Here it is, our traditional Kreuzalm week, spent high above Garmisch. Days are filled with umpteen runs down the Kandahar slope while the evenings come with good food, a bit of wine and tough scrabble games. So much for the plan of it.
Obviously, this year is different. Still, we manage to realize the main components with the utmost flexibility.
It starts with snow in Frankfurt. Excited, we witness the change in sound and landscape. The waste collection car sounds like a snowcat and the jogging course is as cold and deserted as the Hausberg-slope at 8:00 a.m.
The silhouettes around are different, though. Instead of Kramer, Alpspitze and Waxenstein, we face the “Mainhattan” skyline.
Another tradition is the combination of Garmisch-days with other preferred ski areas. Consequently, I follow the cold and head South. I approach the Sudelfeld slopes just in time to enjoy fresh snow and a tour with one of my preferred ski buddies.
I may lag behind during the uphill part of the tour, but as an experienced sports pro I appreciate every minute of the exercise. I am well aware that the tough ones only endure long-lasting exertion.
On the last 50m, the route gets narrow and one of us shortly stops for changing the ski setting. I take my chance, pass by in the most nonchalant way (“Ich bin schon da!”, sagte der Igel) and reach the highest point with a lead of ½ second.
The downhill part starts with a shift in perspective (not so much of a real handstand today) and with the joy of seeking untouched white powder, at least a few inches of it.
The last chapter of today’s experience contains a stubborn car, an uncharged key and the constant noise of the alarm system. But that is another story…
Days get blurry and it is hard to tell what distinguished Monday from Tuesday. At least, I know how to create an outstanding Saturday and throw my touring skis into the car.
Apart from zoom meetings, online yoga and virtual ukulele sessions, it is fantastic to feel real snow flakes on my face. Who cares about sunny days as long as winterwonderland offers snow-covered forests and cold fingertips?!
The Kolbensattel offers a levelled ski slope to pros who are willing to pay 15,-€ parking fee. It is a good deal, given the minimized avalanche risk and the joy of winter action. Just like last weekend, I recognize smiling faces and good mood all around me – everybody here is happy to do outdoor sports, and it is done best far away from crowded hotspots.
The tour is an easy one and leads up to the Kolbensattelhütte, now closed of course. I remove the skins from my skis, turn the binding a 180° and put on my helmet. Not that a light-blue slope with a handful of people requires full safety equipment, but it is comfortable and warm and looks utterly professional.
I am thrilled to try out my touring skis in the powder. This is exactly what they are made for! The same is true for me, by the way. Someday I will hop down in un-touched, fresh snow, but as of now, I take whatever the slopes offer.
At 7:00 a.m., the mountain silhouettes emerge in first rays of sunrise as I approach Garmisch. I am one of the early birds and feel well-experienced with my touring ski equipment, now that I am up for my second tour.
I start to shift my skis uphill, surrounded by other sporty outdoor fans. Most of the Garmisch Classic slopes are half-heartedly prepared: If dreams come true and Covid-barriers may be withdrawn, the entire ski region could step into action the very next day. As for today, it is well-organized for touring skis and snow shoe hikers, supported by parking attendants, toilets and almost all slopes available. Less hostility and more useful options, compared to other narrow-minded villages.
Light-hearted, I continue on well-known hillsides. There is no rush and no crowd, instead it is a joyful atmosphere with a chat here and there. Smiling faces glance up to the peaks of Alpspitze, Waxenstein and Zugspitze.
I enjoy the ascent for full 2,5 hours until I reach my favourite winter destination: the Kreuzalm. It is so good to be here, even if it is for a short pause only. I keep my fingers crossed that February comes with the miracle of ski holidays!
The mountain huts sell snacks and beverages to exhausted ski tourers, and a handful of people spreads around in a distanced, friendly manner. Strengthened by a cup of coffee, it is time for a last picture in front of the Alpspitze. Before I apply for model jobs in the sports-shoe market, I might need to make further progress in getting the ski boots up in the air.
Despite my knowledge of the ski area, I choose the No. 1 slope for my descent. It might be less steep than the No. 2 “Horn-Abfahrt”, but – as usual – the frosty, artificial snow makes the hillsides quite slippy. The light touring skis offer less grip than regular alpine skis, in fact they do not offer any grip on the icy parts at all. At least the conditions turn the one-slope-downhill action into a 30-minutes-event, and I am happy with today’s skiing when I reach the Hausberg valley station, safe and satisfied.
