Payerhütte. A year later, on July 7th, 1865, Johann August Edmund Mojsisovics from Mojsvár and V. Reinstadler and their guide Johann Pinggera first reached this route from Sulden. On September 4th of the same year, Pinggera led Julius von Payer , who later drew the first precise maps of the Ortler and its surroundings, in a variant of this route to the summit and found the easiest ascent. This was the first ascent on today's normal route and with the descent of the rope team to Trafoi also the first crossing of the Ortler.

The new route over the Tabarettakamm quickly became popular, and the Ortler was climbed more and more frequently: while 12 climbs were reported in 1868, there were 51 in 1871 and 183 in 1881. In 1899 up to 60 climbers per day could be counted. In 1875 the first refuge, the Payerhütte, was built to make the ascent easier. Other accommodations followed with the Berglhütte 1884, the original Hintergrathütte known as the Bäckmannhütte 1892, the Tabarettahütte 1894 and the Hochjochhütte 1901. With the refuge huts Edelweißhütte (built in 1899) and Alpenrosenhütte (built in 1910) in the Trafoital, which were later destroyed , there were even more accommodations on the Ortler than today. The normal route was expanded with steel cables in 1888 to make it easier to climb. The Meranerweg over the Pleißhorngrat was insured in 1910 on the initiative of the tourism pioneer Theodor Christomannos . During the heyday of Ortler alpinism, numerous hotels and well-developed mountain guides were also built in Sulden and Trafoi . The Sulden-Trafoi Mountain Guide Association was founded in 1865.

Theodor Harpprecht and his guide Peter Dangl rediscovered the path over the Hintergrat on July 19, 1872, and on the descent they opened up the route over the Stickle-Pleiß-Rinne. One year later, on August 9, 1873, the two found a new path from the Suldenferner to the Hochjochgrat with the Harpprecht Gully and reached the summit via this. The continuous ascent from the Hochjoch to the summit, which had already been attempted several times since 1867, was not successful until Otto Schück with Alois Pinggera and Peter Dangl on June 15, 1875. This marked the fourth way to the Ortler summit, which Otto and Emil Zsigmondy had made in 1881 could commit for the first time without a guide. In 1879, Otto Schück finally opened up the channel through the east wall named after him, which at that time was still heavily iced. This route, like the southwest gully climbed by B. Minnigerode, Alois and Josef Pinggera in 1878, was a pure ice and firn ascent, which was almost exclusively managed with the help of the then common technique of stepping . The British alpinist Beatrice Tomasson and her guide Hans Sepp Pinggera climbed the south-west face for the first time in 1898. With the first ascent of the Marltgrat by O. Fischer, E. Matasek, RH Schmitt and L. Friedmann on August 22, 1889 and of the Rothböckgrat by H. Rothböck, F. Pinggera and F. Angerer on June 30, 1904, all major ridges of the Ortlers committed. The Rothböckgrat was then for a long time the most difficult route on the Ortler.

20th century

At the beginning of the 20th century, all possible paths with the means at the time were climbed. During the First World War , the Ortler was of exclusively military importance. Alpinism in the usual sense came to a standstill, but in the context of military operations there were performances that are remarkable from a sporting point of view, such as mastering the normal route from the Payerhütte in 1:20 hours.

Reinhold Messner made three first ascents on the Ortler

The 1200 meter high north face, the highest ice wall in the Eastern Alps, was considered the last unsolved problem on the Ortler after the war. After a failed attempt by Willy Merkl and Willo Welzenbach , Hans Ertl and Franz Schmid managed the first ascent in 17 hours on June 22, 1931 . As a result, the north face was no longer used until 1956. In 1963 P. Holl and H. Witt found a new route through the north face, which is still considered one of the most difficult combined routes in the Eastern Alps. In the same year Dieter Drescher managed the first solo ascent of the Ertlführe, on July 22nd, 1964 Reinhold and Günther Messner climbed directly the then still existing hanging glacier of the north face.

Since the 1930s, several new tours have also been taken outside the north face, such as the Soldàweg (1934), the north-north-west face (1935) or the south-west pillar, the first ascent of which by Reinhold Messner, Hermann Magerer and Dietmar Oswald was documented on film on August 15, 1976 . However, these trails were rarely or never repeated tours. The alpinists of the late 20th century were looking for new challenges on the Ortler through winter ascent and skiing. After the normal route on January 7, 1880 by R. v. Lendenfeld and Peter Dangl had experienced his first winter ascent, the more difficult routes were now also climbed in wintry conditions, such as the north face in 1964, the Marltgrat in 1965 and the Rothböckgrat in 1966. Heini Holzer skied the Schückrinne in 1971 and made the descent through in 1975 the Minnigeroderinne. K. Jeschke and M. Burtscher drove through the north face in 1969, although they had to abseil several times . In 1982, Andreas Orgler managed the first continuous ascent. In 1986 Kurt Walde made his first start from the Ortler summit with a paraglider after climbing the north face.

