Hiking in China – Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge is a scenic canyon on the Jinsha River. It is located 60 kilometers (37 mi) north of Lijiang City, Yunnan in southwestern China. According to Wikipedia the maximum depth of the canyon is 3,790 meters (12,434 feet) from river to mountain peak. The gorge is about 15 kilometers long, and the hike is doable in one day, but I do not recommend it. The name of the canyon comes from a legend which says that in order to escape from a hunter, a tiger jumped across the river at the narrowest point (still 25 meters (82 ft) wide). Of course we wanted to see if a jump like this would be possible 😀

We started out from Lijiang with a local bus. The hostels in the city all help you to book tickets and show you where the bus goes from. If I remember correctly the price was around 50 yuan (45 there, 55 back). The price for entering the valley itself was 60 yuan.

In Lijiang we were discouraged to do this hike as the weather prognosis said it would rain for the next three days. This was also perhaps the reason for there being so little other hikers on the trail. Despite the weather forecast, we decided to go, after all we had packed our rain clothes with us and a little rain has never killed anyone.

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The best available map of the trail.

We arrived to Qiaotou where the trail starts around 10 o’clock. The beginning of the trail was really not well-marked. Our strategy was just to go to the right and avoid all the roads that turned left. At one point we must have had looked pretty confused or uncertain, as a truck driver passing by pointed out the correct direction for us. The trail started on a asphalt road between the houses in the small village. Before we even got away from the asphalt road, we had changed clothes five times! On with rain clothes, off with rain clothes, on with jacket, off with jacket, on with rain clothes again…. It did rain, but not really much and as it was warm climbing upwards in rain clothes was just not comfortable. After an hour we packed away our rain clothes and used regular clothes. Which actually worked really well, except in a rainsower lasting for 30 minutes later in the day. At times it was even warm enough for shorts, but not wanting to change clothes yet again we just went on in long trousers. At the end of the asphalt road and before the huge construction site, there was a house where we could buy some drinks and water and even refill our thermos with hot water for free. The last part we only knew because Elias was able to read the chinese sign that said so. It was very convenient, since we had instant noodles with us for lunch. The woman in the house also wanted to sell us bamboo sticks for walking. It is slippery she said. We did not buy any and did not regret it afterwards.

The real trail started right after the house. It was a steep dirt trail, at the end of it there was a little sitting place with a roof, that we chose for our first lunch/breakfast. At this point we were actually hoping that we had done the climb and that the path would even out, but we were wrong. The path kept going upwards and it was hard to spot it at times. Again when we were about to go in the wrong direction a local mushroom/herbs picker pointed us to the right direction. On the three-hour path to Nixi village, I could count 4 stands where we could buy snickers, water, fruit and even local weed!! We disappointed most of the sellers, since we were had enough food and water with us.

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On top of the first hill ready for lunch

All in all the first 3 hours of the trail I was really disappointed. I tried to not show it, but I know Elias felt the same. One thing was that we were not prepared for such steep climb, but that was not the main issue. The problem was the huge construction down in the valley that completely destroyed the view. I am not 100% sure what they were building, but it looked like two tunnels for trains, and a bridge over the river to connect them. Because of this it was not quiet, and the river was all brown. Considering that this canyon is supposed to be in world heritage list, I could not understand why they would destroy it just for better train connections (and more tourists).

The trail from Qiaotou to Naxi village was as following: We climbed a lot of high meters, it was quite steep, and we kept seeing the construction site and the destruction of nature in the valley. More or less the moment we got up, the trail started to go downwards again and ending up in the Naxi village. From the village one needs to climb all these high meters up once again. So therefore if I would do it again, I would start the hike from Naxi village (There were actually some Russian girls doing that). Luckily after the Naxi village we could not see the construction anymore, only very tall and steep mountains on the other side of the canyon, hence our mood got much better.

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View to the Naxi Village

The Naxi village itself was not really something special, it is a village not a touristic site. I do not know what exactly I was expecting, but I guess it is nice that it is authentic and not glorified for tourists. From the Naxi village one has to climb the 28 turns. We did not count but, it was a long and steep climb. There were of course several places where you could buy food and drinks, as before. After the 28 turns we did some downhill hiking again and ended up in a the Teahorse guesthouse.