Winter hike season is here! Martina + Michael are the perfect match for today’s tour up to the Hirschhörnlkopf, a peak as charming as un-pronounceable for anyone from abroad (outside Bavaria).
The hazy weather enfolds an almost mystic atmosphere in the forest. Great to be out here, despite the cold! Lucky may be those that get heated up along the way…
The view into the Alps might be worth a look, but not today. Instead, we listen to the sound of snow crunching under our feet.
We approach the cross just in time to witness the clouds clear up for about 30 seconds.
There is hardly enough time for pictures, Gipfelsemmel and a glance on distant peaks before the clouds settle in again and leave us cold-handed.
Michael detects a romantic = deserted path down, leading us through frozen air and fresh snow. Along the way, we find out how to solve bad hair days: it only takes some white frost to present a splendid hairstyle.
The descent via Kotalm (who invents those crazy names??) turns our hike into a circuit and invites us to a second pause with tea and sweets.
And: with the first handstand trial since… since March 2020! Despite the lack of training, I manage to hold the pose for a full second, proudly presenting my Grödel (crampons).
Further down, we cross several streams and icy paths. The picture below shows the latter – did I mention the useful crampons? Natural born chamois might do without, but I only started hiking in my late youth (13 years ago) and appreciate the perfect grip on snow and ice.
After 4,5 hours we get back to the parking at Jachenau and congratulate ourselves to this wonderful winter tour. Next weekend might be best for a ski tour, yet today’s hike was as charming as a winter day can be.
Wie zieht man seinen Skiern das Fell über die Ohren? Muss die erste Abfahrt mit Tourenski gleich eine schwarze sein? Ja, wenn sie vereist und bucklig ist. Aber zurück zum Anfang…
The morning begins with bright skies above the mountains and with some material testing. How shall the skins be fixed to the touring skis? Does the first downhill slope have to be a black one? Obviously, yes – as long as it is icy with humps and a steep descent.
Nach arbeitsreichen Wochenenden wird es Zeit nachzusehen, ob die Berge noch da sind und wie es um die Schneelage bestellt ist. Kurz nach Sonnenaufgang ist der große Parkplatz an der Stümpflingbahn noch geschlossen, aber nur wenig entfernt finde ich einen freien Platz für den Discoflitzer und freue mich: um mich herum ziehen so einige Tourengeher mit Ski und Stöcken los in Richtung Skigebiet.
Three weekends in a row have been filled with work and all kinds of to dos. Now it is time for “tadaahs” and I keep my fingers crossed that somewhere in the Bavarian Alps, rests of snow wait for the testing of my brand-new touring skis. The salesman claimed that they should be just my style, so here comes the first practical trial.
Zum Glück bin ich eine Frau. Und als solche nicht zu fein dafür, andere um Rat zu fragen: Wie befestigt man die Felle? Es gibt verschiedene Systeme und so taste ich mich heran: Gut, die Felle sitzen (und die Jungs vom Nachbar-Auto sind wirklich nett). Wie geht noch gleich die Bindung auf? Was ist die richtige Einstellung für bergauf? Zehn Minuten später hab ich’s und stakse vorsichtig los. Vor einigen Wochen war die Hoffnung der Skigebiete noch groß genug für Kunstschnee und Pistenraupen, und auf dieser Unterlage setzt sich die Karawane in Bewegung.
My last (and only) skitour has been two years ago with borrowed equipment. Different equipment. Now I need to figure out how it all works – the right setting of boots, binding and remaining snow. Fortunately, times have been more optimistic just days or weeks ago, when the Spitzingsee ski resort did quite some effort to fix a mixture of natural and artificial snow to the slopes. Without this foundation, it would have been a hike rather than a ski tour.
Erfahrung. Es geht doch nichts über Erfahrung! Andere nennen es Lernkurve. Jedenfalls rutscht irgendwann der linke Ski weg und Zack! geht die Bindung auf. Prompt wackelt der rechte Ski und auch diese Bindung war nicht auf die Super-Lock-bergauf-Einstellung geklickt. Während ich nach und nach die Ski und meine Füße wieder zusammenbringe, häufen sich die Umfaller um mich herum. Die Stelle mit dem eisigen Steilstück ist wohl ein Spreu-vom-Weizen-Trenner.
Weiter oben wird es leichter oder vielleicht wächst auch die Routine. Nicht die Kanten, sondern flächige Auflage sind der Trick gegen Wegrutschen. Und Gewicht eher auf der Ferse als auf der Skispitze – wegen der dynamischen Radlastverteilung.
