By doing one!
Having this in mind I planned my very own adventure race: getting to the Alps, hiking up a remarkable mountain, climbing the last few hundred metres of elevation to the peak via one of the most difficult via Ferratas and then returning home the same way.
It turned out that planning such a trip and taking a day off is much easier that actually getting up at 3:45am!
After a quick breakfast I shouldered my rucksack. Since I expected significant amounts of snow on the mountains quite a lot of gear had to be packed: hiking boots for crampon use, crampons, hiking poles, multi-purpose helmet, head torch, harness, Via Ferrata set, sunglasses, hardshell jacket and trousers, hat, two pairs of gloves, spare shirt and socks, 3 litres of water, energy bars, gummy bears, bananas, maps, money, mobile phone. All this added up to a 16kg load on my back!
At 4:25am on March 30th I was ready. I didn’t want to use my car at all. That’s why I set off on my bike with freezing temperatures for the first 83km stage from the south of Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. While riding the first three hours through the pitch dark Upper Bavaria I was trying to find a sensible track because I wanted to use public roads as little as possible.
At 9:05 I reached the valley station of the Kreuzeck cable car and took a short rest changing trousers and boots and locking my bike. Then I started on the second stage – a 1.500 metres ascent. I was the only one not travelling by skis! The first part of the trail was very muddy, further up the mountain I encountered icy winter foot paths and snowy ski slopes. After passing peak Kreuzeck and the Hochalm I could see my goal for the first time: peak Bernadeinkopf, 2143m, right next to Alpspitze, Germany’s second highest mountain.
During the 400 metres-traverse from the ski piste to the Via Ferrata I had to fight against 1.5m deep snow on the 40 degree slope. This took me almost 20 minutes! I realised that I was the first to climb this wall for weeks. Then I was ready to enter the Mauerläufersteig. Graded D-E (on a scale A to E) it’s one of the hardest in the Eastern Alps area.
It was going to be my first ascent there and the conditions weren’t even close to fairly good: according to the Via Ferrata’s topo the fixed route offers very few usable foot holds and these were, like some sections of the steel cable, deeply covered by snow and ice. Climbing with those stiff boots and the heavy rucksack didn’t make it any easier. On the steep and overhanging wall gravity seemed to increase. Even ‘easy’ sections proved to be a real challenge since the Via Ferrata goes up the wall like a zig-zag line and traversing ledges turned out to be sloping and slippery.
After a 2hour fight I got to the rope bridge near the peak. At 2:45pm I took a short break on top of Bernadeinkopf enjoying the great scenery around Alpspitze and Zugspitze.
But the weather was getting worse and large clouds were condensing. I really didn’t want to risk being caught in a white-out up there. On my descent back to the ski slope I had to do another Via Ferrata: Schöngänge. It was totally buried by snow, so my carabineers and leash were useless. But some minutes before a few other guys took the same way down on their ski tour and proved it to be doable even without protection. During my down climb light snow fall set in. But my pace was fast enough and the sun started shining again when I reached the ski slope.
Then it was time for the funniest part of the day: surfing down the Kandahar World Cup downhill ski slope with my boots! Warm temperatures and the firm surface made it a real pleasure.
Back on my bike I swung by a friend’s shop in Garmisch to look for some new trail running shoes. At 6pm I set off for the last stage, the 83km-ride home. Around half-time it got dark again and started to rain!
After fighting through wet conditions for the last 40km I returned home just before 10pm.
It was a stunning and exhausting day for me with more than 2.000 metres of elevation gain and almost 200km and 16 hours of sport. I don’t think I have slept that deeply for a long time – actually since the World Champs in Spain last year!
Franz, member of Team Berghaus Adventure