Peak(s):  Zugspitze - 9718
Date Posted:  11/17/2018
Date Climbed:   10/10/2018
Author:  AnnaG22
 Walking Through A Fairytale   


Distance: 16 miles/25.7 km (to the summit)

Vertical gain: 8000+ feet, 2440 m

Time: 7.5 hours start to summit, 6 hours of moving

Forest bathing: All of it

Questioned own sanity: at least 12 times

Definitely Not Doing That

When I went to Europe in October, I wasn't planning to hike much. The Zugspitze wasn't on my radar when I planned my trip; I just wanted to visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen because I'd heard great things about the towns. As I shared my trip details with friends, though, it became a recurring theme that someone would inevitably bring up the peak. Even my mother asked me (or rather, asked me not to climb it). I looked into it briefly, and preliminary search results all mentioned a harness and crampons. None of the reports I checked were on this site, which has a single trip report for the scrambly and famous Jubilee Ridge. I didn't want to do sustained scrambling involving a harness and possibly crampons solo for my own safety preferences. I also assumed that in October, the mountain would be too icy to qualify as summer conditions anyway.

I Might Have A Problem

Before GaPa, I visited Fuessen and Schwangau to see Ludwig's castles, since that seemed like a requisite of traveling through southern Germany. While there, I happened to summit one of the local peaks, which gave me my first in person look at the Zugspitze, and the first inkling that I might make myself a liar.

I would love to go back here and do some skyrunning

I knew that I wanted to do a run of Mount Wank while in GaPa, since most google searches turned it up as a must do hike. Even before I did, I knew that I was in trouble just from walking through downtown Partenkirchen and taking in the intimidating backdrop of the Zugspitze looming overhead. Meandering my way up the trails on Wank, I knew that I had to at least look into hiking/climbing the tallest peak in Germany, that I would regret it if I didn't. Germany had a very hot and dry summer, and the whole valley was still very much in summer conditions.

View across the valley

What I was able to find on summitpost didn't give me much. One trip report covered doing the peak in half a day, but mostly just said that they hadn't used much extra equipment. The other basic info made it clear that the Reintal (Pure Valley) is the easiest route. Based on that, I decided I would get up the next morning and start hiking and see how far I got. If the miles were slow or I felt in over my head, I would turn around.

It's easy enough to start the hike in Garmisch itself, from the Olympic stadium. Following the road in closer toward the mountain quickly brings you to the Partnachklamm (gorge), which I thought was well worth the 5 euro fee. It's really cool to see the tight, close rocks, soaring cliffs, and even the old blasted tunnels and walkways in the gorge. It felt a bit like going back in time, at least on the human timeline.


Enter the Woods

One of the beauties of the Alps is the regular, reasonably well marked trail signs. Though they won't give distances, they do have names of trails and berghauses, often with time estimates. Following signs for Reintal and Knorrhutte was very straightforward. The Reintal approach overall is definitely class 1 hiking. This might not be some people's cup of tea. For quite a few miles after the gorge, the hike is along a mellow crushed gravel path wide enough for (European) vehicles. I easily held a sub 3mph/5kmph pace for the first 11 miles/18km.

trail signs

fairy tale views

Eventually, after passing the Reintallangerhutte, the trail starts climbing, and how. The next 5 miles average over 1000 vertical gain per mile. This is also where the trail gets fainter and requires watching for cairns and Austrian flags blazed on rocks. This steep trail meanders into the upper valley and passes the Knorrhutte, and from that point the remaining trail deteriorates for a while. The Schneeferner glacier is basically gone, and it's obvious that much of the disappearance has occurred in just the past few decades. The moraine gets steadily more barren and junky the further you ascend, walking across what 100, then 70, then 15 years ago was snow and ice. This especially noticeable between Sonnalpin and beginning of the klettersteig (via ferrata), which presently is a highly traveled several hundred foot freeforall flail up kitty litter.

the klettersteig


The klettersteig itself was considerably easier than I had anticipated; imagine if the final wall on Colorado's Wetterhorn was less steep and had iron handrails switchbacking up it. This starts about 3/4 of a mile from the summit and was really fun class 3 scrambling, with the added safety of the iron. If it were icy, a harness and lanyard would definitely be helpful, as would microspikes.

The downside of the summit development: ugly buildings (from the outside, anyway) and masses of tourists. The upside: hot food and drink that you didn't have to carry, so long as you've brought some euros with you, and the easy way down, should you so choose. That said, you do have to go through this infrastructure to get to the actual summit. There is a "proceed at your own risk" sign at the top of some scaffolding, and from there you can descend those stairs before scrambling the last little section of klettersteig, which is extremely airy.

On the summit

The summit and Jubilaumsgrat from the viewing deck

After returning to the deck, I was pretty stoked to order a milchkaffee (latte) and pastry, before taking the tram and the train back to GaPa. If you visit the area during relatively dry conditions, I would highly recommend this route, which can be broken up into two days if you make a reservation at one of the huts.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
11/18/2018 10:18
It really does look like a fairy tale. You certainly were moving quickly.

11/18/2018 10:39
Looks gorgeous!

11/19/2018 11:25
I lucked out on weather for my entire trip. Jay, really, the first 10-11 miles of the route are more like walking than hiking.

Tap your red shoes together
11/20/2018 09:23
and chant: 'there's no place like Zugspitze' three times and you'll be back!
Enjoyed this one, Annalise. Your writing evokes your deep passion for adventure. I look forward to more from you!

11/20/2018 14:32
Got this on the list for next summer. Enjoyed the read.

Bayern Wanderlust
11/20/2018 18:09
Rob, I'm definitely going to go back. So much fun running/hiking/scrambling to be had in southern Germany. If you're at either of the December HHs, I'd be happy to chat about the writing is a bit rusty at present.

Conor, I'm glad that I ended up doing it, it was one of the highlights of my trip. I've also heard good things about the Hoellental route.

12/16/2018 15:32
Did the Zugspitze years ago when I was stationed in Bamburg, Germany. An amazing four years of my life!
The Dolomites are another fairy tale destination to climb and ski!

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