Hooked & Wired: Climbing to The Top of Germany

The Höllental Via Ferrata: Two day tour to Zugspitze summit, Germany’s highest mountain

The short and easy way

Two years ago I stood right here. On the highest peak of Germany, at the summit cross at 6:00 in the morning. And above all I felt one thing: respect. Respect for all those, who had made it here on foot and not like myself by taking the cable car. The sun rose behind the mountains and the scenery was breathtaking. I took it all in and loved it, but deep down I knew: I hadn’t earned it.

Am Gipfel 2011. Aufstieg: 5 Minuten.
On the summit in 2011.
Die tibetischen Gebetsfahren im Morgengrauen.
Tibetian flags blowing in the morning breeze.
The platform Zugspitze at sunrise, 2011.
The platform Zugspitze at sunrise, 2011.

The long way

When I was invited as a blogger to go on a tour held by the Mammut Alpine School I instantly knew which one I wanted to go on. The two day trip to Zugspitze was an easy pick. I didn’t think much of the 2200m between the parking lot and the summit cross that I would have to walk. Neither did I realise there was a glacier in between. It’s a certain convenience that comes up when you don’t plan a hiking trip yourself but have someone do it for you. It’s easy and it feels save. And as long as you don’t underestimate yourself that’s a good thing.

Most summits in the alps can be found online. There are descriptions of the routes, YouTube videos ranging from 2 to 30 minutes with folk music or dramatic music that gives you the impression a shark might jump into the picture any second, watch for example this one, this one still makes my heart speed up. The truth? Somewhere inbetween. It’s not a beginner’s mountain, it can easily be underestimated due to the length of the hike and climb and because of quickly changing weather conditions in high altitude. But, it’s also a well constructed via ferrata and you don’t need to be a climbing champion to do it.

We all meet in Hammersbach, the beginning of our hike through the Höllental gorge. There are four of us: David, our guide from Tirol and two Germans, who leave a professional impression already when helping at parking into the parking spot (one of the front one at the back of the car showing the distance). We pass the people enjoying cold beers at the entrance to the hike and slowly make it the Höllentalklamm-Einstiegshütte, the first hut. Here we get our tickets to pass the gorge. It’s a stunning gorge and very busy. We stop a lot and at the end of our hike we’re more than ready for a cold drink. Luckily there is a sign pointing the way that already announces beer. Yes, we’re definitely in Bavaria.

Blick ins Höllental, der Gipfel ist noch in Wolken gehüllt.
Hiking up the Höllental.


Hütten, Bier, Gehzeit. Alles da.
Hut, beers, walking time. It’s all there.


Die Höllentalangerhütte.


Sonnenuntergang im Wettersteingebirge.
Sunset in the Wetterstein mountain range as seen from the hut.

The Höllenangertalhütte is an alpine hut that could be right out of a bookOld, welcoming and friendly hut wardens. That night it’s fully booked and the place is packed when dinner time comes around. We meet some nice people from Vienna and together we puzzle over how the hike will be like tomorrow, what the gap between the glacier and the rock will be like and what time we should get up to avoid the masses. It’s a simple calculation: 80 beds, most of the people look like they’re on the summit track as well. This means breakfast at 5:00am for is.

Abendliche Besprechung unserer Route über den Gletscher.
Looking at the map at night.

The night goes by and I don’t get any sleep. I keep feeling like I’m about to fall a sleep but then nothing happens. In my head I go over the maps and the descriptions again and again. Finally the clock says 4:30 and I get up. I wash my face, tape my feet agains blisters, put on the climbing set and have some delicious breakfast. It’s time. Time to go.

It’s still pitch black outside as we leave the hut and we slowly walk towards the end of the valley. This is where the climbing starts, the first via ferrata. We clip ourselves onto the iron rope and climb up the ladder and cross the board (Leiter & Brett). The sun is already up by that time and every thing is well lit. Perfect conditions for a great day.

