Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Crossing the Kramer

Today I will write about a tour that is a bit strenuous at some points. Your reward will be breathtaking views of the Zugspitz massif. My guide book described the tour in the opposite direction, but since I wanted to end the tour at the St. Martin alpine cabin with one of their delicious blueberry pancakes, I decided to walk this tour in the other direction. Depending on wether you prefer to have the heavy duty part in the ascend or rather in the descend is your decision.

It was the end of May and finally the weather was great. So I decided to to go on my first mountain hike this year. It’s been a while and I hear the mountains calling.

Gasthof Almhütte, the starting point for many great hikes

I woke up very early and so I managed to arrive in Garmisch shortly after 8 a.m. Besides the early morning hour there were already quite some people around on this sunday morning.

Today I want to cross the Kramer, one of the landmark mountains of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. During this hike I will have really breathtaking views of the Zugspitze and its neighbours most of the time. The weather couldn’t be better and my only concern is that there might still be snow once I reach  a certain height. The last weeks were still cold and rainy in the valley.

The Kramerplateau trail

The first leg of this tour will bring me to the Stepberg alp. To get there I have the choice of two different trails. I opt for the one leading through a small canyon called the „Gelbe Gewänd“ (means yellow wall). This trail takes a bit longer, but does sound more interesting. In the beginning I have to walk along the Kramerplateauweg direction Grainau. This trail makes a great hike for people that don’t want to climb uphill since it is rather flat and still gives great views of the town and the surrounding. And just a short time after I started the tour I get the first glimpse of the Zugspitze.

I pass the first turn-off to the Stepberg alp. From what I read this trail leads mostly through forest but I want to get the views and the „Gelbe Gewänd“ is supposedly very impressing. Along my way I can admire wild roses and other beautiful flowers like the columbine below.

Apparently the army does use this area for training purposes as well. I come across some signs that I am entering military grounds. The sun is shining and there isn’t a single cloud to see in the sky. Perfect weather for my tour. I take a deep breath of fresh mountain air and feel ligth years away from the hustle an bustle of the big city.

Ascent via the „Gelbes Gewänd“

After approx. 30 minutes I reach the turn-off that will lead me to the canyon. The way rises steeply, but it is easy to walk since it is a well prepared gravel road. It runs through the green forest but doesn’t offer much shade. Every once in a while I get a great glimpse of the Zugspitze, dominating the opposite side of the valley.

At one point I have to turn into a small path, that will bring me to the „Gelbe Gewänd“. I finally get some shade and the path is very smooth to walk. The fresh green of the trees gives a nice contrast to the dark green of the fir. It’s Sunday morning so I do encounter quite a few fellow hikers. What does suprise me though is the fact that despite the early hour, I cross quite a few people that are already descending from the mountain. Did they sleep on the alp, or did they start their tour even earlier than me?

A short time later I do realize where the name of this small canyon derives from. I reach the canyon and the rocks on the opposite side do have yellow stains, therefore showing yellow walls. The path is still easy to walk, but is getting narrower and if somebody comes your direction one has to step aside.

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Coming down from the saddle a small creek burbles through the valley floor, building small ponds and waterfalls. Very nice to watch. Unfortunately the descent is too steep to walk down and refresh yourself in the cold water. After you crossed the creek further up you will soon come to a lookout with a bench with a really amazing view as you can see above.

But also on your side of the valley you get great views of wooded mountains and rocks. And still no cloud on the blue sky. The temparature is pleasant, not too hot. I had brought a jacket along which was not necessary after all.

The Stepberg alp

Well, and then I am finally leaving the woods and get the first glimpse of the Stepberg alp. This alp sits on 5250 ft. above sea level, meaning that I climbed already some 2800 ft. Wasn’t that bad after all. I still have enough power to climb the 1300 ft. to the summit.

But I am quite thursty. So I take a rest and look for a shady place to sit down and order a non-alcoholic beer. This is the perfect drink when you are on a tour. It’s refreshing and gives you power. When I am taking a rest on one of those cabins I also love a glass of fresh buttermilk. Simply delicious. And not to be compared with the buttermilk you get in the supermarket. It still is a great pleasure to admire sound nature and cherish honest products.

