European Summit Challenge
Germany - Zugspitze 2962m


It was the last day of May 2002, the sun was shinning, and back home in England the people were preparing to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee with a two-day bank holiday. I on the other hand had chosen to take advantage of the two-day freebie and caught an early morning flight from Stansted to Frankfurt-Hann. A six hour drive on the German autobahns in a rented Renault Clio delivered me to Garmisch-Partenkirchen near the Austrian boarder, and more importantly, at the foot of the Wettersteignebirge massive, home of the Zugspitze, at 2962m, Germany's highest mountain, and my target for the weekend. I could not be helped but be awestruck by the scenery as I approached.
Wetterstein Massive.
View of the Wetterstein Massive from Garmisch. Alpspitze (2628m) to the left, the Zugspitze is hiden by the ridges on the right.

First stop the tourist information office for two pieces of information; the condition of the summit route, and the location of a cheap room for the night. The middle-aged lady behind the desk could not have been more helpful. She phoned the guardian at the Knorrhutte, and on confirming that he spoke English, passed over the receiver so that I could confirm specifics myself. The guardian was also delightfully helpful, but his news was not good; the path to the summit was closed, too much snow.
The room found for me by the tourist office was a bargain. For twenty-six Euros I had a single room with on-suite facilities and cable TV, in a privately run, family hotel. But what was I to do tomorrow? Push on to the Knorrhutte and judge the conditions for myself and hope for a miracle, or chose to exercise my demons on lower mountains?
The Knorrhutte won, I took an evening walk to the Olympic Ski  Stadium  where I

intended to park the car the following day. Built prior to the Second World War, the stadium was this weekend the venue for a mountain bike festival. I inquired at what I took to be the ticket office if there was a parking fee and if overnight parking was permitted. The answer to both these questions were favourable. I returned to Garmisch via Partenkirchen and found myself a suitable restaurant for dinner, enjoying my food, a beer, and the wonderful paintings that daubed the walls of the buildings such is not seen in the UK outside Northern Ireland. These however were no para-military icons but scenes taken, I assume, from local history and myth. Contented with my meal, I strolled the short distance back to my hotel where I re-arranged my backpack and travel bag for the following day. I went to bed early with my alarm set for six am.
By seven the following morning I was tracing a track up to the Partnach Alm through a mixture of forest and alpine pasture. Here I contoured the hillside at just below one thousand metres. The day was as perfect as anyone could have wished; sunshine and brilliant blue skies, the weather forecast predicted it would last.

Approaching the Partnach Alm.
Approaching the Partnach Alm.

At a junction of paths, I came across another loan walker photographing the perfect pyramid of a summit rising above the trees in front of us. His English was good; we discussed possible identities of the peek and took a compass bearing to confirm it. The Alpspitze (2628m) is a popular via-ferrata destination, given time I would have liked to add this to my schedule. Perhaps another day.
Thomas and I talked for a while. He had made an  attempt  on  the  Zugspitze from

the northern side the previous day and had been forced to turn back, the route beyond the Neustadter Hutte made impassable by the snow. Today he was walking as far as the Bock Hutte on the bank of the Reintal River before heading back to the campsite at Grainau, a few kilometres west of Garmisch.
Reintal Valley
The Reintal Valley.

During our walk to the Bock Hutte I told my newfound companion of my planned attempt on the Zugspitze from the south and my hope that conditions would be more favourable. By the time we reached the hut at the head of the Reintal valley Thomas had warmed to the idea enough to accompany me at least as far as the Knorrhutte where we would review the situation in the morning.
The path along side the Reintal River was deservedly busy with walkers and cyclists. I say deservedly because it was beautiful; cool rushing waters, grassy banks, coniferous forest, and high above, the great bare rock walls of the surrounding mountains, snow on ledges. Another apparent virtue was the bar and sun loungers at the Angerhutte. Fathers drank beer and children played with toy water wheels in the shallow waters. We did not stop.
The Reintal Valley
Looking back down upon the Reintal Valley.