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Zugspitze via the Gatterl - over the border at 2000m

Zugspitze via the Gatterl - over the border at 2000m


Postby uk-scrambler » Sat Sep 18, 2021 9:43 am

Date walked: 09/08/2019

Time taken: 7

Distance: 14 km

Ascent: 2064m

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I first reached the summit of the Zugspitze 30 years ago. That was as a child via the cable car. It was good fun but it never dawned on me that there are routes that mere mortals such as myself (with no technical climbing experience) can take to climb Germany's highest mountain. Myself and Luca (my son) have done a lot of alpine hiking and some scrambling. When we visited Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 2019 I did some research of Zugspitze routes and we decided to go for the Gatterl. It's a long slog, and a lot of altitude to gain the peak at 2962 m. It takes a bit of scrambling, a lot of hard work, and a head for heights. It is less technical than the Hollental route, which has been described here https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=84315

We left Garmisch-Partenkirchen at 0430 and drove to Ehrwald, over the border in Austria. The fun thing about the Gatterl route is that you pass over the border into Germany above 2000 m. We parked at the car park at the bottom of the ski-runs in Ehrwald at 0530 and took the obvious path up the piste to the Ehrwalder Alm. The sun was just coming up and lighting up the tops of the mountains that enclose the enormous Mordor-like Zugspitzplatt. The route goes below the south rim of the Zugspitzplatt, up through the Gatterl (gate), and onto the vast lunar landscape of the plateau, and finally along a steep ridge to the summit complex.

IMG_5099.jpg
A long way to go. The summit is over the plateau behind that range.


We were loving life. Quite chilly when we set off (still a bit dark). But we soon warmed up. There was a couple of guys doing the same route a couple of hundred meters ahead of us. The odd thing about climbing the Zugspitze is it can be very quiet and peaceful all the way through the route, until you get on the plateau and close in on the summit, then suddenly there's a lot more people. A lot of people take the cable cars up to the summit and walk down onto the plateau. For most of the way it was very tranquil... just us and the two guys ahead of us.

There's a few landmarks on the way. We were interested in the Pestkapelle. 'Pest' in this context means Plague. We wondered if it dated from the Black Death but it's actually from a later plague in 1643. The cow did not want to let us have a closer look so we continued to the Hochfelder Alm where there was a great view with the mist lifting off the valley.

IMG_5104.jpg
Holy Cow.


IMG_5108.jpg
Insert sound of cowbells.


The route passed through some really attractive country as we gained altitude and got further away from civilisation. This section, just before the sun burst over the ridge ahead was wonderfully quiet.

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Still a good couple of hours before the border.


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Here comes the sun.


We stopped for breakfast at the lookout mound Am Brand. Our friends ahead of us had just finished theirs and were heading off towards the Gatterl. It was starting to warm up at this point and we checked the map to see how far we'd come. Still a long way to go. I'd say the German 1:25,000 maps are ok but not great (certainly not as good as OS), but the routes are very well marked around the Zugspitze (even the climbing routes). Next we headed off through lovely green alpages towards the higher peaks.

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That's the way.


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Lots of green and blue on this route.


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Gentians.


Before the Gatterl we had a short section of straightforward scrambling. Cables are in place for assistance. This was a lot of fun and we were excited about finally seeing the Gatterl which must surely be around the next corner.

IMG_5149.jpg
Up and over.


Finally we made it to the Gatterl at 0830. It is an obvious highlight of the route. We were eager to see what the Zugspitzplatt beyond would look like, a place we'd heard so much about. We stopped for obligatory photos at the border and chatted to a German father and son coming the other way who asked to see our passports. They had stayed overnight in the Knorrhutte (a mountain 'hut' we were looking forward to visiting on our way to the summit) and told us there were some wild goats on the plateau that they had spotted the evening before.

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The Gatterl. Papers please.


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Deutschland, ok - finally we've made it.


Over in Germany we got our first look at the Zugspitzplatt, a vast barren desert that goes on and on for miles. It's apparently good for skiing in winter, but in summer is a very strange sight. The entire route to the summit was essentially all there before us and what we found quite disorientating is that the lack of any landmarks or objects makes it hard to judge distances. The summit looks deceptively straightforward but was still 4 hours away (and we went at a fairly decent pace). We could see the Knorrhutte across the plateau, it looked close but was still over an hour away. We enjoyed the experience of being in this unusual place.

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First sighting of the summit.