Here we ordered some proper lunch which was chinese noodles with vegetables and tea. We also met a couple from Belgium who were doing the same hike and who were planning to travel for three years!! For me that sounds quite crazy. I guess I like being home too much. The couple from Belgium decided to spend the night in the guesthouse. We were a little tempted to do the same, but it was only four o’ clock, and too early to end the day. We estimated it to be another two hours the Half Way Inn guesthouse and decided to go on. The path to Half Way Inn from the Teahorse guesthouse was very well marked and easy to follow. It was also the prettiest part of the hike, I would say. Now we were finally just walking on the side of the canyon, not climbing upwards and could enjoy the views in front of us! Soon after the Teahorse guesthouse we walked past a temple, sadly it was closed.

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It was cloudy the whole first day, after several hours finally the mountains showed themselves!

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At the next village we were not sure how to find the Half Way Inn guesthouse. There we walked past several guesthouses and already started to consider entering one, just because it also looked quite nice but luckily we didn’t. After passing five or six guesthouses we saw the Half Way In. I still remember the view and the excitement I felt when I entered it. This is by far the nicest mountain hut I have stayed in! The owner spoke perfect English and told me that he had run the guesthouse for 25 years. When I told him that I am Estonian, he said that I was in fact the first Estonian staying in Half Way In. We took a bed in dormitory and were not expecting much, as it was 45 Yuan per person (The most expensive room was 250 yuan). But this is how the dorm looked which we btw. had all to ourselves!!

If anybody has stayed in a dorm with better view, please let me know where 😀 There was a trick to get that dorm thought. We specifically asked if they had a dorm. If you don’t ask, they will not tell you that they also have a dorm (as long as they still have other rooms left). I noticed this when other hikes were checking in and I guess this was the reason for why we were the only ones in that dorm.

After settling in we went to the roof terrace to read and enjoy the view. It was way too easy to daydream and forget the time on those rocking chairs facing the huge mountain ridge right over the canyon.

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Then we were told that the kitchen closes at eight and that we had to order dinner if we wanted some. We moved down to the open courtyard in the center of the guesthouse and ordered some dinner. While sitting there enjoying my tea and food I really started to daydream. I could imagine myself living in that place for a year, perhaps writing a book or something. I could help out in the kitchen and write during evenings. With a room cost of 5 euros a day, that would be much cheaper than living in Munich!!

We sat outside until it turned dark. Back in the dorm I changed my head position, so that I would wake up to the mountain view and left the curtains open. I could not have been happier, even the beads in Half Way Inn were soft. (Or at least softer that what is normal in China).

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View from Half Way Inn Guesthouse

We woke up at 7 so that we could have a lot of time to down in the gorge. I had very good banana pancake for breakfast (that is Chinese pancakes, not crepes). The trail from Half Way Inn was at times very narrow, but we did not mind that at all. We could now see all the way down to the gorge and the river on the bottom of it. We also walked pass several small mountain rivers and waterfalls.

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This is how narrow the trail got – we loved it!

The hike down to Tina’s Guesthouse took us about 3 hours (with a lot of picture breaks). Down in the gorge we had to exchange our bus ticket from Half Way In to the one from Tina’s guesthouse. There is only one bus from Tina’s to Lijiang which leaves at 3.30. It is a strange inconvenient system. After exchanging the tickets, we took the free shuttle bus to the place where one could go down to the gorge and the river.  

