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Climbing Zugspitze: Germany’s highest mountain (Part 1)

When two old friends visited for Oktoberfest, we decided to try the Höllental ascent of Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany. Höllental means “Valley of Hell,” and conveniently there is a Hütte run by the Deutscher Alpenverein part way up. It’s named the Höllentalangerhütte, which literally means “Hell Valley Meadow Lodge.” You’ve gotta love German!

Here’s a photo of the Höllentalferner glacier where you can see Zugspitze in the distance. Click on the photo for a full-res version.
View of Hoellentalferner Gletscher and Zugspitze

Here’s a shot of a huge ice chunk we found on the way up the Stangensteig path, just before it rejoined the Höllentalklamm path:

Giant ice chunk on the way up Stangensteig

I took my newly assembled Canon Vixia HF200 helmet camera along for the ride, and below you can see an HD video of the experience. This climbing video is just part 1 – there will be two more videos coming in separate posts. Let me know how you like my first attempt at a semi-pro video!

YouTube Preview Image

Watch “Climbing Zugspitze: Part 1” in HD on YouTube.

The music in the video is by Danny Galixy, whose music and photographs are fantastic. Check out his website!

Climbing this mountain via the Höllental route requires more mountaineering knowledge than some of the other routes up Zugspitze. You’ll need climbing gear including a harness, “via ferrata” equipment, a helmet, and crampons for the stretch along the glacier. A medium length of rope or webbing might also help, as you’ll see in the video in part 2. One should only attempt the climb when good weather is forecast; you’ll see memorial plaques along the route (many for people killed by lightning).

This climb is not standard rock climbing, but more a combination of bouldering and walking across iron pegs.  “Via ferrata” means “the iron way.” On the most dangerous parts, one is always clipped into a steel cable by two carabiners. There is a shock cord in the via ferrata equipment so you won’t have a sudden deceleration if you do fall.

Ahem, I also found a bit of toilet humor in the lodge’s restroom, and for once the graffiti cracked me up:

German toilet humor poem

Rough translation (sorry, I couldn’t rhyme it):

In this toilet lives a ghost,

And everyone who takes too long,

Will be bitten in the balls.

But the ghost did not bite me,

Because I crapped upon his head.

Getting to Zugspitze:

  • To arrive at the top, you can take the Zugspitzbahn (a Zahnradbahn – geared train), a cable car from Austria, or a cable car from Eibsee in Germany. Link to Zugspitze Roundtrip description
  • Of course, I recommend to hike the Höllental route if you’re in shape, adventurous, and not scared of heights.  Park here in Hammersbach and walk a bit up the road to the trailhead by the river. There are two trails: Höllentalklamm (which goes along the river and costs a few euro), and the longer Stangensteig route (more ups and downs, and is the way we went).
  • Starting height: 778m. Höllentalangerhütte: 1387m. Zugspitze: 2962m (9,718′). Call the lodge to reserve a place if you plan on staying overnight; it’s not expensive even for non-members of the DAV (Deutscher Alpenverein) at 20 euro for adults.
  • Where to rent equipment: Werner Niedermeier at WN-Alpin speaks English, and it was around 40 euro per person to rent a harness, via ferrata gear, helmet, and crampons. You WILL need crampons for the glacier. DO NOT ATTEMPT without all of this gear! You can also buy a mountaineering map here. The shop is conveniently located in Garmish-Partenkirchen on the way from the Autobahn to Hammersbach.
  • Since we did not have enough time to safely hike back down before dark, we took the Gletscherbahn gondola and then the Zugspitzbahn down. The train conveniently passes right through Hammersbach, and we had to walk a bit under 1km back to the car from the train station.
  • Elevation map of the climb: just look at the height profile (graph in lower right side)! If you are afraid of heights, this ascent is not for you.

Here is a link to Part 2 of the Zugspitze adventure! If you’d like to read about Part 3… with more photos & video… subscribe with the orange buttons in the left sidebar. You’ll be notified by either email or RSS feed. Thanks!

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Posted in Munich Area 7 years, 7 months ago at 9:17 pm.

