Paraffin Pathfinder, 28th June 2013
Is there ever a need to make excuses to go walking in the mountains?
With Teutontic punctuality, the train slid out of Hauptbahnhof Munchen on one of the frequent ninety minute services.
Soon the foot hills of the Wetterstein Mountains flashed by effortlessly under a dreary sky – not the best light, but the new camera just had to be tested.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the start point of the trek around Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze.
The simple expediency worked and history now records the sprawling alpine resort as the host of the 1936 Winter Olympics. But is a year-round ski playground a good place for a summer hiking holiday? …oh, yes.
After a short bus ride to the Olympic Stadium, the first stop was the Partnachklamm. Before it became a national monument in 1912, the gorge was used to transport timber downstream for the local community. The visitor is treated to an insight as to the hazards facing the men who risked life and limb to unlock the logjams.
From the far end of the gorge, the trail itself leads steeply up a zigzag path through the woods to the alpine meadows at Forsthaus Graseck where refreshment awaits the hiker after the testing gradient.
Here mown meadows are raked by hand and a tenacious winter reveals a late spring blooming. To the south west, tantalising views of the Zugspitze appear; snow capped in the sunshine, swathed in mystery when cloudy.
I wonder what it’s like today? Check out the video cam.
Although this is definitely ski territory, the cable cars rumble throughout the green months and offer an easy way up the mountains. Nevertheless, be sure to take the Panoramweg on your way to Eckbauer and, when you’ve stomped up under your own steam, the picnic tastes sooo much better when you stop…
Onward, along the Wamberg ridge overlooking Elmau, to the sleepy village of Klais where Deutsche Bahn wafts tired travellers to the first day’s end: Mittenwald. What a pretty town!
The front door to the Post Hotel opens onto a pedestrian thoroughfare that feels like one, continuous cafe. Spic and span, with frescoes adorning houses and shops, this transalpine route centre is famous for its violin making as well as the through passage of Spanish gold during the Dutch War of Independence. The protestant English were known to be sympathetic towards the Dutch secessionists and the sea route to the Low Countries was just too risky for King Philip ll of Spain, paymaster of the occupying troops.
…there still room for a little extra fuel for the road ahead.
The walk out of Mittenwald shows off its picture book character..
Each street seems like an art gallery, every wall tells a story.
The milky blue water of a glacial stream beckons the walker through pastoral scenery to the entrance of the Leutasch Klamm. Oh really? Yawn, another gorge, as good as yesterday’s?
Entrance to the gorge is free, at least from the bottom, and the trekker heads upward on the now familiar zigzag paths.
Perhaps the strawberry gateau wasn’t such a great idea, but soon you look down on the waterfall below and the beautifully engineered elevated walkway stretches in front of you.
There are two kilometres of dizzy views to enjoy.
The village of Weidach was a double night stop with an easy half day walk to Seefeld planned. However, our cheery and knowledgable hostess at the Hotel Garni Weidacherhof had a shrewd eye for those inclined for something a little more adventurous. If the weather is good and you are in Seefeld anyway, why not try the High Route to the Nordlinger Hut? Well, we went to Seefeld, the weather was good and we did try it!
The view from the top of the ReitherSpitze, 2373m…. clic to start the movie!
Wobbly video? Yeah, sorry, but I sorta felt the need to hold on. This side trip was not on the itinerary and the last climb is a bit tougher than moderate but a ride on the cable car and the hike up to Seefelder Spitze, 2220m, is a great day out for anyone.
The route up to Seefelder Spitze, an easy path all the way to the cross at the top.
Back at the Weidacherhof, the aprés climb was sweet. Within an hour of returning, the heavens opened and a cloudburst bounced rain onto the roads as high as the hubcaps and our ever accommodating hostess drove us to a right royal meal at a family run local restaurant, Gasthof Kuehtaierhof . Fresh trout, Forelle Müllerin, with greens and potatoes just out of the ground, washed down with an amber helles bier and followed by home made ice cream. Ahhh, what a day.
On passing the unknown skier, Wiedach was left behind as the minibus sped to the head of the Gaistal Valley. The widely read German novelist and playwright, Ludwig Ganghofer, worked in and wrote much about this region. Despite his popularity, his nationalistic jingoism during the war years of 1915-17 attracted criticism from within his own country. Today’s visitors have long departed from his ideals but follow his footsteps along the Ganghoferweg to Ehrwald.
The camera groaned as it struggled to encompass the views.
Peace and tranquility were the order of today and the trails belonged to us. Yet a gasthof with coffee was never far away, and it was easy to imagine that the proprietors of the Gaistalalm could have been walkers who just hung up their boots and said, “Why go further?”
Steadily the road to the cable car at Erhwalder Alm climbed through the fir trees, away from the main track, cutting across fast running rivulets racing to join the Leutascher Ache flowing down to the gorge at Mittenwald.
Before boarding the gondola to Erhwald, there was a last taste of the sights and sounds of the alpine meadow as the weather began to close in.
CowBells… ( turn up the sound )
Finally, after four days walking around the Zugspitze, we catch our first full view of it.
Last day today.
The trail leads out of the quiet town and slants up the forested flank of the King of the Wetterstein, towards the German border and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The damp air of the previous evening hangs around and it is wet under foot. It feels great to be alive. En route there is the odd surprise.
A huge plate of fish bones, breakfast for a giant perhaps?
The thought of food is a reminder of our own needs. Well, yes, we did have breakfast but all this fresh air does stimulate the appetite.
Out of the forest pops the Hochthorle Hutte and sustenance is at hand.
The trail leads on over the toes of the Zugspitze and the surface leaves the forest track to crumble into rocky pathway. Dropping downhill through dense woods, there is another border crossing. No fuss, no formality, no customs officer – and you are back in Germany. Sometimes the stainless steel tubes of the snow cannon stand on guard as the trail leads you across green ski pistes.
The walker almost stumbles upon the large expanse of the Eibsee and its smaller siblings; Frillensee, Braxensee and Untersee.
…it is perhaps the Untersee that best displays the water’s true clarity. Even on a dull day, it leaves a lasting impression.
What is now a major tourist attraction languished undisturbed until 1884 when it was bought by an enterprising businessman. The Second World War interrupted the lake’s development but what was once dubbed the “gypsy puddle” by the locals has hosted religious and political leaders, foreign statesmen and media celebrities.
A ride on the funicular completes the circle round the Zugspitze back at Garmisch Partenkirchen. Smoothly the Deutsche Bahn train powered us back to Munich and the flight home to London.
Already the memories linger on the high points of the walk, drifting amongst the grand peaks like the gathering clouds between the mountains.
Danke, Macs Adventure, hatten wir viel Spaß!
Happy Hiking, Walkers.