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Tina’s Guesthouse, not even comparable with Half Way Inn

Getting of the shuttle bus it turned out you had to pay 15 yuan to enter the trail down to the gorge (yes, even when you had already paid 60 yuan just to enter the gorge itself). We decided to take another path which we drove past, just because I do not appreciate this kind of trickery! 😦

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View of the gorge

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I think the best trail would have been not after the bridge from Tina’s Guesthouse but before it, but I could only see people walking there when we were already down in the gorge. Another disappointing thing was that the paths in the gorge were not connected, so we  only used 1 hour on our gorge tour and then had still 5 hours until the bus left. I even tried to ask if there were more buses, but apparently there was only one. Therefore, if I would do it again I would not rush from the Half Way In Guesthouse to Tina’s Guesthouse. The trail between these guesthouses is very scenic and I would just take my time, perhaps sleep in a little and enjoy a long breakfast in Half Way In. There are tourists who just take a bus to the Tina’s Guesthouse in the morning, walk the gorge and then go back. I do not know what they use their time on, because there is not enough to do or see in that gorge for 6 hours. Luckily we had some books with us so we were not bored to death before finally the bus came. The ride back to Lijiang was on very bad roads in a small bus. Apparently they want to avoid the highway in order to avoid to pay for it. So a set of podcasts saved me on this bus ride. There was also a possibility to take a bus from Tina’s Guesthouse to Shangri-la, and we probably could have had our luggage transported to Tina’s by the bus, but as we left parts of our luggage behind in Lijiang, we needed to get back to Lijiang.

This was our second “real” hike in China. There were no stairs and no guides! Just beautiful nature. During our stay we also hiked in Four Sisters Mountains, which you can read about here.

My first snowshoe hike + camping in the mountains during winter.

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After the less successful ski-touring trip couple of weeks back I needed a successful adventure! I just felt the itch for doing something new more and more. Now it was the time. I knew right a way what I wanted to do. I have been thinking about sleeping in the mountains during winter for some time now, but somehow we have kept it to rather simple day hikes instead. Considering that last winter we did not even hike and considered winter just a skiing season we have really moved our limits. I have now realized that It is very nice to hike in the winter and it is a complete different experience from any other time of the year.

The perhaps hardest part of planning this hike was finding a perfect destination. We needed a peak that was accessible with public transport, that was not too crowded, that we had not hiked before and that was “hard” enough for a long day hike. Another thing we needed to consider was the avalanche risk and we needed a destination where it was easy to rent snowshoes (We were to late to rent something from DAV in Munich, but if you plan a head this is the best and cheapest option). Finding a such a destination was not easy. I was about to give up actually, but luckily Elias took over and found the perfect destination for our adventure – Feldernkopf 2071m.

This was a hike of firsts – Made and Elias doing stuff they have not done before. 

  • This was the first time I camp outside during winter
  • This was the first time I hike with snowshoes
  • This was the first time I use a stow to make pancakes
  • This was the first time I put up a tent on snow

All in all we learned so much during this adventure: 

  1. Snowshoes are not so awesome for hiking steaper hikes (perfect for less steep hikes), but they are awesome to go down hill with.
  2. Plan two hours for setting up the camp. We used 1 but it would have been nice to have one more hour just for looking at the sunset.
  3. Store your shoes inside the tent not outside in a bag.
  4. Store all your food inside the tent so it will not freeze during the night.
  5. Take your time when making the flat area for the tent on the snow. The more time you use the better you will sleep 😉
  6. Secure the inner tent the most, otherwise it will start gliding down the hill (We learned that the hard way).
  7. Take extra pars of socks with you, at least 2 extra pars for the night (You need the grandma stuff)!
  8. If it is cold sleep with cloves on, I did not do that but next time I will so that you have more flexibility when choosing  a sleeping position.
  9. Thermos is nice to have, even when you plan to boil water, so you can store the warm water you boil. When it is could outside the water gets cold faster than you think.
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what a feeling.
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View from the top around 4PM
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This is where we decided to camp, it was a little too windy on the top
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Here I try to mark the place for the tent.

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One thing to think about before you head out to a winter hike is that it is not always easy to find the path. The regular markings were almost never visible, but luckily we were able to follow the skitourng tracks. It is also a good idea to find a hike were you can see the peak from the beginning so that it is easier to orientate, or even better, take a GPS with you.

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Final break, ca. 200m still to climb

The hike was “only” 900 m climb. This was yet another thing we discovered 900 m climb in snow can not be compared to 900 m climb during summer. Yes we had quite heavy bags with us but we needed 6 hours to climb that 900m. In other words we were glad we had the whole day.

