Of Gorges and Peaks in the Zugspitze Region, Garmisch Partenkirchen // press trip
There’s plenty to do and see in the Zugspitze Region. Hike, bike, paraglide, conquer peaks in many ways or just bum out in one of the few lovely lakes with a panoramic view to the Alps. No wonder, Garmisch Partenkirchen is like an international magnet, pulling everyone there. The Zugspitze is an attraction in the region. It is also Germany’s highest summit – 2962 m in altitude.
#Advertisement – 3 Outdoor Bloggers were invited to test and experience parts of the new trial “Spitzenwanderweg” in the region. I was one of them. 2 summits were planned: Alpspitz (2628 m) via the Alpspitz-Ferrata and the Zugspitze (2962 m) via the Höllentalferner glacier. Goal: 38 km and 3972 m elevation in 2.5 days.
As the doors from my Flixbus opened, Garmisch Partenkirchen welcomed me with a summerly 24°c in the evening. There was a whiff of outdoor and mountaineering in the air as the bus driver unloads one backpack after another and the MTB bikes of his passengers. It seemed that everyone had a mountain mission to accomplish whatever the way. I grabbed my pack that had a helmet dangling on.
A brisk 10 minutes walk brought me to my bed for the night at Quartier Lodge. Stretching out the body was a fine thing after hours of travelling. Cool! A queen-size bed all to myself!! I was surrounded by clear architectural lines carved in wood, abundant space, kitchenette and views to the surrounding mountains. There was even a hammock and reading corner upstairs.
A wifi on/off switch lets you shut yourself away the rest of the world. Everything in the maisonette room shouts out that you are now on vacation modus – make use of it! A shame to actually spend just a few hours of sleep here.
Day 1: Partnachklamm – Bockhütte – Jägersteig – Kreuzeckhaus
Thomas, our local mountain guide from Die Bergführer, joined us for breakfast in the morning. He would be accompanying us during our climb the next few days and gave us a quick briefing on the route while we gobbled down a delicious Bircher Müsli and scrambled egg.
Shortly after, we started off at the entrance of the Partnachklamm, which was a part of the 201 km Spitzenwanderweg (trials) in the region, only to be faced by closed doors. Helicopters, excavators screamed construction work going on. They were clearing up the mess from the last bigger storm in the gorge and the way was closed for a few days to the public.
We took an alternative route that brought us above the gorge through Vordergraseck (usually the usual MTB route) and crossed in the Partnach Gorge or Partnachklamm about halfway through. This gorge is opened all year round and is especially beautiful and magical in winter. I fondly remembered the winterly photos I made in the last season.
On a wide forest trail, we continued our way into the valley until we reached the Bockhütte. Here, the way opened up into a little open space, with views into Reintal valley inviting many, just like we did, to take a little break before carrying on. This is the junction that would lead you in different directions either to Schachen and Törlspitzen, Kreuzeck or the Zugspitze over Reintal (without having to cross the glacier).
After drying up and having a good portion of rest, we took a right turn and continued on the Bernadeinsteig (aka Jägersteig) and gained elevation quickly. It was an unusually hot day. 27°c in the middle of September! The sun shone directly on the steep serpentines up. Every now and then there were wooden steps on the small path. I really hated them. It was either too high or too far to maintain a good pace.
The Wetterstein mountains side by side
The scorching, midday sun and heat made it difficult for me to keep my breath. I took another sip of water through my bladder bag and dabbed my forehead from the sweat that found every pore to escape. My fully packed backpack felt by now more like a ton and the sweaty straps started to cut into my skin.
Every now and then there was a glimpse of the Wetterstein mountains or the Royal Palace on Schachen (it’s a wooden castle!! – used as a hunting lodge by King Ludwig II) on the opposite. Reaching the Laubhütte, we had the steepest part of the hike for the day behind us.
The Wetterstein in full view and the Kings House on Schachen faintly visible in the middle right of the picture.
A little sign pointed the way to continue on through a little forest trail until we reached our lodge for the night at Kreuzeckhaus. 18 km and 1200 m elevation later we were finally standing in front of the bar in the Kreuzeckhaus as a few portions of delicious looking cakes caught my attention. But my thirst was bigger and the urge of dropping exhausted on one of the many benches on the terrace more inviting.
Coffee and cake. Or beer , which ever pleases you
The last sun rays of the setting sun upon the Wetterstein mountains
After dumping our packs in our rooms and changing into dry clothing, we were finally able to put up our feet. There weren’t too many guests in the weekdays. The host at the Kreuzeckhaus was a funny guy. He always had some special humour on his lips for his guests. Some hours later after a delicious, 3-course hearty meal, a few good laughs and conversations, we went to test the beds and quilts in our rooms.
