A Snowy Summer’s Day: Wendelstein

7:50 a.m.: Destination ahead

Rain and cold frame the last September weekend, but still Sunday enfolds with blue skies and sun – at least close to the Alps. Consequently, I have chosen another peak for today. With only 2°C and the utmost flexibility, I skip the foreseen trail from the North side and instead approach the Wendelstein from the South.

The way up starts relaxed and picturesque and if not for the drop in temperature, it could be taken for a bright summer morning.

Mellow Start

Apart from faint church bells and the cattle around, I am alone and enjoy all kinds of paths. I pass by the most inviting mountain guesthouse and make a mental note to myself to stop for coffee and cake along the descent. Isn’t it great to make plans these days?

So inviting

Gaining height by the minute, the landscape starts to change. The first spots of fresh snow almost look romantic. Yet, the trail is easy enough and I continue with the routine of an experienced hiker (image! it is all about image!!).

Hiking the Alps: Wendelstein
Such much lovely

I am about half way up when two hiker ladies with more speed then youth pass me by. Not before long I will appreciate them for smoothing the paths ahead of me…

Hikingthealps
Seasonal change along the Way

Meanwhile, I congratulate myself for having tucked the hiking sticks in my backpack. I will definitely need them on my way down, with all the fresh snow that starts to thaw in the September sun. Fortunately, the disreputable silhouette of the Wendelstein summit seems already close, so (of course) it is not preferable to give up just because of 5 or 10 or 30 cm of snow.

Wendelstein
Nice, but…

Eventually, the snow gets deeper. The peak remains at unchanged distance, though. The hiking ladies in front discuss whether they turn around or continue. I am grateful for the sole hiker that has paved the slightest hint of a trail earlier today (I will meet him later and thank him – cool guy).

When looking back, the strangest sensation happens: after some acres of snowy fields, the eye falls on green grass and summer scenes. It all looks like fake news from a photoshop-mistake.

Hiking the Alps
Surreal

Every now and then and every more often, one of the footsteps drowns deep in cold snow, making me sink up to the mid of my thighs. It is one of those moments that I re-adjust my plans from “sunny café” via “hiking sticks” to the final decision “cableway”.

Fresh Snow. And quite a bit of it…

Who would have thought that Grödel (crampons) would be needed by the end of September already? However, the snow transforms a formerly simple hike into an expedition. If not for the trees, it would even match the high pass in the Himalaya!

Looks like high Alps in February – while in fact it is on 1.500m in September

With the Wendelsteinhaus already in sight, the last half hour puts me to the test. Steep, very steep terrain, topped by 30cm of fresh snow, meet the silly pride that prevents me from taking out my hiking sticks.

The first time I slip and fall back is funny. The second time still makes me laugh out loud. The third is okay, while the fourth (and every further) makes me clench my teeth and murmur something like “I will NOT turn around at this point, certainly not!”

…hmpf…

And then, three hours after I have started down in the spring-area, I am there: on the peak (more true: the sub-peak platform), ahead of disdainful cableway tourists, among all the concrete and antennas that the Wendelstein is infamous for. The very last section is closed because of ice and snow, which is sad, like in the song “no cross today, my love has gone away, lalala-lalalah…”.

Almost there!

I make it to the viewing platform before it gets entirely overcrowded and picture the scenery. The cliché of winterly mountains alternate with unexpected green meadows, blanketed from the distant rows of Alpine summits, all white and icy.

#Hiking the Alps
Looking towards Sudelfeld and further Peaks

The gastronomic side of Wendelstein reflects the landscape with ups (friendly cook, highest prices) and downs (general atmosphere, mood of most staff members). However, none of it matters given the endorphins that buzz in my veins. I love challenging ways, at least those I win.

Yeah – made it!

Neither the upper part of the peak nor the church are accessible thanks to the spontaneous onset of winter. It is a bit of a pity as I prefer touristic method acting at such a hotspot and now feel terribly limited in my role. Still, I am fine when hovering down in the gondola around noon, happy with the 10th mountain tour of the year.

1.000m altit. difference5,5 km3 hoursharmless (except for the snow meeting the steep)

Torkopf via Torscharte: A Ridge of a Summit

Oh tempting are the mountains… Another bright-sun-on-a-weekend occasion comes along, and not before long I find myself (again) heading towards the Alps. Barbara joins me today and brings in a charming tour, a chamois in disguise and good mood.