Unterwegs passiere ich diverse Lifte des Skigebiets. Die aufgegondelten Sessel und Bügel hängen so rum, haben aber wenig Drive. Dazwischen stehen Schneekanonen und sehen gelangweilt aus. Was für ein verrücktes Jahr!
Along the way, I seriously extend my expertise. Having lost first the left, then the right ski, I remember the special uphill-setting that disables the binding from unclasping in subotpimal surrounding. Inch by inch, I learn to change my ski habits: less ski-edges, more surface ski/skins vs. ground. More weight on the heel and less on the upper parts. Dynamic wheel pressure, you know?!
Passing by the lifts, I think that they look dissatisfied. The chairs and handles hang around without drive, and the snow blowers look bored. Crazy year, that is.
Die Terrasse der Jagahütte sieht einladend aus, aber mich zieht es weiter hoch zum Gipfelkreuz des Rosskopf. Mehrfach schon war ich hier, vor allem im Winter, meist jedoch von der anderen Seite aufsteigend. Heute komme ich vom westlichen Grat heran und musss feststellen, dass oben weniger Schatten und somit weniger Schnee anzutreffen sind.
The banks at the terrace of the Jagahütte look inviting, but I decide to continue up to the peak of the Rosskopf. Quite some times I have been here already, mostly coming from the other side. Today, I take the way that follows the ridge from the West. The sun is great and such is the feeling of success, knowing that I have made it up here all on my own and with my very own touring skis. The latter become useless on the last metres, due to the lack of snow on the sunny top. Brand new or not, I leave them behind and walk up to the cross for views and pictures.
Bergab wird spannend: Wie sich die Ski wohl fahren und kontrollieren lassen? So butterweich-langlauf-artig wie die geliehenen im vorletzten Winter? Räume ich reihenweise heraufkommende Tourengeher auf dem Ziehweg ab, oder kann ich Tempo und Richtung halbwegs steuern? Vielleicht sollte ich einfach Schuss fahren und dabei laut rufen „Ich kann nicht bremsen!!“
Usually, I am an experienced skier and have fantastic all-mountain-skis. Parked in my basement for the time being. How will it be with the touring ski – will speed and direction be sorted out by superior powers or by me and miraculous muscle-guidance? Perhaps I should just let go and scream something like “Caution, this is out of control!”
Es kommt so, wie es typisch für mich ist: Ich rutsche (und kante) laut lachend das Steilstück der schwarzen Piste runter, jederzeit nahezu im Vollbesitz meiner Kräfte. Und der Rest (rote Piste) ist ein Spaziergang. Nur der rechte Skischuh und mein Fuß sind sich noch nicht grün – eher blau… Da werde ich noch an den Einstellungen arbeiten. Ansonsten ist es toll: weitgehend freie Pisten, die Sonne lacht und der Schnee ist nur noch halb so eisig wie zu Tagesbeginn.
Schnell bin ich wieder im Tal und freue ich – meine erste Skitour mit eigenem Equipment! Endlich wieder Bewegung, Aussicht und Sonne. Umgeben von anderen, die genauso sportlich oder bekloppt sind wie ich.
Eventually, I half slide, half cant the steep part of the black slope, almost all the time in full control. The rest of the downhill distance is a piece of cake: a regularly red slope (mostly harmless) with hardly any skiers around. The sun softens the snow just slightly, yet enough for a comfortable ride. If not for the boot that fights the natural form of my right foot, it would be fantastic. In fact, it really is fantastic – here I am, in this strange winter, in the snow and on my skis. It takes hours until I stop smiling.
Winter time is ideal for some caretaking, seeking endless youth for brave little Hector. On the other hand, winter comes with frosty temperatures, leading to: nothing. I turn the engine, but the engine doesn’t turn. So much for my detailed time schedule.
Fortunately, I face the cold season this year with a 50m power cable and a climbing rope. The one leads to the other and leads it down from my balcony, bringing my socket closer to my van. After a night with best green electricity, Hector is fully charged and ready to go.
The full speed on the highway tells me something about Hector’s yearning for travels. Or about tailwind. Hence, it does not take long until my van is properly parked at the region’s best Fiat garage, while I dream about heated grips on my folded bicycle along the way to the train station.
If not for the accurate departure of the S-Bahn that I missed, I would have been back within less than an hour. Still, I am pleased, knowing that Hector gets better maintenance at the Fiat workshop than I could warrant with my own hands. All hoping for travels in 2021!