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View from the Zugspitzplatt down the Reintal (an alternative route up, from Garmisch-Partenkirchen).


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Here's the route.


We passed a kind of shrine of stacked rocks on the plateau and stopped for a bite to eat. I am fascinated by some of the alpine climbing routes (even if I will probably never climb them) and I had heard that there is a refuge on the Jubliaumsgrat 'Jubilee Ridge' at about 2700 m on the severe knife edge between the Alpspitze and the Zugspitze. What a feeling it must be to make it to that place! We could just about make it out on the line of rock high above the Knorrhutte (our next destination).

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Zugspitzplatt.


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Impressive.


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The 'Jubilee Ridge' looks like a lot of fun (if you have the right gear - I read about a guy who went across it barefoot!)


The Knorrhutte was a great place to reach after all the work we'd put in. It's a lot bigger than I thought with accommodation for 34 people(!) It has a bar as well, of course. Prices are high because there are no roads to this place and all the stuff has to be flown in by helicopter. We stayed on the terrace for a much enjoyed cold drink served to us by a woman in lederhosen. After that we set off for Part II of the push across the plateau.

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The Knorrhutte, hooray.


IMG_5193.jpg
Well, it's nice but its not quite the Corrour Bothy.


It was surprisingly hard work after the Knorrhutte. It's hard to judge distances and inclines and it was a deceptively steep climb. The sun was very hot by now at 1030, so it was good to reach some snow and cool down a bit. We didn't see any wild goats but we did come across a few sheep mooching about at 2600 m. We passed a junction that goes up to the Jubilee Ridge - I don't know why but I am fascinated to know what it must be like up there.

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Baa.


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Maybe one day. 7 and a half hours along the Jubilee Ridge to the Alpspitzbahn, wow.


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Moon base ahead up there.


The higher we went, the busier it got. As we closed in on the Schneeferner glacier, on the plateau about 400 m below the summit there were quite a few people around. Most go up to the summit by cable car (or the train that goes through the mountain) then take a second cable car down to the glacier. Some then scramble back up to the summit along the route we were taking. At this time in the height of summer the glacier is not so impressive, and quite dirty and muddy from all the people scrambling over it.

We scrambled up past the Scheefernerhaus on the steepest part of the route. This was a punishing slog up a joyless scree slope, using the cables for assistance. Every step takes twice the effort for half the reward because of slipping down on the scree. Eventually better rock is reached and it is a wonderful final 200 m or so ascent, half scrambling, half walking. Many folks were impressed with Luca (13) making his way along here. They probably didn't realise he'd made it all the way up from Ehrwald with a 0530 start.

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Up amongst the big boys of the alps now. Grossglockner (3798 m) somewhere in the distance.


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Looking down on the Scheeferner glacier, at the top of the Zugspitsplatt.


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Nice route this.


The final section is up a ridge towards the summit complex with an enormous drop on the left hand side down towards Eibsee. It's quite vertigo inducing if you choose to look down that way! The rock is well polished up here with all the people that have walked along it. We were very eager not to slip up at this late stage in the trek. Then, suddenly, it's the strange experience of arriving on the steps of the summit complex and climbing up to the bars and stalls laid out on the terraces. It was 1230 and heaving with people. We even had to queue for a while to stand at a spot by the edge to have a look at the view. A really odd feeling after the solitude of the walk up.

We spotted the two guys who had taken the same route from Ehrwald, now enjoying a celebratory beer, probably also thinking how odd it all was. It's something of an anti-climax after all that went before, but we weren't about to complain because we were fully expecting to take advantage of the opportunity to descend by cable car! There were big queues for the summit itself and we couldn't be bothered to wait so we headed inside and enjoyed sampling possibly the greatest of the feats of German engineering - the Currywurst.

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We can either walk back down or get the cable car.


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The final push.


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Hmmm. A lot of people summiting today.


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You are the wurst.


We took the cable car back down to the Austrian side with wonderful views of Eibsee as the machine undid in 15 mins all of the altitude we had worked so hard to gain. At the bottom we walked back round to the car park (a much longer distance than we could be bothered to do!). I got bitten by a horsefly, which was not fun the next day. Neither was the stiff legs. But what a great feeling to have climbed that mammoth! Memories that will stay with us for a long long time.
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Re: Zugspitze via the Gatterl - over the border at 2000m

Postby dav2930 » Sat Sep 18, 2021 3:10 pm

Enjoyed your account and photos. Looked hard and hot work, but rewarded with spectacular views. :clap:
It seems continental peaks are much more commercially developed than those over here - excepting Snowdon, of course!
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Re: Zugspitze via the Gatterl - over the border at 2000m

Postby Pointless Parasite » Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:35 pm

Looks great, apart from the crowds on the summit. I'll bet 99% of them took the cable car up and felt no shame :lol:. I'm intending to have a go at Zugspitze this winter but havn't decided a route yet. There is a route direct from Garmisch-Partenkirchen but it's very long (nearly 30 km) and wouldn't be much fun in the snow.

