What a week! The pre-holiday-days get by just fine. Finally, summer settles in. Last working days are accompanied by multifaceted sports: Climbing with a friend I have not seen in 15 months. The first mountainbike tour since 2017. And now: the via ferrata challenge.
The Hausbachfall Klettersteig in Reit im Winkl is always a good option: interesting enough when it comes to the C/D climbing sections, not too long and easy to reach. If not for the misleading navi and three blocked roads, that is.
While some people fear to fall, I think a via ferrata is quite a simple thing: you can hardly get lost, holding on to the steel ropes and cliffy walls. Hence, I consider it more harmless than black hikes – best is a combination of both, anyway.
After a mere hour, the fun is over. Despite some bottleneck passages, waiting for others to find their way, my arms and muscles feel fresh as a daisy, thanks to my personal fitness trainer. With a little help from my friends, I managed to keep up the routine of sporty action with at least 5 hours per week, and now it starts to pay dividends.
This being said and done, I feel prepared for new detections with the foreseen exploration of foreign countries, distant islands and unknown vineyards.
Eight days of anticipation lie ahead of me. Hector rolls back and forth, restless and full of expectation. Still, 8 days are fine for mountain action before we head for the sea.
Weeks of rain have left the clouds white and empty, hence I put on my new hiking shoes and get going. I love the Chiemgau with its relaxed villages, and the friendly man I meet along the way proves me right. Meditation-like, calm and steady he takes care of his vegetable patch, greeting friendly while continuing his work. Yes, those who live here seem pleased with life and right they are.
Easy paths through forest and alps lead me towards Hufnagelalm and Hefteralm, the latter being open for starving hikers. It is one of those harmless circuit tours with happy cows, sheep, goat, dozens of families – but no summit. Over-motivated outdoor fans might combine the Rachlalm and/or Hefteralm with a walk up to Hochplatte, although you might be tempted for yet another pasture stop-over at the Oberauerbrunst-Alm. Given the variety of alps, the Chiemgau region could advertise for gourmet summits and relish hikes.
In south-eastern direction lies the prominent peak of Hochgern. Been there, done that – but strange enough that by end of May even mountains below 2.000m still glisten with snow.
After a sunny break (spring-like feeling, yet with three layers of Merino wool), I am filled up with fresh energy, food and coffe, and hop down towards Grassau. Later that day, when I try to combine hiking + jogging appointments on the very same day, I will learn about the improvement possibilities in my personal fitness. But before that, I get back to my starting point and feel hell of a hiking girl in super-speed shoes!
While most of my hiking companions hop up and down with chamois-like lightness, I feel like a snail with slow, steady movements – especially during uphill passages. Given my present youth and fitness, only one reason seems logic enough: my hiking-trekking Himalaya-proved boots are way too heavy.
Now here I go, if not: float, with brand-new hiking shoes of the light kind. Remembering that it took about 6 months in 2017 to adapt mountain boots to my feet (hurtful experience, umpteen plasters and wounded toes), I make the best out of instable weather and the prealps around Tegernsee. I always wondered why blue tours are, among red (mid-level) and black ones (difficult / interesting), presented in common outdoor books. Today, I take advantage of it when stepping in for a promenade with modest 268m altitude difference and moderate gradient.
Starting at Enterrottach towards Moni-Alm, we are rewarded with unpredicted sun and t-shirt temperatures. No idea why everybody complains about the rainy, cold May?! If not for the waterfalls along the way, we would not have seen vertical drops at all.
All it takes for easy hiking promenades is a tempting destination and good company. This being set, the Wildbichler-Alm (close to Moni Alm) is just perfect with offered food, cake and coffee plus improvised benches at the chairlift station. The sun is smiling and so are we during our comfortable rest.
Two hours later, I can confess that a light-blue tour does not hurt. Not even my feet. It is a delicate way to spend a spring afternoon, even more as further hikes will certainly follow.
Light-hearted, I wake up: Today is hiking day with Barbara and there is hardly anything that can derange a dream team on the way to the peak.
Facing fresh snow (May!) and risky conditions on our option A-mountain (Zinken, Allgäu), we spontaneously change our mind and go for the Kofel at Oberammergau. Apart from Passionsfestspiele and a limited number of ski slopes, the place enfolds quite it’s charm. However, we are not here for an expedition of the village, but rather for the most prominent summit around.
We cross the stream Ammer, pass by the Mariengrotte and continue up, always up. Forest paths zig zag towards the upper part of the Kofel, bringing the Alps down to the core: rock. Plain rock with steep, almost straight walls. Diligent souls installed steel ropes along the way, turning the peak sprint into a hand-and-feet-challenge without any real danger.
It comes as no surprise that Barbara is the perfect hiking buddy for thoroughly planned, last-minute-changed tours that are marked black = difficult. The Kofel is a great hike that ranges slightly below via ferrata-standard and makes us lust for more intense challenges.
The way down is a relaxed promenade with gravity on our sides. Once back at Oberammergau, the cold water of the Ammer marks the perfect finish of the day, bringing together happy feet and smiling faces.
