When Scott and I moved to Germany a year ago, we knew one of our main goals was to hike and explore the Alps as much as possible. Despite a pandemic and the unpredictability of 2020, we managed to do exactly that. I don’t remember when we made the decision, but sometime in the spring, we decided it would be great to make a formal goal of summitting 50 different peaks within the year. It’s worth noting, we mention “different peaks” because if we did a summit multiple times, we were only allowed to count it once towards our fifty peak goal. This is partially because I have a habit of doing my favorite peaks over and over again. One mountain, in particular, I love so much I did it six times this season, but alas, it could only be counted once. This year, I am proud to say we were able to climb mountains in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.
Because of a really warm and wet winter, spring came early in Germany. We were lucky to be hiking and scrambling many peaks close to home starting in April when normally we’d have to wait until mid-June. While winter had been disappointing, it ended up working out since Coronavirus closed all the ski-resorts at the beginning of March, making the ski season really short in any case. At least we could hike if we couldn’t ski and the trails were minutes from home!
As spring turned to summer we took on bigger mountains. We were able to venture beyond our backyard and over the border to some surrounding countries as travel restrictions were eased for a time. Longer days and warmer weather also meant it was more pleasant to hike up a mountain well before sunrise or hang out on a summit until sunset. We had a number of adventures where we either started at 1 am or didn’t get home until 1 am. Scott and I are both pretty protective of our sleep, but watching the mountains light up during golden hour made it worth it. I’m still scared of hiking in the dark if I think too much about ghost stories, but it’s gotten a lot better this year because of our nighttime escapades.
During the fall, our hiking and scrambling slowed down a little bit since we had to work some crazy hours and early snow made a few of our goals unattainable. We had a couple of unsuccessful summit attempts but found redemption later when the weather warmed up. On the 7th of November, Scott and I stood on peak #50 together with a few good friends and five other summits under our belt from the day.
As of the end of November, Scott and I have done over 83,820 meters (275,000 feet) of vertical elevation gain (each, not combined). This is about the same distance that lies between the earth and the edge of space.
Additionally, we stood atop a summit over 70 times during the year (but only about 55 of those could be counted towards our 50 different peaks goal).
In no particular order, here are a few favorite memories from the year.
Table of Contents
The Zugspitze is Germany’s tallest mountain at 2,962 meters (9.717 feet)/1,746 meters prominence (5,728 feet). It also just happens to be ten minutes from where we live. There are 4 routes going up the Zugspitze, two that leave from the Austrian side in Ehrwald, and 2 on the German side. One of them is a hiking route; Zugspitze via the Reintal. Due to the earliness of the season, we chose the hiking route. We decided to go pretty much on a whim. Scott was at work and the idea popped in my head we should do it that night. When he got home, I proposed the idea and we agreed to go for it. We left around midnight and began the 23 km (14.5 miles) trek to the summit. It happened to be a full moon that night which made things awesome as we trekked through Reintal valley and then made our way above the treeline. Approximately 7 hours and 20 minutes after we started, we reached the top, covering 2,457 meters (8,061 feet) of vertical gain. We had the entire summit to ourselves that morning, and watching the sun come up was absolutely surreal. Since I had to work at noon that day, we waited until 8 am for the cable car to start running and took that down so we could save our knees and I could clock in on time. The Zugspitze is the only peak we used a cable car for. All others were hiked/scrambled/etc. round-trip.
The first time I saw the Swiss Alps was in a photo, at the age of 16. I wasn’t outdoorsy at the time, let alone mountain obsessed, but that image of massive glaciers towering high over green valleys and wildflowers convinced me I needed to visit places like that. I took my first trip to Switzerland at the age of 18 when I was living in Germany as a nanny. My friend and I went, and we planned to do the Eiger Rotstock. While we were unable to summit (we were wayyyy too tired after already hiking 35 kilometers (22 miles) that day and 1,800 meters vertical gain (6,000 feet) I knew I had to come back. Scott and I did just that this June and it was a humbling experience. It also made for a long day. Over 25 kilometers (15.6 miles) and 1,887 meters (6,193 feet) of vertical gain. Most of the way was a hike up to the base of the Eiger from Grindelwald, where we were staying. At the base, we clipped into our via ferrata (klettersteig) equipment and started up the rickety, exposed ladders along the cliff-face. As someone who is freaked by heights, it was terrifying. We were also in a cloud off and on. My arms and legs were shaking so bad! We were the only ones up there.
When we reached a viewpoint, my jaw dropped at least ten times over and I had to wipe a tear or two. Clouds and mist moved through the air, exposing, and then hiding glacier after glacier after glacier on the mountainside in front of us. We were staring at the face of some of Switzerland’s most epic scenery. We also heard avalanches. And saw them as the clouds would clear. It was terrifying and mesmerizing all at the same time. They boomed down the steep rocks in front of us and sounded like train. They were just far enough away that we wouldn’t be affected, but close enough to feel and hear their power. Awe-inspiring is the only way to describe it.
We continued upwards towards the summit and at the top, I felt the biggest sense of accomplishment. My five-year dream was finally met and I got to do it with Scott. He kept me calm throughout my moments of anxiety and here we were at the summit!
After taking some photos at the top, we decided it was time to head down. We also had a decision to make-would we come down the way we had come originally, or take the other route down which would be easier, but put us closer to falling rock, snow, ice, and other hazards we’d rather avoid? After a prayer, we made the decision to take the easier route. It was nerve-wracking coming down the mountain, and when we reached a safe-zone, we both breathed a huge sigh of relief. We had done it. It’s a day I’ll never forget.
