Cold as Ice? Hot as Summer! The Kofel Hike

Today’s Destination

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.

Up! they say…

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.

Local Charm may be a Matter of Perspective

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.

Done! 24°C, right on top

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.

Cold as Ice! or: How long do you bear?

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.

wonderful! For a few seconds… Hope you notice my inner smile.
700m altit. difference6 km<4hchallenging

Limitations and Possibilities

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.

Hiking, lately: Alps around Eschenlohe

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.

Feels good to be here – Rewarding Views and Good Company along the Way

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.

What You See is What You Get

Instead

Taxi??

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.

#skitour Ski Tour
End of April, wonderful Snow

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…

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