Donnerstag, 21. März 2019

Nothing for "old iron" - the Eisenzeit to the Zugspitze - Part I

Hi there! 😊

The pure madness began in August 2018! DF and I had a two weeks vacation in our second home - the Bavarian Alps.
We started our vacation with a relaxing sunday stroll - according to our measures. 😋
It resulted in a short walk of 12 km including cute 1.400 height meters (up and down) off the local tourist trails, which are usually crowded on Sundays. We even had historic education during our stroll to the "Eisenzeit" ("iron time") route on the northwest side of the Riffel in the Zugspitze's shadows. 

View from the parking space

Our goal was not to walk the complete tour to the Riffel ridge / the Höllental ferrata. We focused on the Lost Place itself - the old trail, the historic equipment and the old tunnels which were spread about a length of almost two kilometers and 500 height meters. The target of the day was the exploration of the old part of the Eisenzeit. We only planned to go to the beginning of the hiking route and to descend via the same way. 
We hoped to have enough time so inspect and document the old stuff that way. And I can tell you: our plan worked out! 
There only was one uncertainty: One crux (difficulty level IV-) was directly below the tunnels and we didn't know if we were capable to climb it. ...of which more later. 😕

View to the Riffelspitzen and the goods cable lift
I would like to tell you some facts about the "Eisenzeit" before I will start with the actual tour report: 
The trail, the explosive device cable lift, the old pillar and the tunnels are dated from the years 1928-1939 when the cog railroad to the Zugspitze was built. 
There were several building sites at the same time to advance the pace of the tunnel building works. That is the reason why there is the Tunnelfenster IV ("tunnel window IV") at about 2.350 m. The workers stayed in the tunnels and slept there during the weeks. They used the historic trail so ascend and that trail had been rediscovered by local guides two years ago.
What could be more exciting for DF and me than a lost place, which included an interesting hiking tour and even climbing?! 😎 

DF and the new and only pillar of the Zugspitz cable car
The first part of the route was rather unspectacular. We started at 06:00 am at a small parking space below the Eibsee and followed a small trail through the forest to the cog railroad station Riffelriss (1.640 m). We arrived there at 08:50 am. Afterwards we marched on the way towards the Riffelscharte (Riffel wind gap) which lead up in serpentines. We found a strange plant along the trail which we couldn't identify at all. We had to do some research at home later to discover that we had found an alpenrose-nacktbasidie. It's like a special kind of mushroom only growing on alpenroses. Due to its form, it is also called alpenrose apple. But look for yourself:  

The trail was leading straight to the Riffelscharte after the last curve to the left. We left the official trail to the right side at that point at about 1.800 height meters. 
We did not find the actual trail which lead through the mountain pines at first but we orientated us at the explosive device cable car. That was how we ascended pathless over the meadows. We discovered an old steel rope and tried to reach it. That was how we found the old beaten path below a scarp. We already found some old equipment or rather what was left of them on our way up there. 

Old grid

Rests of a bottle

Old tin
There was a pipe below the scarp which the path clearly followed. We reached the old explosive device cable car without any difficulties. 

Follow the pipe! 
The lower door was locked but that did not prevent DF from climbing up hand over hand on the ladder. The upper door was unlocked so that he could enter the hut and explore the tunnel inside. You can see more details in his video. 

Explosive device cable lift
"Monkey" DF - who needs stairs? 
We used the topo and the GPX-Track, which had DF found in the route report from to find the further way. The GPS worked fine and did not cause any trouble, so I can recommend the usage of that track. 
Since we came closer to the mountain's walls with their increased danger of rockfalls, we put on our helmets.

The tour continued after a short break at the explosive device cable lift. The trail was well visible through several footmarks and lead to the right side on the grassy ledge. DF and I traversed a draw full with boulders before we continued on the ledge, which became more and more exposed and earthy. Hectic steps or even slipping-off would not have been recommendable at this point of the way. 

The "trail"
Don't make any mistake...
We discovered old steel ropes all over the way. They did not look very confidene-inspiring. That was why we rather did not touch them if it was possible.

That does not look too good... 😨
The trail became rockier and easier to walk on after the so-called "Gamseck". 

On "better" trails...
The weatherforecast had predicted possible thunderstorms for the afternoon. That was why we set ourselves a time limit: no matter how far we would come, we would go back at 02:00 pm to get away as far as possible from the steel ropes, which seemed to be everywhere on that route. Of course, we wanted to reach the tunnels, but "safety first".

We could directly look over to the Bayrische Schneekar from a place where was a lot of old iron scrap. It was really exciting to explore the old equipment - we found everything from drills to cable winches. The old light pole was also already visible from that point. It was still above us at 2.250 m.  