Peak #50- Soiernspitze
The Soiernspitze has been another one of the summits I’ve been wanting to do for years. It’s large and imposing, can be seen from far away, and it had a very distinct pyramid shape. It felt like a good summit to choose as #50. We invited a few friends from work (shoutout to Isaac, Lauren, and Jake) who had come on many other summit adventures to join.
At 3 am, we left Garmisch-Partenkirchen and drove twenty-minutes down the road to Krün, where we would begin the hike. We wanted to be on the ridgeline by sunrise. We laughed and joked in the dark, putting one foot in front of the other up the steep wooded trail. Soon, we were out of the trees and a few switchbacks later we were on the ridge. We passed over the first summit, one Scott and I had done before, so it wasn’t part of our tally. As the first hints of light were beginning to brighten the sky, we got in a sticky spot with loose and falling rock. One stone that came down nearly took out Scott, thankfully he moved in time. Apparently, we had missed the trail and walked a minute or so too far, probably following a chamois (kinda similar to a mountain-goat) trail. After struggling for some time, we realized this and found the proper way up and back into safety. We passed a couple more peaks on our way to the Soiernspitze, one where Scott took a detour to get his #48, and another where we both got #49. Along the way, we took many snack breaks and sat on rocks, soaking up the sun.
Eventually, it was time to take on the Soiernspitze. Slow and steady, we made our way to the top. Conditions were perfect. As Scott and I set our packs down, Isaac and Jake surprised us with a sparkling apple juice to celebrate (sparkling apple juice, commonly known as apfelschorle in Germany, is my favorite drink of all time). It was a welcome gift and really made the moment.
After two hours of relaxing, we decided it was time to head down and finish out a couple more peaks. We were thoroughly exhausted. By the time we reached the car, the sun had set behind the mountains. We summitted six peaks, covered over 25 kilometers (15.73 miles), and taken on 1,954 meters (6,411 feet) of vertical gain). This trip brought my summit count to 52 and Scott’s to 51. November 7th, 2020 we reached our goal.
Other honorable mentions:
Scott and I set our sights on the Wörner early in the spring. It’s huge and requires a long scramble to the summit. It became our 2020 goal-peak for the year because it’s also a more technical scramble than previous mountains we’ve gone up. When we felt ready to tackle it, our friend Lauren joined as well. We took our time to navigate the steep rock faces and more exposed terrain, making it up and down the mountain in one piece, pleased to have reached our goal.
Unfortunately, I only have a few phone photos from this trip, I didn’t want to worry about hauling my camera stuff that day.
This was done really early in the summer season, May, and actually happened nearly by accident. After church one Sunday we had decided to head out for a leisurely hike up the Königshaus am Schachen, King Ludwig the II’s hunting lodge that rests high up in the mountains above Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Well, one thing led to another and we continued up past the Königshaus. The next thing we knew, we were at the Meilerhütte, just below the ridgeline of the Wetterstein range. We were feeling good so we scrambled up further, reaching the Westliche Törlspitze. Going up was great…going down was brutal though. We hadn’t planned on nearly as long of a day, and so when we rolled back home at midnight we were completely exhausted. At over 30 kilometers (18.71 miles) and 2,123 meters (6,965 feet) of vertical gain, our casual Sunday hike turned into a pretty big endeavor.
Torre di Toblin
When we took on Torre di Toblin in Tre Cime di Lavaredo, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We had already done another peak that day, and we had a third to go. I had also bashed my head against a cave wall when I slipped in the dark earlier in the hike/scramble/climb. It had been a longggg day. Nonetheless, we were stoked to be finally climbing the spires of Torre di Toblin, so onward we pushed. Just minutes after clipping in, Scott and I realized this was going to be one of the more challenging via ferratas we had done. Despite being attached by a cable, I knew one slip or fall would have *very* unpleasant consequences. There were moments where I was using every ounce of arm strength I had left to heave myself over the cliff face. Slowly but surely we went upwards. About 15 meters from the top, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to finish the klettersteig. The spot I needed to climb was super exposed- I could feel the airiness of it all. There were hundreds of feet below me. Everything in my body was shaking, I was exhausted. I took a few deep breathes to try and clear my head, then looked for the next rocks I could grasp onto. Scott was ahead of me, patiently waiting. Within a couple of minutes, the moment had passed and Scott and I were on the narrow, cliffy summit. We soaked in the incredible views of Tre Cime and the surrounding mountains, then made our way down the easier via ferrata. It was a day we won’t forget any time soon. I look forward to the next time we do that route and it’s easier.
To be honest, I could probably write a story about every hike and summit we climbed this year…but I’ll spare you the details. Instead, I’ll share some of my favorite images from our peak adventures, along with the summit count below (listed by country).
- Ettaler Mandl
- Obere Wettersteinspitze
- Große Arnspitze
- Westliche Törlspitze
- Große Klammspitze
- Hoher Ziegspitz
- Hoher Kranzberg
- Hoher Fricken
- Vorderer Ziegspitz
- Reissende Lahnspitz
- Vorderes Hörnle
- Hinteres Hörnle
- Bernadeinkopf (Scott)
- Alpspitze (Scott)
- Ofenberg (Scott)
- Heimgarten (Christine)
- Herzogstand (Christine)
- Vorderer Tajakopf
- Seefelder Joch (Christine)
- Seefelder Spitze (Christine)
- Eiger Rotstock
- Munt Pers
- Sass Queder
- Cima Sat
- Ra Gusela
- Torre di Toblin
- Sexner Stein