Zugspitze Part 2

So the next morning having been awake for a little while, at 6.30 in the morning the sound of accordion and guitar were heard outside the bedroom door, followed by a very cheery cry of “Aufstehen”, or “wake up”. This was rather nice actually, and if you look at the video in the link I have posted below you get to know exactly what it is like:


The guy who talks there in the video, Simon, runs the place, and it was he who I then encountered at 6.30 in the morning, and the news he delivered was not, sadly, ‘music’ to my ears. He said that there was already about 25cm of fresh snow lying at a height of 2,000m, but that worse, there was expected about 1 metre (!) during the day, and that we “must go down”. This was awful. I knew he was right, and had to listen and respect what he said, but it was so sad to have come so far to do the Zugspitze, to find out that you couldn’t go there at all, despite being already half way. Sometimes though you just have to respect the mountain and the conditions, and there was no choice.

I walked back into the dormitory and gave the news to Heather, who felt the same as me. In fact everyone who was staying there in the room and in the hut, had to suffer the same fate – we were all to go down and not up that day. So after a nice if rather slower and more sombre breakfast than we would have chosen, it was on with every piece of waterproof kit that we had.

The view out outside was basically one of torrential rain, with no view of the mountain tops, but evidence of snow not far above us – what a change from the day before!

The view from the room - this was as much of the mountain as we would see all day

So we were about to head off when at this point I got the text from Darina and Paul to say that they had successfully summitted Kilimanjaro. And that was such fantastic news, and it lifted my spirits hugely. The trip down the mountain though was just plain wet, pure and simple, such an amazing contract to the day before. I did get to try my new waterproofs out though, which worked fantastically well:

A brave face outside the Reintalangerhutte before we headed off the 'wrong' way, down the mountain.

The walk down was easy, punctuated only by passing walkers from the hut heading the same sad way as us. An interesting moment was had half way down, when a German guy pointed to the river and saw his sleeping bag floating downstream. This was made all the more strange by virtue of the fact that this was Saturday and he had dropped it upstream two days before! He managed to fish it out, and looked very pleased with himself as a result. By the time we got down to the Partnachklamm, after maybe three hours or so, the effects of the torrential rain could be seen in full force.

The stream had become a massively noisy torrent....

The gorge was even more spectacular than the previous day, and the noise of the river that it now was made it even more incredible. No photograph that I could take or show here could do it justice, but you just had to stare open mouthed at the power of the whole thing. It was truly amazing. We reached the bottom of the mountain at about noon in the end, and stopped at a little restaurant for some outstanding Schnitzel (for me) and soup for Heather (she doesn’t eat mammals).

The food was outstanding, (as was everything I ate in Germany) and was washed down with a rather pleasant glass of Lowenbrau – it is amazing how wonderful it tastes over there – I never drink lager at all at home, it is just so gassy and tasteless to me – but this was wonderful.

So having reached Garmisch we looked for a place to stay, and stopped at the first place we came to, which was a lovely little hotel called the AlpenGruss, which we had passed on the way up.

Hotel Alpengruss, Garmisch-Partenkirchen - perfect!

With backpacks duly stashed it was straight out of the door again, and we were headed for only one thing – back to the mountain! Having not been able to climb the damn thing didn’t mean that we weren’t going to get to the top, and there was a cablecar somewhere, which we hoped would be operating. The owner of the hotel told us we had 20 minutes or so to catch it. So having found a train to take us to the other side of the mountain, by about 2.30pm we were hurtling up the mountain into the clouds on what is a stupidly scary cable car.

I am not brilliant with heights (why do I then love mountains so much?), and this ride was made more unnerving by the fact that you would be in blanket cloud with two feet of visibility one minute, and then momentarily it would clear and you would be some 2,000 feet or more up in the air. I learned afterwards that the gain that the cable car makes of 1,950 metres (and in a distance of only 4,450 metres) is the highest of all single section cable car journies. It was however hugely spectacular – the views to the Eibsee were breathtaking – it is the most ridiculous shade of green that you have ever seen. Here is some more info on the Eibsee too:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eibsee http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eibsee_Cable_Car http://www.germany-tourism.de/ENG/destination_germany/master_tlregion-id151.htm

The incredible waters of the Eibsee at the foot of the Zugspitze

So the cable car took us to the very summit of the Zugspitze. The cable car station just looks like it shouldn’t or couldn’t have been built there. It perches so ridiculously precariously on the top of the mountain that it looks like it should collapse or fall off at any moment. Just looking over the side of the railings from the restaurant gave me vertigo.