June. Preferred month for pre-season travelling. Between “Pfingstferien” and crowded July. But this year: too soon, too close.
Hard enough that the general camping lust has increased significantly, exceeding the number of available campsites and places. Annoying enough that you need to reserve and plan, disrupting spontaneity. Irritating enough to calculate the minimum number of FFP2 face masks needed for a 2-weeks-beach holiday, counting in the impact of sunscreen leftovers when wearing it during sunbaths.
Following the Covid rules in France, the development in Germany and the worldwide situation, I have decided to let loose. Finding a niche for a package holiday, best without ever leaving the hotel area, is so not my style. The same is true for standard cruises, holiday apartments and Mallorca. Almost two years have passed by since my last travel, and yet I refuse to step in the pile of standard tourists. Instead, I will benefit from the Alpine playground beyond my door step.
With friends, mountains and an almost infinite range of hiking possibilities, I will dive deep into the sensation of outdoor effort. What is it that triggers endorphins from exhaustion? The thrill of “how far will I get”? Steadily aiming for new summits, new peak crosses and new outlooks? The hours of fellowship with hiking buddies, the pride after intense tours?
Probably, all of it. And even more.
Consequences are, that this so-called travel-blog will continue with outdoor actions that might or might not be perfect for travels, for holidays or for the sheer fun of it. Fantastic trips across Europe (or even more exotic) are not yet to be expectable.
So, here is the first exercise hike of the year. Apart from 2x Hirschhörnlkopf, that is, but still. A relaxed walk towards Osterfeuerkopf / Osterfeuerberg is just right for meeting a friend I have not seen in months – and the 350m altitude difference may mark the kick-off for more serious training.
While others sneak into holidays at randomly possible destinations, I continue with mountain tours as a remedy against deeper frustration. Instead of first camping escapes or real travels, the incredible winter enables the 10th ski tour of the season.
Conditions are almost perfect, given the fact that we face the second half of April and no artificial snow has been spread over the slopes. The lower part of about 50-100m comes with more brown than white, but the higher the ascent, the more fairy is the trail.
Despite my overwhelming fitness, it takes – once more – about an hour until I reach the Kolbenhütte. Still, I am happy to celebrate the tour with a sip of tea before I rip off the skins from my skis, turn the ski binding a 180° and enjoy the downhill slide.
While spring is right around the corner and will be followed by summer, the holiday / travel question will become of more and more importance. But that is another story for another day…
What might be common sense in Bavaria elicits a quite different reaction from northern inhabitants. Hence, my sister joins me for a scientific examination of the possible joy of hiking.
In former times, we have been skiing passionately and prefer ski lifts for uphill motion. Nowadays, the choice is: walk it or leave it. Consequently, we start our 3-hours-uphill-promenade at Jachenau.
First, we keep it low, then turn right, then left and this is where the steep parts begin. Those arduous passages may be irksome, but change our point of view in the most beautiful way. We leave the spring- valley behind and get a first glimpse on the surrounding mountains.
Steadily, we follow the trail through mixed forest and conifer until we reach the saddle beneath the Hirschhörnlkopf. Hard to decide where to look first: the Alps lining up straight South? The Walchensee below our feet? The Hirschhörnl-peak? Or the Pfundalm, a private cottage that offers a bench at one of it’s walls… We go straight for the bench and get hold of the best place to be.
The lookout is extraordinary.
Especially the view over the glistening white peaks is fantastic and ranges from Bayerische Voralpen and Karwendel up to the Zugspitze.
Looking at the Hirschhörnl peak to our right, we decide to skip it. Been there, done that (me, in January) and there is not so much of a view as far as I can tell. Instead, we celebrate a decent picknick with summer rolls and sushi and the endless landscape.
After a while, it is time to switch the perspective towards downhill.
With the optional route via Kotalm being a bit of a bore, we rather take the ascent trails for our descent. It is a meet & greet with late risers and inappropriate equipment: fashion sneakers, loafers, out-of-breath slackers with a towel around their neck… Finally, all those couch potatoes have heard the call for sporty action, evidence to successful health insurance campaigns. Compared to those, we look like a female copy of the Huber Buam, up for any kind of alpine excursions.
Endless winter… Despite the short-sleeved sun, some areas are stuck in one of the best winters in this decade. Consequently, I pack up skis and equipment and head for Garmisch.
Today, I choose another trail, starting at Hausberg, then up on the lower parts of the “Horn”-slope until Toni-Hütte. From there on, I continue on snowy forest roads, pass by the lower station of “Kandahar Express” and continue all the way until I reach the Kandahar hills. I leave the forest behind just above the final two scarps of the world-cup route, realizing that I still have quite some altitude difference ahead of my ski tips.