Day 2: The Alpspitz-Ferrata and Alpspitze 2620 m
We woke up to another beautiful, cloudless day. The Alpspitze seemed to be just within a grasp. Its peaks looked like a grey pyramid poking into the endless blue sky. And today, we were going to try reach for the skies, through the Alpspitz-Ferrata.
Alpspitze in all it’s glory, in the morning sun
As we arrived at the foot of the mountain, it started to get crowded. Many were heading in the same direction as us. Blame it on the perfect weather. Thomas suggested to put on our equipment at the base of the main wall and hushed us through 2 short boulder passages, while the crowd were still at the start.
The Kreuzeckbahn cable car brings you directly to the footstep of Alpspitze
The first crux
When we were finally ready, we looked up to find a small jam at the base and the steepest part of the Via-Ferrata. A ladder solved all problems to pass by the passage quickly. Click, clack, click, clack. The sound as the carabiners clipped into the steel wire and into the next. Each intersection was very short. It was hard working with both carabiners and the blazing heat made me terribly slow. I decided later to just use one or go without, on sections where I didn’t see or feel the need to be secured. The Alpspitz Ferrata is graded with an A/B and is good for beginners. No wonder, in front of us was a long line of military guys who seem to be doing their first Via-Ferrata. Judging from the traffic, I wouldn’t suggest returning to the base on the same way.
The mountain and me
Every now and then I would find someone resting in the shade under a bigger rock. And every time, I was filled with envy. The way interchanged between steeper and easy passages. There was always a good rock to step on or holds to grasp. The steel wires were in good condition, and each passage was easy to climb.
My biggest worry was my condition. My heart was beating so hard by now and taking sips out of the water bladder didn’t help much to cool down my body. The air stood still, too hot for any altitude above 2160 m! Unusual! My performance dropped rapidly to zero. The beautiful morning sun shone mercilessly on me. My movements felt like a tortoise in Sahara with a huge rock on top of her shell.
200 m below the summit, we reached a section that finally turned into the west side of the mountain. A light breeze brushed by my face. Shade! I felt suddenly much better, stronger, and less hyperventilated. At this time we reached another crux. It started to get really steep and there was loose gravel lying around. Twice, someone on top would slip on a stone and send one flying down to the rest of the people. Good to have your helmets on and dodge if it comes your way. And no, please don’t do this for fun. It can turn into a serious accident if it hits anyone.
Never alone. Behind or front
The crux of the Ferrata. Loose gravels, steep passages and rockfalls
Deep views into the valley
Just before the summit
Views to the Zugspitze on the opposite. A good insight to next days programme.
The last few meters before the summit
The alpine Dohle…a well known daylight sandwich theft with wings
Too many peaks to point
Foto credit: Bergführer T.Schiller
As we reached the peak, the sky was still as blue as ever. Not a single cloud. Magnificent views to the surrounding summits as far as the eyes can see. Zugspitze, Hochwanne, Dreitorspitze and more. You name it, you see it. Alpspitz, you’re in my pocket!
Next stop down: Höllental
After a short break, we descended the Alpspitz through the Nordwandsteig. Again, the Via- Ferrata was perfectly secured with steel wires. It brought us through 2 tunnels before reaching the initial point. If you poke your heads out from this tunnel, you will see some of the alpine routes that were bolted on the north. We passed by the Alpspitzbahn, made a short stopover at the AlpspiX plateau below the Osterfelderkopf and proceeded further into the Hupfleitenjoch.
2 cruxes during the descend. Some spacy traverses across sharp rocks.
It looks more srious than it really was.
One of the tunnels through the Nordwandsteig
By now, it was late in the afternoon. The valley down into the Höllental was breathtaking! I was flashed. A long and deep, fairytale-like landscape with magnificent peaks before your eyes. We passed by the historical Knappenhäuser, a group of houses built in 1827, laying just before the entrance to an idle mine (for lead, wulfenite and ore) at 1527 m. I found out later that these houses were once held for sale for quite a bargain. From here you have a perfect view down to Hammersbach.
Crossroads at the Hupfleitenjoch
Views from one of the balconies of the Knappenhäuser
Mind your step!
The trial continued down into the valley always with the Zugspitze at the front. It was hard to keep your eyes on the trial within these surroundings and atmosphere. Missing a step to the right would also mean falling a few hundred metres over the cliffs. It could be tricky, if wet and slippery. The polished stones reveal the way has seen some traffic. Steel wires secure some of the more dangerous passages especially useful in unruly conditions. Don’t slip! We reached the modern Höllentalangerhütte at 18:00. Time for a beer while waiting to get checked into our rooms. I was all ready for a hot shower too. For just a Euro/minute, I found this a marvellous idea and came out a newborn person a few moments later.