The Zugspitze cable car station/restaurant - pretty it certainly is not.

So at the cable car station there was huge anounts of freash snow, and we realised just how impossible our attempts would have been even if we had been stupid enough to try to ignore the advice we had been given earlier that same morning. There is literally no way that it would have been possible. But, after all, we were there, and it was wonderful just to have that feeling you get when you are on top of a mountain. And this one, believe me, is very very special.

The top of the cable car station, 2,962 metres, the roof of Germany.

The difficulty that we would have faced in trying to get up to the top by our own means was evidenced by the fact that even to try to get to the summit itself, some 20 metres away from where we stood, was just impossible due to all the snow. But here is a picture of the summit itself:

The summit of the Zugspitze in the background - we never did get to stand at the very top itself due to the snow

We never did get to stand up there by the gold cross. To do so would have meant climbing down from those railings pictured above, and across an icy ledge with a 3,000 foot drop below and nothing to save you. Then you would have reached the ladder shown below:

The iron ladder leading to the very top. It was not going to happen sadly.

One slip from here and you would be dead, simple as that. It was an easy choice in the end not to go up there.

The top of the mountain straddles the border of Austria and Germany, and in the restuarant on the Austrian side of the mountain they were having their own Oktoberfest! I would have loved to have stayed and had a beer, but unfortunately that would have meant missing our cablecar down, as the last one was at 4.45pm – shame!

There was however a view of sorts of the glacier, the only one in Germany, and we were glad at least to have safety now on our side. For me it was a moment of pure reflection. I was very glad to be at the highest point in Germany, disappointed that I hadn’t got there under my own steam, but very glad to be safe, and respectful of the mountain and the elements, which will, if they decide to, always beat you in the end.

So we left via another cable car off the other side of the mountain, and then back into Garmisch via the funicular railway. The journey was ridiculously pretty, the area is totally beautiful, and I vowed, promised myself, that I would be back. What do they say in Slumdog Millionnaire – “it is written“?  – well I believe that it most certainly is.


So having had a few days of beer at the Oktoberfest, it was a pleasure/delight and relief all rolled into one to wake up and be heading for the mountains.

The Zugspitze is the highest mountain in Germany, at 2,962 metres above sea level. It is located on the Austrianborder beside the town of Grainau in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in the federal-state of Bavaria. On the Austrian side lies the town of Ehrwald in the district of ReutteTyrol.

We headed off to Garmisch-Partenkirchen by train after an early start, and carried just what we needed for the next few days on our backs. I had booked us into an alpine hut, called the Reintalangerhutte, which was half way up the mountain, for the Friday night, and we would need to walk all day after arriving just to get there before nightfall.

Despite a bad weather forecast, we arrived into Garmisch-Partenkirchen with typical German efficiency exactly on schedule about an hour and twenty minutes after leaving Munich, into glorious sunshine. The winter clothing was heavy on our backs, but we were naturally glad of the beautiful conditions. Shortly after leaving the train station, and after getting stocked up with picnic supplies for the journey, we began the trek – and soon came upon the site of the 1936 Winter Olympics – the famous ski-jumping station – shown in the picture below in the background:


The Olympic Ski-Jumping slopes in Garmisch


By the time we were on our route at the base of the mountain itself it was around 11am, following a little bit of ‘ahem’ bad planning by me (in fact I had no idea which direction our route was going to take us at all, but ‘all’s well that ends well’, as they say:)). Stopping to ask someone how far away the Reintalangerhutte was, we were told six to seven hours, and so figured we’d need to move quickly to ensure getting there before darkness fell.

Shortly after beginning our trek up the Reintal Valley (there are two routes up the mountain, the Hollerental, or the Reintal – we picked the easier route in case the weeather got bad on us), we came upon the Partnachklamm. This is a deep and amazingly beautiful gorge, about half a mile long, which takes you up and through onto the base of the Zugspitze. Some information on it here below:


It was stunningly beautiful, and it came as a total surprise. Here are some pictures in the gorge itself:


At the start of the Partnachklamm - the 'Nach' is the name of the river


Part of the path plunges you into total darkness, and then you are out to the incredibly loud torrents of water flowing from the mountain. It is glacial meltwater, and an incredible shade of blue. It is literally one of the most stunning things I have ever seen.

