Of hiking, biking and weißbier

The view from the top of the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain at almost 3,000 meters.

We drove to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in southern Bavaria, over the Easter weekend. It was our second visit, and we had a great time. Hiking. Eating. And drinking liters of weißbier. I think I probably ate a whole pig over the course of the three days.

This blog is supposed to be about biking, I realize (and I do have one biking-related comment below). But I thought I'd share a few photos from the trip.

Garmisch's main attraction is the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain at 2,962 meters (9,717 feet). On this trip, we decided to see what it looks like from the top. First, you take a regular train about one-third of the way up, then switch to a cog-wheel train that ascends on a track drilled straight through the mountain (about 25 minutes in the dark), until you emerge on a bright, vast glacier. I've never seen anything like it. Unspoiled snow as far as you could see. Not a tree to be found. It was a skier's paradise.

This glacier on the Zugspitze is where skiers go when they die.

Then you hop into a cablecar for the final ascent to the summit. The whole trip took about 1.5 hours. The views, of course, were stunning. They say you can see four countries and 300 peaks.

We descended via a separate, even-more-spectacular cablecar that takes only about 10 minutes to make its way down to the Eibsee, a beautiful lake near Garmisch. Then we took the train back to the town.

We also did a little hiking of our own, through a dramatic gorge called the Partnachklamm, cut by a river swollen by the spring thaw, and then up through forest trails and alpine meadows sprinkled with wildflowers to the top of the 1,237-meter Eckbauer (4,058 feet).

At the top, you're rewarded with more breathtaking views, and the tradition is to have a glass of fresh buttermilk at the Bergasthof at the top.

Somehow, a glass or two of weißbier also seemed appropriate. Believe it or not, they seemed to go well with one another. But then again, maybe I was lightheaded from the climb and altitude.

Two great tastes that taste great together.

OK, here's where the tenuous link to biking comes in.

We missed the last cablecar down to the bottom of the Eckbauer, so we hiked down, on a different trail.

It was a two-hour hike down, on a very steep trail that was sometimes paved, sometimes dirt and rocks and roots.

Just as we were starting our descent, a mountain biker, his face contorted and drenched in sweat, pedaled past us, heading for the top. I was too stunned to think about pulling my camera out.

After a little while, he raced by us, going down.

My feeling, after hiking down those trails, is that he couldn't actually ridden the entire way up the mountain.

I thought the dreaded Hill of Doom was steep! And could anyone be in that good a shape?

Many parts must have been around 18% to 20% gradient, and there was no letup, no way to rest, to catch your breath. But part of me figures that he probably did do it, and if he did, it certainly makes my own cycling efforts seem puny -- no, totally inconsequential -- by comparison.

Perhaps I would be just as incredulous if I saw for myself the types of ascents, and the length of ascents, that the Tour de France cyclists routinely make. But at least they're on paved roads. My pictures of the Eckbauer trail don't do justice to the ruts and roots and rocks.

Anyway, Mr. Eckbauer is the guy who should be writing a blog. If you're reading this, my friend, I salute you.

But I still want to know, did you really cycle the entire way up??


Anonymous said…
wow, great pics. Looks like nice sk-ing
Grant Podelco said…
The skiing was incredible. I think they do it all year round up there on the glacier.

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