Today the development work on the Ortler has largely come to a standstill. There are practically no first ascents of new routes, most recently Reinhold Messner found a new variant of this historic climb when he wanted to repeat Josef Pichler's path through the Hinteren Wandlen on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the first ascent. In the same year the Meraner Weg, which had long since fallen into disrepair, was renovated and reinsured, so that today there are three more frequently used routes with this, the normal route and the Hintergrat.

Mountain War

Entrance to the team barracks in the glacier ice of the Ortler summit

At the beginning of the mountain war in 1915, the high alpine terrain of the Ortler group did not seem to be of any interest for military operations; the Austro-Hungarian army planned to defend itself against Italy on the Stilfser Joch, but mainly deeper, at the Gomagoi road block . The Imperial and Royal Standschützen , however, began occupying some peaks up to an altitude of 3700  m . When the Alpini occupied the Hochjoch, the Ortlerpass, the Trafoier Eiswand and the Thurwieserspitze in 1916 and the first Italian patrols were spotted on the Ortler summit, there was fear of an occupation of this strategically important point by Italy and the battle was increasingly shifted to the mountains. A cable car was built from Sulden , with which one could reach the Payerhütte in 20 minutes. Another small material ropeway led to just below the summit, and a first shelter was built at Tschierfeck. From the summer of 1916, the highest position of the entire war was on the Ortler summit plateau. Up to 30 soldiers lived here in a tunnel that had been blown up and carved into the glacial ice. A reserve of provisions and fuel was stored for up to three weeks, there was a high-quality field telephone line , a weather station and even a small photo laboratory . Another tunnel 150 meters long stretched from the pre-summit to the Hochjochgrat. An attempt was made here to fend off any Italian attack over the Hochjochgrat with barbed wire and a permanently manned machine gun position.

While the main summit itself was only manned by a small field guard, there was a trench at the lower summit and a first cannon as early as 1916 . It was an M99 mountain cannon with a caliber of 7 cm, which is now in the Army History Museum in Vienna. This outdated gun, built in 1899, had no barrel return and little accuracy, but because of its higher position it was superior to the much more modern Italian cannons on Thurwieserspitze and Trafoier Eiswand, which almost never hit the Ortler summit plateau. The cannon was later reinforced by a second one, and guns were also set up on the Pleißhorn. In 1917 Russian prisoners of war pulled two larger 10.5 cm guns to the summit. These M75 field guns, built in 1875, were very old, but of higher quality devices that, in addition to being more accurate, also had a greater range. The positions on the Ortler Vorgipfel and on the Pleißhorn played an important role in the destruction of the Italian machine-gun position on the Thurwieserspitze in August 1916 and in the conquest of the Trafoier Eiswand by the Austrian army on September 3, 1917, including the Hohe Schneide ( 3434  m ) could be shot at from here.

The greatest dangers on the Ortlerstellung did not come from the shelling by the Italian army, but from the climatic conditions at high altitude. On March 4, 1914, 15 members of a military ski department were killed by an avalanche on the ascent to the Payerhütte . In the harsh winter of 1916/1917 in particular, there were many avalanche accidents on the Ortler Front, the summit position was covered with several meters of snow and cut off from the outside world for up to a week. The telephone network often collapsed, so that a network of optical signal stations, which at least in good visibility could transmit messages from peak to peak, had to serve as a makeshift. When the telephone line was destroyed again in 1918, carrier pigeons were used. A little deeper, however, on the Payerhütte, which is easily accessible by cable car, there were hardly any such problems. As a safe place, it was frequently visited by celebrities who wanted to tour the front lines. Among them was the explorer Sven Hedin , Archduke Joseph even climbed the summit. As a result of such visits, the Ortler Front was often referred to as the “Salon Front”. This reputation, which was also widespread within the military, played a major role in the lack of armament in the positions on the Ortler for a long time, despite their important strategic role.

In 1918 the position was further expanded, but the supply situation now deteriorated. There were hardly any military incidents in the last year of the war. After there had been some irritation about a supposed armistice in the days before, the Ortler summit was finally evacuated on November 4th. A lot of equipment was left behind. The whereabouts of some of the cannons is still unclear, they are probably located in the glacier ice. In addition to the remains of the shelters, a barbed wire barn can still be found on the Hochjochgrat, the ice repeatedly releases the soldiers' equipment and even live ammunition.

Summit sign on the Ortler

Former summit cross that crashed in August 2012
Current cross erected in June 2013

The organizer of the first ascent, Johannes Gebhard, made the first plans to erect a summit sign on the Ortler in 1804. He also determined the exact location. A 26- foot stone pyramid and a weather station were planned. The preparatory work on the summit, such as leveling a square and breaking stones, has already started. The temporary loss of Tyrol for the Habsburg Empire between 1805 and 1814 meant that the ascent of the Ortler was interrupted for many years and these plans came to an end.

