Way to heaven via Höllental

I have been to the top of Zugspitze but never with the cable car.  And, if it were not for 8 sterneous hours of climbing, this would not change. Albeit, 8 beautiful hours, through steep river valleys, across  ladders, over the glacier and across the high alpine terrain of the Zugspitze peak. What a ride.

Day 1 – Approach

My ascent starts, with a taxi ride. I had taken a late train and arrived in Garmisch at 5pm. Therefore, I take the available shortcuts to Hammersbach. The trail along the river is still closed after the recent heavy rains. But there is an alternative route, which climbs up through the “magic forrest” and continues high above the Hammersbach river. Its a nice hike through the forrest.

Suddendly the forrest gives way to a vertical wall face – the entrance to the Höllentalklamm. After the entrance gate, the trail follows the river steeply upwards along small trails, across bridges and through tunnels. Its a long way up but with spectacular views on the river at every turn.

The Klamm opens up into a wide river valley. Through the trees, the peak of Zugspitze comes into view. A last climb over a hill and the valley widens and opens up a fantastic view on Riffelköpfe, Zugspitze as well as the Höllentalspitzen with the famous Jubileumsgrat.

The Höllentalangerhütte is just a few hundred meters down the valley. Thanks to Corona, there are only ca. 60 overnight guests. I dine in a wonderful panorama and end the evening reading and writing in the main hall.

Day 2 – Summit day

My day starts earlier than expected. One of my bunkmates starts to pack his noisy bags at ca. 4:30 and takes almost 45min. I take the chance to have an early breakfast (huge) and wait for my group. Its a beautiful day.

My group and my guide Stephan arrive around 7am from Hammersbach and we leave at ca. 7:15. We cross the river and follow the trail towards the end of the valley. The weather forecast is sunny but with chance of thunderstorms from 2pm. Hence, we are a bit in a hurry.

After ca. 45min we reach the ladder, which marks the starting point of the first via ferrata. The ladder is easier than expected. The famous “Brett” offers the first of many spectacular views but is also quite easy.

The route goes up (where else). There is an easy climbing part (not secured). Then we reach the bottom of the moraine of the Höllentalferner. We take a break at the grass pyramid.

From the moraine we can see the peak – almost up close. Shortly thereafter, we put on crampons and head out on the glacier. The Höllentalferner is the second largest glacier in Germany. We do not take the main trail along the right mountaiside, as there is danger of falling rocks. We rope on and hike up through the centet part of the glacier before turning right towards the Randkluft, where the glacier meets the rock. The last part is quite steep. Fortunately, the Randkluft is very small this early in the season.

This is where the second part of the Via Ferrata starts. This part, in my view is much more spectacular than Leiter and Brett. A narrow ledge winds upward, iron rods help the climb.

The view into the valley is stunning. By now, we are climbing for several hours and arms and legs are getting tired. The cable car seems to be in reach, but we still have an hour to go.

All of a sudden, the view opens to the right and we can see the beautiful Eibsee below.

Now comes a tricky part as there is old snow on the trail – and its a long way down. Our guide sets up fix ropes to secure the tricky parts. All of a sudden we hear the cry “Stones, stones, stones!” and duck for cover as a few fist size rocks fly by. A careless climber above had kicked them loose. Fortunately, nobody gets hit.

We climb to the last turn where the Höllentalsteig meets the Jubilaeumsgrat. Now its just a few hundred meters to the peak. Fully spent but happy we reach the peak after 6:30h.

There is a last, snowy ridge between the peak and the cable car station, which we manage to cross safely. One beer and the I take the cable car down to Eibsee, where I meet Michi together with Franzi und Andy dor a relaxes afternoon. The thunderstorm, which did not hit at 2pm roll in at 6pm, exatly when we sit in the train back to sunny Munich.