My account of the ascent Joel and I made to the top of Zugspitze in Germany.
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Most fairytales that we know today have origins in Germany. If you ever get the chance to visit, you’ll know why. Bavaria in particular holds a very special place in my heart, as this was the region of Germany that Joel lived in when he was working there. Many of you know that from 2011 – 2012, my husband (then-boyfriend) lived in a small ski town in Southern Bavaria called Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I was lucky enough to visit three times over that year while finishing up my Bachelor’s degree. The first time I went, Joel had his heart SET on hiking the Zugspitze, pronounced ZOOG-SPITZ-EH, for all us Americans out there.
At the time, Zugspitze was absolutely daunting. I was still living in Indiana and had never even really been in the presence of tall mountains, let alone climbed any of them. I have always been really active and in shape, but had never taken on a task like this. Let me put it in perspective:
- Zugspitze is the tallest mountain in Germany standing at 9,718 feet above sea level.
- There is over 7,300 feet of elevation gain. 7,300 FEET OF ELEVATION GAIN.
- It takes the average hiker 8-10 hours to climb, and that’s not including the descent. Many choose to split this over two days.
But I went anyway. We took the Reintal Valley route, which is the most common route. You basically start at the Ski Jump in Garmisch and travel up through Partnachklamm, which is a b-e-a-utiful gorge with streams, waterfalls and rock tunnels.
This first part of the hike is really mild and pleasant. You can hear the streams running below the ground and all around you. Hiking through this gorge was especially beautiful as the sun was rising above us.
There are a few huts that you can stop at for food and drinks long the way, and we did end up stopping at Knorr Hut for coffee but we didn’t stay long. We still had a very long way to go and after this point, the real climb began.
We did this hike in July, but we still needed crampons for the glacier portion of the hike. There was actually a lot of gear we needed for this trip:
- Water, Water, Water
- Plenty of food and snacks to keep energy levels high
- Light jacket
- Rain Jacket
- Crampons (Traction Cleats)
- Climbing harness with clips
We rented all of this in town at WN-Alpin for about 35 euros a piece (I don’t remember the exact price, this was 5 years ago). The gentleman who ran the store spoke English and was very happy to help us figure out what gear we needed and what sizes we should get. I highly recommend them.
The higher up you get, the less greenery and more ice you see. This is looking back at the route before taking on Höllentalferner glacier. See those little dots to the left? Those are other hikers. This is truly a magnificent place and it makes you remember how small we are in the grand scheme of it all.
A bit further up on the glacier.
I forgot to mention that I dubbed myself Queen if the Glacier while we were there, so basically it’s mine. I claimed it. Sorry ’bout it.
Looking forward to our final ascent route. You can baaaaarely see the summit cross towards the top right of the picture. That’s where we were headed. The final leg of this climb was a little terrifying at first. You certainly have to clip into the rock in some areas and there are sections where you are literally just walking across rebar sticking out of the side of the rock.
This is Joel, killin’ it as usual. But as you can see, we are on a vertical rock face. VERTICAL I say. This is essentially your view until you reach the summit.
Aaaaaand BAM, this is the summit. Or one side of it. They built a visitor center here where you can eat, drink, and relax after your 9 HOUR HIKE. That’s right, it took us 9 hours, right on par with your average hiker.
Crazy, crazy views from the summit and honestly unlike any I have ever seen since, even after summitting three Colorado 14ers. We spent about an hour and a half at the top taking it all in. I remember feeling really proud of myself afterward. It was the hardest thing I had ever done physically up until that point and I can’t wait for the chance to go back and see how I do a second time.
Our final activity before heading back to town on the Eibsee-Seilbahn cable car was of course, washing down our adventure with a German beer. This was an experience unlike any other to date and I think it had something to do with the magic of Germany. This is a place I can see myself retiring to and living out my days. It’s the kind of place where children happily walk to school through the fields each morning by themselves and people don’t feel the need to lock their door at night. There are times during the day where they stop traffic to let the cattle cross the street and sometimes you’ll see a neighbor’s rouge chicken running around in your yard.
Basically what I’m trying to say is Germany is my favorite place on earth and I can’t wait to go back someday soon.