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We had quite big bags with us

 

When it comes to food the possibilities with a stow are endless, but my advise is to keep it simple. It may be cold on the top, you may be hungry and tired so you should plan to make something easy and fast. The easiest thing is to buy some of the dry food meant for hiking, but if you feel more adventurous then that, you could make dinner at home and just warm it up on the stow. We had something like chilli con crane with us and simply heated it. We even had homemade guacamole and cheese with us 🙂img_20170211_173642

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Preparation can not be underestimated, here Elias tries out making pancakes at home.

 

For breakfast we made pancakes with apple jam. (Elias wanted bacon but we never got so far as frying bacon. The pancakes would have gotten cold in the mean time so we dropped that). In addition to this we had tea and coffee with us and some fruit, homemade granola bars, sandwedges for the lunch and a chocolate. It was more than enough food and we ended up bringing some of it back home.

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Clothes:

I already mentioned extra socks, we also had extra change of clothes for seeping. The moral here is that more is better. You can never quite know how cold it will get during the night and the worst thing I know is to freeze, so have more clothes with you that you think you will need and prioritize wool and layers.

All in all this truly was an adventure. We learned a lot and experienced a lot. It was heavy and we needed to push ourselves mentally. But it was sooo nice to have dinner and watch the sunset. And to wake up and make pancakes and look at the mountains. We were also lucky with the weather so the last 300 height meters we had amazing views.

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Sunset ❤

And the last hike of 2016 went to…

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Long time no see, have you been hiking? I have 😀 !

Between all these Christmas markets, Gluhwein evenings (I just can not get enough Gluhwein 😛 ) and Christmas parties, I finally found time and will to go hiking again. Originally I had a different hike planned but then life happened. I discovered that I had a concert ticket for a concert on Saturday night and that the weather was not looking too good for Sunday. Luckily my dear love managed to convince me to go on an easy hike on Saturday :).  Normally I am not hard to convince, but on Friday evening I was still feeling little hangover from a Christmas party we had at work and did really not feel liek going hiking on Saturday. Especially when I knew that I also had to go to a concert after the hike. Luckily my love did all the packing and preparations so I just needed to say yes!

Saturday morning of we were to the following hike:

Route: Flintsbach -Hohe Asten 1104 m – Riesenkopf 1338 m – Maiwand 1135 m-Hohe Asten 1104 m – Flintsbach

Time: depends on your speed, but approximately 3 hours to Riesenkopf  and 30 -40 min to Maiwand. 1,5 hour down from Hohe Asten.

Elevation gain: Approximately 1000m, little more it you do Maiwand.

Transport: approximately 1 hour by train from Munich direction Kufstein.

This hike is very easy, so it is perfect for a beginner or for a family – EXCEPT Maiwand! Maiwand peak is therefore optional. It is just for the more adventitious ones, because it requires surefootedness and that you are not afraid to climb a short wall using only rope. If you don’t feel up for it just go to Riesenkopf and back to the hut.

On Riesenkopf  we had a loong break and just enjoyed the sun.

img_20161210_113358No snow in December as you can see. Isn’t that strange? Is this how the winters from now on are going to look like? 😦

Here are some pictures from Maiwand. No extra equipment is needed. If you feel safer you can take a helmet with you, but there is no danger for loose rocks.

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We split the group into two and it was only four of us doing Maiwand in the end.

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You need to climb this short wall both on you way there and back. Somehow, the way back is much easier than the way down 😉

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Surefootedness is needed on this short but exposed ridge. If you look closely you can see the Maiwand peak on the background.

As you see there are two tricky parts to hiking Maiwand.

  1. The path to it is quite hard to find. Basically when you see the red sign saying “Nor for güpte” this is where you need to take to the right to do the pike. BTW, you can easily see Maiwand from Riesenkopf . After taking to the right at sign, you just need to try to keep going right the path is really not marked. But after a short while ( 5 – 8 mins) you can see the peak and you will know where to go.
  2.  There is a approximately 6 m high wall  where you have to rely on a rope to get down (see the pics in the slideshow). The rope is already there so you don’t need to bring your own.

