Location: Bavarian Alps (Germany) near the village of Grainau
Altitude: 9,724' (2,964 meters)
Tidbits: Highest point in Germany
Time Zone: GMT +1 hour
Summitted: June 19, 2000
Trip Description and Travelogue-
I have traveled all over the world, and I can safely say that the views from Zugspitze, particularly along the Hollentalklamm route, provided some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. Period.
The Zugspitz region is located in the Bavarian Alps, about 90 minutes from Munich via the Autobahn and a little longer by train. Munich airport is easy to navigate, and immigration and customs are a pleasure. The best way to get to Munich is by the S-Bahn (the terminal is located in the airport terminal). Train fares to Munich are about 10 Euros. There is a new travel card that permits unlimited travel for up to five people on a single ticket for about 25 Euros (two children count as only one person).
I decided to drive to the Zugspitz area, with a good friend from Munich. We made it from downtown Munich to Garmisch, the gateway town to this region, in just about an hour.
There are several ways to get to the summit. There is a 10 hour (+/-) climb that can be made from the village of Grainau (about a 5 minute drive from Garmisch), a 6-8 hour climb from the village of Eibsee (about 5 minutes further from Grainau), or a cable-car/cogwheel train ride to the summit area (followed by a short 100 vertical foot climb on iron ladders and a rock scramble to the summit), which also leaves from Eibsee.
Garmisch is a quaint and scenic little Bavarian Town, worth stopping in for a stroll. I was disappointed to find out that there were no restaurants open for early breakfast, other than a McDonalds (which stands out like a sore thumb). We did locate a little bakery and stocked up on breads and headed off to the trail-head which is located in the nearby village of Grainau. If you arrive by train, there is a local bus, as well as a Cog Wheel train, that goes from Garmisch to Grainau to Eibsee (more on the train later).
The best time to climb is between late June and early October. Several climbers had already died in avalanches and falls as recently as three weeks earlier, so if you're not equipped for severe alpine conditions, wait until this optimal climbing window opens. As I later discovered, late June is the BEST time to go...the glaciers are still enormous, water is flowing through the gorge with tremendous force, and the weather was in the 60's, even at the summit (by late day).
The trail-head is located just to the left of the main road (as you're heading to Grainau). You'll see signs and a free parking area that holds about 60 cars. On weekends the lot fills very early. We went on a Monday at around 8:00am, and there about 15 cars already parked. The area is very quaint. You frequently hear the gentle clang of bells in the distance as cows and goats graze in the Alpine meadows.
The trail-head is about 1/2 mile further up the road from the parking area (the shuttle bus stops directly at the trail-head) at the Obergrainau Square. The Hotel Post is located directly across the street and would make a good base to spend the night (either before or after your climb).
At the trail-head area, there are two paths. The most direct route will be the path to the left (facing the mountain) along the Hammersbach River. Follow this path for about 30 minutes and you will arrive at Klamm-Engangshutte. A "Klamm" is a German term that roughly translates to "narrow gorge". "Engangs" translates to �entrance" and "hutte" simply means "hut". The Klamm-Engangshutte is a beautiful little restaurant at the entrance to the gorge. They serve beer and hot food, both indoors and on a deck overlooking the entrance to the gorge, and there are toilets located here. In order to proceed into the Klamm, you need to pay an entrance fee. At the time I traveled the fee was 4 marks (about $2). After paying, you receive a receipt (that you must present to EXIT the gorge if you come back down the same route), and the gate-tender opens a large iron gate that lets you enter.
Another way to reach the summit is to take the cog wheel train to the summit station. This train is used by skiers in the winter to access the large ski area near the summit. After exiting the train, there is a second lift-car to get you to the true summit area. From there you need to ascend to the summit in class-2 conditions, using a ladder. The summit area is easy to navigate, but unforgiving if you take a step in the wrong direction off the narrow summit and approach path.