Berchtesgadener Alps – Day one, or part of it….

Having been back from the Karwendel Alps for about four days, I was already missing the mountains. The Karwendel having been my first trip of the year, and my big trip in December (Aconcagua) being seemingly so far away still, it was nice to carry on thinking about them and plotting potential new adventures too. And so I found myself talking to my good friend Anna, with whom I regularly cycle, over dinner, and telling her about my most recent adventures.

It became clear about half way through dinner (or maybe it was after about 20 seconds, my memory fails me :)), that Anna was not just interested in hearing about the mountains, but that she (can I use the word desperately?) wanted to go too. To cut a long story short, before the main course was over, we had not only decided to go together, but it also clear that the only weekend available to both of us was the very next one, and so, with my trekking gear not even unpacked from my previous trip, I found myself back on the way to Heathrow to fly back to the Alps. Oh well, go on then, twist my arm!!

The trip 10 days before had initially involved a choice of destinations, and one of the potential options then had been the Berchtesgadener Alps. We instead went to the Karwendel, but having been to the town of Berchestgaden some 20 or so years before, I was very keen to go back, the area being outstandingly beautiful, and steeped in somewhat notorious history.

Berchtesgaden with the Watzmann in the background

The Berchestgadener Alps are in the Northern Limestone Alps, and straddle the south eastern corner of Germany and part of northern Austria close to Salzburg. The mountains lay host to a number of notable peaks, the Höchkönig, at 2,941m (9,650ft) being the highest, and the Watzmann, (2,713m, 8,901ft) Germany’s third highest, being the most famous. The notoriety in the area comes from the area the other side of Berchtesgaden itself, known as the Obersalzburg. It was here during WW2 that Hitler had his mountain retreat, known as the Eagle’s Nest, reportedly also the last place to be liberated in the war, and then home to caches of Nazi Party stolen art and other treasure hordes.

Our trip would see us drive from Munich to Berchtesgaden, and the Königsee, a beautiful lake just south of the town. We would then trek up to a place called the Funtensee, and stay the night in a hut called the Karlingerhaus, before heading further into the mountains.

The Karlingerhaus, by the Funtensee

The Königsee is one of the deepest in Germany and certainly one of the most beautiful. It is flanked by the Watzmann mountain and is like a fjord, having precipitous cliffs on all sides. It is also reputedly the cleanest lake in the country (and that is clean, believe me), and so only electric boats are allowed to travel upon it.

Arriving at the Königsee at about 4pm, having hurriedly armed ourselves with a sandwich, a map, and some water for our Camelbacks from nearby Berchtesgaden, we trekked down to the lake for our departure by boat. I had found out literally only that morning from Verena (who I had been with to the Karwendel) that we must cross the lake by boat to begin our trek. How exciting! Verena was fantastically helpful in terms of getting me last minute information for this trip and so I must thank her publically here for all she did.

Our boat arrives on the Konigsee to take us to St Bartholoma

The lake really is stunningly beautiful, with water a beautiful aqua green, and yet crystal clear with it. The electric boat would take us to a settlement called St. Bartholema, from where we would begin the climb up to the Funtensee. Stepping off the boat after about 45 minutes we got our rucksacks adjusted and ready for the off. The boat had stopped half way along the lake on the way so that the driver could play a flugelhorn at the cliffs and the passengers could listen to the echoes (reputedly up to seven!). This might have been quite nice if we had been tourists, but we just wanted to get up the mountains behind.

On our way down the lake on the boat, St Bartholoma in the distance.

As we started our trek, I looked at the first signpost, which said “Karlingerhaus 5 hrs”. This was immediately quite daunting, and I wondered if we should start walking at all. It would be dark by 9, and by then we would be high in the mountains, and it may well be dangerous to do the walk finishing in the dark. I therefore rang ahead to the hut, and told them that we were just leaving the lake. The helpful man who answered (him talking in German, me in English) managed to let me know that we could get there in 3 and a half to four hours, and so we decided to go for it.

Having walked no more than about five minutes, we came across a German guy coming down. He asked us if we were headed up to the Karlingerhaus, to which we said yes. The guy stopped and just said “Kompliment!”. He looked more than surprised, looked at his watch, said a few things in German which I half understood (i.e. I half didn’t) and was on his way. This made us a bit nervous, as clearly he was intimating that people who started up a five hour walk at 5pm were a bit nuts.

This only though served to spur us on. We knew that the hut was at about 1700m, and my watch showed that we were starting from about 630m, so we had a fair bit of ascent to do. It was basically therefore heads down from that point on.

Looking back down at our initial path up into the mountains

As the path began to steepen up between a series of rock faces, it began to rain fairly heavily, and it would not stop again that night. We were in for a tough ascent, and I began to have doubts as to whether we were doing the right thing going up so late onto a path we had not seen before. Time would tell whether we would get up there or not, and I made a note to have a cut off time whereby we would have to turn back……
{to be continued……….}

One thought on “Berchtesgadener Alps – Day one, or part of it….

  1. Pingback: Glimpses of last summer « the marmot post

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