Sitting in a Biergarten (beer garden) under some old and huge chestnut trees drinking delicious micro brewed Hefeweizen and thinking about a nice mountain tour for the following day. Isn't that a brilliant way to finish an ending day. My old friend Christian had the idea about doing the Mittenwalder Höhenweg. It is a 3 hrs climb and scramble along a knife sharp ridge in the Karwendel range. The route itself is equipped with some fixed steel cables and a few ladders on exposed and vertical sections. After finishing the last Weizen we drove home with the intent to meet tomorrow in the little town of Oberau at 7:30 AM. From there we will carpool the remaining 30 KM to Mittenwald.
I'll tell a little side story here, because something like that will happen not too often and probably only at a place where you grew up and still have some good friends from High school.
On our ride from Oberau to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (8 KM) we passed our old climbing friend Norbert in his company car and on his way to work. First he didn't pay too much attention who is passing him but when he noticed a car pulling up to his side window and two guys waving at him he turned his head slowly to the side and cranked down the window "Are you guys going climbing?" - "YES" - "Holy cr*p, I have to work - you guys have fun" closed the window and turned off the highway. 5 minutes later a "must" pit stop in Partenkirchen at the legendary bakery of Joseph Braun. He is well known for the best soft pretzels in town, what a nice breakfast treat. Finally we continue with the ride for the last 10 kilometers to Mittenwald.
Spectacular views into the Karwendel Range
Weekday trips are always good. No crowds, no hassle to find a parking spot and the best, far away from work. A 10 minute ride with the Karwendelbahn cable car lifts us from 1000 m to 2244 m above sea level. A short hike from the station to the crest of the ridgeline where the actual climbing part starts. The ridgeline creates the border between Austria and Germany or historical known as the border between Tyrol and Bavaria. The actual line of the border is marked with white painted, square granite markers. The engraved letter "Ö" for Österreich (Austria) and "D" for Deutschland (Germany).
One of many ladders
At the trailhead a large group got ready for the same route we had on our agenda for today. Most of the group members were fuzzing around with harnesses and were rigging up a short rope with a karabiner to belay themselves at the sections with the fixed steel cable. Christian and I are hoping to get far enough ahead of them and not having to share the narrow trail with 20 others. It took them for ever to get organized and that gave us plenty of buffer between them and us. We got lucky and enjoyed the moderate but long climb almost by ourselves.
The Tyrol Hut, Closed for the 2005 season
The most impressive part is that the crest of the Mittenwalder Höhenweg is about 1400 meters above the valleys to both sides. To the right the valley of the Isar river cuts deep in between the Karwendel range and the Wetterstein range. It's turquoise waters and the parallel running highway and railroad are visible for most of the time. To the left side, the Austrian side, the beautiful Karwendel valley runs about 1400 meters below us. The views on the Austrian side are pictured by the entire Karwendel range. On a blue bird day like this one the views are just amazing on this trail. The Karwendel and Wetterstein mountains are the closest, the glaciated peaks of the Stubaier and ötztaler Alps as well as the Zillertaler Alps are stretching along the horizon. The trail seems almost like climbing a ladder into the deep blue sky.
An other view of the Ridge Line
Towards the end of the difficult sections, approximately after 2 hours of climbing and scrabling, the sharp ridgeline changes over into a wide grassy back. It drops gently into the saddle between Rowandlspitze and Kirchlspitze. This is a great area for our lunch break. We pulled some cheese, salami and pretzels out of the backpack and it did not took long and a few hungry crows were landing nearby. These creatures know that there is always a little bit left for them. From here it would be only a 10 minute hike over to the Tiroler Hütte (private cabin with small restaurant) where they usually serve cold beer and other beverages as well as typical Tyrolean and Bavarian snacks. But this season the host did not return and the little cozy hut remains closed. We could only enjoy the views over to the cabin and dream of a cold beer.
After a good refreshing rest we started the long and tiring descent towards Mittenwald. But there is hope, about half way down and after the steepest parts there is the Brunnstein cabin, a German Alpine Club hut, waiting for us with cold refreshments. First we had to walk and slide though some ankle deep and very loose scree and after that the trail winds down through endless fields of "Latschen". This is a common tree species in higher regions of the Alps and it is basically a cripple pine, growing not taller than 4-5 feet and is very resistant to the extreme mountain climate and to a certain degree to avalanches . On a hot and sunny day, like today, they heat up and radiate the heat back to the passing hiker -- go figure, walking like thru a convection oven!
One and a half hour later we reached the Brunnstein hut. We got our long waited for beer. The "Mittenwalder Berggold" a local brew from Mittenwald was a perfect thirst quencher on this hot and humid day. Christian mentioned that after an afternoon beer he always feels "a little bit besides his socks", I agreed but this is just fine for the remaining 2 hours of a boring walk back to our car.
"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world."
--Oscar Wilde on Absinthe