Unfortunately, the slope gradient depends upon perspective: When running down the Kandahar, the passage between the upper scarps and the final section seems relaxed, almost flat. My sister and me appreciate this part for technique training, as it presents just the right mixture of speed and control. Now on my way uphill, it is steeper than I had expected…
Finally, I reach the tunnel and clench my teeth for the final sprint. From here on, it is a piece of cake – at least that is what I tell my tired muscles. After 2:45h, I kick off the skis with a silent sigh, queuing up for “Würstl” and coffee at the Kreuzalm. It is great to be here, between Alpspitze and Kandahar, and it is good to see that the Kreuzalm-crew has at least a bit of a business, selling snacks and beverages out of their kitchen window.
Spring temperatures and sun soften the snow, enabling a smooth way down. Today. I choose No. 2 “Hornabfahrt” and enjoy the mogul slope that it is these days. Twenty-five minutes later, I am back at my car and immediately get rid of three layers of clothing. Down here, 15°C feel like a summer’s day. I go home in my sports shorts with an exhausted grin on my face. The muscle soreness that will kick in later is so very welcome!
The air is full of snow and the same is true for the streets, the hills and the icy seats of the gondolas. With the latter being locked down anyway, the fresh snow is nothing less than fantastic.
Today’s conditions come along with the perfect ski buddy and the trail from Grafenherberg to Sudelfeldkopf. The weather enfolds sort of charming in the lower part. It gets more interesting in the white-out, when leaving the trees behind. By the time we reach the Sudelfeldkopf, the panorama is a monochrome one.
Due to -10°C and breezy snowflakes, we seek shelter at the gondola station. These days, no lift guard complains when tourists pose in the middle of it’s concrete walls.
The descent is a dream of powder: fluffy snow up to our knees turns into pure joy. At least the joy kicks in once we have found out which direction is down. At first, it is hard to distinguish between the cloud and the snow. Cautously, we fumble down until we make it to an alternative ski trail and orient by means of voices and traces. As soon as we reach the timber line, we are back on track and enjoy the zig-zag through the deep white powder.
And then… Then the evening approaches and I find myself facing snow from all sides again. Star of the night is the sled I have found in the back of my basement. I pick up one of my sporty neighbours and, soon enough, we head for the mountains. Fading daylight and intensified snowfall make us stumble into a picture postcard scenery.
Step by step, we make our way through the continuous snow as we try to ignore the exaggerated romantic athmosphere.
Forty-five minutes later, we come to a halt at the gate of “Obere Firstalm”. Meanwhile, the night has settled in and we discuss the best technique for the next section of our excursion. Face the dark night in the forest and go down slowly, always prepared to stop when others come along? Or put on a “Hirnbirn” (headlamp), sending a clear signal to upcoming strollers, such as “Get out of the way, this is us in full speed!”? Of course, this is nothing we need to discuss thoroughly…
Finally, the downhill slide is great! We keep our paste as high as possible, only stopping two times when colliding with a drift of snow. Lucky us (or: them), hardly anyone is out here late at night, so the conclusion of the day is a simple bottom line. Playing in the snow is so much fun!!
This is the 5th lockdown month and my mood does not care about how “light” it is. It has been a year since clubs closed, two years since my last travel-holidays and something like forever since tomorrow had been full of promises. I know that positive aspects come with Covid, and I appreciate them. Still, I am haunted by a strange feeling, something between half-empty and unfulfilled. And I am stunned by the rush for Mallorca-reservations, packing up piles of people into tight aeroplanes, while it remains forbidden to spend a night in my camper van.
And there is more: all those desperate road signs “Bayerische Schmankerl to go”, the click-and-collect-food, online-reservations for offline-shopping, all those that run bars and clubs for their living (and for great evenings with friends and encounters, hence for us!), all the artists and travel agencies – all closed down and sad, so sad.
Unfair or not, I have to admit that I am blessed with a positive job situation, with youth, beauty and fitness. Not to mention the very best Covid-investment = my family-sponsored touring ski equipment. Although the thwarted operations around (ski lifts, mountain huts …) cause tears of frustration, it is good to go out, acknowledge the absurdity and slide into a form of notwithstanding. Hence, back to another ski tour.
The weather is in-between-seasons and it lures bikes, hikers and ski fans. I choose the snow leftovers of Sudelfeld ski area for a relaxed morning tour, starting at Grafenherberg. Around 9:30 a.m., a handful of ski tour cracks make their way up, and so am I. I shift one ski ahead, then the other, slowly finding my pace.
Thanks to snow cats’ work from optimistic times, the slopes offer a solid layer of snow, yet limiting the range of action. Last time we combined different uphill and downhill routes. Now what-you-see-is-what-you-get, there is no in-between cross-country skiing anymore.
Finally, I turn around after a mere 50 minutes, just before the paths run out of snow. Meanwhile, more ski fans have made their way up, so I try to hurry up, aiming to pass through the narrow section before dozens of uphill skiers get in my way. With all my focus on time and efficiency, I have forgotten to switch my boots from “flexible movements – uphill” to “solid grip – downhill”. It only takes seconds until I lose track and land on my back, presenting a hell of a show to the pile of people. Compared to this stunt, the rest of the slope is a bit of a bore, but, of course, all worth it.