At an altitude of 2,962 metres Zugspitze is the highest mountain in Germany. It’s part of the Wetterstein Mountain Range in the Bavarian Alps and is a popular holiday destination for more than 500,000 people every year. Zugspitze is on the border between Germany and Austria and belongs equally to Bavaria and Tyrol.
The June day we decided to make the ascent to the top of Zugspitze the weather forecast was positive – fine and sunny with a maximum of 4º C at the summit. We were prepared for all eventualities and carried our scarves, gloves, thermals and coats in our backpacks, hoping we wouldn’t need them.
The round trip from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to the summit of Zugspitze and down to Eidsee is in three stages. The Bayerische Zugspitzbahn, the first part of the journey, is a tiny cogwheel train which leaves from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and carries its passengers 11.5 km into the mountains.
We travelled past farms where the farmers were mowing the lush meadows and baling the hay in preparation for the next winter. At Kreuzeck-Alpspitzbahn the track began to incline and we felt the cogwheels take over at Grainau as the ascent became steeper. The train made a single stop for passengers to take advantage of the view towards Eibsee before heading into the 4.8 km long Rosi Tunnel.
The track ends at the Schneeferner Glacier at a little station directly underneath the Sonn Alpin Glacier Restaurant inside the mountain 1,838 metres higher than where we started. We came out of the station, at an altitude of 2.600 metres and stepped into another season. The thermometer on the wall just inside the exit was showing a temperature of 1° and out came the scarves, gloves, thermals and coats! The mountains were white and the snow was thigh deep in places. There were icicles hanging from the roof of the restaurant and every now and then we heard a thud as another chunk of snow slid off the roof and crashed to the ground.
There were small toboggans at the top of the nearest slope, free for tourists like us from warmer climes to try out. As we weren’t wearing waterproof clothing one ride was enough, but it was tempting to try it again and again.
The peaks of the Wetterstein Mountains were shrouded in cloud so we warmed up with a steaming mug of hot chocolate at the Glaciergarden Restaurant, a round glass pavilion with the best heating I have ever experienced. Off came the scarves, gloves and coats!
To be continued…