Sonnjoch from the Eng alp

A spectacular panorama awaits you from the top of the Sonnjoch. Starting point is the Große Ahornboden, a beautiful maple forest, at the Eng alpine village. During the summer months it can get quite crowdy there but as soon as you have passed the Binslam it’ll get more quiet quickly. The last ascent to the summit is a bit strenuous and rather long. The reward for taking it is a great panoramic view over the Karwendel, the Achensee and the main ridge of the Alps in the south. It is well worth the effort. If you take the hikers bus to the Eng you can descend via the Gramai to Pertisau on the Achensee lake and return from there.
  • difference in elevation: 4300 feet
  • duration: 7 hours
  • length: 7.5 miles

Großer Ahornboden and Engalmen

One of my favourite places in the Alps is the high valley at the end of the creek Riss. First all those maple trees that are up to 600 years old and then this quaint alpine village of the Eng in between the towering peaks of the Karwendel mountains. Really breathtaking. Unfortunately a lot of people know that it is beautiful here and so on a summer weekend the visitors are coming in busloads floating the valley. Since I am a bit late today I won’t visit the village and start with the tour right away with the ascent to the Binsalm.

I drove to the Eng on a weekday to avoid this hustle and bustle. Usually I would have taken the train and bus but the bus schedule is set at times that wouldn’t allow such a long tour as I am planning today. So I had to take the car. Up to Hinterriss you drive on a public road but if you want to continue you will have to pay a toll. I happily pay the 4.5 Euro to be able to walk my tour in all tranquility.

So I cross over from the parking lot to the guest house, where you can rent rooms if you want to stay longer, and from there continue to a path turning left direction mountain and Binsalm. There are two possibilities to get there. One follows a track which I take and the other along the gravel road to the cabin. But this would lengthen my hike too much and I am already a bit late for starting this tour. The path leads along a small gurgling creek. But only a few minutes later the path takes a right turn and leads into the woods and runs uphlill a bit steeper.

The Binsalm – a picturesque place for a rest

About 20 minutes later the track crosses the gravel road leading to the Binsalm and I have to follow this road. In front of me the Gramaijoch is rising to the sky looking more like a green hill from here. The only real summit I can see at the moment is the Ruederkarspitze that thrones in the blue sky in m back. Most of the time I am walking in the shade and so it is not too hot. Along the road I see blue gentian in full bloom all the time. And so I soon reach the Binsalm.

To the Gramaijoch

I still have a good way to hike. So I just ask quickly how long the place is open in the evening. Since they have overnight guests as well the restaurant stays open untill 7 p.m. That ensures me that I can come here for a rest when I return from the summit. Great! The view from the terrace to the Ruederkarspitze is awesome. So I continue my tour. Once I have passed the Binsalm the trail follows hiking paths and I have a good look at the Lamsenspitze all the time.

When I turn around and look in my back I can see now the Gamsjoch and the Laliderer Wall coming up behind the mountains. I took a hike there four years ago. That was one of my top rated tours so far. I am curious to see what is waiting for me today. The path runs in serpentines uphill. So far I can’t see the peak of the Sonnjoch, yet. Slowly the terrain gets rockier and instead of tall trees there are mountain pine growing.

Since leaving the Binsalm I am all alone on this mountain. That surprises me a bit. Guess that on a weeday not so many people have the time to climb the mountains. The view is breathtaking and I can’t get enough of it. The summits of the Karwendel do impress me again and again. That’s one of the most beautiful regions of the Alps for me.

I continue along meadows and through mountain pine forest. A good thing that it is not so hot today. The path runs through sunny terrain and there is no shadow. On the other hand the view is getting more specatcular with every step I take. Only the peak of the Sonnjoch is still hiding behind the moutain in front of me. Can’t be that long anymore before I can see it.

Since the path is winding in long serpentines uphill the ascent is not that strenuous so far. But I guess that there will be a steeper stretch coming up. Eventually I still have quite some feet in height to conquer. I enjoy the fresh mountain air and admire the fascinating nature around me. From time to time I do come across flowers still in bloom. That’s what a perfect day is supposed to be.

