Around the Alps, the following questions are often asked: is it cloudy? If it is and I decide to go up, will I see nothing but near-zero visibility?
On an October morning, skies were overcast, but there were some promising clear patches around. Rainshowers over the previous couple of nights down in Garmisch-Partenkirchen town would have been snow at elevations higher than about 1000 metres, which meant all of the “local hills” would be frosted in white.
I took a chance and decided to ascend Zugspitze. It’d be all or nothing: a view full of glory, or a view with a whole lot of grey.
4 ways up top
There are four ways to Zugspitze, which at an altitude of 2960 metres above sea level is the highest spot in Germany. One way up is to scale the mountain on foot for the experienced trekker and climber. For the rest of us, there are three alternative routes to the summit:
• Bayerische Zugspitzbahn cogwheel railway from Garmisch-Partenkirchen;
• Eibsee-Seilbahn, aerial tramway from Eibsee, down the road from Garmisch-Partenkirchen; and
• Tiroler Zugspitzbahn, aerial tramway from Ehrwald in Tirol, on the other side of the valley in Austria.
For the ascent, I rode the Zugspitzbahn railway to Eibsee, and took the aerial tramway up to the summit. Despite the possible snow up top, this was still the “summer season”. The round-trip to the summit costs € 48 per person (summer 2011), which sounds expensive, but as you’ll see in this and subsequent posts, I believe the trip was worth the price.
Zugspitzbahn station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The way up. “Halt auf Verlangen” | stop upon request.
Zugspitzbahn leaving Eibsee station for the summit.
With operations starting in 1963, the Eibsee aerial tramway was designed as an alternative and faster means of ascending the Zugspitze summit.
Over the total 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles) horizontal distance traveled, there are just two pylons or support towers, lifting the aerial tram vertically over 1950 metres (6400 feet) from the lower-station in the valley (about 1000 metres or 3280 feet above sea level) to the upper-station near the summit (2960 metres or 9700 feet above sea level). The height of the towers are 65 and 85 metres (213 and 279 feet, respectively), which makes the latter the tallest cable support-tower in the country. At its steepest near the summit, the aerial tramway reaches a grade of 46 degrees.
Eibsee cable car: just TWO support towers over a horizontal length of 4.5 kilometres, a vertical climb of almost 2 kilometres, and a maximum grade of 46 degrees.
Looking up from the Eibseeseilbahn Talstation | lower station, Eibsee cable car.
On the Eibsee cable car to the first tower.
On the Eibseeseilbahn, up to the second tower.
On the Eibseeseilbahn: breaking through the clouds.
Past the second tower, looking back down to Eibsee.
Ridge along Grosse Riffelwandspitze; ice and snow chunks from the cable.
Gipfelkreuz (summit cross) on the Bavaria/Germany side.
Towards the frozen Tirolian/Austrian side of Zugspitze.
Despite the clouds at mid-level, the chance I took with the trip up to the summit proved very rewarding, as the aerial tramway broke through the clouds and into clear blue skies at the Zugspitze summit.
In the next posts, I highlight the exquisite view of the surroundings under a fresh layer of snow.
Have you also gone up to the highest point in Germany? Please leave your comments below!
• Ascent to Zugspitze, the top of Germany (this post)
• Zugspitze summit : part 1, German side
• Zugspitze summit : part 2, Austrian side
• Zugspitze summit : part 3, Austrian side, after the clouds cleared
• Zugspitze : part 4, the summit and the plateau below
I made the photos above on 9 October 2011. This post is originally published on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.