On nice days, the traffic up to Germany's highest mountain (Zugspitze) starts as far back as the A95 near Eschenlohe. If you want to avoid the crowds, leave the car at home and take the long route through the Reintal valley to Zugspitze.
A Saturday at the end of August, the holiday period in almost everywhere in the country, and it's also the hottest day of the year. Was it really such a good idea to run up Zugspitze, especially today of all days? Well, the sweat has started running before we begin. But we're here now though at the station in Garmisch, in running shoes. I gently press the start button and the GPS clock starts running. There's no going back any more.
Every day I’m travellin'
Nevertheless, our journey to the starting point couldn't have been more relaxed. While the Starnberger See lake passes us by outside, we enjoy a second breakfast with a view of the landscape of the Prealps. The DB Regio trains run once an hour from Munich towards Garmisch and Mittenwald. The bright-red trains are modern and comfortable; there is even a play area for the smallest mountaineers. We pay EUR 26 for the day ticket for Werdenfelser Land region – for two of us, return included and without train-specific travel. There's no cheaper way to get to the mountains.
Reintal valley; get up, get down, get out
It's just a short walk to Partnachklamm gorge from the station. It's so early that we almost have the narrow gorge to ourselves. We continue on past the Bockhütte cabin and into the valley along the rushing Partnach river. After around two hours, we reach the idyllically situated Reintalangerhütte cabin (1,369 m). The perfect place for a snack. We then continue on upwards, following steep hairpin bends to the Knorrhütte cabin at the Zugspitzplatt (plateau of Zugspitze which is at 2,051 m).
The meditative peace of the Reintal valley is broken once we reach the Knorrhütte cabin – we are suddenly surrounded by people that seem to have appeared from nowhere. Most of them are hikers that spent the night here or in the Reintalangerhütte cabin on their way through the Reintal valley – the stated walking time from Partnachklamm gorge is 11 hours after all.
We cross the bizarre rocky desert of the Zugspitzplatt and reach the Sonnalpin restaurant (2,576 m). One last steep rocky slope leads past the Schneefernerhaus research station; we climb the rock secured with wire rope and finally we reach the peak. After around 5 hours we reach our destination. Worlds collide up here – Mountain climbers and runners like us, hikers and family holiday makers, tourists with selfie sticks and a full-face veil. Germany's highest beer garden, Germany's highest amusement park. Anyone who's not scared of heights can reach the golden summit cross by crossing a short ridge.
The route back into the valley is via the Knörrhütte cabin and Gatterl or with the Tyrolean Zugspitz Cable Car to Ehrwald. Alternatively, you can travel down with the Eibsee cable car or Zugspitze cogwheel train to Grainau. You can return towards Munich with the Werdenfelsbahn railway from both places.
You can find more expeditions from Trailblog here.