Beautiful Karwendel

Region of the day is Karwendel with the typical rough and rocky appearance. I suspect that each cow, marmot and flower is part of an overall touristic campaign, aiming to balance the smooth and the rough.

The Smooth and the Rough on top of Torscharte (1.815m)

Having arrived at the Torscharte in time and well in shape, we decide to continue towards the Torkopf summit. From here, ways get interesting and steep, elevating venturing hikers in fast-forward-mode.

Heading up and Looking down on the Torscharte (eagle eyes will detect the hikers en miniature).

Hiking sticks are the ultimate upgrade in this part of the track as we continue steady, but cautiously uphill.

Guiding us through the Rocks: Chamois masqueraded as a young Woman

A single 2m–rock marks the key point, sorting the wheat from the chaff. Once passed, the last section is almost harmless, especially when finding the right turn. But even when half walking, half climbing between rock and grass, you might make it to the peak.

Happy among Rocks (Fake News! Instead of the real heave, this pic shows the inner sensation of how it felt…)

Eventually, we make it to the summit that appears rather a ridge than a peak.

Hiking the Alps
Then on top: Perspective rewards those who dare the Effort

We enjoy some Gipfelsemmeln, sun and outlook. We are close to the most crowded spot around, given the view to the Karwendelspitze with its majestic flanks and impressive size. Easily reached with the Karwendelbahn, it is a famous place for lazy tourists – and thanks to our northern position, we hardly see any of them.

Hiking the Alps
Backside of Karwendelspitze (with Torscharte beneath)

For today, we have reached the highest point, elevated well above the intermediate Torscharte, and search for further action. Some exercise might be good, making us look slim and slender even besides the tiny summit cross.

Hiking the Alps
How to burn Gipfelsemmel Calories

After a while, we decide to call it a quit and appreciate gravity on our sides for the way down. With a slight sigh, we leave the typical rock-and-green-grass landscape behind, immersing in forest paths and in the devouring shade of the Karwendel-flanks. 7,5 hours (including pause on top) are fine for today, proved by the sunburn I will detect tomorrow.

Outtakes: The real climbing rock of the tour, trifling disillusioning.

How to climb down a rock in the least elegant way…
1.100m altit. differenceca. 14 km6:45halmost challenging

Triple Feature: Transcending the Geierköpfe

7:40 a.m. at the Plansee

Why do I get up at 4:30 a.m. on a free Saturday?
Because serious mountain tours might need a buffer for the unforeseen.

Still early, nice and calm

Together with experienced hiking buddy Gunther, we start at 7:45 at the Plansee and make our way towards the Geierköpfe. The tour description says something about 1.240m altitude difference spread over 10,8km. So much for the theory of it.

Rural Trail

The trail is multifaceted, sometimes mellifluous and sometimes rough, and we gain height rapidly. Almost right from the start, we are rewarded with beautiful views over the Plansee and the Ammergauer Alpen.

Ascent Outlook

Having learnt from my previous hike, I assert slow but steady speed and within less than 3 hours, we arrive at the Western summit of the Geierköpfe-triptyche.

Hiking the Alps
Nonchalant: Easily Reached Peak (Westgipfel)

Despite the early hour, quite some hikers gather up here. I am motivated as a chamois, all fit and enchanted by our surrounding. From the Westgipfel, a trail follows the ridge towards the main summit. Of course, we will continue to the next level, no doubt about our peak performance!

See the slender Line atop the Ridge in the background? We are up to follow that Trail towards Main Peak

Every here and there, the flanks of the ridge leave only inches for a small trail, but most of the way is wide enough for comfortable footsteps.

Hiking the Alps
I tend to like it up here

After all, this is exactly the setting that I prefer for a serious mountain tour. I like the sensation of a spectacular surrounding and enjoy every minute up here.

Walk the Line

The final sprint to the main peak is seriously uphill on dry gravel and brings us to a halt on 2.161m above sea level.

Peak in Sight: Up to the Hauptgipfel

The cross comes with a rough DIY charm, but just like us: at least it made it up here! Thin air and chats with other hikers pave the way for the decision of the day: Come on, it is all so great, let’s continue to the third of the 3 peaks!

…then on top (2.161m)…

That being said, we put on our helmets (decent detail when climbing in crumbly rock) and off we go.

The Motivated Chamois of the Day

The description from here on is vague, but mentions something about “free climbing level 2” – something I have not experienced yet and hence do not worry too much.