Die ersten Sonnenstrahlen des Tages. Ein guter Tag.
Morgenstunde hat Gold im Mund. Oder Sonne im Rücken.
Our first climb is already in the sun.


Erste Schlüsselstelle: die Leiter.
Climbing up the ladder.


Gehen. Warten. Vorwärts. Rückwärts. Stop.
Hiking, looking up, looking down. David has it all covered.


Anstieg über die letzten Grasflächen zum Gletscher.
The last patches of grass.

The first via ferrata is followed by a long hike across rocks, gras patches and past alpine flowers. We finally reach the gravel field and shortly after the glacier. It’s time to put on our crampons and on the rope we hike across the snow and ice. We walk reasonably fast and I’m glad about it. I don’t exactly like the feeling of being hooked on a rope and I’m relieved once we reach the gap to cross over to the rock.

Hübsche Blumen am Wegrand.
Alpine flowers on the way


Über die Geröllfelder zum Höllenfernergletscher.
Gravel fields to the Höllenferner glacier.

In diesem Jahr ist der Gletscher bereits soweit von der Felswand geflüchtet, dass wir zum oberen Einstieg des Klettersteiges gehen. Hier kommt man in einigen Schritten zum Seil und hinauf auf die Wand. Die Steigeisen geben dem Ganzen für mich das Gefühl wir sind hier auf einer kleinen Expedition. Der Herr in der Jeans mit Stock und Hut, der uns ohne jegliche bergtaugliche Ausrüstung überholt, relativiert das ganze jedoch schnell wieder.

Umpacken, Steigeisen auspacken.
Unpacking the crampons.


#fromwhereistand - Die fertig angelegten Steigeisen werden als Leihausrüstung zur Verfügung gestellt.
#fromwhereIstand in #Crampons 
Am Seil über die Schnee und Eisfelder.
Crossing the snow and ice.


Zack, zack gehen wir über den Gletscher.
Across the glacier.


Die Schlüsselstelle Randkluft zwischen Gletscher und warmem Felsen.
Meet the gap between the ice and the rock.

It’s now 500m more to go in altitude and they seem to turn hours into very long hours. My muesli bar stash get’s emptier as we go and just underneath the summit they’re all gone. But now, it’s only a short hike up.

Blick zurück ins Höllental zur Höllenangertalhütte.
View back on what we’ve already hiked up. Amazing.
Die letzen Meter zum goldenen Gipfelkreuz.
Reaching the muesli-bar-breakeven just underneath the summit.


Blick auf den Eibsee und die Zugspitzenbahn.
View down on the beautiful Eibsee and the cable car going down.

As we reach the summit we actually have to wait in line. It’s a busy day and the cross seems to still be a popular climb from the platform. Among Japanese, Americans and Dutch we finally stand at the cross. This time I’m the exotic bird. I take a deep breath, look back on the way we came and this time I feel it. I’ve actually earned it.

Geschafft, in jeglicher Hinsicht.
This time I’ve earned it.


Reste von tibetischen Gebetsfahnen.
There are still some remains of the flags. 
Ausspannen, im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes.
Letting go. We’ve now reached a save surrounding.


Ein Gipfel mit Eis, Cola und Souvenirkitsch.
A summit where you can buy ice cream, beers and souvenirs. Weird and great at the same time.

Details of the tour:

1st day Hammersbach – Höllentalklamm (Entrance fee: 4€) – Höllenangertalhütte over night (see prices on their DAV website)
2nd day Delicious breakfast at Höllenangertalhütte – Leiter & Brett via ferrata – Höllenferner glacier (recommended with crampons) – Randkluft gap – via ferrata tot he summit. 5-7 hours – it took us 6,5. The cable car down costs 29€ and you can even pick which country you want to go to: Austria or Germany ;)

Disclosure: Thanks to Bergfreunde.de and the Mammut Alpine School for inviting me to come on this amazing trip. I also want to thank our mountain guide David Pitschmann, who did a really good job in taking care of us and guiding us to the top.

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