In early September 1999 I had to go to London for work for a week. I decided to try to add some mountain biking in the European Alps on the way even if only for a few days. I checked out organised week-end rides, but I could not find any for the weekends I would be there. I also posted notices on cycling bulletin boards. Nigel Weber from Bogtrotters Club in the UK suggested Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Nigel was working in Munich and offered to ride with me if we could line up the dates. I would not have considered Germany had he not suggested it. Garmisch-Partenkirchen was host city for the fourth winter Olympics in 1936, and is the major winter sports resort area in Germany. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is on the border with Austria and is about 90 km from Munich and 60 km from Innsbruck. It is not an alpine village like Zurs or Ischgl, but a major alpine town like Chamonix or Innsbruck. As it turned out I had to change my dates so Nigel was back in the UK for a few days when I could arrive in Europe. But with Nigel helping me get information or the possible rides Garmisch-Partenkirchen was an easy choice.
I was to arrive in Garmish-Partenkirchen on a Saturday after 30 hours travel from Australia. The plan was for two and a half days riding starting with a half day ride on the Saturday I arrived. I arrived mid afternoon on a wet day with low cloud, delayed by a lightning strike which meant that I missed a train connection. As a result I opted for an afternoon exploratory ride around part of the large town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen the rest of the afternoon, rather than a ride up the mountains as planned.
Moser Bike Guides
The rides which Nigel suggested and which I did were from the excellent series of Moser Bike Guides covering the European Alps. These rides are from Guide 2 out of 12 Guides. In total there are over 500 rides documented. The guides are in German but I still found then extremely useful and great value. Later in this report I will suggest how to best use them if you do not read German. Here I will describe the guides so you will recognise the extracts when I include them with the ride reports.
Guide 2 has 45 single day rides and 5 multi-day rides. The book is a handy size 195mm by 125mm wire spiral bound. There is a summary of all the rides which gives ;
Individual Ride pages
Fold up Sheets
Each ride has it's own separate sheet designed to fold up into a small plastic protective wallet which will easily fit into the pocket of a cycle top. These sheets repeat the check points/signposts information but in a layout more convenient to use on the ride. The reverse side of the sheets combines the altitude profile with the route profile.
The intention appears to be that you use the book to plan the ride and then when on the ride carry the fold up sheet plus a topographical map. Total German quality and efficiency.
At about AUD 50 the guides may seem a bit expensive but they are excellent value. As I suggest later it is better to have them well before you leave Australia, so you would need to order over the internet. Bookshops in Australia don't seem to be able to locate them and chances are they would be much more expensive if they did get them.
My first day's ride from Garmisch-Partenkirchen was an incredible experience and a total sensory overload. I have seen lots of magnificent scenery mountain biking, walking and skiing but this day blew my mind. This was ride 37 from Moser Guide 2. This route took me to the spectacular lake Eibsee, then up to a saddle adjacent to the glacier covered Zugspitz (Germany's highest mountain) to cross the border into Austria (almost no track at this no man's point) and then down into the town of Ehrwald in Austria, for lunch. Then back up to 1500m to the ski area of Ehrwalder Alm where I met up with a group of German mountain bikers who were doing the same ride but had started at Mittenwald, also in Germany on the border with Austria 16km before Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From Ehrwalder Alm, I climbed with them to 1600m the highest point of the ride. From this point it was 30k of more spectacular scenery mostly downhill to Mittenwald, with a combination of towering mountains, forests and lush meadows.
Here is the altitude profile for the ride. The first climb is up to lake Eibsee, the second to cross into Austria and the third to above Ehrwalder Alm for the long downhill back to Germany.
The route went around the spectacular lake Eibsee. This photo does not do the lake and the views around it justice.
After circumnavigating Eibsee I started the 300m climb to the Austrian border. I met this woman from Garmisch-Partenkirchen who has riding up the same fire trail to pick mushrooms. Every time I stopped to look at the scenery she caught up to me. Which was a good opportunity for a short chat. I left her 100m from the border where the fire trail becomes a very rough track. Once into Austria you find a new fire trail and before too long the rapid decent towards Ehrwald.
How fantastic. Bike 32 km over the Alps into another country and then sit down for a restaurant meal and beer for lunch. A bit different to any mountain bike trip I have ever done in Australia. I was looking for something different and I was not disappointed. Heading out of Ehrwald for the climb to Ehrwalder Alm I started to see more mountain bikers as well as walkers. Of course a lot of people were taking the cable car up to Ehrwalder Alm as well.
Ehrwalder Alm at 1500m is the top of the cable car and a ski base during the winter. When I arrived there were a lot of people doing walks from were. The authors bike and bum bag are on the ground in the foreground. It is here that I met up with a group of eight German mountain bikers who were doing the same ride, but starting and finishing in Mittenwald. We climbed the remaining 100m to the highest point of the ride together. The cloud and the visibility of the peaks came and went all day.
