Jubiläumsgrat ridge traverse in winter
Climbed peaks: Alpspitze (2620 m)
The Jubiläumsgrat ("Jubigrat") is the ridge that connects the Zugspitze (2962 m), Germany's highest mountain, with the Alpspitze (2620 m). Being one of the famous ridges in the Eastern Alps, it is often climbed during summer and -- less frequently -- in winter. The route had been on my tick list since I moved to Munich 2 years ago.
As weather and avalanche conditions are critical, I was monitoring the mountain weather forecast during the last few weeks looking for a good weather window. That window came this past weekend with a stable forecast until Sunday afternoon and a low avalanche level.
Michael and I left Munich at 6am on Saturday morning for Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We were aiming for the 7:30 gondola from Eibsee to the top of the Zugspitze. But between getting gas and organizing some breakfast, we got delayed, missed that gondola, and had to content with the one at 8am. The approach to the climb consists of leaving the gondola at the summit station, taking the elevator to the top level of the silly building complex (even though, being climbers, we proudly took the stairs), and climbing over the railing of the viewing platform into the wilderness. Looking east, the ridge lay before us with the Höllentalspitzen, Vollkarspitze, and the Alpspitze, our final destination. It would eventually take us two days to reach it even though, at this point, we aimed to complete the climb in one day.
The conditions on the ridge were optimal. The snow was pretty consolidated and there was only little ice on the rocks. We were happy to be able to follow a spur. For most parts we used crampons and only took them of for a few rocky sections. The climbing is never really difficult (up to UIAA 3-) but the exposure is tremendous. It was more than once, when the ridge became only about a foot wide, that I had to sit down on my butt with my left leg dangling into Höllental and my right one into Reintal. We soloed most of the ridge except for two sections that we belayed and one steep slope where we rappelled.
We reached the Innere Höllentalspitze (2737 m) around 1:15pm. Between the Innere and Mittlere Höllentalspitze (2740 m) there is supposed to be an emergency exit down to the Knorrhütte that we never saw. Further along the ridge, between the Mittlere and the Ã„ußere Höllentalspitze (2716 m), there is an emergency shelter, a small metal box that looks like an old rail car, which we reached around 3:15pm. At this point we debated whether we should continue and try to finish the route or whether we should stay for the night. Since we didn't know the route we could only guess as to how long it would take us. We knew that the sun would set around 6pm and that we would end up climbing in darkness. Also, the bivy box did look quite inviting. There was also a nice selection of food that people had left. So we decided to spend the night here. Some time later we were joined by three climbers (a mountain guide with two clients) whom we had seen behind us on the ridge all along. We melted snow, cooked some macaroni and cheese, and went to bed.
On Sunday morning we got up at 7am, made some hot tea, and marveled at the breathtaking sun rise. At around 8am we took off for the second half of the ridge that leads via Ã„ußere Höllentalspitze and Vollkarspitze (2630 m) to the Alpspitze. This part of the ridge has more steel cables and therefore feels much more like a Via Ferrata. But there are still many unprotected and very exposed parts were a mistake couldn't be repeated. After scaling Vollkarspitze, we traversed under the north wall of Hochblassen (2706 m) to reach a notch called Grieskarscharte. Although it is possible to descend into the valley from there, we opted to finish in style by climbing the Alpspitze. We reached the top at 1:15pm and were quite exhausted at that point. We met a few backcountry skiers who where about to ski down the mountain. Envious for their skies, I asked them if they would sell their skies. They politely declined. Left with no better alternative, we descended via the Nordwand ferrata to the Kreuzeck house just when the snowfall started that the weather forecast had predicted. We took the 3:30pm gondola down to Garmisch and a cab back to the car. Before driving home to Munich we finished a great trip with pizza at Pizza Hut in Garmisch.
The Jubiläumsgrat is an absolutely stunning trip. Especially in winter it's an alpine adventure with a great feeling of remoteness and the comfort of very short approaches (a few minutes from either Eibsee or Kreuzeck gondolas). And it's within less than an hour's drive from Munich. What more could one ask for?