During my recent trip to Munich my friend and tour guide Karen suggested that we go for a hike on Sunday, fortunately for us it was a perfect, cloudless blue sky day – yeah you know the ones. Just breathtaking!
After picking me up from my hotel we drove the hour south to the foothills of the Alps, and as we neared the snow-capped peaks we soon found ourselves navigating between these giants mountains on either side.
Our destination was Wallberg – a 1722-meter mountain perched overlooking Lake Tegernsee, such a formidable sight to behold at the end of the lake. Even at first glance this heavily treed and snow covered peak was going to make for an interesting hike to say the least… Although prepared for the hike it’s another thing to spend the first 20 minutes of the hike slipping on sheer ice trying to climb up the well-trodden path which led from the gondolier station – yikes!.
All the signs said it was a 3.5 to 4.0-hour hike, but she assured me this was really meant for older people…so who was she referring to I wonder???
In many way’s, the hike reminded me of Grouse Mountain near Vancouver, which I’ve hiked many times. Granted I’ve never had to tackle it with snow, but generally that hike takes about an hour, and so I was confident that we’d make it much faster than the predicted time on the board by the gondolier.
After about 40 minutes we came to a folk in the track, to the left the sign said the summit was a mere 2:30 min further but it was clear that you would almost have needed an ice pick and crampons to take that path so we opted for the seemingly flatter path to the right.
As we trekked higher the snow got deeper, and the forest around us got thicker and darker. A few people passed us all of whom were incredibly smart as the vast majority of them were using hiking poles to help them up this steep and winding path, through the snow and ice… I’ll have to remember this for next time I tackle a mountain in the Alps. 😉
This would have been especially handy on the steep sections of the track, because for every step forward I found myself slipping backwards at least half a step, which in itself isn’t so bad except for the sheer drops that seemed to be around every corner.
After about an hour and a half we found ourselves at the Wallbergmoos or half way point, the perfect time and place to cool off and grab a coffee.
The hut was situated on the edge of a large field surrounded by deep snow with a magnificently perfect Christmas tree, albeit 40 feet high some 50 meters from the hut. The sun was shining brightly and from my vantage point on the patio it looked as though the sun was the star on top of the tree. Wow!!!
We began the second half of the journey with high hopes of making the tree line within the hour, but the path became increasingly steeper – how was this possible? I asked myself as the sweat dripped from my chin.
We found ourselves having to take more frequent breaks to both catch our breath, and give our burning legs a little respite from the arduous climb.
The trees finally began to thin as we found ourselves moving across an open snow field toward a saddle that bridged two mountain peaks. To the left, high above us was our destination, and to the right another hut and pomma station up to a tall rocky peak some distance away.
To me, the mountain to the right looked more like the Matterhorn than another little foothill in the lead up the alps and I was aghast to see skiers making their way down this sheer rock face. Seriously bold and brave souls – clearly not for the faint of heart!
Not sure how you could categorize the pitch on the mountain – a four X black diamond run for sure…
As we climbed to the left the path created by the Snow-Cat was so steep and now icy in the hot sun that it took almost 45 min to climb up to the first peak or should I say “false peak”…crap!
For those of you that have hiked, you’ll know what I mean when I say “false peak” and how devastating it can be on your psyche after expecting to be at the top only to find another climb no less arduous climb right in front of you before you actually make the summit.
We arrived at the gondolier station about 2:00 pm – a full 3 hours and 30 minutes after setting off, clearly perfect for old people…
We were drained, but the feeling of elation soon took over as we stood transfixed by the surrounding beauty of both the gorgeous snow-capped mountains that we seemed cradled in, and far below Lake Tegansee shining like a sapphire. Just that moment alone seemed to wash away any lingering tiredness and exhaustion!
Feeling a little more than satisfied with our efforts we grabbed a bite to eat at the gondolier station so we could soak in the sunshine and let our damp clothes dry.
The mountain is a mecca for local paragliders and so we were entertained over lunch by a number of them launching themselves over the lip of the mountain toward the lake, risky given that at the widest part of the peak was only about 30 meters and so not much of a run up was possible. Glad it was them and not me!
The trip down was far more sedentary – my legs sure did appreciate it! It was about a 20 minute ride to the base station before driving back to Munich. All in all a great adventure and right in the middle of a picture postcard no less. 🙂
Soaking in the tub back at the hotel later than night I thought back on my three days in Munich and beyond and reflected on how lucky I am to be able to travel so frequently and to so many great places.
Wow, what a fabulous weekend! A big thank you to my tour guide Karen for being so generous with her time, happy to reciprocate if you’re ever in Toronto.