Coming out from the gorge and its noise was a revelation, all of a sudden the river became quieter, and the place was beautiful.  A few reviews that I had read beforehand had said that the Zugspitze was not an attractive mountain – they were wrong – take it from me it is stunning. Here are a few piccies from the other side of the gorge:


A beautiful day for a walk....



The mountain starts to come into view....



And this was where we stopped for lunch - glorious!


From here the walk began to get much steeper, and we walked for another four hours or so, the path following the river all the way. The weather was so hot all the way, probably 25 or so celsius, and very warm for climbing uphill. I was very glad of my Camelback, and went through almost three litres of water. We passed huge waterfalls and saw the river in almost every stage, albeit it was clearly a very quiet time of year for it – in the spring after the snows melt it must be totally incredible. I made a note at this point I think to say that I needed to come back here, I was engrossed and awestruck by the majesty of this place, it just felt really special.

At about 4pm, and earlier than we expected, we came to our mountain hut. It was bigger than I expected it to be, and quite imposing. It was at about 1,600 metres, or 5,200 feet, basically about half way up as far as ascent of the Zugspitze was concerned.


The Reintalangerhutte, Reintal Valley, Wetterstein Alps


The hut sleeps about 60 people in total I believe. The best way I could describe it was to be very, well ‘German’. The chap who runs the place, Simon, did an excellent job, and also speaks English, which was certainly a blessing, even though I can get by in my pidgin German. The accommodation is basic, but clean, and was certainly very welcome.


Dormitory sleeping arrangements, Zugspizte style - this room slept 20 or so


After a hearty dinner, and a few glasses of beer, it was off to bed. We were to be woken by the staff at 6.30am for the trek to the summit. Before we went off, the weather outside turned wet and cold all of a sudden. I spent what I can only describe as a fitful night listening to the rain, and was awake by 4. I was rather worried that at the altitude we were at, that the path might become tricky higher up. And by morning, sadly, that was to prove very much the case.

(….to be continued….)


So I have almost recovered now from the Oktoberfest, having been now back home for over a week. I still have bruises, am still tired, but the hangover has at last gone. Just. What will not fade ever is the memory of it all. It was utterly fantastic, and way way better than I expected it to be.

For those who don’t know, Oktoberfest is a 16- to 18-day festival held each year in MunichBavariaGermany, running from late September to the first weekend in October. It is one of the most famous events in Germany and the world’s largest fair, with more than 6 million people attending every year. This year I think they had 6.4 million people. It is a combination of a massive fairground, and massive beer tents, holding between 6,000 and 10,000 people each. The drinking starts at breakfast time and continues until everyone cannot drink anymore, which for some is by lunchtime.

Beer is drunk by the ‘mass’ or litre, and served by frauleins wearing traditional dress – the ‘dirndl’ as it is called. It costs about €8.80 a pop, or call it a tenner by the time you have given a tip. It is glorious! So here are some piccies for your delectation and delight -I have put on here only the ones that are suitable for a family audience, as it were:


"A beer tent", one of about 20 or so


So the above was taken at about 10am in the morning, before the crowds got going. Suffice to say it was bedlam by the evening. Here also is the inside of a tent, the decorations are amazing:


The inside of the Hacker-Pschorr tent, breakfast-time


Generally at about noon, the singing gets going. For the majority of the afternoon it is a mixture of singalong stuff ranging from oompah music to almost country music (“Take me home, Country Roads” was played I do not know how many times). Every fifteen minutes or so, no matter what is going on, you have the ubiquitous German toast of “Ein Prosit”. Here is an example if you don’t know it already:

The above is a fairly tame version I found on YouTube, but you get the idea.

If you are sensible, after a couple of beers or so, you go and get some fresh air and wander around the fair. It is massive – here is a picture taken from the big wheel, although much of what you can see seems to be beer tents from here:


From the Ferris Wheel, lunchtime, Tuesday, probably.


As the day goes on, if you are still capable, you get to experience an evening. I can only describe the evenings as completely and utterly insane. Imagine about 10,000 Jim Carreys at his wildest, on acid, and you are half way there. The music takes you from Abba to AC/DC, from Robbie Williams to Frank Sinatra, from “Sweet Caroline” to “Sweet Home Alabama”. You know the words to every song, and you sing your head off. You stand on the benches or on the table, because everyone else is doing the same, and you act like a demented drunken idiot, because in fact that is exactly what you are.

