By now Zugspitze is for sure my favourite subject to write about. The highest mountain in Germany makes it for the 3rd time on this website. First I shared 5 things to expect when visiting the Top of Germany .Then on the 21st of June 2019 we celebrated the Summer Solstice with Themed Mountain Fires at Zugspitze Arena. Today I want to write about our first summit on Zugspitze taking the via ferrata through the Höllental valley.
There are many ways to conquer Zugspitze and for sure one of the most challenging is taking the via ferrata (Klettersteig in German) in Höllental. You find many resources online about this route and I strongly encourage you to read them too. My contribution here is to present this experience through the eyes of someone who did 3 via ferratas before this one in her life.
The whole tour should take around 6 h – 6:30 h from the Höllental Cottage. This includes around 1 hour hiking, 45 minutes crossing the glacier and the rest is the joy of climbing rocks. That is why you chose this route, didn’t you?
To get to the via ferrata you need to hike 3-4 hours through a spectacular watery canyon until you reach the cottage.
DURATION VIA FERRATA 6 h from Höllentall Cottage
DURATION OF THE TRIP 2 days, 1 night at Höllentall Cottage
SEASON Jun- Sept
DIFFICULTY B/C INTERMEDIATE
PHYSICAL CONDITION very good
LANDSCAPE OMG! OMG! OMG!
Probably the hardest part of this journey is to reserve a bed for the night at the Höllentalhütte (Höllentall Cottage). This is tricky, especially if your adventure takes place on the weekend. The limited number of months for climbing and the finite number of beds, makes it challenging to reserve a spot there. We booked a night at the cottage around 4.5 months in advance. No kidding!
If you decide to do this in 2 days you need to pack accordingly. TAKE JUST WHAT YOU REAAALY NEED with you! Seriously now! Anything you put in the backpack goes up with you after on the rocks. Trust me, you do not want nor need a 6-8 kg backpack up there. Take your rain jacket, your via ferrata equipment, 2 t-shirts and changes, a tiny soap and of course your cottage sleeping bag. Yes, pack some sweets too for the way and 2 L of WATER!! There will be no place to refill until the top. Everything else you can simply live without for 40 hours.
The day starts incredibly early. We woke up at 4:30 AM, started to pack and went downstairs for breakfast. It is hard to imagine a cottage filled with more than a hundred mountaineers getting ready, so early in the morning. But this is how it was.
We started to hike at 5:40 AM that day. Apparently the weather was getting very bad around noon so they asked us to start real early for safety reasons. Being up on the rocks on a heavy rain or on the glacier in full fog it is not the definition of a fun day. It is dangerous.
By the time we got to the first via ferrata there were around 75 people before us already. This route is more than popular so pack some patience too. We were lucky (or not) to be there on a perfect blue sky morning at the end of July. Around 8:40 AM we were in our t-shirts only and covered in sweat. From now on it is just getting warmer and the path harder.
The first part of the trail was very fun and it looks more dangerous than it actually is. We took a few nice photos to catch the moment and kept moving because behind us more than another hundred climbers were advancing.
CROSSING THE GLACIER
As much as it gets its “nasty” reputation, crossing the glacier was both fun and easy that day. We literally just walked on snow. That’s it. We didn’t use ice grips for boots, rope or any other glacier equipment you read online. I crossed it wearing my hiking boots and still in T-shirt. Do read the weather forecast and the ice conditions, before showing up in light equipment.
The hardest part, as you already know, was indeed the passing between the glacier and the mountain. As a respectable glacier, Höllentalferner has between the ice and the rock 2, 3 m deep crevasses. Do not worry, you are in Germany and someone already thought of that. There are a few extra climbing ropes to make your glide easier.
The fun part is sometimes the hardest and we came here to have some fun. As you need both hands to hold on to rocks or the metal string along the wall, my picture density reduces here. The rock climbing itself is not that challenging. It is marked as intermediate B level in most parts. The climb is just very long. We did it in about 2:45 h and your endurance is more important than your strength.
There are few spots to stop and catch your breath, but with all the other mountaineers at your back wanting to continue, pausing is not an option. That day at least another 150 climbers were behind us, wanting to go their rhythm and make way. Oh, and forget about any natural necessities you might need to do. Both the rocks and the people make it impossible. Hold it in until the top.
AT THE TOP
At 11:30 AM we reached the summit with a total of 5:50 hours. That is for sure a great time, that we couldn’t achieve without the high number of mountain climbers behind us. 😉
15 m before the top someone drops a glass bottle, hits a rock and breaks right above my head. Now you know you reached Zugspitze summit. After almost 6 hours of climb and sweat we found ourselves on top surrounded by tourists, selfie sticks, Gucci bags, flip-flops. A full chaos of international tourists all pushing to get a picture on the summit. And what if I tell you that you actually have to climb some rocks in order to get there from the cable car? They still did it for that picture.
Thank you for reading and please ask below if you have any questions.