It was not until 1888 that the Ortler Committee was founded in Vienna on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I. It set itself the task of erecting the five meter high Kaiser Franz Joseph Obelisk on the Ortler. At that time, pyramids, flags and other symbols of worldly power were increasingly placed on peaks instead of the usual crosses . However, the Alpine clubs , especially the Vice-President of the Austrian Alpine Club Julius Meurer , opposed the establishment as impracticable and ultimately prevented it. For the anniversary on December 3, 1888, the planned inauguration of the monument did not take place, instead the flag of the House of Habsburg was hoisted at the summit. The obelisk was later set up on the Stelvio Pass and today bears an inscription from the fascists in 1925 . It is not to be confused with another obelisk on Stilfser-Joch-Strasse, which was erected in 1884 by the Austrian Alpine Club in honor of the first climber Josef Pichler.

On August 1, 1954, the Vinschgau section of the South Tyrol Alpine Association finally erected a summit cross on the 150th anniversary of the first ascent. The 3.5 meter high cross was inscribed with the words “God with us” and “1804 - 150 years ascent of the Ortler - 1954” and was inaugurated on September 29, 1954, the day after the 150th anniversary celebration in Trafoi. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the first ascent, the cross was renovated in 2004 and rebuilt and blessed on May 31st. A summit book was also attached to the cross. Presumably on August 26, 2012, the cross was torn from its anchoring and fell into the Schück gutter .

As a result, vocational school students from Schlanders and Brixen made a new, approximately 380 kg heavy summit cross made of stainless steel . On June 12, 2013, it was brought to the top of the mountain by helicopter and installed there.

The Ortler in art and popular culture

High mountain landscape Ortler group . Oil painting by Heinrich Heinlein , 1845

Representations of the Ortler at the time of his first ascent, such as that of the Viennese painter Ferdinand Runk , still depict the mountain, which is visible from afar, mainly as the background of the villages and castles depicted. In addition to depictions by local artists such as Johann Georg Schaedler , there was one from the 1820s onwards Popularization of the Ortler views mainly through print graphics in travel reports and tourist albums. One example of this was Jakob Alt , who depicted the mountain in several lithographs and watercolors . Other artists of the time, such as Thomas Ender and Eduard Gurk , depicted the Ortler in great detail, a development that reached its climax with Edward Theodore Compton . Compton, himself an experienced alpinist, not only painted the Ortler in general views from numerous perspectives, but also depicted details of the glaciers and mountaineers on the ascent and at the summit. In contrast, artists like Franz Richard Unterberger and Heinrich Heinlein designed their Ortler depictions from a more romantic perspective . In literature, for example, the ballad “Die Bergfrau vom Ortles” by Karl Egon Ebert , in which the journey of a mystical Bergfräuleins from Ortler into the world is described, or the poem “Ortles” by Angelika von Hörmann corresponded to this romantic view. The expressionist Emil Nolde depicted the mountain as a sleeping giant in his painting “The Ortler dreams of times gone by” in 1898.

In the 19th century there was a strong nationalist-ideological appropriation of the Ortler. As early as 1838, in Johann Chrysostomus Senn's patriotic poem Der Rothe Tiroler Adler, the alpine glow on the Ortler summit was named as the reason for the red color of the Tyrolean heraldic animal . Adolf Pichler took up this motif and stylized the Ortler in his poem Am Orteles as the seat of the Tyrolean eagle, which recalls Andreas Hofer's victories there . Political associations such as the Südmark-Bund der Deutschen for the preservation of their nationality at home and abroad later staged the highest mountain of the monarchy on military treasure marks as a border pillar of German culture. This tendency was reinforced by its importance during the mountain war and the Ortler was instrumentalized in war propaganda. A depiction of the Ortler guns by the Austrian painter Max von Poosch (1872–1968) with the title "Ortlerwacht" was distributed in reprints throughout the monarchy, and the War Welfare Office brought out postcards by the Ortler.

The Ortler as an advertising subject (Milka chocolate)

The Ortler Front was also glorified in literature, Georg von Ompteda, for example, described the occupation of the Ortler position as "The last Goths from Vesuvius". The Bolzano mountaineering song from 1926 takes up the symbolic meaning of the "King Ortler" as the western boundary of the country during the official non-existence of South Tyrol in the time of fascism .

From the end of the 19th century, the Ortler became the focus of tourism advertising and was used as an advertising medium for a wide variety of products, such as Liebig's meat extract or Milka chocolate . To this day, bacon and cheese are marketed under the Ortler name.


Web links

Commons : Ortler  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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This article was added to the list of excellent articles on May 29, 2010 in this version .