Beyond defined Tracks

The trail becomes more and more interesting. Intense, even. It certainly is not a bad idea to remain concentrated, especially when seeking the best route down the climbing passages that enrich the way between main peak and Eastern peak.

Just a bit of Free Climbing > 2.000m

Looking for the announced climbing section and having no clue of what that might look like, we come to a halt at a dead-end rock. The only way further is either via (under) overhanging rocks or down a vertical crag. Hm…

Having no clue what “second degree of free climbing” means, I wonder: perhaps down here?

Even I have some doubts if this is the right way and/or if it suits our abilities. Lucky us that 4 youngsters come their way with one of them having experienced the route some years ago. He confirms that the climbing of this tour is much more harmless than the walls beneath our feet. Light-hearted, we follow the know-how-guys to the 3rd peak and find it all easy enough.

The Ostgipfel is barely marked, yet the way to it is so worth it!

What comes next is learning: It slowly dawns on me that the 1.240m altitude difference include only the Western peak with the same being true for the expected total of 6 hours. As of now, we enjoyed our hike for full 5 hours and now have to figure out how to get back and down. Option A: Straight back on the same route, including climbing and ridge and quite some loss-and-regain of altitude meters. At this point, it seems that option B is the more reasonable one: Cross-country straight down until we reach a horizontal (or so it seems) path, accept a bit of a opposing climb and then, finally, get down.

Between the Peaks and the Options

We go for B and I find myself swearing and grumbling. The mountain pines jump in my way, the so-called horizontal trail is an up-and-down rollercoaster and the entire distance more than I have asked for. Still, I would not trade our tour for any lazy hour on the couch. It takes some effort to be here, but I am willing to appreciate the sweat and the muscle soreness!

From the Lake, via the Col and up to Westgipfel, then following the Ridge: Half of our Tour in 1 Picture

The last third of our descent tempts us to a half-knowledge decision: A short note in the tour description recommends a sideway via Schönjöchl – it just forgets to mention that it includes passing by a forth peak and adds about 150m altitude difference! Half way to it, we perceive the hard facts and turn around, finally taking the original way down. Around 6:00 p.m. we are back and safe at the Plansee, greedy for a portion of French fries and yearning for laziness on the sofa.

With all sidesteps, trials and detections, we had been en route for full 10 hours, walked up and down roughly 1.700m on a track of ca. 15km. Hard to imagine anyone better for such a tour than hiking bro Gunther – thanks for company, planning and fantastic pictures. The greatest mountain tour I ever experienced – all great!

>1.600m altitude difference14-15 km10hchallenging

Hiking the Alps: Overview

08AllgäuAuerberg2017very harmless
55AllgäuIseler Via Ferrata2022challenging
50AllgäuPfänder2021harmless
31Ammergauer AlpenGeierköpfe2020challenging
10Ammergauer AlpenHennenkopf2017challenging
59Ammergauer AlpenHochplatte2022challenging
42Ammergauer AlpenKofel2021challenging
40Ammergauer AlpenKolbensattel Skitour2021harmless
49Ammergauer AlpenNotkarspitze2021mostly harmless
30Ammergauer AlpenScheinbergspitze2020mostly harmless
45Ammergauer AlpenTeufelsstättkopf2021mostly harmless
01AppenzellSäntis2014challenging
54Bayr. VoralpenBreitenstein2022harmless
36Bayr. VoralpenBrünnstein2020challenging
15Bayr. VoralpenHeimgarten & Herzogstand2017mostly harmless
38Bayr. VoralpenHirschhörnlkopf2021harmless
47Bayr. VoralpenKreuzbergalm2021very harmless
34Bayr. VoralpenRabenkopf2020harmless
41Bayr. VoralpenSudelfeld/Vogelsang Skitour2021harmless
53Bayr. VoralpenStaffel2021harmless
33Bayr. VoralpenWendelstein2020harmless
37Bayr. VoralpenWildalpjoch2020mostly harmless
43Bayr. VoralpenWildbichler-Alm2021very harmless
58Berchtesgadener AlpenAschauer Klamm2022harmless
25ChiemgauFeichteck & Karkopf2020harmless
35ChiemgauGedererwand2020challenging
27ChiemgauGeigelstein2020mostly harmless
44ChiemgauHefteralm2021harmless
24ChiemgauHeuberg2020harmless
23ChiemgauHochplatte2019harmless
18ChiemgauHochries2018harmless
22ChiemgauHochstaufen2019mostly harmless
06ChiemgauKampenwand2017mostly harmless
26ChiemgauKarspitze2020harmless
35ChiemgauKranzhorn2020harmless
28ChiemgauSchwarzenberg2020harmless
09ChiemgauSpitzstein2017harmless
05DolomitenDrei Zinnen2017harmless
51KaisergebirgeSteinplatte Via Ferrata2021challenging
52KaisergebirgeStripsenjoch via Feldberg2021mostly harmless
13KarwendelMahnkopf2017harmless
32KarwendelTorkopf via Torscharte2020almost challenging
16MangfallgebirgeSchinder2017challenging
07MangfallgebirgeSeebergkopf2017harmless
20Reit im WinklHausbachfall Via Ferrata2019challenging
19Schlern, RosengartenHofer Alpl2019harmless
02Schweizer NationalparkVal Cluozza2015harmless
11SpitzingseeBodenschneid & Rinnerspitz2017harmless
48SpitzingseeBrecherspitz2021mostly harmless
56SpitzingseeJägerkamp & Schönfeldhütte2022harmless
17SpitzingseeRosskopf2020mostly harmless
14SpitzingseeRotwand2017harmless
29TegernseeHirschberg2020harmless
21ZugspitzregionAlpspitze Via Ferrata2019challenging
57ZugspitzregionEckbauer2022very harmless
46ZugspitzregionFinzalm2021harmless
04ZugspitzregionHöllentalklamm2016harmless
39ZugspitzregionHausberg/Kreuzeck Skitour2021mostly harmless
12ZugspitzregionRiffelspitze2017challenging
03ZugspitzregionWank2016harmless
60ZugspitzregionZugspitze via Stopselzieher2022challenging

