Tag Archive | snow

Changing Seasons

Kevtoberfest #23 The Great Alpine Road

With the fun of Kevin’s birthday party over, it was time to say farewell and begin the long journey home. Instead of returning the way we’d come, we had planned to travel through the Alpine National Park to the ski resorts of Mount Hotham and Falls Creek. But late winter snowfalls meant the roads were closed in places and only accessible in other areas with tyre chains.

The alternative was to follow the Great Alpine Road from Bairnsdale into the mountains to Omeo, then through the mountain passes to Mitta Mitta on the other side. We’d heard the road was steep and winding, and we were warned to take it slowly on the narrow curves.

The hills and pastures of the lower alpine region were still wearing their brown overcoats, parched and bare after a dry winter.


As the road climbed we began to see signs of the change in seasons, with wattle in full bloom gilding the steep hillsides. Alpine ashes, tall and spindly, had begun to shed their old bark, revealing pristine white trunks beneath.


Even though spring had definitely arrived, winter wasn’t quite gone either. As northerners, we rarely see snow and our first glimpse of a dusting on the distant mountains was exciting. Icy remnants of long ago snowfalls remained in the roadside culverts.


We paused several times to admire the distant peaks, their white blanketed slopes in stark contrast with the deep green of the surrounding eucalypt forest.

Our frequent stops to admire the views combined with the slow pace of travel on the winding mountain road meant our journey of just 236 kilometres took more than six hours.

Lucky we had plenty to look at on the way!

 

A Change of Seasons Part One

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…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Foreign

Where we live in Queensland, Australia, the climate is temperate and the Winters are cool and dry. The last time it snowed was August 1984. It was in the middle of the night and the snow was completely gone by morning. 1800 kilometres south, the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park has an average maximum Winter temperature of 5 ° and even in mid-Summer the weather can change dramatically in minutes. The September day we travelled on the Lyell Highway from Strahan to Lake St Clair snow was forecast down to 400 metres. So even though we were still in our own country this beautiful, white landscape was very foreign to us. It was also very exciting as we had never seen snow fall before.