After meeting up with Vicky and Martin (friends from our travels in France), we spent a few long days in the mountains around Garmiche, Southern Bavaria with them. One of the most spectacular was the climb of the North wall of the Alpspitze, one of the highest mountains in the area at 2629 (not to be confused with the national big one, the Zugspitze at 2926 m)
In order to get an early start we stayed in the car park for the cable car that we were going to get early the next morning. This gave us a lift a good way up the mountain. The rest of the way to be completed by Klettersteig (Via Ferrata) The weather was dry if a little overcast, and we set off in good spirits.
At the top of the cable car it was misty. We spotted other groups clearly about to do the same climb via the Klettersteig, as they were all geared up and ready, but being briefed by the guides. Eager to get ahead we swiftly walked to the head of the Klettersteig and the beginning of the climb. The mist had now enveloped us and was thick with low visibility. We were a small group and used to scrambling, so once on the route we soon caught up with other larger groups and they let us pass them. We rarely clipped into the cables on the easy 1 and 2 grade rock scramble.
John and Vicky checked their altimeters and kept us informed of the ascent progress. Altogether we did about 625 metres of climb, before making it to the summit. The low cloud continued but occasionally lifted to reveal the most striking, larger snow capped peaks of Austria away in the distance. After sandwiches and photos, we started the long scramble down via part of the Jubilee Ridge (more on that in a later post) to a notch in the col. This was not an easy scramble, with gravity tugging at your feet, and we looked back amazed at what we had managed to down climb so far.
It really was a long walk back to the base of the mountain, and the path exhausting with steep, wet rooted and deeply rutted paths that wound through a thick plantation of small trees and dense bushes. Progress was slow, but eventually we made it to the head of a huge, steep gorge, where we were surprised to find a sign indicating that we would have to pay for the privilege of getting off the mountain via the gorge. Naturally we felt rather surprised and a bit put out at this, but there was not really any other option as it was getting towards dusk now.
We started into the most startling gorge with water thundering through the base at a great crescendo and very far below us. We could clearly see that the gorge footpath disappeared into caves at times and also seemed to be almost vertical in it’s steepness. On we went. It really was the most awe inspiring gorge walk ever and we felt utterly diminished by the power of the water and the steepness of the overhanging rock faces all around us. Water cascaded over us from waterfalls we could not see, high above us. We felt as small and awestruck as Hobbits, as we descended into the side sections of dark cave that it was necessary to pass through at times.
Bavaria is a very civilised place when it comes to beer drinking, and the place to pay was accompanied by a bar. This had shut about 5 minutes before, but never mind because the next bar was only 10 minutes away, still open and well worthy of a visit before making the last few kilometres down the mountain.
The next morning we said a sad goodbye to Vicky and Martin as they travelled back towards France (and the Sun) and we headed down the road to Austria.