A north-south link with a long history

The Timmelsjoch is the deepest, non-glaciated indentation in the main Alpine ridge between the Reschen Pass and the Brenner Pass. From a historical-cultural point of view, and as far as settlements are concerned, the path over the Timmelsjoch actually starts in the Passeiertal valley in South Tyrol and leads over to the Ötztal valley. Even the name of the Joch, i.e. the indentation, and that of the Timmelstal valley that leads into the Ötztal valley, came from Passeier together with Alpine pasture farming and grazing rights. The discovery of a “Fibula” (a brooch) from the La-Tène period around 300 BC near the Schönbodenlacke, is evidence that people walked over the pass during the pre-Christian era. It is even likely that stone-age shepherds and their livestock, which have been proven to have lived in the Obergurgl area from 6300 BC onwards, also used the Alpine gap. The name “Thymelsjoch” was first documented as far back as 1241 in a letter written by the Count of Eschenlohe from the Weilheim area of Upper Bavaria – the name of the Brenner Pass, incidentally, was not officially mentioned until more than 50 years later. “Timmeljoch” was the spelling which predominated until well into the 20th century; it was not until the road was built that the spelling “Timmelsjoch” succeeded.

The ancient path was one of many such routes in the Tyrol. Not only did these paths facilitate trade, they were also of great social, cultural, political and religious significance. The Timmelsjoch was a particularly important route since it offered one of the most direct links between the Upper Inn Valley and the regional capital at the time, Meran, and the Castle Tyrol. At that time, cart tracks were few and far between, therefore travellers, pedlars and people leading pack animals didn’t choose the easiest route, but rather the shortest one. During the Middle Ages and the early Modern Age – in particular from the end of the 13th century until the beginning of the 15th century – trade flourished via the Timmel. The famous Ötztaler Kraxenträger (basket bearers) carried 100 kilograms each way and earned their living by exchanging flax, livestock, cured bacon and lard for wine, spirits and vinegar. They laid the basic foundations for modern Alpinism. No wonder that the Ötztal valley is one of the cradles of mountaineering.