With Kirsty’s impending move back to the UK it was about time we made the most of her remaining weeks in Germany before it was too late. With that in mind I booked off a Monday and got to planning for a long weekend based in Garmisch Partenkirchen, nestled on the German-Austrian border.
The plan was fairly simple; Friday night flight to Munich after work, early Saturday train to Garmisch, tent up and climbing by 12 on the Bernadeinwand North Face, Alpspitze North Face on Sunday then a quick climb Monday morning before heading back in time for an evening flight home.
Apart from the matching miserable colds Kirsty and I were both sporting, things got off to a good start. I was out of work on time and had no problems with my flight. By 11pm I was settled in at Kirsty’s, ready for an earlyish morning arriving in Garmisch about 10am.
Ready to hit the road
The train into Garmisch arrived on time and we soon found ourselves putting our tent up in the valley, looking up at the north face of Alpspitze and thinking about the climbing to come. We packed our bags and wandered up to the cable car station, headed up the Alpspitze bahn and walked across to the foot of the Bernadeinwand. By this point it was already 1pm but with four and a half hours to go until the last cable car we still felt confident that we could make it in time.
North Face of the Bernadeinwand
Unfortunately this is where things started to go wrong. Whilst gearing up at the top of the ramp which marks the start of the climb my shoe took on a life of its own and next thing I knew I was watching it gather momentum as it spiralled down to the scree ramp fifty metres below. After a brief period of disbelief following by a few choice swear words I rigged up an abseil from the first pitch belay and headed down to recover my lost footwear. Once I was fully shod I decided the quickest way back up would be to solo back to the foot of the climb, ignoring the guide book claim that the first (optional) pitch that we had circumnavigated was about grade HVDiff/Severe. Half way up I realised that the guidebook was, surprisingly, correct. Not a problem in itself except for the fact that the rock was so loose I had to test every hand and foot hold having pulled off the first two I decided to grab. I arrived back at the belay a sweaty mess and we were now another thirty minutes down and still yet to start climbing.
Kirsty, still laughing at my “magic shoe” thirty minutes later.
Finally, I started the climb. It was described as having a mixture of fixed gear and trad placements but I struggled to find many placements and mostly relied on the odd bolt and peg left from ascents past to keep me safe. This would have been fine except after leaving the chimney which marked the first half of the first pitch I made a minor navigational error and instead of heading rightwards up a ramp I ended up on a completely blank slab, twenty metres above my last bit of gear and wondering where the hell the invisible next belay had got to. Fearing I had gone wrong I started to traverse right, my sphincter making the move from 50p to 20p diameter as I looked down at the bolt below me. Just as I was nearing some safer looking ground a handhold pulled out and span down the mountain leaving me sprawling for a safer position. Down to 5p. Just then I spotted some tat and down climbed to find an old peg. Nearly out of rope I knew I was long past the belay I was originally aiming for so made myself safe and called Kirsty through.
Heading up the chimney of pitch one. Blissfully unaware of what lay ahead
Having accidentally combined the first pitch with most of the second it was a short fifteen metres to the next belay and thankfully fairly uneventful. On the third pitch however, I again climbed too high and ended up at the belay for a completely different (and much harder looking) route sending plenty of loose rock down at Kirsty in the process. At this point, having spent two hours making a complete arse of climbing three pitches and feeling pretty miserable with man flu I decided it was probably about time to take the hint and bail. With Kirsty down at the second belay I quickly rigged an abseil and headed down to join her. The mountain had other ideas and, keen to give us just one final kick in the arse, as I was pulling the ropes through they got stuck. Unfortunately this meant one thing, climb the pitch again to unstick the ropes. At this point, having freed the ropes, I was through messing and just down-climbed back to the belay. Luckily, apart from a few stones to the helmet the rest of the escape was fairly uneventful and we were soon back where we started at the foot of the chimney.
Let’s get the f*ck out of here!
Having bailed we made good time and arrived back at the cable car station for some “hooray we’re alive” ice creams before heading back down to the valley. At dinner that evening we both felt pretty run down and realised that Alpspitze the next day just wasn’t going to be any fun for either of us, so we decided to take the tourist option and hit the cogwheel train to the top of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. The rest of the day saw us chilling out, watching paragliders soar around the peaks and trying to eat as much traditional fare as possible washing it down with a few choice glasses of helles.
The highest weisswurst in Germany, not a bad way to finish the weekend
Leaving Garmisch the following morning, looking up at Alpspitze from the station, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed that we hadn’t even got to attempt the climb after our epic on Bernadeinwand, but it also highlighted that there is more to do in the mountains and sometimes it’s just as fun to chill out with someone you love spending time with in such beautiful surroundings.
As for Alpspitze, there’s always next time…