Shortly after I reach the Gramai saddle and now have a view of the Lamsenspitze and the Laliderer Wall. And finally in front of me the summit of the Sonnjoch is rising into the bue sky. Looks like there lies a somewhat dfficult climb ahead. But the view of it is fantastic. I have to let that one sink a bit. Way down in the valley I can see a cabin. I would love a refreshment now. But if I descend all the way down to that cabin I will have to climb the height difference again and the way to the summit would become even longer.

The most strenuous part of the tour

The trail leads along the flank of the Gramaijoch. For a short time I am happy that I don’t have to descend into the hollow to climb up on the other side. But that was too early to be happy since the path is now descending a good deal. And every feet I am descending now I will have to climb up again on the other side. I already asked myself how it can be that I start at an elevation of 3900 feet and climb to an elevation of 7800 feet and have to make to make 4400 feet in elevation. Now I know.

On the hollows floor I meet another man and we start to talk. I tell him that I am happy to have at least the goal in front of my eyes now. But he says that I shouldn’t rejoice too early since I will have to walk for at least another 1.5 to 2 hours before I will reach the top. Well, then I should be going. I knew that the most difficult part of the tour still lies ahead.

In the beginning the trail runs over a meadow and is pretty steep. First in narrow turns but soon in a long loop along the slope. The difference in height accumulates real quick and I am happy that I have chosen a beautifull fall day for this tour. On a hot summers day the terrain would be too exposed for me. But thanks to the mild temperatures the effort is supportable.

After about 45 minutes the last gras is clearing away that has been growing alongside the path so far. From here I have to continue on pebble. The ground is still firm and so I am not slipping. When I look to the south I can now see the whole main ridge of the alps. I can distinguish the snow covered peaks of the Stubai and Ötztal mountains and in the far I assume to see the Großglockner. A fantastic panorama of which I simply can’t get enough.

After a last turn the trail finally leads straight but not too steep towards the top. Now I really have my goal in front of my eyes. Even the last stretch was bit more difficult I have accomplished hikes that have been more strenuous. The most impressive thing is this breathtaking panorama up here. Tha’s incredible. When I finally reach the top I am all by myself. There is no other soul around. But I am a bit late today.

The summit – infinte panorama

So it’s done. I am overwhelmed. Way down on the valley floor I can see the southern tip of the Achensee with Pertisau sitting on its shores. To the south, as already mentioned, a view all the way to the main ridge of the Alps and to the north far into the alpine upland that is vanishing in the mist. Not even a bird is disturbing the complete silence up here. I have to enjoy this for a while. My neighbourhood in Munich seems to be as far away as another galaxy up here. I could sit here for hours.

But at one point the time is up for the descend. Since I did drive to the mountains in my own car today I have to walk on the same trail as I came up on. Othterwise I could have crossed the Gramai and walk to Pertisau. But the drive home in bus and train from the Achensee takes a long time. When I crossed the Plumsjoch I have done this already and added a scenic boat ride on the lake. That was a great finish for that tour.

Descending the mountain is always faster and so it takes me only an hour to get back to the hollow between Sonnjoch and Gramai saddle. On the way up the trail was easy to find since I had the goal in front of my eyes. Now on the descend I know the direction I have to follow but at first can’t find the path and follow a trail the cows have been trampling into the mountain pine forest. When it ends I decide to just cross straight up the mountain. At one point I will have to come back to the trail.

Soon after it is mission accomplished and I am coming back to the Gramai saddle. A last look back at the summit. The view from this point is definetely the best one. Looks quite impressive. Slowly I feel hunger coming up and most of all I am very thirsty. On this tour there is no creek where I could have filled up my water bottle. And this is almost empty by now. But it is not that far to the Binsalm anymore. I am really looking forward to sit down there.

When I reach the Binsalm I am meeting people again. Some of them seem to stay here ovrbight and are freshly showered preparing for dinner. I first enjoy a non-alcoholic beer and a traditional snack. That is soo good. And on top of it I enjoy this great view from the cabins terrace to the Ruederkarspitze lying in the late afternoon sun. Here in the shadow it’s getting fresh now and so I continue with the last part of the descend. A short time later I am standing next to my car and drive home slowly. This is the end of another great day in the mountains.

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