The Höllentalangerhütte lays under the shadows of the Zugspitze. This lodge from 1893 was completely rebuilt and re-opened in 2015 and offers altogether 106 beds. There is a dining room and a “Stube” for hanging out. The sanitary is very modern, with piping hot water showers and hot water out from the basin. Unusually hot for a mountain lodge! They have their own sewage and electricity plant, which allows them to offer such comfort on these premises. A heated shoe and drying room allows you to hang your sweaty and wet gear during the stay. Wifi is available at a central part of the lodge. There is of course always a price for all the comfort, but it will always still be a mountain lodge, not a hotel.
Our half board meal was cleaned off with some Zirbenschnaps, (pine schnapps). A few last minutes to reflect on all the highlights of the day before the mind switches off. The lodge was filled with different groups of people, most of them were going to summit Zugspitze the next day.
Partners of contribution.
The lodge book – Hüttenbuch
Zirbenschnaps. Not sure if this tastes more like the cough mixture or a brainwasher
Day 3: Waking up to the glow of the giant and the mist of Höllentalklamm
The last group of mountaineers leaving for the summit upon sunrise.
The peak of our 3-day trip arrived. I didn’t sleep well as there was always someone outside in the gangway, getting up at unearthly hours of the morning and rushing off to get ready. It was still so dark outside and I didn’t quite bother to check the time. That was when the alarm clock rang. And then everything came on quickly. I peaked out of the window and saw the first group with their head-lamps already hanging in the first Via-Ferrata. It was 6 am. Dark, cold. Where was my “Kuscheldecke”?
We had our breakfast and separated into 2 groups. The Höllentalklamm was about half an hours descend away from the Höllentalangerhütte. The gorge itself measures about 1000 m long and 150 m deep surrounded by bizarre rocks and landscape. It roared with loads of water, dripping from all sides of the wall into the river. Every now and then, a tunnel would keep us dry from all the water. It was slippery and the path was wet. This gorge is only opened until the first bigger snowfall or end of October. It’s closed to the public in winter as snow avalanches fall into this gorge from 3 different areas, making access impossible. Such a mystic, pretty sight, early in the morning.
So quiet, yet so loud. So empty, yet so full.
A fine mist of water and random waterfalls everywhere.
The region around Garmisch Partenkirchen offers 1200 km of inspiring hiking trials around the #TopofGermany = Zugspitze. Day excursions to the different gorges or into the valleys and mountain lodges are just some of the highlights that are interesting not only for families and children. I fell instantly in love with the trial that took us down from the Osterfelderkopf to the Höllensteinangerhütte. The trials in the region have shown me how diverse it is, no matter how your plans turn out to be.
The 200 km Spitzenwanderweg passes many cultural and natural highlights. This loop can be completed within 14 days in a shot, or in different stages. 16 different public transport stops along the way allows you to be flexible in your planning. For a minimum of time, this region offers maximum impressions and hiking adventures to bring home to.
Expect the unexpected: Even though my sudden decision to reroute diminished all hopes of summiting Zugspitze was difficult, I was comforted with the beauty of the wild Gorge – Höllentalklamm. You learn much about yourself and your boundaries in the mountains. Do not underestimate heat – it can also become a problem.
Starting point: Kreuzeck-Alpspitzbahn, in 15 mins to the base of the Alpspitz-Ferrata 2192 m.
Descend: Over the Ostgrat which turns into the Nordwandsteig, returning to the initial point.
Ascend: 600 m
Distance: 4.1 km
Time: 2.5 hrs (ascend) 2 hrs (descend)
Difficulty: The Alpspitz-Ferrata is graded A/B, which is ideal for beginners, willing to experience an exposed summit climb. The whole passage is perfectly secured, with short intervals of free passages. The crux lays at the base and at the end of the Via-Ferrata. The ascend is North-east facing. This mountain has hardly any shelter along the way, avoid snow or wet conditions.
Gear: Via-Ferrata set, helmet, solid mountain boots with a good sole, sufficient water, weatherproof clothing.
Other Via-Ferrata nearby: Mittenwalder Höhenweg in Karwendel, Ettaler Mandl in the Ammergauer Alps
More stories on our trip and the summit story can be found soon – Larissa from People Abroad and Anja from Mountainista.
Disclaimer: Thanks to my hosts from the Zugspitze Region for the invitation. They helped with transportation, accommodation and activities. While this article outputs my experiences, all contents and views are my own. Please refer to my Disclaimer for more information & blogger transparency.
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