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The Climbing Club • View topic - Climbing Germany's ugliest mountain, the Zugspitze 5/28-29

The Climbing Club

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2005 5:52 am 
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UW Climber
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Joined: Wed Nov 20, 2002 9:51 pm
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Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze (9717 ft, 2962 m) near Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Wettersteingebirge (part of the Bavarian Alps), is probably also it's ugliest mountain. Here's a shot of the summit:
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Apparently it's a big symbol of national importance for the Germans. Embarrassingly though, the summit is barely short of the 3000 m mark and, to make matters worse, it's shared with Austria... So what's on the summit: Well there is a hut owned by the Deutscher Alpenverein, then there is an over 100 year old meteorological station (apparently staffed 24 hours around the clock), then there are restaurants and souvenir shops, research installations, and a bunch of antennas (which is why this looks like a great place for E.T. to phone home). And for convenience, there are no less than 3 cable cars and one mountain railway serving the summit: The railway and one cable car ascend from the German side, one cable car from the Austrian side, and one cable car from the Zugspitzplatt, which is an all-year-skiing area a few hundred meters below the summit on Germany's only glacier.
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Well, as ugly as the summit is, there are a number of beautiful routes to climb it. At the end of May, Andreas, Claus-Dieter and I went for it. We chose the route through the Höllental ("hell valley"). We had been there two weeks earlier when the route was still buried in snow and it wasn't possible to do. But by now the route had melted out considerable. (In the alps one tries to do popular routes very early in the season when the crowds aren't there yet.)

We left Munich at 5.30am on Saturday morning and arrived at Grainau, a small village near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. After parking the car in a no-parking-zone we started the route at 6:45am. At the beginning, the trails ascends through forest and soon enters the Höllentalklamm, a narrow gorge. At the entrance of the gorge there is a hut, the Höllentaleingangshütte, where one can eat and also has to pay 1 Euro entrance fee. The gorge is pretty cool, with lots of waterfalls. To make it accessible, tunnels have been blasted through the rock and a few steal bridges have been installed (there are removed each winter). In the gorge, water (and a few rocks) come from above and one is well advised to wear rain gear even on a sunny day such as this one.

At the end of the gorge the valley widens and soon we reached the Höllentalangerhütte where we had a quick breakfast. The trail continues toward the "ladder" and "Brett", where it turns into a via ferrata. The "Brett" is a steep rock slope that one traverses on steel pins. Next we passed over a snow field toward the Höllentalferner, a permanent snow field, that does spot a few cracks. After crossing the bergschrund around 12:15pm we reached the final part, a via ferrata that leads up to the summit. As I said, there was still a lot of snow on the route and we belayed a few times when the steal cables where buried in the snow. This was a nice day and so the sun was pondering the steep parts which caused a series of small avalanches to rumble down the rock wall. There where no avalanches were we where, they were mostly on a rock section where the route would cross just before reaching the summit. Upon closer inspection, we could see that these avalanches where triggered by climbers crossing snowfields high up in the wall. One could observe how they got bigger and bigger, sweeping ice chunks and rocks down to the Höllentalferner. It was cool to watch and made a lot of noise but it also made us feel a bit timid:
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Well, we pressed on, went past the Irmerscharte and reached the summit just after 16:30pm. We had taken our time on this climb because it is a bit demanding, with over 2000 m (6000 ft) of elevation gain. We had been warned that our last meters on the route would be watched by dozens of tourists snapping pictures. But when we arrived the summit was empty because the last cable car left the summit at 4:30 pm. Happily we checked in at the hut, had a good dinner and went to bed.
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The next morning we awoke to the sound of an alphorn being played by an old men in traditional costume. Successively, he pulled out more and more musical instruments: a trumpet, a cittern, a accordion and started to play those. Needless to say, he wasn't a virtuoso playing all of these instruments. So we accelerated the pace of getting ready for the down climb just so we could escape the noise.
[url=http://danielarndt.com/photos/photo.php?id=2005-0529-0378]
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At 10am we were ready. Next was a pretty steep section leading down to the Zugspitzplatt ski area. There was a lot of snow on this part and we had to brake trail. There where a few fairly steep snow fields that we had to traverse, triggering small avalanches on the way. Well, we tried to belay as much as possible but we didn't feel comfortable at all. Luckily, we didn't have our packs along as Andreas took the cable car down and our packs with him. At the end we had to descend a snow field that looked a bit avalanche prone. So we descended that part one by one, knowing that we were being watched not only by tourists on the summit, but also by the cable cars passing above us, and by the big antennas. This made us feel a bit safer. Should anything happen, somebody would see it.
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At noon we reached the Zugspitzplatt where we reconvened with Andreas and started the long walk down through the Rheintal. At 2pm we passed the Knorrhütte where we had a quick snack. A few hours later we passed the Rheintalangerhütte where we had dinner. At 7pm we reached the Partnachklamm, another narrow gorge that is pretty cool.
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After passing the gorge we finally arrived back in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Since we didn't feel like crossing the town to get to the car we took a cab. 15 minutes later we where at the car and found the expected parking ticket under the windshield wiper. We split the 24 Euros among the three of us. 8 Euros felt about fair for two days of illegal parking. An hour later we where back in Munich.

Here are some more pictures from and .


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2005 10:47 am 
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An Old Geezer
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Joined: Wed Sep 04, 2002 2:27 pm
Posts: 1182
Wow. I'm really grateful for the wilderness around here after reading that. Having a warm dinner served to you on the summit is pretty cool, though.

Thanks for the TR!


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