That’s what Bavarians do for Fun?! Pfundalm Hike

Rewarding View

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.

New Hiking Pro: Alpine Andy

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.

-2°C, 8:30 a.m., 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.

Half Way Up

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.

Idyllic Pfundalm / Hirschhörnlkopf

The lookout is extraordinary.

+8°C, 11:30 a.m., Pfundalm

Especially the view over the glistening white peaks is fantastic and ranges from Bayerische Voralpen and Karwendel up to the Zugspitze.

Everybody surely recognizes Walchensee and 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.

Mountain Dream Team (with or without skis)

After a while, it is time to switch the perspective towards downhill.

Alpine Yoga; #hikingthealps; #hiking the alps; #alpyoga

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.

>600m altit. difference<10 km5hharmless

Another Last Ski Tour: Kreuzalm

Kreuzalm Alpspitze

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.

End of March and still Perfect Conditions

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.

Through the Forest…

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…

Looking Down is Easy. Walking up is the Thing.

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.

Reinforced after a Cup of Coffee

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!

No Crowd, no Stress, just Wonderful Ski Time
850m altit. difference6 km2:45hmostly harmless

An Almost Perfect Winter’s Day

Fresh Snow

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.

Another Sudelfeld Ski Tour

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.

Today’s View at Sudelfeldkopf

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.

Insights rather than Outlooks

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.

Better View in the lower Parts

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.

Later, during a Night-Out…

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…

Oprion A: Get down slowly, just hazy silhouettes in the night…
Option B: Get down in the most Dynamic Way, Assuming Others will jump away for their own Sake

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!!

Sudelfeld with another Ski Tour

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.

standstill

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.

Thrift Shopping

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.

Tranquility

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.

OK Conditions for Skiing

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.

Head in the Clouds: Last Skitour?

Despite the wonderful winter, global warming takes it’s told and dissolves the white layers on most of the hills around. Still, the slopes in some ski areas offer good conditions, and so I start once more for the Kolbensattel ski tour.

The higher I get, the denser is the cloud around my head. I think of the endless possibilities offered by the logics of quantum electrodynamics, and from all options I choose my favourite scenario: Arriving at the Kolbensattelhütte, there will be deckchairs with woollen blankets and a bar will offer hot caipirinha for 1,-€ per glass. The air will glisten with frozen fog while the sun breaks through the clouds and enfolds a wonderful Alp panorama. Entirely motivated, I continue uphill in recordsetting pace, reaching the chalet after 65 minutes.

Not quite meeting my expectations – beautiful nonetheless

Even when fantasies refuse to come true, it is easy to have a good time: I am surrounded by snowy mountains, greeted by other hard-boiled outdoor freaks and look forward to the muscle soreness that will increase the feeling of gravity later on my couch.

From here on downhill

Kolbensattel 2 (Ski tour)

hiking the alps
so inviting

The best Covid shopping I did in 2020? Touring skis! Saturday comes again with frosty sun, just right for a common ski tour with friends.

In former times, I used to see friends when going to bars, concerts or theatre. Now I meet the sporty ones during ski or hiking tours.

The Kolbensattel offers perfect conditions and a choice of three uphill routes. Today, we take the most charming one through the forest. In fact, there is not much to tell about today’s outdoor action. The base line is: It’s wonderful; it’s marvellous.

Spring time is right ahead and will lead to a mixture of in- and outdoor sports, combining skateboard and yoga. But that is another story for another day…

420m altit. difference4,5 km75 min. (ascent)harmless

Holiday Week, or: Frankfurt Ski Combination

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.

The View is almost, but not entirely, unlike the Alps

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.

Grüneburgpark replaces Garmisch

The silhouettes around are different, though. Instead of Kramer, Alpspitze and Waxenstein, we face the “Mainhattan” skyline.

Typically Frankfurt

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.

Skitour; Sudelfeld
Constantly Uphill

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.

Sun + Snow + Action = Smiling Faces

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.

Up on Vogelsang
Perfection is overrated

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.

Powder Leftovers

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…

469m altit. difference5 km80 min. (ascent)harmless

Kolbensattel Skitour

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.

Softly Uphill

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?!

Silly Walking Technique

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.

Pure Winter Feeling

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.

When Fixing the Goggles to the Helmet almost Fails

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.

Downhill Fun
420m altit. difference4,3 km1,5h (ascent)harmless

You never walk alone: Skitour Hausberg/Kreuzalm

Alpspitze in Sight

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.

Early Morning on Hornabfahrt / Garmisch

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.

Sunny Waxenstein

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!

Skitour Kreuzeck Hiking the Alps
Almost there

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.

Handstand
Ski Boots are a real Challenge in Handstands

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.

Downhill
850m altit. difference6 km2,5h upharmless

Hirschhörnlkopf

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).

Our last common Tour has been up to the Stromboli – Perfect Hiking Buddy Martina

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…

Is it hot in here or is it us??

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.

The View. The Cloud. Mittendrin statt nur dabei.

We approach the cross just in time to witness the clouds clear up for about 30 seconds.

Hikingthealps; Hiking the Alps; Wanderlust #hirschhörnlkopf
Yay to Peaks

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.

-1°C on Hirschhörnlkopf

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.

Frosty

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.

Break at the Kotalm

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).

Hiking the Alps; Handstand; hikingthealps
Back to Handstands!

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.

Icy Paths

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.

750m altit. differenceca. 10km>4hharmless