The route is up the Hollental, or 'hell valley' from Hammersbach, and has a full gamut of features along its 2200m of height gain. First you walk up a delightful path through forest to the Hollentalganghutte, which is a small refuge perched on stilts at the entrance to an simply amazing gorge. You can access the higher valley by a more circuitous route, but the gorge is spectacular. It has been worn through the limestone over the millenia by the river, and access is through many tunnels and walkways, washed by the many streams and waterfalls. Well worth the e4 entrance fee, and it deposits you at the Hollentalhutte at about 1900m.
From there it's another lovely path towards an unlikely looking wall of limestone called Brett that is the face of the hanging valley above. This has a steep VF on it, and unfortunately we encountered one of the scourges of the Alps, an impatient German team who insisted on queue jumping and climbing past you unclipped. Dangerous and it pressures you, and the ironic thing is that they never actually moved any quicker than us. Had me seething they did, but Paul did his best to remind me it was a beautiful day, and we were in no hurry.
We then contoured across a lot of moraine to reach what is left of an easy-angled glacier, where we saw all sorts of Khatoolas, micro-spikes and even just training shoes. Sadly unsurprising I suppose, but worrying none the less. At the queue from the glacier onto the main VF, there was a faff whilst folks packed away poles and crampons, and the bloody Germans simply pushed in to the front, whilst we had to wait at least 45mins. I don't know what they said to their compatriots, but again, it made me fume.
The VF was achieved by a lean and grab move from the bergschrund to the wall, and despite the drop not being too bad, it still focussed the mind. The first few moves were quite technical, especially given wet boots on polished limestone, but thereafter it was mid-grade VF all the way to the top, all 600m of ascent. It went on for hours, but the ever-expanding views more than made up for the effort.
The heat was debilitating, the sun reflecting off the white limestone, and as I said we saw guys stripped to the waist on the glacier, no kit, trainers, and not enough water. We drank 4ltrs on the route, and still ran out. Towards the top third of the ascent I came across one young chap lying down in a pool of vomit, obviously suffering from heat stroke. His mate was shading him, and they had sent one mate on to get help. No-one else was helping, so I dug out some rehydration salts and gave them to him, but he wasn't keen to drink, or lose his hat and too-heavy top. I asked his pal to translate, but to no avail. There was no more I could do on the cliff-face as we were, so pressed on, but was relieved to see what I believe was a MR chap quickly down climbing a few minutes later. Take heed, the sun can be harder to deal with than the cold.
Finally, after 7.5hrs we reached the summit. We would have done it faster but for the queues, and were pleased with the time. I can honestly say I have never seen so many folks crowded onto a summit, and especially one so precipitous. We squeezed a couple of piccies in, and then scrambled over to the complex (for that's what it is!) for a very welcome couple of shandies. Given the amount of folks up there, we were surprised to get onto the cable car and funicular easily, past the spectacular Eibsee lake and back down to Hammersbach in real good time too, without queuing.
The Zugspitze is a beautiful mountain, and the route we took spectacular without being over-challenging for a mountaineer, other than the heat. It is easy to be precious about such busy mountains, but I always try to look past that, and still revel in the beauty, the rock and the effort. I mean, it's folks you're moaning about, but you're there, aren't you!?
I have a feeling we may well back to this one again :)