Hohneck Off Piste

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Off Piste Routes

La Bresse Hohneck is higher than nearby Gérardmer which means that there is a mixture of open and tree line skiing and the space between the trees is fairly open, at least at high altitudes. It is possible to find off-piste beneath some of the chair lifts although the practise is discouraged by the resort. The slopes under Belle Hutte chair even offer a jump off a small wooden hut! Be careful as this slope crosses a blue piste in a number of places. From the Grand Artimont it is possible to ski down through a section of clearings and tracks to the Bresse road below. Nice in the evening if you have accommodation in that direction as the slopes are bathed in the glow of the setting sun.

Climbing to the Hohneck

Climbing to the Hohneck, Wormspel couloirs behind

From the Kastelberg you can either take the pistes or strike out to the North over snow covered pastures (attention occasional wire fences) to join pistes in the Col de Thiaville sector. It is at the base of these piste that you will find the lift pass office serving the car park above. On the sunny March morning we were there the snow was icy at the summit but beginning to transform into pleasant spring snow lower down. By early afternoon it would be a pleasure to ski.

From the top of the Lande chair I fixed skins to climb the 200 meters to the Hohneck, a rounded hill on one side with steep cliffs on the other. With the excellent snow conditions and high winds large cornices had formed. The danger should not be underestimated. Only a few weeks before a snow shoer had fallen to his death after venturing out onto one of these unstable masses of snow. Two people from Belgium were killed in similar circumstances in January 2000. Le Hohneck is probably more suited to cross-country or Nordic skis. From the summit there was a splendid view over the Rhine valley and towards the snow capped hills of the Black Forest.

To get back to the resort I skied down to the North West, the slopes lead to the road close to the Col de Falimont and a wide, wooded valley beyond. The snow was a pleasure to ski, a series of nice, round, tracks lead back to the top of the hill. I took my skis off to cross the road, this seemed to just lead up to a Gasthof beneath the Kaltenberg. Then I traversed to the right of the valley beneath a large wooden chalet, on this side of the valley the forest is more open with just a couple of hundred meters though widely spaced trees. Under the trees the snow was crusty and more difficult to ski. The slope finally leads to the Col de Thiaville and either a pole across a wide and flat plateau or, if you’ve got a lift pass, the Goulet lift. From the end of the plateau you can pick up a track to the left of the river which leads out onto Bourvil blue. Be careful if you follow the river down to the blue as the trees are dense and you will probably have to climb down some rocks at the end. The final alternative is to pick up the snow shoer’s track to the right, but take care of walkers as they have priority.

Hohneck Couloirs

The North and South east sides of Hohneck offer some steep couloirs. These are not without danger, principally from cornice collapse and falls but also, on occasion, avalanches. There have been some serious injuries and deaths. The best time to ski is from January to March but the couloirs were skied in June 2006! Being largely east facing the couloirs should be skied early and only after a good overnight refreeze in spring. Due to the prevailing westerlies the cornices can be huge.

Combe de Falimont

From the top of the Hohneck follow the ridgeline to the north-west. At 1295 meters you reach the col de Falimont with the Frankenthal on the right. From here you can ski down the north-east facing combe de Falimont to Frankenthal (two buildings). It is the easiest slope in the sector, 30° à 35°, similar to a black run. The toponeige rating is 2.2 (source: bivouak.net). It is an ideal first descent for checking out the snow conditions and observing the other couloirs in the Frankenthal sector.

Couloir de la Martinswand

This south-east facing couloir is situated directly below the a path that leads do the climbing routes on the Martinswand near to the point marked 1273 meters on the IGN map of the area. Looking up the mountain the couloir is to the left of the rochers de la Martinswand. The entrance is steep and there is a very narrow section. Toponeige rating: 4.1.

Couloirs Sud de Falimont

These couloirs are found about 100 meters noth of the col de Falimont and are east facing, slightly turned to the south. The entrance is steep, around 45° over dozen or so meters. Toponeige rating: 4.1.

Couloirs Nord de Falimont

The couloir can be found by climbing about 200 meters to the south-east from the col de Falimont. This north facing couloir complex joins the combe de Falimont.

Couloir Y

This characteristic couloir splits into two branches at the bottom. The entrance is usually guarded by a large cornice. The right fork (looking down the mountain) is usually skied and you arrive at the Frankenthal huts.

Couloir Dagobert

From the second building in the Frankenthal (restaurant, open only in summer) climb to the south-west following the bed of a stream (this is often icy). The couloir Dagobert is 40° strip of snow between two rock faces. On good snow years it is practicable until May but beware of snow purges and of falling through the snowpack into the stream. You exit the ridge 200 meters to the north of the Hohneck about 100 m south east of the 'Y'. Toponeige rating: 4.2.

Ski back down and reclimbe via the combe de Falimont.

If you approach from the Hohneck head directly north 200m then follow the ridge towards the col de Falimont to pick up the couloir after a few meters.

Couloirs du Schaeferthal

From the Schaeferthal farm these couloirs are located 100 meters to the north-east and north-west. The IGN map shows two small streams, the one to the north-east is marked Blaufels. There was a fatal avalanche here in 2004. Snow permitting ski down to Rotried to rejoin either Frankenthal or Gascheney by the track.

Hohneck Couloirs Sud

Situated 200 meters to the south-west of the summit the couloir complex joins Wormspel plateau.

Couloir de Wormspel

From the summit of the Hohneck follow the ridge west then south west. At around 1300 meters after Pâquis des Fées a number of descents are possible. Descend to the east-south-east towards the lac de Schiessrothried. It is possible to pick up the trail that passes high to the right of the lake to join the GR 531 at Wormsawald. Follow the GR to the south to Kerbholz then Kastelbergwassen and climb the north-west slope to the Kastelberg to return to the resort.

Petit Hohneck South Ridge

From the Hohneck traverse to the east across to the Petit Hohneck (50 meters climb). This can also be linked with a descent of the couloir Dagobert or coulour de Falimant by following the track to the south-east from Frankental in the direction of Schaefertal (shepher’s valley) (blue triangle markings). The Petit Hohneck is the top of the pistes of le Gaschney.

From the summit (1289m) follow a the ridgeline (fence) which descends to the south then turns slightly to the east. Pass to the left of the buildings at Schiessroth and follow a clearing to the T junction at Mohrenloch (977m). Follow the GR531 (blue rectangles) towards the lac de Schiessrothried (west) and after a few meters take a forest track due south that descends through the forest. At 900 meters you join a road. Here you can turn west to follow the road for 100 meters to a junction and continue west through the dense forest, hitting a zig-zagging forest path around 800 meters to pick up a variant of the GR5 at 690 meters. Put your skins on and follow the GR5 to the lac de Fischboedle (794m). The track turns south-west to Kerbholz (1073m) then exits onto a clearing, climb to the north-west to reach the Kastelberg 1350m) (orange discs)

Kastelberg south-east ridge

From the summit of the Kastelberg (1350 meters) ski to the east then follow a wide clearing to the south east in the direction of Kastelbergwassen (1166m). Turn eastwards again to follow a clearing to Koepfle (870m). Snow conditions permitting it is possible to continue to the village of Mittlach. The forest holds the snow but these are south facing slopes.


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