A Perfect Holiday in Grainau: Ski Mountaineering on Mount Wank

 // by Polina Peskovsky
A Perfect Holiday in Grainau: Ski Mountaineering on Mount Wank
Monday, 08 November 2021

Along with hiking, family outings and public celebrations in summer and in winter, Mount Wank is a ski mountaineering destination during the winter season. Due to a relatively low avalanche danger, amazing panoramic views, a picturesque downhill slope and cozy chalets, a winter hike to Mount Wank is worth the effort. This tour is classified as 'moderate' with approx. 1100 vertical meters.

7:15 am: The long-awaited snowfall has buried the mountains in the neighbourhood under enormous snow masses in no time. Nearly all skimo routes are closed this weekend due to increased avalanche danger.

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The only option left for us is Mount Wank - here you are relatively safe in almost any weather. In the morning twilight, our small group meets at the Wankbahn cablecar in Partenkirchen. The spacious parking lot at the valley station is still empty at this time of day, and the fresh snow is almost untouched. The ascent route starts directly from the parking lot, initially taking you along the roadside, then off to the left, where we climb the first vertical meters on the steep hairpin turns parallel to the cablecar track. From here on we are in the open terrain, so we switch on our avalanche transceivers. A few minutes later we turn left again and follow the mountain road to the Esterbergalm chalet.

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7:30 am: The road has already been cleared from deep snow, so, where possible, we keep finding little detours through the enchanted forest on the wayside to enjoy the first untouched snow splendor. The weather report predicts snowfall for the whole day, so today avalanche equipment makes sense on the Wank as well. After some 40 minutes after the start, we arrive at the road chapel 'Daxkapelle' that is known to have an altitude of about 1000 m. From here on, the trail gets somewhat flatter for a short time. However, as we pass the junction with the Farchant trail (this is the alternative ascent to Esterbergalm - see below), it gets really steep - in fact, this is the steepest section on the whole route at all. Nevertheless, at this early hour, there is a small company that overtakes us on the climb. It's just impressive how some people are really bursting with energy!

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8:40 am: Shortly before the Esterbergalm chalet the forest road gets flat again and we enter the Esterberg upper valley. Here in the first turn we pass the junction signposted as 'Wank via Frauenmahd' on our right. We normally love to use this gorgeous ascent track, but today we have to take the Roßwank trail. Under the current weather and snow conditions the Frauenmahd ascent trail is not recommended due to avalanche danger. So we continue on the wide flat road to the Esterbergalm and then take the path to Roßwank on the right shortly before the chalet.

In fine winter weather and good snow conditions the Esterbergalm is a popular starting point for various winter hikes. Beginners can try out a relatively relaxed trail from Krün to the Esterbergalm. Depending on how fit you are and your skiing technique, you may choose from multiple routes for experienced mountaineers, e.g. to Mount Bischof (2033 m), the 'Weilheimer Haus' chalet (1955 m), Mount Fricken (1940 m) or the highest peak in the Ester chain, Mount Krottenkopf (2086 m). The famous Hohe Kiste (1922 m) can be reached from here as well.

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9:00 am: The altitude difference from Partenkirchen to Esterbergalm is around 650 m, so we still have to climb some 500 vertical meters to the Wank summit. The ascent track runs in long loops over the former ski slope. It gradually stops snowing, and I can take a look at the Esterbergalm from above through the clouds.  

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9:50 am: As we reach the summit, the sun suddenly comes out and throws its warm rays over the snow-covered alpine landscape. Crowned with the Zugspitze, the Wetterstein range stands before us in its full splendor - this is one of the moments when you come to understand why actually Mount Wank bears the title of 'the Panoramic Mountain'. The route takes us further along a comfortable snow-free road that goes across the whole Wank summit. The summit is flat and wide, perfectly suited for strolling, and the traditional summit cross that you normally see on most Bavarian peaks is located near the Wankhaus chalet.

