I have just come back from a two-day ridge traverse in the Alps of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and I think it was one of the most beautiful but – apart from Everest – one of the most daring things I have ever done.
My very good friend Andi from Munich, his brother-in-law, Bernd, and I decided to climb the ridge connecting the Zugspitze (the highest mountain of Germany) and the Alpspitze, which apart from Ama Dablam is one of the most beautiful mountains for me. Andi and I had been planning to do the ‘Jubiläumsgrat’ for years and it is fantastic that we have finally done it…but ‘bloody hell it was scary’.
The trip involved staying one night in the ‘Münchner Haus’, which is on top of the 2,962m-high mountain, however, when I rang them up on Sunday morning they told me that they were absolutely booked up. Andi and I were quite annoyed that we rang up in the first place but we decided to just go for it as members of the German Alpine Club, which we are, cannot be turned away by the hut owners.
We walked through the beautiful Höllental, across a snowfield and then up the final ridge along the ‘Via Ferrata’, which is a mountain route that is established with iron ladders and ropes. It was extremely busy and most people secured themselves with slings and carabiners on the iron ropes. This made the whole trip a bit slower as clipping in and out takes time and we got continuously stuck behind the crowd. The three of us decided to climb without safety rope as it was good training for the following day on the ridge, which we were not going to do with ropes due to the time-factor.
We got to the top in 5 hours and 15 minutes and when we reached the summit I was quite shocked by what I saw. Of course, I had been to the Zugspitze before but always for skiing and never in the summer – and I had never walked up. However, when we reached the summit the first thing we saw was a huge building with a big viewing platform, where hundreds of people were awing at the view and taking photographs. All these tourists had come up by cable car, and some of them even climbed to the final summit via the Via Ferrata. I am actually surprised that we never hear about anyone falling off the summit of Germany’s highest mountain as lots of people were staggering up the last 20 metres of polished rock wearing flip flops or ‘dancing shoes’.
When the three of us reached the hut, which is right next to the viewing platform, the owner told us that they were full up to the rim but that we could have an ‘emergency’ bed, meaning we could sleep on the bench in the restaurant – for the cut-off price of 5 Euros per person! It was great as we were a bit worried that they would send us down with the cable car and that our long-planned adventure would have ended there and then. So, after we had had our ‘mountaineers dinner’, which consisted of a plate of pasta with tomato sauce, we had a couple of beers and at 10pm the owner shouted “Good night”, locked the door and switched off the light. About 20 people tried to sleep on the floor and on the benches of the restaurants and I have to say that considering the circumstances I actually slept quite well ….and the most amazing thing was that nobody snored – but then again, maybe nobody else was able to sleep that night!
The next morning was amazing and I guess we had picked the most beautiful two days in the whole of the Bavarian summer! There was not a cloud in the sky and the three of us and another young guy, who we picked up on the way, started crossing the ridge at about 6.30 in the morning. It was a very different experience from everything I had done as I have hardly ever climbed without a rope. Every single metre of the 8.5km-long ridge was exposed and every wrong step would have meant a huge fall and probably death or serious injury. The actual climbing was not that difficult but it was a huge mental challenge due to the fact that you had to concentrate on the climb for more than eight hours! But it was beautiful and very satisfying!
We finished the ridge in about 5 ½ hours and the whole trip to the cable car at the Alpspitze took us 8 ½ hours, however, all four of us were absolutely knackered after our trip – mentally and physically. We had considered walking down from the Alpspitze but as all three of us were already suffering from muscle pain in our legs we decided to spend the 15 Euros on a trip down by cable car, which were 15 Euros well spent as I could not have walked any further!
It was an amazing experience and I would like to thank my friend Andi to make this possible by taking time off work at the right time, leading the way and finally dragging me up the Zugspitze to do it.