Old iron

Old winch


More old iron
That's too heavy...!
Light pole
But there was still one obstacle between us and the fascinating light pole - the "harakiri" ladder and it has its name for a reason.  
It is an old ladder from the builders back then. It's very demolished due to rockfalls and the extreme weather conditions. I wouldn't describe it as a "safe option". The ladder is right in the middle of a draw, one could easily climb up there but the ladder blocks it. That part would most likely be easier without the harakiri ladder - but it's there and it needs some courage. 
It was not very encouraging when that stupid thing began to swing back and forth and from left to right while the old and brittle stairs creaked. And when the stair, you wanted to climb up on was only "attached" on one side...😱😱😱

Harakiri-ladder from below
Encouraging attachments 😰
There were only few meters left to the light pole after those kamikaze moves. The pole was standing on an exposed rock. It is so big that you can even see it from the Zugspitze. 

Light pole
Surreal panorama
Does it still work...?

Old Pole and new cable lift
DF and I reached the first crux after some sharp zigzags which lead upwards. 
I had never climbed free solo until then, except the Ehrwalder Sonnenspitze which is only UIAA II difficulty. 
The pictures of the crux, we had found in the internet, did not look so good, especially because that part cannot be secured.
The first impression was less scary than expected because there was a draw with gravel below the climbing part and not a deadly abyss. It would hurt of course, if one fell down there but it would not result in death. 

The first crux
DF tried first to climb with his usual hiking boots but the stone was so crumbly and the steps so small that he switched to his climbing shoes. We began to "boulder" our way through that part in the following time. We left our backpacks at the beginning of the crux so we could travel light. There was no danger that someone could steal them because we were all alone on that route. We hadn't met anybody since we had left the official trail to reach the explosive device cable lift. 
We climbed up with climbing shoes and some other climbing equipment, which would make it easier to climb down later. I have to admit that I had great respect and lots of fear at the beginning but it was not too hard after the first nasty upturn. The most important thing for me was to stay calm and thoughtful. That was how I mastered my first IV- free solo. 😎

View back
We proceeded our way, which was not too pleasant to walk on. The stony ground felt really uncomfortable through the thin climbing shoes. We had to traverse over a very steep and slickery slab of rock, climb up one ladder, climb down the next ladder, before we finally reached our target: Tunnelfenster IV. 

Just like a dream...😣
The entry to the Tunnelfenster IV
All in all, it was one tunnel with eight tunnel windows from where you had a great view to the Eibsee and the mountain panorama. There was a massive concrete hut in the first window with several steel ropes inside. Brittle, old wooden beems were mostly in the other windows. They were most likely leftovers from the builders' accomodations/beds. 
It was a fascinating feeling to walk through those tunnels up in 2.350 m. 😊

Adventurer DF

Old tunnel

View from the tunnel window

Two Stoffel in Tunnelfenster IV



DF in the concrete hut
We took our time to document everything in detail before we began to descend. Our self-imposed time limit worked out perfect. More and more clouds began to gather and shoved themselves inside the tunnels like a thick, creepy fog. 
I decided to climb down with a rope at the crux because it still didn't feel very comfortable. DF improvised a stand with the only bolt and I could climb down feeling less stressed. I might not have needed the rope but it really soothed my nerves. 😅

And down it goes! 
We followed the same trail back to the explosive device cable lift where we arrived about 2 1/4 hours later. 
A light squall began while we walked down to the Riffelriss until it teemed down on us. We had missed the last train (we were 1/2 hour late) and so we seeked shelter at the station to wait for the worst rain to pass by. It still rained a bit when we marched back through the forest to our car. 

Conclusion to the tour:
It was something completely different to combine a lost place with a hiking / climbing tour. It was a very exciting adventure. 😊
At the same time, it was also very interesting to see what equipment had been use back then. It really made me think about the builders' conditions up there. How did they feel during the week? How was it to sleep in those tunnels? How hard had it been to carry up all the equipment? Those questions and many more kept me busy even days after our tour. 
I do not want to brag but I am extremely proud about having mastered the crux free solo - that was quite a premiere for me. 😮
The tour was like a travel through time, lead by our very own footsteps and that made it very special. An experienced hiker is able to get below the tunnels because I would say it's like a black hiking route. One will need some climbing experience to make it up the first crux. Definetely, I would not recommend that tour for beginners. The trails are nasty and steep. One needs a good sense of orientation because there are no markings. Whoever has those qualifications will have a great journey back into the past. 😉

If you liked our tour and you found it interesting, feel free to leave a comment. We are happy and grateful about every feedback. 😊

You can find DF's videos here:
Eisenzeit Teil 1
Eisenzeit Teil 2

See ya 'til the next mischieve!

Your Katharina 

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