The Eighth Section of the Spitzenwanderweg Trail promises great views of the surrounding alpine ranges as well as into the valley, it takes the hiker along the most popular routes in the alpine village of Grainau. While the previous sections were quite demanding with multiple hundreds of vertical meters to climb, the route in Section 8 goes mainly downhill. In addition, you would visit the spectacular Höllentalklamm Gorge. The trail provides for refreshment stops as well: the 'Höllentalangerhütte' in the middle of the route and the 'Klammeingangshütte' ('Höllentalklamm Entrance Chalet') keep their doors open for the hikers.
Difficulty level: moderate
Tour length: approx. 20 km
Ascent: 500 m
Descent: 1400 m
Map © www.ich-geh-wandern.de
Spitzenwanderweg Long Distance Trail – Experience the natural landscape in the Zugspitze Region across 200 kilometers
The 'Spitzenwanderweg' was introduced just a few years ago. This long distance trail leads you in 12 sections across 200 kilometers through the picturesque manifold landscape of the Zugspitze region. With a total elevation of 6.800 meters, this route is quite sporty. But it's worth the effort. The route goes through a number of alpine landscape varieties and lets you visit numerous culture monuments. The trail starts and ends in the picturesque town of Murnau. On the way you would have to spend two nights at the alpine chalets: the Soiernhaus and the Schachenhaus. Across 200 kilometers hikers enjoy tremendous views of the Alps, blooming alpine and moor meadows, deep blue alpine lakes, whirling torrents, the spectacular Partnachklamm and Hell Valley gorges, pre-alpine hills with panoramic views, cultural monuments like Schachen and Linderhof royal castles, as well as typical Bavarian localities like Murnau, Krün, Mittenwald, Grainau or Oberammergau. There is a lot to discover on and aside the path.
Anticipation is the best joy, so we would hike one section after another, as the route will be a special experience for us locals as well. Sonja Wilms will walk the trail alone or sometimes with her colleague. Follow us on the route!
Image © spitzenwanderweg.de
To Section 7: From Schachenhaus To Kreuzeck (in German)
Section 8: From Kreuzeck through Höllentalklamm Gorge to Grainau
„Everyone would assume that on high mountains, where the air is pure and thin, one breathes more freely and feels physically lighter and mentally more serene.“
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, French-Swiss writer and philosopher, 1712 – 1778
Early in the morning the fantastic weather promises a wonderful, sunny hiking day crowned with great alpine views against the cloudless skies. After a good breakfast I am ready for the next section. Polly will be my hiking companion again, but we are meet up at the Hupfleitenjoch Saddle. As a trainee at the local mountain rescue service, she has an extra stretch (which is also a popular hiking route) ahead of her today, since she would first ascend from Hammersbach to the Hochalm, and that has to be done in a time of 1.5 hours. I take my hat off to that. On the contrary, for me the hiking tour starts very comfortably today, since it first goes on the Hammersbach Trail to the Kreuzeckbahn cablecar.
The view of the Waxenstein and the Alpspitze from the Hammersbach Trail is impressive and exciting at any time. This is really how you can motivate yourself for the upcoming tour, which is clearly visible from this point. In no time I reach the Kreuzeckbahn and take a seat in the cabin that comfortably brings me uphill.
As I arrive at the upper station, I have to find the right route, which is quite challenging, since there's quite a number of hiking trails leading from Kreuzeck in various directions. However, none of the hiking signs initially points to the Hupfleitenjoch Saddle, and signs for the Spitzenwanderweg are missing as well. I find this really annoying: poor signposting is a real problem on the local trails. Finally, I follow the sign that initially points in the direction of the Hochalmbahn base station and by staying on this route I reach the turnoff that would eventually lead me to the Hupfleitenjoch Saddle. Here, finally, I discover the long awaited sign for my future route.