Edit: Can you buy cable car tickets for the return on the summit or do you need to buy before setting off?
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Re: Zugspitze via the Gatterl - over the border at 2000m

Postby Pointless Parasite » Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:41 pm

dav2930 wrote:Enjoyed your account and photos. Looked hard and hot work, but rewarded with spectacular views. :clap:
It seems continental peaks are much more commercially developed than those over here - excepting Snowdon, of course!


Lol, yeah that's an understatement! Have you ever climbed Schilthorn? That's the one from Her Majesty's Secret service. There's something utterly bizarre about spending hours climbing to the summit then walking through sliding doors and into a 007 themed gift shop.
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Re: Zugspitze via the Gatterl - over the border at 2000m

Postby uk-scrambler » Sat Sep 18, 2021 11:07 pm

dav2930 wrote:Enjoyed your account and photos. Looked hard and hot work, but rewarded with spectacular views. :clap:
It seems continental peaks are much more commercially developed than those over here - excepting Snowdon, of course!


I think you're right. Some of the popular peaks in the Alps are very developed - and like Snowdon cater well for getting large numbers of people to the summit with not much effort! There's plenty of less popular peaks that are just as fun that have very few visitors though. That said, I personally have never experienced in the Alps the kind of wilderness you get, say, bivvying on Ben Macdui. Thanks for the comments.
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Re: Zugspitze via the Gatterl - over the border at 2000m

Postby uk-scrambler » Sat Sep 18, 2021 11:23 pm

Pointless Parasite wrote:Looks great, apart from the crowds on the summit. I'll bet 99% of them took the cable car up and felt no shame :lol:. I'm intending to have a go at Zugspitze this winter but havn't decided a route yet. There is a route direct from Garmisch-Partenkirchen but it's very long (nearly 30 km) and wouldn't be much fun in the snow.

Edit: Can you buy cable car tickets for the return on the summit or do you need to buy before setting off?


:lol: I think almost all of them took the cable car up!
Zugspitze in the winter will be a serious undertaking!.. I hope you put an account of it on here, would love to hear how it goes. Garmisch is a lovely town, there's also a lot of great hiking to do at lower altitudes. We did a much much smaller hike (but spectacular nevertheless) to the town of Wamburg.

We did not pre-book any cable car tickets. It was straightforward to buy tickets at the booth at the summit. That was for the cable car on the Austrian side. I'd expect it's also straightforward for the German side cable car. The cable cars are big and take a lot of people at once. I'm not sure if the frequency would change between summer/winter but they seem to be very efficient at quickly getting large numbers of people up and down the mountain!
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Re: Zugspitze via the Gatterl - over the border at 2000m

Postby past my sell by date » Thu Sep 23, 2021 2:30 pm

Great report and climb - but so sad to see such acres of scree/boulders that would have been nice firm snow a hundred years ago (or maybe a lot less). Hate to be picky, but your "gentians" are Bellflowers (campanula) - harebells to us
.
30964-Gentiana-Campestris.jpg
These are field gentians - though there are a dozen or more species found in the alps
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Re: Zugspitze via the Gatterl - over the border at 2000m

Postby uk-scrambler » Fri Sep 24, 2021 5:39 pm

past my sell by date wrote:Hate to be picky, but your "gentians" are Bellflowers (campanula) - harebells to us


Thanks for the correction! There was I thinking I knew what I was talking about :lol:

I do remember that they looked more dark blue in real life than they came out in my photo (I think the white balance may have 'corrected' the colour).
The true colour was more like these ones below (which might actually be gentians??) This photo was from earlier in the year in a different part of the alps however!
IMG_3794.jpg
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Re: Zugspitze via the Gatterl - over the border at 2000m

Postby past my sell by date » Fri Sep 24, 2021 5:58 pm

Those are also gentians - spring gentians - one of my favourites: real Psychedelic blue :shock: :D
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