On a small ridge to the summit

After my break I have to search for the continuing path. Finally I see a sign telling me that I have to walk across the meadow above the cabin. For a short distance the trail rises steeply to the top.

The view of the valley surrounding the alp doesn’t give the impression that you are in the higher region of the mountains. Succulent and green it sits below me and towards the north I can see the alpine upland. It seems to be so far away. And if I turn around I can still see the majestic Zugspitze.

At the end of this ascent you will reach dense alpine pine woods and a rather rocky path. It’s late morning and it is getting hotter now. There is not much shade up here.

But this struggle is soon behind me and the trail continues rather even along the ridge. You shouldn’t be afraif of heights though when you walk it. To the right the mountain falls steeply to the valley, to the left slope rises a bit befor this side of the mountain falls as steeply into the bakc valley.

Apart from the still fascinating views of the Zugspitze I have now great views of Garmisch-Partenkirchen with the Karwendel and Wetterstein as a backdrop. The lat stretch before reaching the summit is a bit tricky. It takes a bit of rock climbing and the final ascent is secured with wire rope. But then it’s done.

There are quite a few hikers around today and so it’s getting a bit tight up here. But still it’s a grand feeling. Again and again. Espcially on a summit like this one, that offers such panoramic views. Justv great. Finally I find a spot where I can sit down, have a break and let my thoughts wander.

The long and strenous descent

On the northern side of the Kramer I come across soem snowfields after all. Well, that’s what I had expected. The first of those fields covers the downhill path and so I have to ask someone where may trail continues. I am fortunate and can use the footsteps of other hikers to cross the snow.

At first the path is still easy to walk, apart from the snowfileds that force me to take some detours through open terrain. When I turn to the summit for a last time, I can see the Zugspitze rise behind it. But then I will loose this sight for a while.

On the other hand I get great views of the town and the summits of the Wetterstein and Karwendel. And soon the path turns into a narrow and steep one and is pretty difficult to walk since it becomes very rocky and I start slipping all the time. Suddenly I recognize a movement on the ground. When I turn to check what it is, I see this snake lying in front of me. Must be a adder despite it’s strange coloring. Bright yellow rings around the eyes. I don’t like snakes and think they are the ickiest creatures on this planet and so I am very happy that this beast is more afraid of me than I am of it and shoots in lightning speed into the bushes. I just don’t need such encounters.

The path continues somtimes not too steep but sometimes also really steep into the valley and still is difficult to walk. I am telling myself how glad I am that I decided to walk this tour the opposite way. Not sure if I would have made this ascent. From time to time I look back to the summit.

To the valley side I have also great views. For example I can now see the Wank, another landmark summit of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The alpine pine woods turn into a real forest meaning that i finally do get some shade on my heavy duty way down the mountain.

And finally I get the first glimpse of the place of my culinary dreams. I have been looking forward to this all day. I really earned this blueberry pancake.

Of course I did bring a few more pictures of flowers. Especially the gentian does bloom everywhere. I just love this deep blue of those flowers.

Finally the path gets a bit smoother. At this point I did come across a chamois a year ago. Not today. There are probably too many people around today.

After crossing this wooden bridge, I soon reach the terrace of the St. Martin cabin. This is one of the best I have visited so far on my mountain hikes. The food is just delicious. But the most impressing asset is that fascinating view. What do you think?

And finally I have it in front of me. A feast. And the reason for taking the tour in this direction.

Well saturated I start the last descent. From here I walk easily on a gravel road, even when it is a bit steep at some points.

Finally I reach the Kramerplateautrail again.

Close to the restaurant Almhütte, where I started my tour this morning, there is a pond where later in the year the water lillies are in bloom. Today I find iris in full bloom on it’s shores. Right next to that pond there is a Kneipp water treading basin where I am cooling my feet and arms. That feels great. There were no spectacular animal sightings today so I will add another shot of happy cows to this post.

A last look back to the summit and I am on my way home.

A hint to close this post. If you take this tour like me on a Sunday and have to drive back to Munich you should try to get on your way no later than 4 p.m. or after 7 p.m. If you start in between those hours your chances are high to end up in a traffic jam on the highway. Garmisch-Partenkirchen isn’t exactly a secret hideaway. -)

I hope you liked my post. Looking forward to read you comments.



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