Late on a Monday afternoon, sat lazing on my sofa, suddenly my phone lit up. A message from Rachel, our Marketing Manager; would I be interested in going to Germany to climb Zugspitze, which at 2,962 metres is Germany’s highest mountain, with bootmakers Hanwag? Without a moment of hesitation, I messaged back: “Yes!”
Fast forward two weeks and a considerable amount of excitement later, I stepped onboard a bus which took us from Munich Airport to Hotel Eibsee, situated by the beautiful Eibsee lake right at the very foot of Zugspitze. We were a mixed but excited bunch of retailer staff and competition winners who sat down that evening to listen to the details about the four routes we were to spend the next couple of days on.
After a restful night’s sleep in a very comfortable hotel bed we devoured our breakfasts and met up in the hotel lobby, bags packed and wearing the fantastic new Hanwag boots we had been given the night before. I normally struggle to find footwear that fits my awkward feet, but I was quietly optimistic I would not end up too badly blistered…
Another bus journey took us, via the beautiful town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, past the old Olympic stadium to the start of our route – the Reintal. We had been told this route was the most beautiful one, and sure enough - right from the start - wandering through the beautiful Partnachklamm gorge, a deep ravine with a lovely mountain stream running through it, we all marvelled at the landscape. Once out of the Partnach gorge we travelled through a forest and saw the steep, awe-inspiring limestone mountains tower up around us. After some 16 kilometres of walking we arrived at our home for the night - the Reintlangerhutte - where we dipped our feet in the icy cold waters of the Partnach. In the evening, we were treated to good food and even better beer; it was Oktoberfest-time, after all. The hut staff played music and sang, and it was not without a great deal of reluctance we finally went to bed - tomorrow was to be a big day after all - with nearly 1,600 metres of altitude gain to reach the summit.
We were lucky enough to have fantastic weather for both of our walking days - at valley level it was around 20 degrees C - and having had an early start (well 7am, can you tell alpine starts aren’t my speciality?), we got to watch the sun rise over the mountains as we made our way higher. As we gained altitude, vegetation became scarcer and we found the odd patch of snow. Not long after stopping for some refreshing apple soda at Knorrhutte, we neared what proved to be the toughest bit of our hike; the scree slope which took us past the observatory. It was a case of two steps forward (if you were lucky) before you slipped back one step. Still, with our trusty Hanwags (still not a blister in sight) and a good pair of walking poles, we eventually made it past this section. Swapping our walking poles for the cables on this higher part of the route, we marvelled at the view – we were now able to see the alpine peaks stretching out into the distance.
The last bit before we reached the summit platform was fantastic, with unbeatable views and a short ridge walk, part of it with one foot in Germany in the other in Austria which was quite fun! Having spent the last couple of days on the trail, it felt really quite strange to arrive at the incredibly crowded summit area, with cable cars taking tourists up, a souvenir shop and a cafe. Still, we made our way across the platform to claim our well-earned summit! I will readily admit I was quite emotional to arrive at the top. Making our way back to the cafe we met up with the groups that had done the other routes and then rewarded ourselves with beer and apfelstrudel; lovely!
We had the luxury of not having to make our way down on foot, but rather on the cable car, for which my knees are eternally grateful. Once back at the hotel we all slunk off to our rooms for a shower and a well-earned rest before dinner. Mustering up the energy to go to the buffet being put on for us at the Eibsee Alm, a short walk from our hotel, was a challenge, but I’m very glad I did; we ate, drank and rather tone-deafly (well, at least in my case) sang along with the fantastic Bavarian folk musicians, and of course, shared stories of our respective routes.
I was quite sad to leave this beautiful part of the world the next morning, but I know I’ll be back. Thank you to Hanwag and our guides from Mountain Elements for an amazing experience!
Kit I brought and wouldn’t have wanted to be without:
• My sturdy but lightweight Leki Micro Vario Carbon poles
• My Camelbak bladder - I find hydration bladders make it so much easier to stay hydrated on the trail, as you can have a drink on the go, without having to stop or take your pack off.
• Some fresh, new hiking socks.
• Sole insoles - my flat feet wouldn’t want to be without them!