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Hiking the Zugspitze, Germany's tallest peak | Let's Get Out There

At 9,700 feet, the highest point in Germany is a long tough climb, but the summit is worth every step. Enjoy the sights from Jon Goodwin's trip to the top.

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany — In this week's Let's Get Out There, we head southern Germany in the spirit of Oktoberfest. Jon Goodwin and his brother-in-law Sean climbed to the country's highest point this summer, the Zugspitze, and wanted to bring you along.

Some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen can be found in southern Germany. The rising Alps spark reminders of our own Cascade range here at home. 

This past summer, my brother-in-law Sean and I visited family in Europe and had the crazy idea to hike to the highest point in Germany, the Zugspitze.

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Credit: Google Earth

At about 9,700 feet tall, the breathtaking views are worth the hard work it takes to get there. A little more than 12 miles and seven thousand feet of elevation gain made our summit push in one day a tough endeavor.

Our day began at the Olympia-Skistadion in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The stadium and ski jump here were used in the winter Olympics in 1936 and again in 1978. 

There are many routes you can take, we chose the easiest and also the longest, the Reintal Route. A deep valley with a clear mountain stream flows along the trail until you begin to climb in elevation. 

The jagged peaks of the Alps make themselves known rather quickly and towered over us for most of the day.

Credit: Jon Goodwin

There are several huts along the trail if you need to stop and eat or of course, have a beer. 

About 10 miles in is where the trail begins to climb and we found the Knorr Hut to be a perfect place to take a break. Run by the German Alpine Club, Many folks stay at the hut overnight if they attempt the route in two days. 

Our pit stop was not for the lodging, rather for a tall cold hefeweizen. If it wasn’t obvious we were in Bavaria, the immaculate clouds and bleating of sheep on the hillsides made it so.

Credit: Jon Goodwin

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As we slowly rose higher and higher, more surrounding peaks became visible. The green meadows turned to loose rock and before long we could see the summit. 

The ending to this climb is a little different than you might expect.

The only word to describe the final push of this climb is “sketchy.” A steep scree field reminiscent of Mount St. Helens turns your noodle legs to Jell-o. 

Finally we reached the hard limestone making up the summit ridge. Cables drilled into the rock are there for you to grab onto, and I’d highly recommend it.

Sadly, there are several plaques in this area commemorating climbers who presumably slipped and fell to their deaths. A sobering reminder of alpine dangers despite its non-technical nature. 

Other signs point out the Germany/Austria border and taking in these views are both breathtaking and nerve-wracking.

Credit: Jon Goodwin

Finally, the summit of the Zugspitze is unlike any other mountain. Rather than the quiet and solitude you may crave, you’re inadvertently greeted by throngs of strangers. 

A gift shop, restaurants, and observation decks kill the vibe for some, but the big positive is the tram that brings people up made for a 10-minute descent. 

Credit: Jon Goodwin

Turns out we may not have taken the easiest way up after all, but we would be taking it down. No shame here.

I was extremely blessed to experience climbing the Zugspitze. Not everyone may have the chance or desire, but I hope you enjoyed coming along on our trip.

Credit: Jon Goodwin

Let's Get Out there airs once a week on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. We're including viewer photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.

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