Winterwonderland is just around the corner! Other than last time (Sep.-Wendelstein-tour), the fresh snow comes with the right quantity. Meadows and rocks are covered with a fluffy layer of sparkling white powder, but with no risk of sinking in thigh-deep. Hence, it is the ideal setting for a relaxed winter hike.
Sabine joins me with thorough preparation: gloves, sticks and serious mountain boots found the base of today’s hike. The fairy atmosphere in the lower part of the tour is only slightly disturbed by the low humming of the snow machines of Sudelfeld ski area (making me hum with anticipation).
It takes less than 500m to skip the idea of a defined road map and rather follow the most traceable way. Easy enough, knowing that the Wildalpjoch is one of the most attractive (and frequented) peaks close to the Wendelstein.
During ascent and descent, the paths are slippery when wet. Or frozen. Or muddy. Or all three. But thanks to hiking sticks and dancing skills, we get along pretty well and make it to the peak with no severe difficulty.
Despite Sabines firm intension to avoid snow-related mountain action, the two of us enjoy the winterly scenery and the endless views above the clouds.
After 4 hours (including peak snack), we get back down in almost the same state as started. Just happier.
Months of the strangest year did not stop my yearning for travels. Real travels, with different places to go und foreign people to meet. Yet, I am lucky to live in a region that attracts tourists for one or another reason, and I take advantage of it as much as possible.
Of course, you could take this as travel inspiration: Any of the mountain tours shown here may tempt you to spend precious holiday time between Munich and the Alps. Me, instead, I have to deal with an insulted van (with only 3 nights out, Hector feels entirely left behind), but at least I can look back on 13 hikes from July to October.
Having crossed off most of the tours of my hiking books, I will look for online inspiration and continue with outdoor action throughout the winter.
For today, I happily present a quick glance on tours No. 1-13, also known as my holiday-substitute 2020.
The list of all Hiking-the-Alps tours is presented here => Overview.
2020 modern times come with neither party nor concert, no random encounter nor further excitement – hence, best practice is to find attractive destinations during weekends. With the warm sun laughing at November bias, today’s target is the Brünnstein.
Barbara joins and proudly presents her brand new via ferrata equipment: harness, loops, carbines and helmet. It will turn out that we are entirely over-equipped, but at least we look adventureous like hell.
The route is a wonderful mixture of steep paths, relaxed forest roads and green meadows. And not all of it is muddy.
Despite the early snow we had a couple of weeks ago, November starts with short-sleeve temperatures. Just like the fixed-rope sets, the downy jackets serve our fitness as we carry them up and down in our backpacks.
For whatever which reason it takes longer than expected to reach the Brünnsteinhaus. We pause for a moment and gain back some of the burnt calories when plundering our backpacks. The regular restaurant service is closed (Covid19 rules), but the sunny terrace offers tables and chairs and even beer or juice thanks to the installed beverage dispenser.
Ahead of the lodge, the “Dr. Julius Mayr” via ferrata leads to the summit. It is a charming trail as it includes iron steps, climbing passages and cavity. All easy enough, but fun nonetheless.
What I like best are the exposed paths that make you feel lightweight and offer wide horizons from a bird’s eye perspective.
The Brünnstein peak is in reach for hikers free from giddiness, meaning: us. And about a dozen more…
I can hardly imagine how crowded this spot must be in high season. At least you will always find a good photographer for splendid summit portraits!
Eventually, we start our descent with some steel ropes on the steep upper part of the trail. The more height we lose, the more we witness a change in scenery: Climbing rocks give way to lush pastures and forests. The setting is very rural as for the entire route the only prominent signs of civilization are some alpine shacks.
Along the way we detect quite some road signs that mark further tempting destinations. Looks like we might come back for more someday…
The crone of civilization is futility: Climb up straight walls with no use or sense, just for the sheer fun of it. And, of course, for good company, sunshine and body tension.
The weekend before November locks in, any place close to the Alps faces piles of cars and people, hikers and families. Hence, it is a perfect day for the last climbing possibility before they close down. Even though the outer walls of “High East” count less then 18m, we enjoy rays of sun and have a narrow wall all for ourselves.
Around noon, we feel the satisfaction of muscle soreness in arms, scapula and fingers – well done for rookies like us!
Hopefully we will not lose all the smooth routine of today’s difficulty levels… I would rather continue with overhanging routes or alpine scarps to climb, but for the time being, we will need to restore our equipment in the closets and wait for flattened curves and re-opened climbing gyms.