Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Alpine Mountaineering...Now with More Cows!

On Sunday, Mike and I joined a work friend of his and assorted friends of friends  - eight of us total - at the central Munich train station at 8 am.  This was very much not in keeping with the whole Sabbath philosophy around here, but that's fine.  We hopped on a regional train down to Kochel am See, about 70 km south of Munich.
Kochel is ridiculously quaint and scenic in that "typisch Bayerisch" - typical Bavarian - way.  The "am See" refers to the large lake upon whose banks the village is situated.  Actual cow bells tinkle all around.  There are, you know, Alps in the backyard. 
Cutting between pastures, mere steps
from the train station.

The hiiilllls are aliiiive, etc
From there we began our climb.  If you like, Google Maps will kindly show you the beginning (Kochel) and end points of our hike.  If you draw a line that dips a little bit to the south between them and through the word "Benediktenwand" you can see our route.  (Pay no attention to the driving directions).
Basically, there was a friendly, gravel paved bit:

This included pretty trees.
Then a fairly steep climb alongside a big open would-be-snowfield:

You can see little light dots along the trees on far the left if
you squint.   Those are people.

The "snowfield" from the opposite perspective.  That little
hut is where the previous picture was taken.

Some more friendly terrain:

Chocolate and water pit-stop at the first
break in the tree line.  There are giant
crosses on all the peaks.   Don't know why.

Taking in the view.

Theeere's a cow.  On a mountain.  This
made us feel out of shape.
and then all-out slippery scrambling for the last hundred years hour or so before we reached the first summit.  We ate lunch, and Mike and I got made fun of for our obviously American peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  After a short time we were getting kind of cold in all the foggy wind, and headed out along the ridge line.  Turned out that we were only part of the way there.  What followed involved a lot of wind-sucking and gritting of teeth.  But the scenery was breathtaking.

We were really trying to push the whole way because we knew the gondola line that would hopefully carry us down to the town where we needed to catch our train only ran until 5:00.  And wonders never cease...we made it with only minutes to spare.  We passed the beer hut (and more cows) with a wistful sidelong glance as we hustled to catch a ride down the mountain.  It wouldn't have been quite the end of the world if we'd had to hike down - only an hour or so more...but man, it would have been a bitch.  
As we rode down, there were paragliders following the lift line.  They were pulling some pretty impressive maneuvers, including corkscrew dives.  I didn't get the camera out until we were on the ground, and we were hurrying to catch the train, so forgive the quality of this photo:

So there's one, in the upper left quadrant, and then the speck
 just above the trees in the right third is another one.

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