After the hot climb to the top and the group stop to rug up for the 30km of mainly decent into Mittenwald. It was also an opportunity to consult the map. I had the map and photocopies of the Moser Guide, they could read German. We made a convenient team.
We rode into Mittenwald at about 5 pm where I left my new German friends as they were in a hurry to drive to Frankfurt that evening. I had spent a lot of time taking in the scenery and so I was running later than I would have liked. I was also very tied after traveling 30 hours from Australia the previous day. I had already ridden 70km , and climbed through 1800m so far that day. I decided to spend half an hour looking around the beautiful town of Mittenwald, have a drink and a snack and catch the train the rest of the way back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Below is the route table from the Moser book2 for ride 37 translated into English.
My original plan had been to do ride 39 to the cable car station on the Alpspitze, for a half day on the Saturday when I arrived , then ride 37 into Austria in the Sunday and ride 30 to the Angerhutte on the Monday. Recovering well and refreshed from Sundays ride, I decided to try and combine rides 39 and 30 in the one day I had left. I got half way up ride 39 to the top station of the Olympia lift and realised that I could not complete both rides in time to make my plane to London that evening. I went through the settlement of Kreuzalm and cut accros to the Reintal Valley to intersect with ride 30 to the Angerhutte. This little diversion added an extra 300m of climbing for the day, but it was a nice variation and I still made it back in plenty of time for my train to Munich.
Below is the altitude profile for the Angerhutte ride. This is the more detailed version which comes on the fold up sheet.
Once the route left the fire trail and became a well maintained walking / biking trail I started to encounter walkers frequently as the route wound a gradual undulation through a beautiful forest. The track was a well maintained single track, so it was a surprise after three kilometres to arrive at the Bockhutte pictured on the left. In the shadow of the towering mountains walkers were stopping to buy a hot or cold meal and drink. On the overcast but pleasant day they were outside but in inclement weather the hut with its small commercial kitchen would be especially welcome. This is not the sort of facility you could find three kilometres from the nearest road or fire trail in Australia.
By the time you reach Bockhutte you are out of the forest and into a steep valley with massive mountains on both sides. The track gradually deteriorated and in a few sections where there had been massive wash ways which made short sections unrideable. I understood why one biker had left their mountain bike at Bockhutte and proceeded to Angerhutte on foot. The spectacular scenery certainly made the effort worth while. Having had the earlier diversion I was getting concerned as to whether I would get to the Angerhutte by my cut-off target of 2 pm to make sure I was in London that evening. I was astounded when at five minutes past two and six kilometres from Bockhutte I arrived at the significant building to the left which was the Angerhutte. I was now nine kilometres from the nearest road or fire trail and I could enjoy a much appreciated cold beer before returning to Garmish-Partenkirchen. It was a fantastic ride down and I was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen within an hour, with plenty of time to catch my train to Munich airport. Nigel had certainly picked two classic rides which I will never forget.
Using the Moser Bike Guides
I rode with a topographical map that I bought at a service station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen plus a photocopy of the route table from the Moser guide and the ride map from the Moser guide both both enlarged to double size. If I was doing more rides in Europe I would use the enlargements again as the larger print size makes them easier to use on the ride. I would print out the expanded Moser map in colour if I could. What would have been very useful would have been to have the signpost information in English to study before, and refer to during the ride. The amount of time I spent with with my head in the map would have been reduced. Since the ride I have experimented with turning the sign post information into English as you saw in the example above. For all its faults I think that it would have been verry valuable on the ride.
Apart from having a dedicated friend who can translate and write down the sign post information into English for you, here is my suggestion of how you can use the Moser guide. You will need a scanner, Optical Character Recognition Software (OCR) such as Omnipage or Textbridge which can read German and software which can translate German to English either on your computer or via a free internet service. OCR software often comes free with a scanner but not always a version which can read a choice of languages. If you do not have a scanner with software where you can set the parameters to read German then you will need to find a friend who does.
Here are the steps
The Moser guides are published by Delius, Klasing & Co and the ISBN is 3-7688-0731-2. Neither Elmar Moser or his publisher seem to have a website for the guides.
I stayed for my two nights at Alpengluhen run by Peter Hengge and his family and found it very appropriate and enjoyable. Note that they did not take credit cards and neither did the tavern where I had dinner twice. The cost for single room and breakfast was about AUD 50. Garmisch-Partenkirchen tourism sent a comprehensive booklet which is worth getting sent to you if you are planning on going there. It lists accommodation, and there is a booking service on their website. The booklet lists a lot of information for mountain bikers but I did not have the time or need to check it out while I was there.
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