Zugspitz

Sunday morning 04:30 and the alarm went off. It was now decision time - to switch it off and sleep until ten or get up and climb the highest mountain in Germany.

Six o''clock and I park the car at the foot of the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn in Austrian Ehrwald. A few other shadows are pulling up laces and shouldering rucsacs before setting off towards the Zugspitz that towers above us. I pass a sign that says Zugspitz Summit - 6 hours. After an hour the sun rises and paints the tips of the surrounding mountains a deep red which contrasts with the wisps of white mist in the valleys. Luckily, here on the West side, the mountain is still in shadow.

As I climb ever higher the Alps start to unfold and as I cross a scree field two chamoix graze unconcerned below. 08:00 and I reach the Wiener-Neustädter-Hütte hut set into the side of the mountain. After ringing out my shirt I gratefully accept a large warm cup of coffee and enjoy the view of the climb ahead. From the hut there are more people on their way having spent the night there. More is relative though. If I saw 50 people in the next hour then that was a lot. Having crossed another scree field the path turns into a climb towards the summit. With fixed ropes, pegs and steps the route is steep without being exposed. The view back is awe inspiring. Shortly before reaching the summit ridge I caught up with an Austrian named Simon and we finished the climb together. The final few hundred meters were along the sunny summit ridge and ensured that once again I had to change my shirt.

We reached the summit a little after half past nine and were immediately surrounded by people of various nationalities who had caught one of the two cable cars to the top. However with panoramic views across Germany, Austria and to Italy we hardly noticed those around us. We both ordered a well earned breakfast of white sausages and wheat beer and sat down to enjoy the scenery and breakfast. The decision to get up had been the correct one after all.

The three and a half hour journey up took ten minutes to reverse with the help of the hundred person cable car travelling at 25 kmh.

Unfortunately the camera was at the beach with the rest of the family so there are no pictures available.

Neill Hogarth | neill@hogarth.de | www.hogarth.de