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Hohe Asten is usually open the whole year and is a very nice hut for enjoining a beer with a nice view.

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What is your last hike of year 2016 and what hiking plans do you have for 2017??

Hoher Fricken and why you should not stay in the valley.

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Last weekend we did a very nice hike to Hoher Fricken 1940m. For me it is still so strange that here in Germany you can go hiking in the end on November and not meet any snow! Sometimes I miss the snow, especially when seeing all the nice skiing pictures from Norway 😉 but in the other hand it is so nice to be able to hike so late in the year. The air is clearer high up, the sky is more colorful. I also think the mountains are the nicest with some snow on them. To see the white mountain tops in the horizon is just so beautiful. And then there is this magical fog, that often lies in the valleys.

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When we did this hike it was really gray and boring weather in the valley. So I was not expecting to have any view from the peak. After walking for one hour we met the fog, after one more hour we walked out of the fog and got this view.

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This got me thinking, what if I would have stayed down in the valley? I would not even know what I was missing out on! There are too few  opportunities in the year to miss out on some of them. So I am so glad I did not stay down in the vally because no amount of wine on Friday evening would have made up for missing this view. At least not in my oppinion 😉

So the hike we did was the following:

Route: Bahnhof Farchant (670 m) – Kuhfluchtfälle (850 m) – Hoher Fricken (1940 m)

Time: 7 hours, less if you don’t spend a lot of time on the peak.

Assent: 1300 m

Transport: To get there and back you can take a train. Trains leave every hour from Munich.

Once in Farchant, just follow the signs from the train station. It’s not hard to find. In the beginning you go up on a side of a very nice waterfall.

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The trail is really quite steep so be prepared for that. It is 1300 height meters on 6 km. So it is steep. You will see signs that say “Nur fur geübte” which means only for experienced hikes, but in fact the trail is not exposed at all or in any way dangerous. The only hard part is that it is steep so you need to be reasonably fit and ready to sweat a little.

The decent is not that steep. You cross the ridge having a view to Zugspitze and go down on the other side of the mountain.

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On the way down I had to climb this super cool tree. #nevergrowup  and #daretopaly 😉

 

What are your favorite early winter hikes? I am wondering where to go for this weekend 😀 All tips are welcome!

 

A hike with the view to the Neuschwanstein castle.

This weekend my Mom is visiting. Unfortunately she is really not into hiking. Therefore, instead of visiting some nice peaks in the alps, we are going to do the regular touristy stuff. One of the sights that are really worth to visit while in Bavaria is the Neuschwanstein castle and I have good news – you can combine the visit with a hike. That is if you don’t mind missing the inside tour of the castle (actually I really recommend the tour, so the best option would be to do the hike and the castle visit on separate days).

Anyways, my Mom and me are not going to hike (since we prioritize the castle visit), but I have done a very cool hike just in the area, which gives you also a perfect view to the castle.

Route: 

Talstation Tegelbergbahn (840 m) – Tegelberghaus (1707 m) – Branderschrofen (1879 m) – Tegelberghaus (1707 m) – Schloss Neuschwanstein (964 m) – Talstation Tegelbergbahn (840 m).

From Talstation Tegelbergbahn there are several possible routes up to Tegelberghaus. You can do some level D/C via Ferrata (Tegenberger Klattestaig) take the Gelbe Wand (KlattestaigA/B) or do no Via Ferrata at all.

Elevation gain: 1039m

Time: 3 hours up and 3 hours down, for the Gelbewand route. But it depends also how many pictures you take 😉

Transport: Train to Füssen from Munich. It does not leave every hour so check the schedule. In Füssen take a bus from the train station to Talstation Tegelbergbahn. Make sure you get on the right bus and not on the one that all the tourists who want to visit the castle take. Therefore ask! Remember you can use the Bayernticket for the bus as well, some poor tourists don’t know that 😦

When we did this hike we had planned to the Tegenberger Klattestaig, but it had rained the day before so it was quite slippery and we ended up doing the “Gelbewand” route instead. Both my husband and me felt that it was the right choice, but lets see, maybe we will do the “real”klettersteig next year :D.