Work-Hike-Balance: Scheinbergspitze featuring Hector

Office Inside

Hector is happy again, and when Hector is happy, I am happy.

Together, we combine a working day at Augsburg, a camping stop-over at Lechbruck and a challenging tour around the Kenzenhütte. At least, that is the plan on Thursday. Even though I work for some hours when sitting on Hector’s couch, the overall situation feels like a micro-holiday.

Opening Hector’s Door: Stunning

Based on Hector’s feel-good qualities, I sleep like a baby and wake up around 5 a.m. on a beautiful Friday morning. Under an incredible sunrise-sky and over a cup of coffee, I check the weather apps, the tour description and the various variables of today’s schedule. Then I start to think: Isn’t it all about a good work-hike-balance?

Question of the day is, if I will I find the right paths without mistakes or doubts (meaning: loss of time). Will I successfully transcend two summits before the predicted, dramatic weather front strikes? Will I catch the rare hiking busses in time – and what about alternatives to the foreseen setting?

Today’s Choice of a Trail

The alternative turns out to be preferable, and an hour later, Hector rolls towards Linderhof, one of Ludwig II’s famous castles. Just a few kilometres next to it is a neat little trail up to the Scheinbergspitze. The altitude difference is fine (900Hm), the expected length (4 – 4,5 hours) smoothly fits into the weather development and the region (Ammergauer Alpen) is just fine.

…then on the way towards the peak…

The perfect preparation for another tour and another weekend is: failure. Near-miss, to be more precise. Two hours after the start of the ascent, I stagger towards the cross. Exhausted, out of breath and sweating like hell, it is embarrassing for a trail flagged blue = easy. Besides daily fitness, an exaggerated start and the aim to accelerate my uphill velocity almost disabled me reaching the top. I am stunned how hard this tour feels, and I lack the trekking poles that are stored in Hector’s bathroom (“A blue tour with less than 1.000 Hm? I will surely not need them!”). Yet, the harder achieved, the more rewarding is a challenge fulfilled.

Finally!

I spend quite some time on the Scheinbergspitze, soaking in the 360° view. Eventually I hop down, clenching my teeth when slipping and sliding on the steep gravel paths. At late noon-time, when Hector turns North towards home, I remark the darkened skies in the rear mirrors, confirming today’s choice. Given my disrupted speed performance and the witnessed weather change, the work-hike-balance is proved to be a clear match by the end of August. Even more as it might have built an almost ideal base for more challenging goals – but that is another story for another day…

The Surrounding: Ammergauer Alps
Great, after all
900m altit. difference6,5 km3:30hharmless

Hochplatte Hike

Es wird Zeit, die erfahrene Bergfreundin aus der glorreichen Nepal-Ära an die Seite zu holen für eine schöne Herbst-Tour: Die Hochplatte im Chiemgau soll es heute werden, und hinterrücks vorbei an allen Staus beamen wir uns in die Bergwelt.