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10:15 am: Mount Wank is truly popular with ski mountaineers as well winter hikers, so it is not surprising that many of them are standing at the summit cross this morning. However, a strong north wind makes a break at the cross barely enjoyable. Despite of this, a few tough guys are bravely struggling with the wind, while the others are hiding in the lee next to the Wankhaus. Shivering from cold, I choose to stay with my friends at the cross. In the next few moments a snow plow comes about to clear the snow from the trail and shamelessly blows the icy snow dust in our faces. Well, that's enough for everyone! We rip off the skins from our skis and take off to the valley.

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10:30 am: The descent on the old Roßwank ski run is almost a luxury: the slope is wide, moderately steep, no trees or other obstacles, and it's not yet crowded at this early hour. The fresh powder snow is a fantastic reward for all the effort during the ascent. In just a few minutes we reach the Esterbergalm chalet again.

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This section is flat, so you have to carry your skis for a short time, until you reach the point where the road goes down again. After a short time the Esterberg road offers a brief detour to the old ski slope, which soon joins the forest road again. We meet more a more hikers - with touring skis or snowshoes, on foot, with sledges and scoopjets. It is not unfamiliar up here to meet someone on a winter e-bike, with their touring equipment attached to their backpack. They save the effort and start their tour from the Esterbergalm chalet. Anyway, you should be extremely careful on the narrow forest road, with that much traffic it can be really dangerous. Some sections of the road are very steep and icy, so you have to brake hard to avoid a collision as you go down. Fortunately, I see the Daxkapelle in the distance: here I can make a detour to the left where fewer hikers are on the way.

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11:20 am: So we have reached the parking lot again, and it's now full. Now that the sun is shining divinely from the sky, many more are heading to Esterberg to enjoy a perfect winter day on the Wank. Ski mountaineering to the Wank summit is a great tour, and it's not that demanding as many similar ski tours with 1000 - 1200 meters of altitude. The magnificent panoramic view of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the surrounding snowy landscape has made our day.

 

Alternative ascent from Farchant

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Because of its flat summit, the Wank gets covered with snow relatively early and evenly compared to other mountains, sometimes even in the last decades of autumn. In addition, the Roßwank run lies on the north face, so it sometimes offers an early ski season opening for true winter fans in December. However, very often the snow line during the first winter weeks doesn't reach below the Esterbergalm. The same happens in winter when snow lacks. No wonder that many locals have come to use winter e-bikes. If you don't have a winter e-bike, you have to master the ascent to the Esterbergalm on foot, carrying your skis on your backpack. This is really something for the tough.

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Here you can take advantage of the alternative ascent from Farchant. As you arrive to Farchant, navigate to Esterbergstrasse (parking lot "Skilift am Ried - Warmfreibad Farchant") and take the forest road to the left shortly before the parking lot. After some 150 meters the narrow trail branches off to the left (watch out for hiking signs to Esterbergalm). This nice picturesque path takes you up to the Esterberg road in several loops. On the descent, crampons are absolutely recommended due to heavy icing when the snow is missing.

 

Frauenmahd Trail

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When the avalanche situation is relaxed, try out the picturesque ascent on the Frauenmahd trail. Up through the mountain pines, this way is a quiet alternative to the bare Roßwank slope. To ascend with your skis, however, you need enough snow, since the steep path has many steps that are difficult to walk with skis on when the snow is missing, especially in the middle section. However, this was the only drawback - otherwise you get rewarded with amazing views in the direction of Mount Fricken, Esterbergalm and Farchant. In addition, this small path takes you directly to the summit cross, while on Roßwank you have to walk approx. 20 minutes through the summit area before you reach the cross.

 

Tips & Infos:

 

The Badersee Blog: More Winter in the Alpine Village of Grainau!

 

Ski Mountaineering in the Badersee Blog

 

Image Gallery: Winter Hike to Mount Wank from Partenkirchen

 

Image Gallery: Ascent from Farchant over Frauenmahd