Somehow amongst the hats, the chicken (best chicken I have ever tasted by the way, strange but true), the lederhosen, the singing, the endless litres of beer, the funny t-shirts, the dancing, and the most cosmopolitan atmosphere you will ever witness, everyone has the most fantastic time ever. The atmosphere is nothing short of brilliant, at every moment. Some more piccies for you:


Need to get this T Shirt

Ein prosit!

Sweet Caroline!

I have tried to upload Sweet Caroline on video – to give you a little idea of just how well we all can sing:), but it doesn’t seem to have worked – oh well, probably just as well!

I will leave the Oktoberfest for now, and then tell you about in my next post about the Zugspitze, which was certainly a tale of two distinct sets of weather, and a lesson in respect for mountains.




Cycling, Oktoberfest and The Zugspitze!

Pretty random combination of things right there don’t you think? I agree!

So first to a cycling update. I have been cycling! I went out on both Saturday and Sunday around Wallingford in Oxfordshire. My current schedule says that I should be doing 10-15 miles on each of Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and what with all this being away stuff then I have not been as diligent as I might have been. So inbetween spectatoring at a six-a side under 11s football tournament on Saturday (well done Ed!), and then marshalling at the Thames 10k run on Sunday morning (well done Mel, you were fantastic!), I got a couple of rides in.

I went on both occasions towards Nettlebed and Ewelme and RAF Benson, and did about 12 or 13 miles on both occasions. It was hot on both days, and so pretty hard work for me right now in my current state of unfitness, but rewarding nonetheless. I definitely need to get this thing into a routine, or I am not going to be anywhere near ready for this ride in September. I am already worried about it, especially the first day. 96 miles with about 7,000 ft of ascent is going to kill me, especially when I then I have to get up and do the same thing again for four days running.

So last night (Tuesday) I went out also. My legs were (I am ashamed to say) pretty tight from the weekend (told you I wasn’t match fit yet didn’t I), and I wasn’t even sure how far I would get. As it turned out all went fine, and I had a great ride. I did 16.2 miles in 56 minutes, my best average so far, and so I was quite happy. I know I have a long long way to go with this, but that is the best I can do right now, and so I will keep persevering.

Oh and also I have ordered my nice new shirt for the GBBR – there is a piccie of it below, and we get them as part of our entrance monies. Apparently all 200 riders (hope I am still one of them by them!) will wear them as we ride into Twickenham together on September 4th – should be great!

So where you might ask does the Oktoberfest and the Zugspitze fit into this? And what in fact is the Zugspitze, I hear you say also.

Well, since staying with Heather last week you may know that we are plotting to do a little (!) trek next year, possibly Aconcagua (in our dreams perhaps). Well there was a little gap in this year’s schedule, and I mentioned to her that I had always fancied going to the Oktoberfest in Germany. So Heather said “I’ll come!”, and that was that! The Oktoberfest is of course the world’s largest carnival, with about 8 million attendees. Most people (like me:)) will be there for the beer tents and the sausages, as I will be able to indulge heartily in both as it will be about two weeks post the GBBR.

Here is a little piccie of the inside of an Oktoberfest beer tent to whet my appetite, if no-one elses:

Looks like an awful place, doesn’t it:)

And then whilst planning the Oktoberfest Heather mentioned that her not being a big beer drinker might mean that she didn’t envisage spending three weeks there just drinking beer. I thought that was a bit selfish personally, as I think three weeks of beer drinking is a perfectly normal thing to do, and I may well need someone to carry me out of the beer tent each evening:). So anyway, I agreed, and suggested that we combine said little trip with a little walking too – well it would almost be rude not to, as we will be at the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, an area I absolutely love.

So after a little bit of googling I came across this:

This, ladies and gentlemen is the Zugspitze. The Zugspitze is the highest mountain in Germany, at 2,962 metres (just under 10,000 ft) above sea level. Impressive huh? Apparently you can get up it in about a day and half, and so it is going to have to be done!

So we are off there, subject to sorting out the logistics, towards the end of September. And so it looks like September, with the GBBR at the start, and the Oktoberfest and the Zugspitze at the end, is going to be a busy month, although not so at work. Hmmm, maybe I should book the time off work pretty quickly……….