18 comments

18 Replies

  1. Just great!
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Brilliant! Love the poem :)

  3. Hehe… yep the poem made me laugh, it’s better in German because everything rhymes. Geist, heißt, scheißt, gebissen, geschissen…

  4. Great videos. Do you have a fish eye lens on the camera or is it just the fact that you are so zoomed out ? The views around the bridge at the start are a little confusing as when you move your camera it all becomes warped.

    Paul
    .-= paul´s last blog ..Using a Moka Express =-.

  5. Thanks Paul… yep, it is a fisheye lens added on. It was zoomed slightly so it wasn’t a total 1/2 sphere 180 degree view. For snowboarding I’ll use a different wide lens that doesn’t distort (but isn’t quite as wide).

  6. Tim Sheehy Dec 15th 2009

    Excellent. I intend going over from Ireland for this climb during the summer and your film is a great aid, look forward to more.

  7. Tim Sheehy Dec 15th 2009

    Moderation ??

  8. Hi Tim, thanks! Sorry about the slow response to moderation, I’m in Vienna right now.

    Part 3 should be up in a couple weeks; I still have to edit the video (the trial software expired, I’ve since bought the full version).

    Next summer I want to do Alpspitze and perhaps Jubilaeumsgrat (narrow trail on the ridge, dropoff on both sides).

  9. Tim Sheehy Dec 16th 2009

    Does anyone know if the Jubilaeumsgrat takes you all the way from the Alpspitze to the Zugspitze, and if so is any of it Via Ferrata or would you need conventional climbing gear, or even just hike it.?

  10. Hi Tim, I didn’t find out much about it, but I did ask someone recently. I believe the very narrow part of Jubilaeumsgrat is only a couple hours’ hike. My understanding is there’s no Via Ferrata as it’s just a narrow trail with near-cliffs on both sides. Try Wikipedia for more info and links (I know it’s hard to find info in English), or call / email WN Alpin where I suggest to rent gear. The owner speaks some English and could probably give some tips.

  11. Love this blog report. But im wondering what was the time lapse? from base to the Höllentalangerhütte and from there to the top?
    You mention that you stayed overnight at the hutte but could it be done in one day? Obviously fitness and weather permitting. And I guess making the last cable car down?

  12. Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. As for the time: it’s about 2h+ to hike to the Höllentalangerhütte. From the hut to the top took us a bit over 8 hours, but probably could be done in 7 (we were slowed by one member with a little fear of heights).

    You definitely wouldn’t want to miss the last cable car (around 5pm? I’m not positive), because you might end up on the wall / via ferrata after dark when trying to hike down. I’d start before dawn with headlamps in case of trying it all in one day. Just keep in mind that you’re then looking at around 2.3km of vertical in one day – a full mile and a half.

    Have fun!

  13. Fantastic video and blog post! Will be taking the easier Reintal route up this coming weekend, you’ve just got me really excited about it!

  14. Thanks Rachel! Would be cool to hear your experiences, I’ve never tried the Reintal route and am curious to know how it is.

  15. Hi Dave. I´m interested in the hike to the top…for the view, the experience, and some photography. I´m fit and done plenty of hard and high hikes before, even a bit of climbing. What I want to know is, how technically difficult is it to hike to the top? Can I just gear up for a day hike and walk it alone? What´s the name of the route? Am I required to take a guide or register or anything? (Germans and Austrians can be weirdly pedantic when you least expect it). When would be the best time to walk it…spring or summer?
    Thanks…great website btw :)
    Dean

  16. Hi Dean, I would not recommend it as a day hike, it is 2200m of vertical. Maybe, but only if you start at 6am and plan to take the train/cable car down. I have only done the Hollental route which involves 500m vertical on a cliff face with steel pegs and cables. Technically difficult: yes, at least if you want to be safe about it. You need crampons (for the glacier), helmet, climbing harness, and via ferrata gear (a special 2-carabiner safety system in case you fall). In the videos on these 3 posts you can see exactly what it’s like on the glacier and the wall. I would say summer is the best, because in spring it may still have a lot of snow – especially this year when we just had snow in the end of March. No requirement for a guide or registration anywhere, but I’d definitely have a map and let some friends know where/when you’re going just in case anything happens. Have fun! :-) -dave