Coming from England, where the highest summit is 918m, it was something of a shock to regularly find myself hiking up to 2000m peaks with my Bavarian boyfriend.
And then I decided I wanted to climb Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro.
Evidently I needed to up the ante when it came to hiking, and decided to try out Germany’s highest mountain – the Zugspitze, bordering Austria.
It was hard, but I made it out alive and I’m here to tell you all about my experience hiking Zugspitze.
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One warm May Saturday morning three friends and I drove to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, home to the 1936 Olympic Games. Even today, alpine skiing world championships are regularly held in the area.
Apart from the 1936 Olympics, the area is most famous for the beautiful Partnach gorge, at 702 metres long and over 80 metres deep. It just so happens that this is the start of the Reital route hike up the Zugspitze, and what a way to begin.
Nothing prepares you for the thunderous rush of water that surrounds you as you enter the gorge. It’s dark, damp and ferocious, yet simultaneously breathtakingly beautiful. If the sun catches the rocks in the right way, there are perfect rainbows. But hey, we weren’t on a sightseeing trip, we were here to hike.
Check out our winter guide to Tiroler Zugspitz Arena, Austria.
Onwards and upwards, folks.
On the other side of the Partnach gorge we found families enjoying the balmy breeze and sun, picknicking next to the mountain stream. A rather large part of me thought “screw this, let’s picnic too” but
a) I only had energy bars with me and
b) I was desperate to reach the highest point in Germany before my Kilimanjaro trip.
We had another six hours hiking to do, and I can honestly say it was the most stunning scenery I’ve ever come across.
I’d done a fair bit of hiking in the German and Austrian Alps prior to hiking Zugspitze, but the fantastic weather coupled with the spring flowers in bloom and (surprisingly) gentle rolling hills made the experience thoroughly enjoyable. As the afternoon drew to a close, we arrived at the Reintalangerhütte, our abode for the night.
A quick beer before sunset replenished our energy and we played cards until dinner – when I ate a huge portion of Schweinebraten. And then it was more cards and hot chocolates until bed.
In Germany, dorms are not separated by beds. Oh no, one huge mattress is supplied which up to twenty people are expected to sleep on. Naturally our dorm contained a snorer, and I barely managed an hour’s sleep.
The second day of the Zugspitze hike
I was grumpy at breakfast, but it was so hearty and filling that I quickly perked up. Plus, the sun was still shining. We were told to be careful as we ascended further, as there was still rather a lot of snow on the ground. Day two was to be much harder, I realised this after half an hour when the “rolling slopes” of yesterday became steep cliffs covered in powdery snow.
At eleven, we stopped for some soup and a Weißbier.
It was cold, and we’d already hiked across a lot of snow. We played with some Jack Russells for a bit then decided to continue – we wanted to take the last train down the mountain at 4pm, and we needed to make the summit in good time.
This was where everyone began to struggle – the group split up.
The snow was deep, and I was thankful I was wearing gaiters. For rather a long time the summit was in sight. It was frustrating, the effort of hiking through deep snow meant I wasn’t getting anywhere fast.
Finally, I was there. I could have cried, I was shattered.
I’d somehow cut my foot, my hands were blistered from my hiking poles and I needed a plate of chips.
Germany’s highest peak – tick.
Get more information about the Zugspitze hike here.
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