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Start of the Tegenberger Klatterstaig, just walk pass the ladder to take the Gelbe Wand route.

 

The Gelbewand route does not really require Via Ferrata equipment, but if you are not comfortable with little climbing and heights then differently take the set with you ( we did not use our equipment, but better be safe than sorry). Which ever route you choose it is a reeealy nice hike! PS. chose some good shoes with some grip and water resistance, it’s quite wet terrain.

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On the Gelbe Wand route.

After you are done with the part of the route that is called Gelbe Wand you reach the hut where you can take a break before climbing the last meters to the Branderschrofen. You can also see all the lazy people who have taken the cable car to the hut (please don’t be one of those 😉 ). The view is very nice, especially when the mountaintops are still covered in some snow (We did this hike end of May 2016)

From the hut it will still take you about 30 -40 minutes to Branderschrofen peak. So if you are not doing well on time I would just skip the peak and go directly to the castle. But don’t misunderstand me, the Branderschrofen peak is deferentially worth it and it is not as crowded as the hut since almost of the (lazy) tourists don’t make the effort to climb the peak. In fact I remember we having the peak completely to ourselves for 20 minutes. Spoiler alert there is a panorama view with all the peaks that you can see from the Branderschrofen available here.

On you way down you have to go via the hut again and since the hike up to Branderschrofen is little bit exposed I recommend to wait with the Weisbeer until your way down ;). At the hut you need to choose the path the castle which goes across the famous Marienbrücke 🙂 :). There are signs so it is easy to find.

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View from Marienbrücke this weekend.

 

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If you have any energy/time left after the hike enjoy Füssen village. The old town is so nice and cozy!

I hope you get out and do some nice peaks this weekend! I know many of my friends are doing so and I am jealous because hiking in autumn colors is so beautiful.

 

Last hike for this season? Nahh..

The hiking season in Germany is much longer than in Norway. This is one of the things I love about living here. While it’s already snowing in Norway and people are preparing their skis, here you can still climb a 2000 m high mountain in tights 😀

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This weekend we hiked Kramerspitz (1985 m). Kramerspitz is in Garmich, Germany. We have actually not done much hiking in this area. The reason being simple – I like the mountains in Austria better. Why?  Well, Garmish is very popular amongst hikers and tourists, so you never hike alone. Also, Germans seem to like to have a lot of beer huts on their hikes and these huts require roads. So way too often you find yourself hiking on roads in the forest, rather than trails. I like it natural and I don’t care about the beer, so therefore I prefer Austria.

BUT moving on to this weekends hike.

Rote: Garmisch (800 m) – St. Martinshütte (1028 m) – Kramerspitz (1985 m) – Stepbergalm (1592 m) – Garmisch (800 m)

Elevation gain: 1200 m

Time: We used 3 1/2 hours to the top (inkl. 2 long breaks). We were told that the route down would be shorter via Stepbergalm, but that’s not true. The shortest way down is to follow the same route down as up.  The route via Stepbergalm is not really worth it, unless you really don’t like to do the same path twice.

Transport: Just take the train to Garmisch then walk to Baiyernhalle. The trail starts just next to it.

Huts: There is one hut on the way, you will reach it after 45 minutes or so and it is an excellent place for the first lunch break. You have a perfect view to Zugspitze, Germanys highest mountain. I even made a new friend, Josy.

 

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There is a road to the hut, after the hut you will follow a normal forest trail and it gets steeper. After a while you will get up to a plateau with a small bench. Here the trail divides into two but there are no signs 😦  You should follow the trail to the left. With nice weather you can spot the peak from here. The rest of the trail is not so steep, and is easy to follow.edited.jpgedited2When we did the hike there was some snow, but you can see where the trail goes.From the top you can see down to Garmich, you can see Zugspitze, Eibsee and Alpspitze ( on my list for hikes to do). A complete panorama with peaks can be found here.IMG_20161023_151613.jpgDid you get to hike this weekend or have you declared the hiking season over already?