Stage 4: Pfeishütte (1922 m) – Mandlscharte (2314 m) – Mühlkarscharte (2243 m) – Gleirschjöchl – Hafelekar Aerialway Station (2269 m) – Seegrube Aerialway Station (1966 m) – Frau Hitt Sattel (2224 m) – Solsteinhaus (1806 m)
- Distance: 17.9 km
- Difficulty: Challenging. This is an extremely long stage, with countless ascents and descents. Technically, the most challenging section is the descent from Frau Hitt Saddle.
- Minimum Elevation: 1458 m
- Maximum Elevation: 2276 m
- Total climb: 1499 m
- Total descent: 1615 m
- Time Needed: 8:30 -10 hours. It took us 9 hours.
- Lunch Option: Restaurant Seegrube
- Tip: Take the cableway from Hafelekar to Seegrube. You won’t miss anything, and it’ll save your legs a good 370 meters of grueling downhill.
- How to break up this stage: This is an immensely rewarding stage, but it’s taxing. You can break up this hike, by descending to Innsbruck via the Hafelekar and Seegrube cableways. Stay the night in Innsbruck, and then return to Seegrube to continue the hike the next day.
- Stage 4 Alternative: If it’s raining, or you want to opt for an easier route, you can hike from Pfeishütte through Samertal Valley (Trail 221) and Grosskristental Valley (Trail 16, 213) to Solsteinhaus. That’s the safest and fastest route. Along the way, you can eat at Möslalm.
Pfeishütte to Hafelekar Bergstation (2:30 hours)
From Pfeishütte, follow signs to Goetheweg, Mandlscharte (1 hour), and Hafelekar Bergstation (2:30 hours). After about 20-minutes, the trail divides. Take the right trail, known as Goetheweg and continue ascending to Mandlscharte (notch). Here, you’ll see Zugspitze (Germany’s Highest Mountain) and the Wetterstein Mountain Range.
From the notch, the trail descends steeply, but quickly levels out, horizontally crossing rock-laden slopes for some time. There are some steel cables along the route.
Eventually, you’ll hike over Mühlkarscharte (2243 m), and you’ll see the Inntal Valley below. The trail follows a sensational balcony path high above the valley.
When you get to Gleirschjöchl, Hafelekar is signed 40 minutes.
Hafelekar Bergstation to Seegrube (1 hour)
From Hafelekar, the trail plummets along tight, steep switchbacks, down a grassy slope. It’s tedious, but at least the views of Innsbruck are epic. We highly recommend opting for the cableway instead.
Seegrube to Frau Hitt Sattel (1:30 hours)
From Seegrube, continue west. You’ll follow a level path across grassy slopes for a long time.
When the trail divides, follow the sign to “Solsteinhaus über Gipfelstürmerweg” not “Frau Hitt Sattle Schmidhubersteig,” taking the lower track.
When the trail divides again, take the upper track to Frau Hitt Sattel (45 minutes) and Solsteinhaus (4:30 hours).
Careful here. Lots of sheep graze along this slope, so it’s easy to continue straight along a sheep track. Soon after the last intersection, the trail heads up the mountain, making a 90-degree turn. There’s a waymark on an inconspicuous rock, that directs you onto the right path. We missed it because we were following the sheep.
Now, the hiking really begins. You’ll zig-zag up the steep slope until you reach the Frau Hitt Saddle.
Frau Hitt Sattel to Solsteinhaus (3:30 hours)
Initially, your descent is secured with cables and rungs. Face the mountain, as you make your way down.
Then, the nightmare begins. In my opinion, this section is the hardest part of the whole Karwendel Höhenweg. The trail steeply descends a semi-scree slope. It’s slippery and tricky, and you have to be really vigilant. Eventually, the slope is entirely scree and you can gleefully descend, sticking your heals into the rocks, smiling as the hikers coming up (poor bastards).
Trail 215 levels out significantly and you’ll continue descending in the direction of Kleinkristental valley.
When the trail divides, head left along Gipfelstürmerweg trail, following signs to Solsteinhaus (3 hours).
The hard part is over, but you still have to tackle a series of ascents and descents and a few secured passages.
You’ll hike across some scenic high alpine pastures, before descending through the Knappenwald forest. When you reach the valley floor (Grosskristental), it’s one final ascent to Solsteinhaus. Luckily, it’s not as painful as it would seem. Shortly before arriving at the hut, you’ll pass the Erlalm alpine pasture. The hut is directly behind it.