The sign indicates 35 minutes' walking time to Hupfleitenjoch. And this is a walking time topped with an amazing natural landscape. The narrow path is framed with rhododendrons, there and again an amazing view of Garmisch-Partenkirchen extending over to Farchant and Oberau or to Grainau and Lake Eibsee on the other side emerges before my eyes.
The route is really a feast for the eye, moreover, the trail is actually flat, so except for some effort to watch my step on the narrow path despite all the beauty around me, the route is very easy. There is even a bench on the way to take a rest and enjoy the view. After some time I pass below the Alpspitzbahn cablecar. It brings those hikers in the cabin closer to the alpine peaks to let them spend a wonderful day in the mountains on their tour.
As I reach the Hupfleitenjoch Saddle, I have to wait for Polly. She is not there yet, so I can take a seat on a flat comfortable rock and enjoy the view from the saddle down into the Höllental. Now, two lady hikers arrive and ask me if I can take a photo of them. So during my waiting time I temporarily become a popular photographer for all hikers who want a souvenir photo with this amazing view. Soon I recognize Polly in the distance, as she marches along the trail coming down from the Hochalm. She must definitely be knocked out - at least, I would be so if I had to walk the whole route from Hammersbach to Hochalm and then over to Hupfleitenjoch.
However, as Polly is standing in front of me, she looks top fit and tells me happily that she has made it: walked the trail exactly in the time required for the 'Bergwacht' exam. It's certainly a huge challenge to meet the requirements for our local mountain rescue service, but this makes sense: to rescue people in this alpine area, you should be quick, as it is often a matter of life and death.
After I have shot so many photos of other hikers, it is now time to ask the others to take a photo of us. But before we descend to the 'Knappenhäuser' and the Höllentalangerhütte Chalet, we make a detour to the neighbouring small summit of Schwarzenkopf. The ascent is easy, but the route is not signposted. From the summit cross one enjoys an overwhelming view of the valley in the direction of Garmisch and out to Grainau. You can even make out the Hotel am Badersee with its turquoise blue lake in the middle of the green forest.
Back at the Hupfleitenjoch Saddle, we start our descent to the 'Knappenhäuser'. There we plan the first break. The trail goes downhill in serpentines, at some points supported by wooden steps. We enjoy the amazing alpine panorama. While the hikers struggling their way uphill from the Höllental look pretty exhausted and out of breath, we are lucky to enjoy our way down. However, we are familiar with this trail in the other direction as well, so we can understand their feelings. At some point you are just praying to reach the end of the trail.
On the other hand, the descent is a challenge as well, since it puts tension on your knees. The hiking poles may cushion this to some extent, but I'm already wondering what my calves would say at the end of the tour and the next morning. After the countless serpentines, stairs, passages with safety rope and also a small climbing section we reach the 'Knappenhäuser', an old historical building that had to do with the mining industry. Here we treat ourselves to a cool drink, relax our legs, and then just let us sit in the sun and enjoy the view.
After a short while it's time to start for the next destination: the Höllentalangerhütte Chalet. The trail goes steadily downhill, some stretches are even flat, and it gets increasingly broader. At the same time there are more and more people on the way, in the meanwhile this is the time when most hikers are on tour - so to say, 'the rush hour' in the Alps. The terrace at the Höllentalangerhütte Chalet is full as well in this nice weather. To our joy, there are a few picnic tables in the forest next to the chalet and some of them are still free, so we get a nice spot in the shade for our lunch break.
In this great location and fine weather, the lunch is simply wonderful and we enjoy it as long as possible. However, we still have a large part of the route before us, so we have to go. The last section leads us through the famous Höllentalklamm Gorge down to Grainau. By the way, down at the gorge exit there is another chalet that may be worth visiting as well.
We start through the picturesque Hell Valley. The route, level at first, becomes a sequence of serpentines again, and we finally approach the Höllentalklamm Gorge entrance (or exit, depending on which side you started). Here all hell has literally broken loose. Groups of people are camping along the riverbed, holding their feet in the cool water, enjoying a picnic and gathering new strength for the upcoming march up to the Höllentalangerhütte. Unfortunately, some leave their garbage here, instead of taking it back to dispose of it properly in the valley! What a shame!
