Hiking the Zugspitze!
This summer when my friend Cindy said she was coming for a visit and told me that hiking the Zugspitze with her kids was on her “bucket list,” I jumped at the chance to join them. Of course, and bring my faithful daughter and hiker, Katy. The Zugspitze, is the highest mountain in Germany at 2,962 meters (over 9,700ft) and the site of the Olympic skiing training center. I was intrigued and so excited for this adventure in Europe.
Cindy had completed this amazing feat awhile back with some friends and really wanted to share this experience with her kids. Since we had an early morning rise, we decided to spend a night in Oberammergau. This quaint town is close by at the base of the Zugspitze in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GP) and one of my favorite smaller Bavarian towns.
We made hotel reservations at the Park Hotel Sonnenhof, a wonderful hotel along the Ammergau river and city park. Arriving in the afternoon, we decided to ride the Alpinecoaster. It was a BLAST! Brand new and only a few minutes away we had to try it out.
Having blogged about Oberammergau last year, I knew right where we needed to have dinner also, so I made reservations at Hotel Maximilian. Also a brewery, I knew my friends and my family would love this place.
Specializing in preparing local traditional Bavarian dishes like Roasted Haxen (Pork knuckle), Pan-fried Weinerschnitzel (Breaded and pan-fried veal schnitzel) and I enjoyed Pork Roast (Braten) in a gravy sauce and of course Bratwurst and sauerkraut.
Service is impeccable and decor incredible. Wooden carved tables, big copper beer vats and inviting atmosphere, this restaurant is an absolute keeper. Lots of great opportunities for beautiful pictures here. With full bellies and lots of rain we headed back to the hotel for a good night sleep before our big trek.
Rucksacks packed, boots on!
We met Bert & Coco (our trekking guide and furry companion) at the Olympic stadium in Garmisch to begin our two-day journey. Our starting point was about 740m (2,428 ft.) taking the Reintal route.
With barely overcast skies, we headed up the mountain. Our first stop the Partnach gorge. Thankful today for the rain yesterday, Bert told us the views would be quite different if we had not had the rain the day before.
The walk through this dark cavernous trail are unbelievable and unforgettable. The gorge is only a 25 minute walk from the parking lot of the Olympic stadium and costs €4/person.
Once we left the gorge, the sun came out and started warming up our path. We passed several “steinmandl.” Bert told me that these are markers that people make additional key points for hikers to know their way.
On the first day, we hiked about ten miles, the level was easy to medium but hiking boots are imperative for this trip, ankle level. After about two hours we stopped at the Bockhütte for a little warm lunch, potty break, then we were off again.
We hiked for another four hours and found ourselves at the ReintalangerHütte, the alpine hut were we set up camp for the night.
A few notes about our alpine hut accommodations –
- Each hut offers a different package, we signed up for half-board (this included our breakfast and a choice of two entrees for dinner)
- Beverages were on our own (bring some Euro)
- Also, we paid for our stay on-site total with board was about €40 – €50person depending on the room you choose
- Remember to take off your boots outside (they’ll have a room set-up) this is not only courteous but required.
- Bring a pair of slip-on shoes, flip-flops or slippers to wear around the hut
- We brought light sleeping bags, although they provide blankets, you’ll want this for extra warmth. (don’t pack one too heavy, you’ll have to carry it.)
- Sleeping conditions are like summer camp. There were six to a bed, although we only had four the night we were there. Snug as a bug…I tell you!
- Be prepared to carry your trash, bring an extra baggie to keep your non-eco friendly trash contained and carry it with you.
Our space was comfortable, clean and they did have showers. You just might have to wait your turn or bring some wipies.
We woke up early to hear a traditional accordion song played for “rising” the guests. Check-out is at 8:30 a.m.! Time to hit the trail. Coco was ready to go!
Our final ascent
Bert told me the ascent from the ReintalangerHütte to the Sonnalpin is about 1200m and then from there it’s another 1600m. Lots of height to cover. Cindy had used the AlpineSchule Garmisch GbR years ago and felt comfortable with organizing the trip again through this great company. Ask for Michl. Bert was the most amazing guide. Certified hike rescuer, nurse and alpine trekking guide his credentials were endless. He shared some of the most incredible stories of the places he’s been, getting to know him and Coco were GREAT!
I could tell he was a little bit of a historian because he delighted in showing us the origin of the waterfall through the valley. This walk through one of the only flat parts I can remember, reminded me of an overnight hike I took with some of my Alabama girls.
Bert continued to show us landmarks like the (little red rescue hut) on the mountain, the kircheturm (church tower) and the “chamois.” These are mountain goats that run the hills of Bavaria. Coco the ever present eagle eye would spot them way before we did.
So today was A LOT harder than yesterday, even though it was only about three kilometers it would take us 5.5 hours to complete. Although I have been practicing for this hike in the Black Forest, I was not prepared for my rucksack(backpack) weight and the altitude. I realized at about 2,000m I needed more training hikes.
Along the way we met some friends who were more than eager to stop and get some lovin’ from us, the furry kind. It was really great to take these mini-stops. We also learned a little Bavarian phrase like “servus.” In this part of Germany, you say this as you approach and when you leave a person for “hello” and “goodbye.” I LOVED IT!
The paths are well marked, but I can’t imagine NOT taking a guide with you. Several times, I got off path and Bert was nice enough to help me traverse (yes, I had to traverse) a few times to get corrected. Hmmm, a life lesson. Many times on this journey I thought about God and how this must be one of His favorite places to be, glad I was there too.
After about two hours we stopped again for lunch at the Knorrhütte, here I enjoyed some “pfannkuchen suppe.” A wonderful vegetable broth with protein pancake strips in them. Quite good on a warm, but windy day. Once we stopped moving we would get a little chilled. Even in August. The Knorrhutte has overnight accommodations as well and serves as a stopping point in both directions of this trail.
We MADE IT!!
We did IT! I was so happy to see the 2,630m (7,290 ft.) sign. Here was our final stopping point before taking the cable car up to the top of the summit. There are many people who climb the remaining 300m but Bert convinced us that we did indeed did climb the mountain and that this dangerous part of the journey would be better if we had a little bit more experience. Although, he did say he would be more than glad to help us try it out. We were fatigued and ready for some warm hot food and ice cold beer at the SonnenAlpin.
Almost 12 hours of hiking in two days and 13 miles covered, I am thrilled we DID it! I would absolutely do it again (with a little bit more practice.) Now, I’m catching the bug and can’t wait to sign up for another.
Views from the top
The Summit is under construction right now replacing the old gondola it’s about €52 for a round-trip ticket (if you don’t hike it) and €31 one way. A little steep I know but worth it!
- This is another restaurant in Oberammergau that Bert recommends in Oberammergau
Restaurant “der Zauberstub’n” (means “the wizzard”), a cool guy that works speaks many, many languages. His name is Vlado… Very good food and he comes to the tables and shows magic tricks, cool for Kids!!!