Safety Cables, …
This was supposed to be a Via Ferrata with steel cabling in most of the seriously exposed areas, but early in the season this is something that has been negotiated with Mother Nature, and safety lost the negotiations.
From Garmish you climb up nice easy ski slopes with amazing views of the mountain, and you wonder how the climb can be 7000+ feet of elevation when it’s so easy here!
The trail quickly crosses into Austria, roughly following the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn tram up the mountain. Here the trail is pretty self-explanatory with only a few sections of snow and missing cable.
Once you reach the Weiner Neustaedter Hutte, things get interesting real quick.
Weiner Neustaedter Hutte
With no clear path across the snowfield above the hut, it’s up to you to read your map or GPS to determine where the via ferrata is supposed to be.
White and Grey
Except the trail doesn’t seem to exist. This is where Mother Nature has take her toll.
Despite seeing the occasional red and white blazes painted on exposed sections of rock, the trail, well isn’t much of a trail.
Heavy snowpack has covered a lot of the safety cables, and much of the cable that is still showing has been destroyed by rockfall and avalanche.
By the time you really get into the sketchy stuff, you’re too committed to downclimb. I usually am pretty good about NOT climbing up things I’d be concerned about climbing down, but the trail deceives you until you look back and poop yourself a little. It really hit me when I looked up where the trail was supposed to be, and realized that I was going to have to chimney up between a rock wall and a massive chunk of snowpack, then use my ice ax to hack the hole in the top wider to fit myself through. I say nay nay.
Then I look down, and realize that backtracking is going to take far longer than just continuing. SMH. Hung my backpack from my harness with a piece of webbing and a couple carabiners, chimney up, hack, continue on. Not my most stellar moment.
The huge plus side of being in early season is solitude. The Tiroler cable car went up and down once or twice with it’s cable buzz noise, but other than that it’s just a beautiful day on the mountain. The clouds come and go, changing from oppressive gray clouds blocking the view to brilliant blue skies with views to the horizon. Doesn’t suck that bad.
It starts to snow. Pulling on my hardshell, I’m thankful for technological advances in gear and clothing.
Closer to the top things degrade fast with the cables buried or blown away, along with rock now slick from the falling snow and sleet. Pucker, climb. Pucker, climb.
The Final Stretch
9 hours and 25 minutes later, and 7,626 feet of ascent, I’m standing on the summit enjoying the view. It’s a view that I’ve seen before, when we took the tram up from Garmisch in 2011. But it’s a different view, sweeter, crisper, more beautiful – because this time I earned it.