Today’s destination is the peak of the Hochplatte and, together with my dear hiking buddy from Nepal, we fight our way around traffic jams and approach the Chiemgau.

Vor kurzem (2017/2018) war ich richtig gut am Berg: Kondition, Muskelkraft, alles da. Ich nehme an, dass solche Fähigkeiten nicht über Nacht verschwinden, also wird das heute ein entspannter Spaziergang. Wobei „über Nacht“ leicht geschönt ist – seit der Rückkehr aus Nepal kann ich die Bergtouren an einer Hand abzählen.

By now I got used to being a hiking pro: strength, general fitness, mountain skills – all set and proven by numerous tours back in 2017/2018. I assume that once you turn into a chamois, this is going to last forever. Or should I have exercised at least a bit throughout summer?

2019_10_13_A2a

Kaum überraschend ist das Schnaufen schon zu Beginn des sanften Anstiegs. Belohnt werden wir schon früh mit einer geradezu kitschigen Landschaft, aber ich halte mich zurück und jammere nur wenig.

As soon as the path rises up, I hand over the conversation to my hiking companion as she has definitely more breath left. However, I do not care too much about the strain: the beautiful landscape with picturesque facets rewards me despite of my lack of routine.

2019_10_13_C1a

Half-way up to the Hochplatte

Dort, wo es schon ordentlich steil wird, ist ein entscheidender Wegweiser dermaßen unauffällig angebracht, dass der Trampelpfad aller Irrläufer auffälliger ist als der richtige Weg. Zwei fragende Begegnungen später und 20 Minuten Umweg schnaufender stehen wir kurz vor dem finalen Gipfelanstieg – und das, obwohl wir noch mitten in der Vegetation sind. Typisch Herbsttour im Chiemgau: hier muss es nicht über 1.582 m hinaus gehen, auch in niederen Lagen lässt es sich anstrengend wandern.

Later the paths become steep and the signposts rare. The frequent usage of a dirt track makes it more appealing than the real route, and only when facing the unexpected gorge between us and the desired peak we realize the dead end that it is.

Dummerweise führt von der anderen Seite eine Seilbahn bis kurz unter den Gipfel, so dass es am Kreuz recht gedrängt zugeht. Sollen die doch alle gucken, ich versuche trotzdem einen Handstand!

Eventually, we make it to the top. With “top” being a moderate one. Yet, 1.582m height is enough to enjoy a 360° view on distant peaks, on the Chiemsee and on dozens of tourists that took the chair lift “Hochplattenbahn”.

2019_10_13_D12a

Even when you have reached the peak you still can be only half up to something

Der Blick von diesem mittelhohen Hügel ist umwerfend: Die Farben, der herbstliche Himmel, das Meer von Berggipfeln… Wie schön, dass meine Bergfreundin mich motiviert hat, auch die letzten anstrengenden Meter durchzuhalten.

Having the best company in my own entourage, I ignore all others. Meaning that I try to ignore their bewildered looks as I try to turn our world upside down. I really should work more focused on my handstand skills, gaining more aplomb for public shows like this. Anyway, the view into the open distracts me from further personal doubts.

2019_10_13_G1

If I were a painter, I would try to paint the longing for flying in thin air, moving along with the clouds, towards the sea of peaks

Der Abstieg belohnt uns mit zwei weiteren Highlights: Zunächst mit dem Blick hinterrücks auf die Kampenwand. Ich denke freudig zurück an die Bergtour mit Freunden bei der mir klar wurde, dass es kraxelig werden muss, damit ich trotz Anstiegs-Anstrengung Endorphine ausschütte.

The descent offers further highlights with the view on the spectacular Kampenwand where I once started to learn more about hillwalks and what makes them interesting: It is about climbing parts and choosing the right companions.

2019_10_13_J1

Say Hello to the Kampenwand

Schließlich folgt die Einkehr bei einer der urigsten Almen, die ich bisher erlebt habe. Nach Kaffee und Sonne und mit nunmehr bergab führenden Wegen ist auch das Schnaufen leiser geworden. Man sollte solche Ausflüge wirklich häufiger machen!

Finally, we settle down at one of the most rural alp-shacks I have been to. Coffee, sun and the change of direction (now: downhill) make me relax and enjoy our chat that meanders from job situations over to philosophy, people and further topics of interest (life, the universe and everything). What a wonderful day!

2019_10_13_K4a

Oberauerbrunst-Alm