With the help of a garbage bag we gather some of the trash left behind by the tourists and come into the Höllentalklamm gorge. The imposing 700 meters long gorge appeared millions of years ago, and was opened for the public at the beginning of the last century. The opening ceremony took place on 15.08.1905. Since that day, millions of people have already visited the Höllentalklamm. By the way, the name does not actually refer to 'hell', but to the German words 'höhlen' or 'aushöhlen' that have to do with caves or cavities.
Inside the gorge there's nothing left of the summer heat. After the pleasant warmth of the sun on our skin, it's now getting quite fresh, in fact, it feels like the temperature has dropped to some 15 degrees. Cold water drips from above, sometimes you have to pass through small cascades. Even though I have visited the Höllentalklamm several times, I always find it absolutely fascinating. The sweeping sounds produced by the huge masses of falling water, the narrow rocky gorge and the unbelievable turquoise colour of the water are simply gigantic.
Through the dark tunnels, where you can no longer see your hand in front of your eyes, over the wet rocky passages, steps and bridges we go down to the official entrance of the Höllentalklamm. Here we have to settle our entrance fee, and shortly thereafter we are out in the open again. In no time the temperatures return to the previous level, so our frozen bodies are quickly warmed up again. As we reach the Entrance Chalet, we decide to reward ourselves with a delicious piece of cake.
The cake was very good, and we must be off. The weather is apparently changing: a thunderstorm is steadily coming on us, which is not at all surprising on a late afternoon after such a hot day. The first thunder is already reaching our ears from afar. The normal descent route to Hammersbach is currently closed, so we have to take the Dr. Gazert Trail - the route that goes in the direction of the Stangensteig Trail and then continues straight ahead down to Grainau. Due to the closure, the trail is full, so we join the long line of hikers who all go in the same direction.
The route is best suited for families with children and offers a few natural highlights. On this trail we reach the village where Section 8 of the Spitzenwanderweg ends officially. Another wonderful hiking day comes to an end. Although today we were on well-known trails, they are all worth exploring again and again, no matter if you go up or down. And at the end we are happy to take off our hiking boots and relax after the long tour.
Tips & Infos:
- Route length: 12 km, actual kilometers: 20 km
- Walking time without breaks: approx. 3 hours 54 minutes
- Vertical meters: 510 m uphill, 1,420 m downhill
- Moderately difficult hike (the website says difficult, but we would describe this as moderately difficult compared to the previous 2-day tours), good hiking boots as well as hiking poles required. A head for heights and good sure-footedness are necessary. Terrain: mostly small trails.
- From the tourist office there is unfortunately only an overview map of the Spitzenwanderweg. There is also no digital trail map on the official Spitzenwanderweg website. The best navigation is therefore here.
- Public transport: From the hotel at Badersee with the Zugspitzbahn from station Badersee (Grainau) to Kreuzeck. From Hammersbach or Grainau with the Eibsee bus back to the hotel.
- If you like, you can take the picturesque Grainauer Höhenweg over the Neuner Alm, the panoramic trail to Christl-Hütte and the Badersee Trail on your way back to the Hotel am Badersee.
- Refreshment stops: Höllentalangerhütte, Höllentaleingangshütte
- Hiking signs available, the Spitzenwanderweg sign is sometimes shown small on the official yellow hiking signs. Therefore, check the yellow hiking signs for directions.
- The Hell Valley Gorge is normally open from May till the end of October, depending on the weather and snow conditions. When the gorge is closed, you can sometimes take the Stangensteig Trail, if the weather permits.
- Extreme avalanche and flood danger in the Hell Valley! Please mind that depending on the snow conditions this route gets completely closed in mid-November, after the bridges and safety cables get dismantled for the winter by the DAV.
- Those who do not like to walk downhill can of course walk the path in the opposite direction.Bergbahn Alpspitze opening hours and prices: www.zugspitze.de
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